The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini

Avid Reader: S. & S. Oct. 2019. 336p. photos. bibliog. ISBN 9781501137235. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781501137259. BIOG
Posnanski (The Secret of Golf), a self-confessed Harry Houdini fan, has written a marvelously entertaining book about his magical hero, shedding light on the background, motivation, and methods of a man who built a career around deception. Beginning with the much-mythologized childhood of Houdini (1874–1926), Posnanski charts the course of the Hungarian-born American illusionist’s career, interviewing both fellow fans and critics to separate fact from fiction, revealing along the way a highly ambitious, often contentious, yet oddly likable man who was both consummate showman and brilliant self-promoter. But Posnanski’s book is not just a biography of Houdini: it’s as much an exploration of why Houdini’s fame and legend endures, and how that legacy has inspired, confounded, and influenced generations of magicians and magic enthusiasts. Throughout, Posnanski introduces an eclectic cast of Houdini acolytes and scholars whose stories illustrate Houdini’s powerful, continued hold on the public imagination. VERDICT Imbued with Posnanski’s infectious passion for all things Houdini, this is a rollicking look at one of the 20th century’s most influential and enigmatic entertainers.—Sara Shreve, Newton, KS.Power, Samantha. The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir. Dey St: HarperCollins. Sept. 2019. 592p. ISBN 9780062820693. $29.99. MEMOIRPower (The Unquiet American) holds endowed chairs at both Harvard’s Kennedy School and Law School, and received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide. She served as Barack Obama’s special assistant for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights (2009–13) and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (2013–17). Here, she presents an illuminating and engaging account of her journey from would-be sports journalist to award-winning author, from Irish immigrant to presidential cabinet member. Along the way, Power shares about her family life, notably the challenges of raising two young children while serving in high-level government positions. Some of the narrative’s best features include insights into working with fellow diplomats in a male-dominated UN bureaucracy inflamed by tyrannical world leaders, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashir Assad. Their actions are countered by anecdotes of heroic citizens who put their lives on the line for freedom from despots, disease, and mass murders. Power herself, was a steadfast advocate for immigrant, LGBTQ, and women’s rights.
VERDICT Revealing the inner-workings of foreign policy, this engrossing memoir will appeal to informed readers and will inspire women contemplating careers in public service. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]

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Kids are using VR to explore worlds and create new ones


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