The definitive biography of a legendary adventurer.



A world-renowned explorer and prolific writer turns his attention to Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922), a giant of the heroic age of polar exploration, with entirely satisfying results.

Already a biographer of Robert Falcon Scott, it seemed inevitable that Fiennes would take on Shackleton, who dealt successfully with disaster—a unique trait among 19th- and early-20th-century British explorers. Born to an Anglo-Irish family, Shackleton yearned for adventure from childhood. After years as a merchant seaman, he pulled strings to join Scott’s 1901-1903 Discovery Expedition to Antarctica, where he, Scott, and another engaged in a brutal trek toward the South Pole that reached nearly 82 degrees south, a record, before they turned back. Evacuated because of debility, he returned to England before the others and became a national celebrity for his charisma and speaking skills as well as his accomplishments. Yearning to make his own mark, in 1909, he organized an expedition that, after unspeakable suffering, turned back about 100 miles from the South Pole. Fiennes emphasizes that this decision showed intelligence as well as courage because, starving and ill, everyone would certainly have died if they continued south. Fiennes excels in describing Shackleton’s apotheosis. Leading an expedition to cross Antarctica, in 1915, his ship became trapped in ice; nine months later, the ice crushed it. After months drifting on ice floes, he led his men to an isolated island and then piloted a small boat across 800 miles of stormy seas to a whaling station on South Georgia Island to organize a rescue. Having literally walked in Shackleton’s footsteps, Fiennes is uniquely qualified to describe his experiences, analyze his mistakes, and contradict other biographers. While scholars almost universally condemn Shackleton (and Scott) for eschewing skis, Fiennes explains that skis are a hindrance when dragging a heavy sledge. For those inclined to disagree, he points out that he came to this conclusion dragging his own sledge across Antarctica in 1993.

The definitive biography of a legendary adventurer.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64313-879-4

Page Count: 452

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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