An exemplary contribution to the recent literature on the fraught history of the Shoah.

PLUNDER

A MEMOIR OF FAMILY PROPERTY AND NAZI TREASURE

In a literate, constantly surprising quest, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor returns to Poland to lay claim to the things of the past.

Early on, Kaiser writes of the “pit stops in the obituary” of his late paternal grandfather, who died in 1977. The author knew that he was born in Poland, survived the Holocaust, and was the sole member of his family to have lived through the terror. Kaiser traveled to Sosnowiec, in south-central Poland, not just to search out family history, but also to explore his grandfather’s claim to family property seized by Nazis. The latter journey took him deep inside the workings of the Polish legal system, with numerous false leads and misinformation throwing him off the trail. It didn’t help that the Kraków lawyer he hired, nicknamed “The Killer,” wasn’t exactly deft with the requisite paperwork. When the author located what he thought was the family property, he encountered a longtime resident who told him, “This is my family’s house.” Kaiser thought to himself, “it wasn’t said defensively or threateningly, he only meant to show off his English,” but it became clear to him that a successful claim would displace others, presenting one of many moral quandaries. Along his path, the author learned about his grandfather’s cousin, who also survived the Nazi occupation, working as a slave laborer in a mysterious tunnel complex that the Nazis had built even as World War II was turning against them. Kaiser’s parallel quest then took him into the concentration camps, sometimes accompanied by treasure hunters who used his relative’s memoir as a guidebook to hidden Nazi loot. Of a piece with Anne-Marie O’Connor’s The Lady in Gold (2012), Kaiser’s story approaches the conclusion on an unsettled note that, he laments, would be simpler to resolve if he were writing a novel and not nonfiction—though it does end on a cliffhanger worthy of a thriller.

An exemplary contribution to the recent literature on the fraught history of the Shoah.

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-328-50803-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

more