Charles Manson, the CIA, and a Very Different Side of Helter Skelter

Book review: Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, by Tom O'Neill with Dan Piepenbring So many years later, Manson’s name still served as a kind of shorthand for a very American form of brutal violence, the kind that erupts seemingly from nowhere and confirms the nation’s darkest fears about... Continue Reading →

Jenny Erpenbeck on Life, Literature, and Activism

Book review: Not a Novel, by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Kurt Beals If the language that you can speak isn't enough, that's a very good reason to start writing. As paradoxical as it may be: The impossibility of expressing what happens to us in words is what pushes us towards writing. Whenever I haven't been... Continue Reading →

What Pianos Mean to Siberia, And More

Book review: The Lost Pianos of Siberia, by Sophy Roberts (Amazon) There is no dramatic curtain-raiser to the edge of Siberia, no meaningful brink to a specific place, just thick weather hanging over an abstract idea. It is a modern economic miracle, with natural oil and gas reserves driving powerful shifts in the geopolitics of... Continue Reading →

Here Be Monsters, Except Not Really

Book review: The Unidentified, by Colin Dickey  Belief in fringe topics like Atlantis, or cryptids (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and other associated “hidden” animals), or UFOs, or ancient aliens—has risen drastically in the last few years...We are, in other words, experiencing a time of resurgence of fringe beliefs, when ideas mostly dismissed by science... Continue Reading →

Two Narrative Nonfiction Mini-Reviews

I love narrative nonfiction, and in discussing this genre, two titles that inevitably come up as outstanding examples of nonfiction perfectly crafted into a narrative structure are Five Days at Memorial and In the Kingdom of Ice. Let's talk about them! Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink  Physician and... Continue Reading →

Meditations and Musings on Walking

Walking: One Step at a Time, by Erling Kagge, translated from Norwegian by Becky L. Crook (Amazon/ Book Depository) I've been on short walks; I've been on long walks. I've walked from villages and to cities. I've walked through the day and through the night, from lovers and to friends. I have walked in deep forests and... Continue Reading →

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