Scenes from a House in Ekaterinburg in July, 100 Years Ago

Book review: Last Days of the Romanovs, by Helen Rappaport Russian historian Helen Rappaport writes a tightly focused, streamlined account of the last two weeks that the family of Nicholas Romanov was alive, held captive at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in Siberia, a building known by its very Soviet name as the “House of Special Purpose”. 100 years ago last month, the Romanov family … Continue reading Scenes from a House in Ekaterinburg in July, 100 Years Ago

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

Elegies for the Departed

Book review: The Glen Rock Book of the Dead, by Marion Winik After a creative writing assignment led her to thinking about dead people she’d known, poet and author Marion Winik explains that it was “as if tickets to a show had just gone on sale and all my ghosts were screeching up at the box office.” This never seemed morbid or depressing to me. I … Continue reading Elegies for the Departed

Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Book review: Stalin’s Daughter, by Rosemary Sullivan “What would it mean to be born Stalin’s daughter, to carry the weight of that name for a lifetime and never be free of it?” “I want to explain to you, he broke my life.” Even writing a biography showing the many sides of Svetlana Alliluyeva often ignored by media, multiple governments, and history, Rosemary Sullivan didn’t have … Continue reading Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

America’s Plant and Agricultural Immigrants

Book review: The Food Explorer, by Daniel Stone One of the humbling parts of being an American is the regular reminder that no matter how swollen America’s pride or power, nothing has been American for very long. A few years ago, it occurred to me that the same way immigrants came to our soil, so did our food. I was at my desk one morning … Continue reading America’s Plant and Agricultural Immigrants

Bouviers Behaving Badly

Book review: Jackie, Janet & Lee, by J. Randy Taraborrelli I’m not sure why I wanted to read this so intensely, as I’ve never read anything Kennedy or Bouvier-related before and I’m not generally interested in them. (I like Bobby though, he seemed like a good egg.) I’m more interested in the weird, Grey Gardens-y stories that surround them and their family histories. This new biography frames … Continue reading Bouviers Behaving Badly

A Group Biography Tells Women’s Stories from the French Resistance

Review: A Train in Winter, by Caroline Moorehead They had spent the months in Romainville very close together and it was as a train full of friends, who knew each other’s strengths and frailties, who had kept each other company at moments of terrible anguish, and who had fallen into a pattern of looking after each other, that they set out for the unknown. Historian Caroline … Continue reading A Group Biography Tells Women’s Stories from the French Resistance

10 Favorite Reads Not Published in 2017

I made a goal for myself this year to read fewer advance copies and more of what I’ve really been wanting to read myself. I love reading advances, don’t get me wrong, but they do sometimes keep me from getting to something I’d personally been in the mood for. It sounds odd, but it can be hard to fit in non-advance copies considering the necessary … Continue reading 10 Favorite Reads Not Published in 2017

2017 Favorites, Published July-December

Photo of Baroque bookshelves in the Austrian National Library in Vienna, © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar, via Wikimedia Commons I couldn’t confine my favorites to one year end best list. I need three! First, here’s the companion to my midyear best-so-far-titles published in 2017 list. Next week, my favorites read but not published this year, plus a final roundup of my favorites from the whole year’s new releases. … Continue reading 2017 Favorites, Published July-December

Ladies of Cryptography: The Women Who Broke War’s Codes

Book review: Code Girls, by Liza Mundy I’m in some kind of hush, hush business. Somewhere in Wash. D.C. If I say anything I’ll get hung for sure. I guess I signed my life away. But I don’t mind it. Code Girls, author Liza Mundy’s history of the women who worked tirelessly cracking codes to aid the American Army and Navy in World War II, opens with … Continue reading Ladies of Cryptography: The Women Who Broke War’s Codes