25 Years of a Mysterious Australian Cold Case

Book review: The Phillip Island Murder, by Vikki Petraitis and Paul Daley (Amazon / Book Depository / ebook available directly from Clan Destine Press) Listening through back episodes of the eerie and excellent Australian true crime podcast Casefile, I came across one that featured such a perplexing story: that of the 1986 murder of 23-year-old Beth Barnard, and the simultaneous disappearance of Vivienne Cameron. These two … Continue reading 25 Years of a Mysterious Australian Cold Case

25 Favorites from 2018

What new nonfiction impressed the most upon you this year? I think I read more new release books that were consistently pretty good, but fewer that were completely stellar. Or so it feels, at least. The majority of my favorites published earlier in the year, with the latter half a little lackluster among my new release choices. I had better luck with my pre-2018 reads … Continue reading 25 Favorites from 2018

Kitchen Connections to Grief, Joy, and Growing Up

Book review: Kitchen Yarns, by Ann Hood (Amazon / Book Depository) When I write an essay about food, I am really uncovering something deeper in my life – loss, family, confusion, growing up, growing away from what I knew, returning, grief, joy, and, yes, love. Author Ann Hood is also a Laurie Colwin devotee, and her latest nonfiction essay collection, Kitchen Yarns, is beautifully similar to all … Continue reading Kitchen Connections to Grief, Joy, and Growing Up

Long-Form Journalism from the Storyteller of “Dirty John”

Book review: Dirty John and Other True Stories of Outlaws and Outsiders, by Christopher Goffard (Amazon / Book Depository) Christopher Goffard, the journalist behind last year’s wildly popular Dirty John podcast, opens this frequently California-centric collection of his long-form investigative reporting with an introduction explaining the beginnings of his journalism career. It has to be among the best intros in recent memory. When I interview … Continue reading Long-Form Journalism from the Storyteller of “Dirty John”

An Unusual Investigation Reveals Sweden’s “Dark Heart”

Book review: The Dark Heart, by Joakim Palmkvist (Amazon / Book Depository) At summer’s end in 2012, an older, miserly farmer went missing from his farm in the Swedish countryside. The surrounding region is dubbed the “dark heart of Smaland,” in reference to its traditional conservatism and religious background. Palmkvist points out that it’s an apt expression for this story, at the heart of which … Continue reading An Unusual Investigation Reveals Sweden’s “Dark Heart”

The Many Phases of Michelle

Book review: Becoming, by Michelle Obama (Amazon / Book Depository) When you’re First Lady, America shows itself to you in its extremes. Michelle Obama’s life has had so many facets already: two Ivy League degrees, a successful career in corporate law, vice president of a hospital, nonprofit director, not to mention a mother, a role she cherishes. And then she became the First Lady of … Continue reading The Many Phases of Michelle

The Opioid Crisis Through the Lens of Government, Medicine, and the Personal

Book review: American Overdose, by Chris McGreal Book Depository A former head of the Food and Drug Adminsitration has called America’s opioid epidemic, “one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine.” It is neither a mistake nor the kind of catastrophe born of some ghastly accident. It is a tragedy forged by the capture of medical policy by corporations and the failure of institutions in … Continue reading The Opioid Crisis Through the Lens of Government, Medicine, and the Personal

How the Instinct to Eat Can Go Wrong: Personal Stories of Food Anxieties

Book review: The Eating Instinct, by Virginia Sole-Smith Book Depository Nutrition has become a permanently unsolvable Rubik’s Cube. So we read more books, pin more blog posts, buy more products, and sign up for more classes and consultations. And we don’t realize how many of the so-called experts guiding us through this new and constantly changing landscape are … fighting their own battles with food. … Continue reading How the Instinct to Eat Can Go Wrong: Personal Stories of Food Anxieties

Be Very Afraid

Fear: Trump in the White House, by Bob Woodward (Amazon Book Depository) (I keep promising myself I’m not going to read any more of these Trump/White House books but I’m unable to resist, apparently.) Real power is fear.  That’s the mantra seeded throughout veteran political reporter and one-half of Woodward and Bernstein Bob Woodward’s diligently reported behind-the-scenes look at the Trump White House. What does … Continue reading Be Very Afraid

A True Victorian Murder Mystery Set in a “Dollhouse”

Book review: The Lady in the Cellar, by Sinclair McKay Book Depository Number 4, Euston Square, seemingly so prosperous, well-run and attractive, was a boarding house filled with unease; a house that was restless at night; a house with secrets. Soon it would seem like a gigantic doll’s house, open to examination by the entire nation. In Victorian London in 1879, a macabre discovery was … Continue reading A True Victorian Murder Mystery Set in a “Dollhouse”

The Historic Los Angeles Library Fire Sparks a Bigger Story: What Libraries Are to Us

Book review: The Library Book, by Susan Orlean All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here is my story, please listen; here I am, please tell me your story. Journalist and author Susan Orlean began her latest book by investigating the devastating 1986 fire at Central Library in Los Angeles. By the time the fire was … Continue reading The Historic Los Angeles Library Fire Sparks a Bigger Story: What Libraries Are to Us

Elegies for the Dead She’s Known

Book review: The Baltimore Book of the Dead, by Marion Winik Book Depository People do not pass away. / They die / and then they stay. Poet and author Marion Winik opens this second volume of creative short elegies to departed people she’s known, tinged with personal memoir, with those lines from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Voices in the Air”. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting … Continue reading Elegies for the Dead She’s Known