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

The View From Tehran

Book review: I’m Writing You From Tehran, by Delphine Minoui (Amazon / Book Depository) The taxi rolls along gray lines. That’s all we can make out in the darkness: gray lines, as far as the eye can see, marking out the road to the airport. Outside, beyond the window, the night devours the last forbidden words I heard. How many will still dare to shout … Continue reading The View From Tehran

Deceivers and Their Believers: Pop Psych on Dishonesty in Love

Book review: Duped, by Abby Ellin (Amazon / Book Depository) Journalist Abby Ellin, an observer of human nature for her work, couldn’t believe she’d been so deceived. She’d been in a long-term relationship with a man dubbed “the Commander,” a military doctor prone to spinning impossibly tall (and borderline silly) tales and who was secretly writing prescriptions in the names of people close to him. … Continue reading Deceivers and Their Believers: Pop Psych on Dishonesty in Love

Hope in Historical Precedence

Book review: Lessons from a Dark Time, by Adam Hochschild Book Depository When times are dark, we need moral ancestors, and I hope the pieces here will be reminders that others have fought and won battles against injustice in the past, including some against racism, anti-immigrant hysteria, and more. The Trumps and Putins of those eras have gotten the ignominy they deserve. Journalist, public historian … Continue reading Hope in Historical Precedence

Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

Book review: The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, by Tony Ortega Amazon Journalist Paulette Cooper survived the Holocaust but she almost didn’t survive Scientology. That thought lingered while reading this biography and account of her years of harassment by the cultlike religion for daring to write honestly and critically about them. Her parents suffered persecution as Jews in Second World War Europe and Paulette was lucky enough … Continue reading Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

An Austrian Serial Killer: The Strange Story of “Rehabilitated” Murderer Jack Unterweger

Book review: The Vienna Woods Killer, by John Leake John Leake, an American writer who lived nearly a decade in Vienna, wrote this definitive account of Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger. Unterweger’s is quite the interesting story, not least because the crime of serial murder is far from common in Austria. Combined with his background of alleged rehabilitation and crime spree across Austria and internationally, … Continue reading An Austrian Serial Killer: The Strange Story of “Rehabilitated” Murderer Jack Unterweger

Nonfiction Titles Celebrating Women in Translation Month

August is Women in Translation month, an annual celebration of writing by women translated into English. I’m late to be sharing anything about this, but in case you can still catch something, bookstores often spotlight titles and hold sales, host special events and readings, and many publishers offer discounts on titles by women in translation. Maybe there’s still time to catch some sales and events, … Continue reading Nonfiction Titles Celebrating Women in Translation Month

The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Book review: Hidden America, by Jeanne Marie Laskas (Amazon / Book Depository) 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 … Continue reading The America Hiding in Plain Sight

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