Losing Her Religion: A Former Jehovah’s Witness on Leaving the Faith

Book review: Leaving the Witness, by Amber Scorah (Amazon / Book Depository) A Witness cannot just fade away without anyone trying to intervene, and it was hard to find enough mental space to gain any perspective. It’s not the kind of religion that lets you walk away, because the people in it think that by walking away, you have lost your mind and interventions will … Continue reading Losing Her Religion: A Former Jehovah’s Witness on Leaving the Faith

Narrative Biography of a Trailblazing Lawyer Turned Detective, Almost Lost to History

Book review: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, by Brad Ricca (Amazon / Book Depository) Newly told stories of women who have faded into the annals of history despite significant contributions from their life’s work are becoming an increasingly popular, welcomed trend. Author Brad Ricca’s Mrs. Sherlock Holmes covers one such story – that of Grace Humiston, a New York City lawyer in the early 1900s who earned … Continue reading Narrative Biography of a Trailblazing Lawyer Turned Detective, Almost Lost to History

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

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

“A Young Black Chef” Finds His Place in Fine Dining

Book review: Notes from a Young Black Chef, by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein (Amazon / Book Depository) A groove had formed in the linoleum in front of the stove where Mom spent hours cooking. Next to that were four indentations from the little wooden step stool on which I often stood to watch her. Chef Kwame Onwuachi was born to an American mother … Continue reading “A Young Black Chef” Finds His Place in Fine Dining

Janet Malcolm’s Profiles, Politics, and Literary Criticism

Book review: Nobody’s Looking at You, by Janet Malcolm (Amazon / Book Depository) Janet Malcolm has an ability I so admire, to observe people and situations deeply and distill what she sees so meaningfully, shaping her storytelling. It’s one thing to look, and another to really see; and she’s remarkably perceptive. It’s kind of a marvel to watch her work. Nobody’s Looking at You collects essays … Continue reading Janet Malcolm’s Profiles, Politics, and Literary Criticism

Myth and Truth in Kitty Genovese’s Story

Book review: Kitty Genovese, by Catherine Pelonero (Amazon / Book Depository) It was the location, many later said, that gave a heightened sense of horror to what happened. In the early morning of March 1964 in Kew Gardens, a quiet residential district of Queens, considered “idyllic” by New York City standards, a young woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered on her way home from work in … Continue reading Myth and Truth in Kitty Genovese’s Story

Family Stories and Recipes, From Belarus to Brooklyn

Book review: Savage Feast, by Boris Fishman (Amazon / Book Depository)  Food was so valuable that it was a kind of currency—and it was how you showed love. If, as a person on the cusp of thirty, I wished to find sanity, I had to figure out how to temper this hunger without losing hold of what fed it, how to retain a connection to my past … Continue reading Family Stories and Recipes, From Belarus to Brooklyn

Pre-2018 Favorites

I noticed this year that several of my pre-2018 picks were published in 2017, so they’re not actually that far from being new releases. I’m a little disappointed that it turned out that way, but I guess 2017 was just a great year for nonfiction! Here are the books that were my favorites among what I read published before 2018: My top backlist favorite this … Continue reading Pre-2018 Favorites

The Nostalgia of Coming Home When Everything’s Changed

Book review: Bettyville, by George Hodgman (Amazon / Book Depository) My friends worry that I am falling into a hole here, that this time away is really giving up, running away. Since I lost my job, I don’t know quite who it is I am now. Suddenly I feel older. In New York, my closet is full of clothes that still smell a little like … Continue reading The Nostalgia of Coming Home When Everything’s Changed

Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

Book review: The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, by Tony Ortega Amazon 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 … Continue reading Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture

Buttermilk Graffiti, by Edward Lee (Amazon / Book Depository) This says a lot about who we are as a culture now; we care about the person behind the recipes. For us, it is important to know as much about the cook as we do about his or her dishes. Cookbooks are living traditions. They reflect back to us who we are, as individuals, as a … Continue reading Stories from America’s Melting Pot of Cuisine and Culture