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 Working Poor of the Heartland

Book review: Heartland, by Sarah Smarsh Journalist Sarah Smarsh is a fifth generation Kansan who grew up with her family life centered around a wheat farm in the countryside, with Wichita being the closest big city. In her memoir, she chronicles generations of her family, particularly the strong but troubled women in her lineage, and puts their struggles and choices into clear economic and cultural context. … Continue reading The Working Poor of the Heartland

The Interstate and the Murderer

Book review: Killer on the Road, by Ginger Strand America became more violent and more mobile at the same time. Were they linked? Did highways lead to highway violence? Yes and no. More highways meant more travel, more movement, more anonymity—all conducive to criminality. Highway users could become easy victims: stranded motorists, hitchhikers, drifters, and truck stop prostitutes were vulnerable to roving predators. But most … Continue reading The Interstate and the Murderer

Winchester’s Mark On Americana and Its Changing Face

Book review: Homeplace, by John Lingan Winchester’s residents have always been engaged in the process of defining this place and its character, and those definitions are often forged in living rooms more than state houses or courtrooms. That’s where people learn their values and hear their legends. Homes – the places to gather with your people – were the true currency of a region in … Continue reading Winchester’s Mark On Americana and Its Changing Face

The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Book review: Hidden America, by Jeanne Marie Laskas I discovered this book through the excellent New York Times Match Book column. If you’re not already familiar, people write asking for specific book recommendations based on previous favorites or highly specific genres. This one was mentioned in a social issues-themed reading list. Hidden America began when author Laskas was writing about coal mining and ended up spending … Continue reading The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Letting the Rust Belt Speak

Book review: Voices from the Rust Belt, edited by Anne Trubek These essays address segregated schools, rural childhoods, suburban ennui, lead poisoning, opiate addiction, and job loss. They reflect upon happy childhoods, successful community ventures, warm refuges for outsiders, and hidden oases of natural beauty. But mainly they are stories drawn from uniquely personal experiences. A girl has her bike stolen. A social worker in … Continue reading Letting the Rust Belt Speak

Walking a Mile in the Shoes of Chinese Immigrants in Queens

Book review: Patriot Number One, by Lauren Hilgers Journalist Lauren Hilgers was somewhat surprised when an acquaintance from her years spent working in Shanghai showed up on her Brooklyn doorstep one evening. The man, Zhuang Lehong, was a Chinese activist-labeled-dissident who had traveled to the United States with his wife, Little Yan, planning to seek asylum. Hilgers profiled their experience in the asylum process while … Continue reading Walking a Mile in the Shoes of Chinese Immigrants in Queens

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?

Anticipating in 2018 – 12 Nonfiction Titles to Look Forward To

2018 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for nonfiction releases. I put together a two-part list (more coming on Friday) looking ahead to some books that I’m anticipating, including a few good ones I’ve already read advances of, so consider it an early heads up to be on the lookout for them! Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Michael Wolff, January 9, Henry Holt & … Continue reading Anticipating in 2018 – 12 Nonfiction Titles to Look Forward To

Obama’s Nonfiction Reading Recommendations

Featured photo: President Barack Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia shop for books at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) President Obama published a list on his Facebook page of his favorite books and music of 2017 and it’s pretty wonderful. As I’ve said, I love lists, especially of others’ favorites … Continue reading Obama’s Nonfiction Reading Recommendations

10 Favorite Reads Not Published in 2017

I made a goal for myself this year to read fewer advance copies and more of what I’ve really been wanting to read myself. I love reading advances, don’t get me wrong, but they do sometimes keep me from getting to something I’d personally been in the mood for. It sounds odd, but it can be hard to fit in non-advance copies considering the necessary … Continue reading 10 Favorite Reads Not Published in 2017

2017’s Award-Winning Journalism

Review: The Best American Magazine Writing 2017 Sid Holt compiles this year’s Best American Magazine Writing for the American Society of Magazine Editors. For anyone who loves topical, well-written and affecting long-form journalism, this year’s collection of award-winners and finalists is excellent. It should come as no surprise that the selections swerve heavily towards the political. Some of the strongest standouts include multiple journalists’ dispatches from the … Continue reading 2017’s Award-Winning Journalism