Supernatural, Paranormal, Surreal But True Tales from the US Government

Book review: The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson In 1979 a secret unit was established by the most gifted minds within the U.S. Army. Defying all known accepted military practice—and indeed, the laws of physics—they believed that a soldier could adopt a cloak of invisibility, pass cleanly through walls, and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them. Journalist Jon … Continue reading Supernatural, Paranormal, Surreal But True Tales from the US Government

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

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

Impressionistic Vignettes of a Year Still Reverberating Today

Review: 1947: Where Now Begins, by Elisabeth Asbrink I try to assemble the year 1947 into a splintered whole. This is lunacy, but time does not leave me alone. Within the first few pages of 1947, I made myself slow down because I realized I was reading something special and I didn’t want it to be over too quickly. There’s a reason why librarian Nancy Pearl called this … Continue reading Impressionistic Vignettes of a Year Still Reverberating Today

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

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

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

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

Reinvestigating Roanoke

Book review: The Secret Token, by Andrew Lawler Roanoke has long been a setting for our national nightmares. A recurring topic of Andrew Lawler’s new exploration into the lost colony of settlers at Roanoke in the 1580s is just how much this story, from the early beginnings of European history in North America, fascinates us. And why, when there have been so many other strange … Continue reading Reinvestigating Roanoke

The Strange and Sad History of Humans and Orcas

Book review: Orca, by Jason Colby Author Jason Colby’s father was one of the last orca hunters in Washington state, capturing the apex predator from its natural habitat to fill orders for aquariums worldwide. Colby writes this detailed, descriptive but very readable history of human-orca interactions from a place of lifelong personal interest, having witnessed his father’s deep regret over his actions. It also allows … Continue reading The Strange and Sad History of Humans and Orcas