Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Essays on Women and Islam #WITMonth

Book review: The Caged Virgin, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (Amazon / Book Depository) Any Muslim who asks critical questions about Islam is immediately branded a “deserter.” A Muslim who advocates the exploration of sources for morality, in addition to those of the Prophet Muhammad, will be threatened with death, and a woman who withdraws from the virgins’ cage is branded a whore. I hope to … Continue reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Essays on Women and Islam #WITMonth

Fast Food and the American Dream

Book review: Drive-Thru Dreams, by Adam Chandler (Amazon / Book Depository) Drive-Thru Dreams opens with an affecting story about how a prank inspired one of those benevolent gestures from a big company, leading to a feel-good video for social media and wins all-around for everyone involved — on the surface, at least. It establishes an interesting idea of what fast food restaurants and branding mean … Continue reading Fast Food and the American Dream

An Exposé of America’s Low-Wage Workplaces

Book review: On the Clock, by Emily Guendelsberger (Amazon / Book Depository) When the newspaper she worked for closed in 2015, journalist Emily Guendelsberger used the opportunity to pursue a project she’d long been interested in. Over the next two years she worked in some of America’s common, controversial low-wage jobs to see what conditions were like, how they affected workers physically and psychologically, and … Continue reading An Exposé of America’s Low-Wage Workplaces

Nonfiction Classic on Making Fear Work For You

Book review: The Gift of Fear, by Gavin de Becker (Amazon / Book Depository) Do not listen to the TV news checklist of what to do, or the magazine article’s checklist of what to do, or the story about what your friend did. Listen to the wisdom that comes from having heard it all by listening to yourself. Someone recommended this book to me probably … Continue reading Nonfiction Classic on Making Fear Work For You

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

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

Modern Rasputins: Identifying the Manipulators in Power

Book review: No One Man Should Have All That Power, by Amos Barshad (Amazon / Book Depository) Wherever there is a puppet master, an eminence grise, a Svengali, a manipulator, a secret controller – that is a Rasputin. Author Amos Barshad, fascinated by the shadowy and powerful, started noticing manipulative figures everywhere, from pop culture to politics. He developed a seven-point system to identify the … Continue reading Modern Rasputins: Identifying the Manipulators in Power

Lives and Social Histories of the Ripper’s Canonical Five

Book review: The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold (Amazon / Book Depository) Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden, and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers. The truth of these women’s lives was not … Continue reading Lives and Social Histories of the Ripper’s Canonical Five

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

Lawrence Wright’s Look at the Satanic Panic

Book review: Remembering Satan, by Lawrence Wright (Amazon / Book Depository) Journalist Lawrence Wright is one of my favorite nonsense-busters. It just doesn’t get past him. And his books are so well-written that even when they’re dealing with the eye-rolling (but also very sad) “Satanic Panic” of the late 80s/90s, they’re meticulous and brilliantly laid out. If there’s anyone who can take a kooky cult … Continue reading Lawrence Wright’s Look at the Satanic Panic

Family, Race, Violence, and the Calculations Made to Survive

Book review: Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson (Amazon / Book Depository) Sirens scream (for who else in the world but you?) in the distance. In a prose style unlike any I’ve encountered before, Mitchell S. Jackson, novelist and writing instructor at New York and Columbia Universities, writes a memoir of his life and tumultuous upbringing in Portland, Oregon. His story is interwoven with those … Continue reading Family, Race, Violence, and the Calculations Made to Survive

Poet Ross Gay Writes His Delights

Book review: The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay (Amazon / Book Depository) It didn’t take me long to learn that the discipline or practice of writing these essays occasioned a kind of delight radar. Or maybe it was more like the development of a delight muscle. Something that implies that the more you study delight, the more delight there is to study. A month … Continue reading Poet Ross Gay Writes His Delights