Life After Death from a Scientific Perspective

October is naturally the perfect time for creepy, scary, haunty reading, so I’m reviewing some ooky spooky supernatural, paranormal-themed titles throughout the month. Personally, I find nothing scarier than some of the true crime cases out there, so delving into the supernatural side of things feels more light-hearted than sinister and I love Halloween-time for that! First up: Mary Roach’s Spook, truly a doubter’s dream. … Continue reading Life After Death from a Scientific Perspective

Writing Her Grandparents’ Lives and a Memoir of Childhood

Book review: On Sunset, by Kathryn Harrison Never mind that we live in Los Angeles and that I was born in 1961; my childhood belongs to my mother’s parents, who, in the way of old people, have returned themselves to their pasts, taking me along. Author Kathryn Harrison writes a memoir of a slice of her childhood, a well-adjusted one considering some of the troubling … Continue reading Writing Her Grandparents’ Lives and a Memoir of Childhood

Did a Priest Murder a Nun, and Did the Catholic Church Cover it Up?

Book review: Sin, Shame & Secrets, by David Yonke On Holy Saturday in 1980, the day before Easter Sunday, elderly nun Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found murdered in the sacristy of Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. She’d been strangled with an altar cloth and her body bore stab wounds in the shape of an inverted cross. Blood on her forehead appeared to mimic anointing. … Continue reading Did a Priest Murder a Nun, and Did the Catholic Church Cover it Up?

The Story Lolita Forgets, and Nabokov at Work

Book review: The Real Lolita, by Sarah Weinman Amazon Even casual readers of Lolita…should pay attention to the story of Sally Horner because it is the story of so many girls and women, not just in America, but everywhere. So many of these stories seem like everyday injustices – young women denied opportunity to advance, tethered to marriage and motherhood. Others are more horrific, girls … Continue reading The Story Lolita Forgets, and Nabokov at Work

The Pseudoscience of Personality Typing and its Eccentric Mother-Daughter Developers

Book review: The Personality Brokers, by Merve Emre Only the smallest fraction of those who encountered the indicator knew anything about Isabel, Katharine, or the origins of type. If asked about the indicator’s provenance, most people would have assumed that Myers and Briggs were the last names of two collaborating psychologists – two men, naturally… Almost everyone’s familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality indicator, a personality … Continue reading The Pseudoscience of Personality Typing and its Eccentric Mother-Daughter Developers

The Interstate and the Murderer

Book review: Killer on the Road, by Ginger Strand America became more violent and more mobile at the same time. Were they linked? Did highways lead to highway violence? Yes and no. More highways meant more travel, more movement, more anonymity—all conducive to criminality. Highway users could become easy victims: stranded motorists, hitchhikers, drifters, and truck stop prostitutes were vulnerable to roving predators. But most … Continue reading The Interstate and the Murderer

An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Book review: Adrift, by Brian Murphy with Toula Vlahou Amazon Adrift tells the story of the packet ship John Rutledge, which in 1856 crossed the North Atlantic from Liverpool to New York with a cargo consisting mostly of mail and around 100 passengers, many of them emigrating from Ireland. The ship navigated turbulent winter conditions before ultimately hitting an iceberg somewhere off the coast of Newfoundland, … Continue reading An Atlantic Shipwreck Seen Through its Sole Survivor

Narrating Stalin’s Terror: The Beginning of Eugenia Ginzburg’s Journey

Book review: Journey into the Whirlwind, by Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg I opened the door briskly, with the boldness of despair. If you are to jump over a cliff, better take a run at it and not pause on the brink to look back at the lovely world you are leaving behind. Eugenia Ginzburg’s memoir of her arrest in 1937 on charges that eventually became “terrorism” … Continue reading Narrating Stalin’s Terror: The Beginning of Eugenia Ginzburg’s Journey

Nonfiction Titles Celebrating Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation month, an annual celebration of writing by women translated into English. I’m late to be sharing anything about this, but in case you can still catch something, bookstores often spotlight titles and hold sales, host special events and readings, and many publishers offer discounts on titles by women in translation. Maybe there’s still time to catch some sales and events, … Continue reading Nonfiction Titles Celebrating Women in Translation Month

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 Book Depository 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 … 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