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

Book review: American Prison, by Shane Bauer (Amazon / Book Depository) 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 … Continue reading Undercover Reporting and the Disturbing History of For-Profit Prisons in America

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

Coming of Age in Cold War America

Book review: A Girl’s Guide to Missiles, by Karen Piper Amazon Karen Piper, a professor of literature and geology and author of several books on environmental issues, writes a personal memoir about her life, including scenes from her childhood growing up in the 1970s in China Lake, a secretive missile range in the Mojave Desert. Her narrative as she walks readers through her life folds … Continue reading Coming of Age in Cold War America

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

Impressionistic Vignettes of a Year Still Reverberating Today

Review: 1947: Where Now Begins, by Elisabeth Asbrink (Amazon / Book Depository) 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 … Continue reading Impressionistic Vignettes of a Year Still Reverberating Today

Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Book review: Stalin’s Daughter, by Rosemary Sullivan (Amazon / Book Depository) “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, … 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

Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Book review: Them and The Elephant in the Room, by Jon Ronson (Amazon / Book Depository) This book began its life in 1995 as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the extremist monsters of the Western world – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them … Continue reading Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Into the Heart of Texas

Book review: God Save Texas, by Lawrence Wright (Amazon / Book Depository) By the time I graduated from high school, I was sick of Texas. I did everything I could to cleanse myself of its influence…I’ve seen the same thing happen to people who come from other societies with a strong cultural imprint; they reverse the image. But being the opposite of what you were is not … Continue reading Into the Heart of Texas

A Journalist on Clinton’s Campaigns and Her Own Role in Covering Them

Book review: Chasing Hillary, by Amy Chozick Amazon / Book Depository I just wanted to tell good stories that helped explain the world to people. Every time I read another campaign trail or White House memoir, I tell myself that’s enough. Then a new one comes out and I can’t seem to resist. Longtime traveling journalist on the Hillary Clinton beat Amy Chozick’s Chasing Hillary is the … Continue reading A Journalist on Clinton’s Campaigns and Her Own Role in Covering Them

Sharp Essays on America’s Social, Political, and Economic Bruises

Book review: The View from Flyover Country, by Sarah Kendzior Amazon An old adage says to write what you know. As a journalist living in a decayed Midwestern city waiting – and waiting and waiting – for the Great Recession to end, that was what I knew. Political writer, analyst and academic researcher of authoritarian states Sarah Kendzior rose to prominence a few years ago … Continue reading Sharp Essays on America’s Social, Political, and Economic Bruises