The Spookiest Soviet Unsolved Mystery

Book review: Mountain of the Dead, by Keith McCloskey Book Depository What is this trouble that wanders the Taiga at night? Who can give an answer? If you don’t already know the story of the Dyatlov pass incident, I envy you, because the Google rabbit hole you’re about to fall down is a marvelous one. But to tip-of-the-iceberg this high strangeness story from Soviet Russia: … Continue reading The Spookiest Soviet Unsolved Mystery

The Historic Los Angeles Library Fire Sparks a Bigger Story: What Libraries Are to Us

Book review: The Library Book, by Susan Orlean All the things that are wrong in the world seem conquered by a library’s simple unspoken promise: Here is my story, please listen; here I am, please tell me your story. Journalist and author Susan Orlean began her latest book by investigating the devastating 1986 fire at Central Library in Los Angeles. By the time the fire was … Continue reading The Historic Los Angeles Library Fire Sparks a Bigger Story: What Libraries Are to Us

The Epicenter of Silly: Light Looks at Modern Magic and Magical Thinking

Book review: Not in Kansas Anymore, by Christine Wicker (Book Depository) Forty years ago, when the current occult revival was beginning to gain strength, the wisest thinkers in the land predicted that faith in the supernatural was shriveling and would soon die back to insignificance. The scientific worldview demanded such a shift. Who could possibly withstand it? Organized religion, mystical meanderings, and magical ideas could … Continue reading The Epicenter of Silly: Light Looks at Modern Magic and Magical Thinking

A Reporter’s Cold Case Obsession

Book review: Amy: My Search for Her Killer, by James Renner (Book Depository) How long does it take a crime to become legend? Does it vary based on circumstances, on affluence? If the Bay Village police charged someone in Amy’s death after sixteen years, would anyone really believe it? Or has so much time passed that the residents of this quiet suburb will stick to … Continue reading A Reporter’s Cold Case Obsession

Unraveling a Life of Deceit

Book review: The Adversary, by Emmanuel Carrere It should have been warm and cozy, that family life. They thought it was warm and cozy. But he knew that it was rotten at the core, that not one moment, not one gesture, not even their slumbers had escaped this rot that had grown within him, gradually eating everything away from inside without showing anything on the outside, … Continue reading Unraveling a Life of Deceit

Undercover Reporting and the Disturbing History of For-Profit Prisons in America

Book review: American Prison, by Shane Bauer The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any country in the world. In 2017 we had 2.2 million people in prisons and jails, a 500 percent increase over the last forty years. We now have almost 5 percent of the world’s population and nearly a quarter of its prisoners. This book focuses on one … Continue reading Undercover Reporting and the Disturbing History of For-Profit Prisons in America

Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

Book review: The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, by Tony Ortega Journalist Paulette Cooper survived the Holocaust but she almost didn’t survive Scientology. That thought lingered while reading this biography and account of her years of harassment by the cultlike religion for daring to write honestly and critically about them. Her parents suffered persecution as Jews in Second World War Europe and Paulette was lucky enough to … Continue reading Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

An Intriguing Cold Case and an Exhausting Memoir

Book review: The Kill Jar, by J. Reuben Appelman Over about a year spanning 1976-1977, at least four children were killed in Detroit’s Oakland County by a serial killer clunkily dubbed the Oakland County Child Killer, or OCCK. The case remains officially unsolved, but as J. Reuben Appelman lays out in this true crime narrative cum memoir, that’s not for lack of information, plenty of … Continue reading An Intriguing Cold Case and an Exhausting Memoir

The Mystery of a Clairvoyant and a Con

Book review: A Deal with the Devil, by Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken We knew that many people thought of all psychics as frauds. We’d heard plenty of horror stories about people who lost thousands of dollars to storefront psychics or psychic hotlines. But we had never heard of a psychic scam quite like this one, in which fraudsters used the mail to pinpoint vulnerable targets. … Continue reading The Mystery of a Clairvoyant and a Con

The Obsessive, Expensive World of Arowana Collecting

Book review: The Dragon Behind the Glass, by Emily Voigt Once upon a time I had wanted to find out why a pet fish was so irresistible that people smuggled it into the United States, risking their very liberty. Three and a half years and fifteen countries later, I was now in Brazil (possibly illegally) pursuing the fish myself. At some point, things had gotten … Continue reading The Obsessive, Expensive World of Arowana Collecting

Catfishing ISIS

Book review: In the Skin of a Jihadist, by Anna Erelle When one worked on “societal” issues, it was out of passion. If only I could write about this topic in a new way, one that avoided treating individuals as part of a succession of similar cases. I wanted to investigate the roots of “digital jihadism” and get to the bottom of an evil phenomenon … Continue reading Catfishing ISIS

The Fall of a Too-Good-to-Be-True Medical Startup

Book review: Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou Her emergence tapped into the public’s hunger to see a female entrepreneur break through in a technology world dominated by men. Women like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg had achieved a measure of renown in Silicon Valley, but they hadn’t created their own companies from scratch. In Elizabeth Holmes, the Valley had its first female billionaire … Continue reading The Fall of a Too-Good-to-Be-True Medical Startup