Epidemiology in Tijuana: Drugs, Death, and Tracing an Epidemic

Book review: City of Omens, by Dan Werb (Amazon / Book Depository) Perhaps epidemiology could reveal the hidden structures lurking just beyond reach, like asbestos behind wallpaper. Those structures might manifest as cruel calamities – car crashes, murders, HIV infections – that at face value appear unrelated. If that were the case, these women were not victims of a textbook epidemic, driven by an infectious … Continue reading Epidemiology in Tijuana: Drugs, Death, and Tracing an Epidemic

Going Underground in the Truffle Market’s Dark Economy

Book review: The Truffle Underground, by Ryan Jacobs (Amazon / Book Depository) The larger industry has managed to manufacture an image of pure beauty and romance for its consumers. “They see the truffle on the table…but before that, they don’t know anything. They don’t know the underworld.” Truffles, one of the priciest delicacies you can spend your money on, have a complex economic supply chain … Continue reading Going Underground in the Truffle Market’s Dark Economy

Inside the Investigation that Brought Down Warren Jeffs

Book review: Prophet’s Prey, by Sam Brower (Amazon / Book Depository) Private investigator Sam Brower found something unusual in Ross Chatwin, a former member of the the insular Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Chatwin’s case, and Brower’s investigation into the religious sect that had excommunicated him, piqued his curiosity like no other investigation had. The FLDS is a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot with near-cultlike operations, … Continue reading Inside the Investigation that Brought Down Warren Jeffs

Jon Krakauer’s Classic On An Ill-Fated Walk Into Wilderness

Book review: Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer (Amazon / Book Depository) His exact words were: “I think I’m going to disappear for a while.” At 24, Chris McCandless was a young man with, on the surface, a lot going for him. His family had provided wealth and economic stability, he was smart and college educated, and possessed a unique ability to connect with people, … Continue reading Jon Krakauer’s Classic On An Ill-Fated Walk Into Wilderness

Harper Lee’s Abandoned Work: A Crime Spree and a Mysterious Reverend in the Deep South

Book review: Furious Hours, by Casey Cep (Amazon / Book Depository) Seventeen years had passed since she’d published To Kill a Mockingbird and twelve since she’d finished helping her friend Truman Capote report the crime story in Kansas that became In Cold Blood. Now, finally, she was ready to try again. Novelist Harper Lee, long beloved for To Kill a Mockingbird, has always seemed a somewhat bittersweet figure … Continue reading Harper Lee’s Abandoned Work: A Crime Spree and a Mysterious Reverend in the Deep South

Investigating the Extreme of Psychopathy

Book review: The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson (Amazon / Book Depository) Journalist Jon Ronson’s “journey through the madness industry” begins with a stressful situation in parallel with a mystery dropped in his lap: First, he’s tapped to use his journalistic prowess to trace a book that’s been sent to prominent academics around the world without a clear source or reason. This project materializes at … Continue reading Investigating the Extreme of Psychopathy

The Long Story of an LAPD Cold Case

Book review: The Lazarus Files, by Matthew McGough (Amazon / Book Depository) In 2009, a decades-old cold case, the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen, a young newlywed nurse in Van Nuys, heated up when a suspect was finally arrested. As in many recent cases, new testing of old DNA evidence – here, an allegedly misplaced swab from a bite mark on Sherri’s arm – was … Continue reading The Long Story of an LAPD Cold Case

The Inflamed Brain and The Unreliable Narrator

Book review: Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan (Amazon / Book Depository) The mind is like a circuit of Christmas tree lights. When the brain works well, all of the lights twinkle brilliantly, and it’s adaptable enough that, often, even if one bulb goes out, the rest will still shine on. But depending on where the damage is, sometimes that one blown bulb can make … Continue reading The Inflamed Brain and The Unreliable Narrator

All the Latest Conspiracy Theories: A Journalist Explores

Book review: Republic of Lies, by Anna Merlan (Amazon / Book Depository) It’s a typically disorienting winter day in an unremarkable part of Los Angeles, the palm trees bristling above the Walgreens and the tire shops, the golden light washing insistently over the slowly rotating sign above a twenty-four-hour burger joint, its paint peeled away into nonexistence. The sun doesn’t penetrate into this vast, windowless … Continue reading All the Latest Conspiracy Theories: A Journalist Explores

Mark Bowden on Turning Over a Cold Case’s “Last Stone”

Book review: The Last Stone, by Mark Bowden (Amazon / Book Depository) Mark Bowden is a gem in narrative journalism. I’ve so often been sucked into reading a longread, that kind of lose-track-of-time story, and see it’s his after finally checking the byline. He’s a wonderfully compelling storyteller and a thorough, detail-oriented journalist. In The Last Stone, he revisits the recently solved disappearance of the … Continue reading Mark Bowden on Turning Over a Cold Case’s “Last Stone”

The View From Tehran

Book review: I’m Writing You From Tehran, by Delphine Minoui (Amazon / Book Depository) The taxi rolls along gray lines. That’s all we can make out in the darkness: gray lines, as far as the eye can see, marking out the road to the airport. Outside, beyond the window, the night devours the last forbidden words I heard. How many will still dare to shout … Continue reading The View From Tehran

Ukraine Through Personal and Political Lenses

Book review: In Wartime, by Tim Judah (Amazon / Book Depository) As we came closer to the coast, birds skimmed and whirled. The coastline is always changing here. Sediment and sand constantly form new low islands and sandbanks. Finally, we came to where this branch of the river flows out to the sea. A monument has been erected on the beach and become slightly lopsided. … Continue reading Ukraine Through Personal and Political Lenses