Coming of Age in Cold War America

Book review: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles, by Karen Piper Karen Piper, a professor of literature and geology and author of several books on environmental issues, writes a personal memoir about her life, including scenes from her childhood growing up in the 1970s in China Lake, a secretive missile range in the Mojave Desert. Her narrative as she walks readers through her life folds in … Continue reading Coming of Age in Cold War America

Eloquent Arguments Against Mass Incarceration, Capital and Excessive Punishment, and Mercy Above All

Book review: Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including this vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I avoided reading Just Mercy, to some extent, because I knew it was going to be a painful book to read. And now I’ve avoided writing about it because I knew how hard … Continue reading Eloquent Arguments Against Mass Incarceration, Capital and Excessive Punishment, and Mercy Above All

From the Did-Not-Finish Files

I’ve been abandoning books left and right this year. Maybe my patience is getting thinner or my attention span shorter. Or maybe I’m always getting better at knowing if I’ll like something and what topics or style issues will put me off a book. I hope it’s the latter. Most of the books I abandoned weren’t terrible, they just weren’t for me. I could see … Continue reading From the Did-Not-Finish Files

Zora Neale Hurston Curates a Life Story Spanning Africa, the Middle Passage, and the Jim Crow South

Book review: Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston Though the heart is breaking, happiness can exist in a moment, also. And because the moment in which we live is all the time there really is, we can keep going. It may be true, and often is, that every person we hold dear is taken from us. Still. From moment to moment, we watch our beans and … Continue reading Zora Neale Hurston Curates a Life Story Spanning Africa, the Middle Passage, and the Jim Crow South

An Unflinching Look at An FBI Career in Crimes Against Kids

In the Name of the Children, by Jeffrey Rinek Jeffrey Rinek, retired FBI agent and owner of a majestic mustache, writes a memoir detailing cases he worked during his career, particularly in the area of child sex crimes and the infamous Yosemite murders, where three tourists (Carole and Juli Sund and Silvina Pelosso) were abducted and murdered, leaving behind a particularly bizarre trail of evidence. He … Continue reading An Unflinching Look at An FBI Career in Crimes Against Kids

Winchester’s Mark On Americana and Its Changing Face

Book review: Homeplace, by John Lingan Winchester’s residents have always been engaged in the process of defining this place and its character, and those definitions are often forged in living rooms more than state houses or courtrooms. That’s where people learn their values and hear their legends. Homes – the places to gather with your people – were the true currency of a region in … Continue reading Winchester’s Mark On Americana and Its Changing Face

Historical Scandal, Murder and Medicine at Harvard

Book review: Blood & Ivy, by Paul Collins On November 23, 1849, shortly before Thanksgiving, Dr. George Parkman entered Harvard’s Medical College to visit a tenant of his, the college’s chemistry professor, John White Webster. He was never seen again. A familiar figure in and around Boston, Dr. Parkman’s disappearance grabbed plenty of news headlines, both the expected and the fanciful, and generated waves of … Continue reading Historical Scandal, Murder and Medicine at Harvard

Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Buttermilk Graffiti, by Edward Lee This says a lot about who we are as a culture now; we care about the person behind the recipes. For us, it is important to know as much about the cook as we do about his or her dishes. Cookbooks are living traditions. They reflect back to us who we are, as individuals, as a culture. Edward Lee is … Continue reading Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Favorites of the Year So Far

2018 has seen so much great nonfiction and we’re only halfway there. It’s been quite the year for big nonfiction news stories too, kicking off in January with Fire and Fury frenzy, then the memoir debut of a daughter of Mormon survivalists taking the literary world by storm, James Comey’s much-anticipated tell-all, and a triumphant moment for criminal justice with a serial rapist and killer apprehended more than four decades … Continue reading Favorites of the Year So Far

America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Book review: Dead Girls, by Alice Bolin Alice Bolin’s debut essay collection opens with a strong and intriguing premise: what is this obsession America (and beyond) has with dead girls? The murdered or missing blonde white ones of media frenzies; the ones that get forgotten after serving as engines for outrage in programs like Serial; the innocent and martyred ones (or else murdered sex workers – … Continue reading America’s Dead Girl Fixation and Other Obsessions

Then and Now, Across America’s Last Frontier

Book review: Tip of the Iceberg, by Mark Adams Travel writer Mark Adams recounts his experiences traveling in Alaska, that “last great American frontier”, following the trail of an exploratory expedition run by railroad tycoon Edward Harriman in 1899. That expedition was mapping the state’s coastline, and included famed naturalist and conservationist writer John Muir (a self-described “author and student of glaciers”). Muir certainly could … Continue reading Then and Now, Across America’s Last Frontier

Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Book review: Them and The Elephant in the Room, by Jon Ronson This book began its life in 1995 as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the extremist monsters of the Western world – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them as they went about … Continue reading Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”