Posts By: DoingDewey

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Nonfiction Review: North By Shakespeare

April 8, 2021 Uncategorized 5 ★★★

Nonfiction Review: North By ShakespeareTitle: North by Shakespeare: A Rogue Scholar's Quest for the Truth Behind the Bard's Work
Author: Michael Blanding
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: I really enjoyed the historical parts of this story, but the Shakespeare theory was too speculative for me.

Author Michael Blanding’s The Map Thief was some of the earliest narrative nonfiction I read and, like Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La, it stands out as one of the books that made me love the genre. When I had an opportunity to review his latest book, on a researcher named Dennis McCarthy with a new theory about Shakespeare, I couldn’t pass it up. I was a little nervous about the topic though. The last book I read on a Shakespeare theory was pretty bad, presenting theories that felt laughably thin. This book didn’t have that problem. It was purely speculative, but some of the coincidences were persuasive. However, I still enjoyed the historical bits better than the Shakespeare theory. As someone who really appreciates solid evidence and wants to know what I’m reading in nonfiction is true, I’m not sure Shakespeare theory books are the best fit for me. Read more »

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A Nonfiction Dud in Review: How Language Began

April 5, 2021 Uncategorized 8

A Nonfiction Dud in Review: How Language BeganTitle: How Language Began: The Story of Humanity's Greatest Invention
Author: Daniel L. Everett
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:one-star

Summary: This book was a mess of inaccuracies, poorly supported arguments, and logical leaps.

I was excited to read this book about the biological and grammatical origins of language, so it’s with great disappointment that I say it’s only redeeming quality was that complaining about it with my science nonfiction book club was delightful. The author lost a bunch of book club members very early with some basic genomics errors. He describes the genome as including DNA and RNA, credits histones with gene activation, and acts as though the debate about whether DNA or RNA came first is undecided. Worse, he never even uses the info presented in his genomics primer. This was an entirely unforced error. He didn’t need to talk about this field he clearly doesn’t understand to make his argument! That gave a lot of us in my book club pause, because it made us question his credibility in areas where we don’t have the knowledge to factcheck. There were some complaints about the accuracy of his description of the fossil record as well, but that’s one of the topics outside my knowledge base. Read more »

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Audacious Book Club Book Reviews

March 29, 2021 Uncategorized 8 ★★★★

I’ve been enjoying Roxane Gay’s Audacious Book Club author discussions a lot. However, it’s led me to read books outside my comfort zone, which are harder to review. Roxane Gay’s brilliant discussions with the authors have only made me feel less competent to discuss these books properly. I am going to attempt some reviews, however, both because I think these are fascinating books that deserve to be discussed and because I’m finding it easier to parse my own thoughts after letting some time pass.

Audacious Book Club Book ReviewsTitle: Black Futures
Author: Kimberly Drew, Jenna Wortham
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

This collection of forward-looking, introspective work by Black creatives is the only nonfiction the book club has read so far. It’s also the book closest to something I’d have picked up on my own. With the large pages and full-color images, it felt a little too much like a coffee table book to make my list. I’ve found that many coffee-table books don’t have enough text to hold my interest. They’re also often awkward to read because they’re so large. This book only suffered from the second of those problems. At 500+ pages, it was a real handful! The contents were incredible though. I felt like I was walking though a museum with a knowledgeable curator. The book was divided into thematic sections, with different artworks and essays building on one another to make me think more deeply on a given topic. Each entry was then linked to two or three other entries, often from other sections. This cross-talk added even more depth, bringing together ideas I’d only ever considered separately, if at all. This is one of those special books that can make you see the world in a new way and reading it was a unique, enjoyable experience. Read more »

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Gardening Memoirs in Review

March 24, 2021 Uncategorized 10 ★★★

Gardening Memoirs in ReviewTitle: Paradise Under Glass: An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden
Author: Ruth Kassinger
|Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

This memoir about author Ruth Kassinger’s creation of a conservatory at her home in suburban Maryland was fun to pick up, since I’ve just moved to Maryland where I’ve been admiring the many homes with beautiful sunrooms. The memoir sections of this book where delightful. There’s something about reading about gardening and a family’s daily life that I find so soothing. Mixed with the memoir, though, were elements of the history of conservatories and cultivation of various plant species. These were often only loosely connected to the main story. As someone with a high tolerance for tangents, I’d have been happy to overlook the weak connections had these sections been interesting. There were a few sections with great fun facts, but others devolved into lists of every famous person who ever owned an orange tree, for example. Overall, I did enjoy this peaceful read during a stressful week, but the plants + memoir thing has been done better (Lab Girl by Hope Jahren comes to mind). Read more »

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Reading Beowulf: A New Translation

March 15, 2021 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★

Reading Beowulf: A New TranslationTitle: Beowulf: A New Translation
Author: Maria Dahvana Headley, Unknown
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: As a novice poetry reader, I found this new translation fun and approachable.

As a reader who is comfortable with many genres, but totally intimidated by poetry, I feel like a bit of a cliche. At least I’m not alone in finding poetry one of the less approachable forms of writing! Honestly, before picking up this new translation of Beowulf, I didn’t think of this classic as a poem. I think at some point I must have read a narrative version and that’s how I thought of Beowulf. I still don’t feel I know how to talk about poetry, but this book gave me a new appreciation for the careful selection of word and cadence that poetry involves. Read more »

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Science Nonfiction Review: The Genome Odyssey

March 8, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Science Nonfiction Review: The Genome OdysseyTitle: The Genome Odyssey: The Promise of Precision Medicine to Define, Detect, and Defeat Disease
Author: Euan Angus Ashley
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: I loved the patient stories in this book and am excited to find a popular science book explaining the details of precision medicine.

If you’ve ever been interested in the potential of genome sequencing for personalized medicine, I highly recommend this book. Stanford professor and author, Dr. Euan Ashley, covers the development of sequencing technology in great detail. He also includes many fascinating, moving cases of patients who have been helped by precision medicine. Then he wraps up with a look to possible future developments in the field. Read more »

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