Posts By: DoingDewey

Nonfiction About the US Supply Chain in Review

May 5, 2021 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★

Nonfiction About the US Supply Chain in ReviewTitle: The Secret Life of Groceries: The Dark Miracle of the American Supermarket
Author: Benjamin Lorr
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Engaging and informative, I enjoyed how this work of investigative journalism used personal stories to give us a behind-the-scenes look at US grocery stores.

I sure do know how to write a click-bait post title :p Believe it or not, these books on the supply chain in the US were actually quite gripping. Sometimes depressing too, but this topic impacts our lives so intimately that I loved learning more. The first of these books was about how we get our groceries in the US. It covers everything from the rise of Trader Joe’s to the life of a trucker (grim), from what it takes to get your product on supermarket shelves to slave labor employed in the shrimp fishing industry (even more grim). I appreciated that there were some lighter topics in here. It made it easier to enjoy this book, while also learning about some of the horrifying realities that currently support the convenience of the modern grocery store. Read more »

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Women in History Review: Code Name Madeleine

April 26, 2021 Uncategorized 4 ★★★

Women in History Review: Code Name MadeleineTitle: Code Name Madeleine: A Sufi Spy in Nazi-Occupied Paris
Author: Arthur J. Magida
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: More character-focused than plot-driven, this book was fascinating, but not the best fit for me right now.

This is the story of a WWII heroine, Noor Inayat Khan. As a quiet children’s author, given a luxurious childhood by followers of her father’s spiritual teachings, Noor wasn’t an obvious candidate for the French resistance. After an escape from France to Britain, she was persistent about being sent back and then staying to operate a radio as operatives were captured around her. This self-sacrifice was in keeping with the compassionate and applied teachings Noor absorbed from her father at an early age.  I will share with you how her story ends, since that info is revealed in the publisher summary. I’ll also make reference to the spoiler throughout the following review, so if you wish to know less than the blurb reveals, best to skip this review. Alright, on to the summary spoiler… After crucial months operating in France, Noor was captured and eventually killed at Dachau, months before the end of the war. Read more »

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Historical Fiction Review: Vera

April 21, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★

Historical Fiction Review: VeraTitle: Vera
Author: Carol Edgarian
Source: from publisher for review
|Goodreads
Rating:two-stars

Summary: The characters were interesting, but the plot and setting were pretty lackluster.

This is the story of “Vera Johnson, the uncommonly resourceful fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello and ally to the city’s corrupt politicians. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the violent, debt ridden domestic life of the family paid to raise her.” (source) This description is a little on the grim side for my taste, but I was intrigued by the historical setting around the 1905 San Francisco earthquake and picked this up for that reason.

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#Science Biography Review: The Codebreaker

April 19, 2021 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★★

#Science Biography Review: The CodebreakerTitle: The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race
Author: Walter Isaacson
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: An engaging, personal look at some incredible scientific achievements.

I’ve been looking forward to this biography of Noble prize-winning scientist Jennifer Doudna for months. I worked on a protein used for gene editing in grad school (the TALENs briefly mentioned in this book), so the topic is of personal interest to me. I’ve also heard great things about Walter Isaacson’s biographies of other notable thinkers, including da Vinci and Einstein. And I was interested in learning more about Jennifer Doudna, as she’s one of the most high profile female scientists I’m aware of. For all of these reasons, I had very high expectations for this book and it still exceeded them. Even at almost 500 pages, it was an engaging read that flew by, explaining the science clearly and giving a really intimate look at the people involved. Read more »

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Nonfiction Review: North By Shakespeare

April 8, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★

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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