Being Okay with Being Unhappy

Book review: This Close to Happy, by Daphne Merkin Writer and literary critic Daphne Merkin, a former staff writer for the New Yorker, has suffered lifelong depression. She's been trying to write a memoir about her illness and attempts to cure, or at least contain, it for more than a decade. It was finally published in February.... Continue Reading →

Story of a Family, Story of Syria

The Home That Was Our Country, by Alia Malek Journalist and civil rights lawyer Alia Malek was born in Baltimore to Syrian parents. With the memory of her beloved grandmother Salma, the matriarch of their large extended family, and Salma's apartment in Damascus, she always felt a strong connection and pull to the country. Her... Continue Reading →

Vignettes from a Communist Childhood

Book review: The Girl from the Metropol Hotel, by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya Book Depository Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is one of contemporary Russia's most loved and accoladed author/playwrights, famous for her books of "scary fairytales"(There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby) and "love stories" (There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband and He... Continue Reading →

How it Feels When a Cold Case Warms Up

Book review: Jane Doe January, by Emily Winslow Some years ago, I made the decision to stop reading a book if I wasn't enjoying it. Life is short and my reading list is never-ending. 40-odd pages into Jane Doe January, I put it aside with no desire to continue, and I'm not sure why I eventually did. I think because I'd... Continue Reading →

In Support of the Shy

Book review: Shrinking Violets, by Joe Moran Shyness is about much more than just shrinking away. Violets "shrink" not in retreating from the world but in evincing nature's talent for endless variation and for sustaining life in the most varied habitats. Shyness, too, can flourish in many climates and soils and express itself in many... Continue Reading →

The Opposite of How Most People Think

Book review: The Unspeakable, by Meghan Daum (Amazon / Book Depository) I've been in the mood to read a good essay collection, and oh man - oh man, was this it. Meghan Daum is a columnist for the L.A. Times and contributor to outlets like Slate and NPR. And she's an unflinchingly honest essayist. The Unspeakable tells stories about subjects that are uncomfortable to... Continue Reading →

Nerves and the Nervous

Book review: Hi, Anxiety: Life with a Bad Case of Nerves, by Kat Kinsman (Amazon / Book Depository) Food writer and former CNN writer/editor Kat Kinsman writes a baring, unflinching memoir of her lifelong experiences living with anxiety. I started reading it and had to stop and take a break, because even confronting the subject made me... Continue Reading →

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... Continue Reading →

Memoir of a Murder, But So Much More

Book review: The Red Parts, by Maggie Nelson Amazon The Red Parts defies categorization. In the broadest terms it's a memoir, but it's also true crime, literary theory, narrative nonfiction, social commentary, philosophy, and in case you're in doubt about any of its genres or topics, it's written with a beautiful poetic voice, just making... Continue Reading →

Lessons from Borough Park and the Payne Whitney

Photo: New York Hospital, Payne Whitney Clinic. From the Historic American Buildings Survey, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington D.C. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Book review: One of These Things First: A Memoir, by Steven Gaines (Amazon ($1.99 ebook alert!) / Book Depository) It sounds strange, but I've read a couple of Holocaust memoirs lately... Continue Reading →

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