Divided By a Common Language, More So Than We Think

Book review: If Only They Didn’t Speak English, by Jon Sopel (Amazon / Book Depository) BBC journalist Jon Sopel, the network’s North America editor, writes about US history, politics, culture and personal impressions through a UK-US comparative lens while working in both Obama’s and Trump’s America. Sopel got called out by Trump at a press conference in early 2017 while asking a question about the … Continue reading Divided By a Common Language, More So Than We Think

Beautiful Country Burn Again

Book review: South and West, by Joan Didion I am trying to place myself in history. I have been looking all my life for history and have yet to find it. The resolutely “colorful,” anecdotal quality of San Francisco history. “Characters” abound. It puts one off. In the South they are convinced that they are capable of having bloodied their land with history. In the West … Continue reading Beautiful Country Burn Again

What’s Behind Each Trump Cabinet Door

Book review: Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse, by John Nichols “Presidents can often be inconsequential – or foolish, or erratic, or incomprehensible. But presidencies are never any of those things. They are powerful, overarching, definitional.  They shape more than policies; they shape our sense of what the United States can be…Donald Trump’s presidency will make America something different than it has ever been – something darker if his autocratic agendas … Continue reading What’s Behind Each Trump Cabinet Door

Setting The Record Straight On The Donner Party

Book review: The Best Land Under Heaven, by Michael Wallis Amazon For as much true crime as I read and watch, I draw the line at cannibalism and anything near it. I mean, you have to have a line, you know? I’m fine with my extreme squeamishness about it. I feel like it would be worse if I wasn’t. Two summers ago, I read Nathaniel … Continue reading Setting The Record Straight On The Donner Party

Snakes in the Church

Book review: Salvation on Sand Mountain, by Dennis Covington “Snake handling didn’t originate back in the hills somewhere. It started when people came down from the hills to discover they were surrounded by a hostile and spiritually dead culture.” At some point last year, I read an article, I think either about a preacher getting arrested or else bitten and killed, and I learned about the Southern Pentecostal groups that … Continue reading Snakes in the Church

Black Widow of the Heartland

Book review: The Truth About Belle Gunness, by Lillian de la Torre On a spring day in 1908, police were called to the scene of a fire in a farmhouse in La Porte, Indiana. In the ruins of the house, they discovered four bodies: three children and a headless adult believed to be the farm’s proprietress, Belle Gunness. A former employee, Ray Lamphere, was charged with … Continue reading Black Widow of the Heartland

Behind-the-Scenes Glimpses into the Mind of David Sedaris

Book review: Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris Book Depository “In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.” David Sedaris, beloved humorist and essayist known for his dry, witty takes on … Continue reading Behind-the-Scenes Glimpses into the Mind of David Sedaris

Defending Hillary

Book review: The Destruction of Hillary Clinton, by Susan Bordo Professor, scholar, and Pulitzer Prize-nominee Susan Bordo is, like many others, astounded at the events of the past year that culminated in Donald Trump assuming power in Washington instead of Hillary Clinton. And like many, she’s struggled to make sense of it all: of the complex, obfuscated political and media machinery that contributed so heavily … Continue reading Defending Hillary

America’s Most Fragile

Book review: Glass House, by Brian Alexander Journalist Brian Alexander is a native of Lancaster, Ohio, a city highlighted by Forbes in 1947 with the shining, post-war pride declaration, “This is America.” Now it’s one of many towns in America’s Rust Belt that’s fallen victim to plagues of misfortune in recent decades – the restructuring and eventual closures of big companies, leading to economic bust and rampant opiate abuse. These towns … Continue reading America’s Most Fragile

Children of the Cult

Book review: The Sound of Gravel, by Ruth Wariner (Amazon / Book Depository) After reading and watching Going Clear last year, Lawrence Wright’s detailed expose on Scientology, I’ve been fixated on reading about extremist religions, especially those verging on the cultish. Seeing Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous around the same time further fueled this: I loved seeing him use his trademark cynicism coupled with hard, like-it-or-not-styled facts to debunk religious mythology across the … Continue reading Children of the Cult

Touring and Celebrating America’s History of Immigration, Spice by Spice

Book Review: Eight Flavors, by Sarah Lohman (Amazon / Book Depository) For a crash course in American trade and immigration, read this book. Sarah Lohman is a gastronomist with a deep interest in the flavors and recipes that shaped American cuisine. According to her website, she “recreates historic recipes as a way to make a personal connection with the past.” She begins the book by showing … Continue reading Touring and Celebrating America’s History of Immigration, Spice by Spice