Scenes from a House in Ekaterinburg in July, 100 Years Ago

Book review: Last Days of the Romanovs, by Helen Rappaport 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 Romanov family … 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

Svetlana, In and Out of Stalin’s Shadow

Book review: Stalin’s Daughter, by Rosemary Sullivan “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, Rosemary Sullivan didn’t have … 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

Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Book review: For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors, by Laura Esther Wolfson Laura Esther Wolfson’s essay collection, the Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction winner, is composed of dreamy, reflectional, sometimes confessional pieces of memoir. An interpreter and translator by profession, the idea of translation and the role of language in life, love, questions of identity, relationships, and everyday interpersonal interactions is its common thread. … Continue reading Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After

Book review: Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich Sometimes it’s as though I hear his voice. Alive. Even photographs don’t have the same effect on me as that voice. But he never calls out to me . . . not even in my dreams. I’m the one who calls to him. After reading Svetlana Alexievich’s incredible Unwomanly Face of War, I couldn’t wait to begin another … Continue reading Monologues on Chernobyl and What Came After

Hacking, Trolling, Espionage, and Moscow Ambitions: A Peek Inside the Russia Probe

Book review: Russian Roulette, by Michael Isikoff and David Corn Political investigative journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn (the former the chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo News and the latter the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones) write a thoroughly researched, detail-driven, and rage-inducing account of relations between Trump family, campaign, and administration with Russia, as well as the impact of Russian cybercrime on the … Continue reading Hacking, Trolling, Espionage, and Moscow Ambitions: A Peek Inside the Russia Probe

What Do Bears and the People of Former Communist Countries Have in Common?

Book review: Dancing Bears: True Stories About Longing for the Old Days, by Witold Szabłowski Another version of this book, newly published in its first English translation, has the subtitle “True Stories of People Nostalgic for Life Under Tyranny”. That sums up perfectly what it’s about – stories about how and seemingly why humans and trained bears can’t seem to break the bonds that held them … Continue reading What Do Bears and the People of Former Communist Countries Have in Common?

Making Light of a Soviet Childhood

Book review: Everything is Normal, by Sergey Grechishkin Railways and trains in Russia have always been much more than just pragmatic modes of getting from point A to point B. For a Russian soul, a never-ending train journey across the empty vastness of its land is a state of mind, a meditation, an existential reflection on life itself. One might also argue that Russia, the … Continue reading Making Light of a Soviet Childhood

Women’s Voices Tell the Stories of Russia at War

Book review: The Unwomanly Face of War, by Svetlana Alexievich Yet another book about war? What for? There have been a thousand wars—small and big, known and unknown. And still more has been written about them. But…it was men writing about men—that much was clear at once. Everything we know about war we know with “a man’s voice.” When I came to polish up this … Continue reading Women’s Voices Tell the Stories of Russia at War

A Family Broken Apart by War and a Stylistic Trek Across Europe

Book review: Maybe Esther, by Katja Petrowskaja The train station was recently built in the middle of this city, and despite the peace the station was inhospitable, as though it embodied all the losses that no train could outrun, one of the most inhospitable places in our Europe, united as it is forward and backward, yet still sharply bounded, a place that always feels drafty and … Continue reading A Family Broken Apart by War and a Stylistic Trek Across Europe

Upcoming New Nonfiction in 2018, Part 2

One post of anticipated reads for 2018 wasn’t enough to include them all, especially with so many exciting -sounding ones already on the release calendar. Here, a dozen more of the year’s upcoming reads I think are worth taking note of, mainly from the latter part of the year. Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found (Gilbert King, … Continue reading Upcoming New Nonfiction in 2018, Part 2