Source: Library

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Nonfiction About the US Supply Chain in Review

May 5, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

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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#Science Biography Review: The Codebreaker

April 19, 2021 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★★

#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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Microhistory Review: Queen of Fashion

February 17, 2021 Uncategorized 12 ★★★★

Microhistory Review: Queen of FashionTitle: Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Author: Caroline Weber
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: I loved all the little details of fashion in daily life that were included in this book, as well as the thorough citations supporting them.

I’m not sure if it’s entirely fair to call this a microhistory, since it does cover the fairly large topic of the French Revolution. However, it does so through the narrow, but informative lens of Marie Antoinette’s fashion choices. That topic is narrow enough that I was skeptical about how interesting it would be. While a lot of people in the goodreads group I read this with did find it too dense, I’m happy to say that my concerns were unfounded. I thought this was a fascinating way to look at this time period. The author included delightful details of daily life, backed up by thorough citations of primary sources. She also made a convincing argument that Marie Antoinette’s fashion was influential enough that it was a worthwhile frame through which to analyze this time period. Read more »

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Black History Month Review: A More Beautiful and Terrible History

February 8, 2021 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★

Black History Month Review: A More Beautiful and Terrible HistoryTitle: A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History
Author: Jeanne Theoharis
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Full of fascinating history, but slightly repetitive, I’d most recommend this to activists today.

This was a fascinating look at the way the history of the Civil Rights movement has been rewritten to support today’s status quo. Useful lessons that history could provide for movements today are ignored. The hard work leading up to the wins; the many ordinary individuals involved; and the goals not met are all erased. I loved learning more about the true history here. It also led to some great discussion for my book group. Read more »

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#NonficNov Review: Goodbye, Things

November 25, 2020 Uncategorized 10 ★★★★

#NonficNov Review: Goodbye, ThingsTitle: Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism
Author: Fumio Sasaki, Eriko Sugita
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Helpful tips presented with recognition that minimalism won’t look the same for everyone made this a helpful, accessible, though sometimes repetitive, guide.

I’m moving across the country in about a week and moving always makes me want to get rid of everyone I own, so this book on Japanese minimalism was the right book at the right time for me. Although it had a few flaws, it was a calming, easy read full of helpful tips. The first half, in particular, worked for me. The second half was a little less helpful and made some grandiose claims, but there’s enough good here that I still enjoyed the book overall. Read more »

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Final #KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: Caste

November 5, 2020 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★★

Final #KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: CasteTitle: Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
Author: Isabel Wilkerson
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: This was a powerful, transformative read, providing a helpful framework for understanding racism in the US.

This fascinating examination of racism in the US as the visible part of a hidden caste system made for yet another impressive entry in the Kirkus Prize short list. If the quality of this year’s entries is the norm, I’ll definitely want to continue following this prize in the future. Like Fathoms, my current favorite for the prize, this book addresses one of the major problems of our times. It also, more explicitly than any other contender, presented a new framework for thinking about the world. I had one small gripe with the book that I’ll mention first, then I’ll go over the many things I loved, and last I’ll compare to Fathoms to decide if this book has taken the lead as my choice for the Kirkus Prize win.

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#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: World of Wonders

October 29, 2020 Uncategorized 1 ★★

#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: World of WondersTitle: World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments
Author: Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:two-stars

Summary: The structure of this book felt random, while the mash-up of memoir with nature writing and the prose were hit or miss for me.

This book of nature essays blended with moments of memoir is poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s debut work of nonfiction. It’s also the first of the Kirkus Prize shortlisted books that I haven’t enjoyed. Part of this may be because I picked it up only knowing the title and that the book was on the shortlist. I expected a work focused on nature writing and didn’t enjoy the unexpected forays into memoir. I typically really enjoy books that are memoir + something else though and I think there are problems with this that would have bothered me regardless of expectations. Read more »

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#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: Stakes is High

October 26, 2020 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: Stakes is HighTitle: Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream
Author: Mychal Denzel Smith
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Really thoughtful look at the American self-conception vs reality, but I had a hard time slowing down and engaging with it.

Stakes is High is one of the first books I’ve read on racism and other structural inequality in the US that post-dates Trump’s election. It sounds as though that election is part of what drove Smith to write this book. The election certainly fits into the compelling framework he’s developed here, contrasting the American dream with the historical reality of the US. He makes a strong argument that dreams are valuable as something to aspire to, but can prevent us from correcting our flaws when we act as though those dreams are already true. Read more »

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#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: The Address Book

October 19, 2020 Uncategorized 4 ★★★★

#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: The Address BookTitle: The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power
Author: Deirdre Mask
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Parts of this book felt obvious to me, but other sections included novel fun facts and thoughtful analysis that I loved.

This is a book that’s been on my radar since I included it in my Futuristic Friday list of books I was excited for in April. The subtitle (‘What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power’) immediately grabbed my attention. I love books where you get to learn about overlooked facets of everyday life. I’ve also been making a push to read more books addressing racism and classism, so I was interested to see how those concepts are embedded in our street addresses. Read more »

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#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: Fathoms

October 12, 2020 Uncategorized 10 ★★★★★

#KirkusPrize Shortlist Review: FathomsTitle: Fathoms: The World in the Whale
Author: Rebecca Giggs
Source: Library
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: This was beautifully written, thoughtful, and changed the way I see the world.

Unlike my previous shortlist read, which immediately seemed like my kind of book, I was deeply skeptical of Fathoms. I hate stories where bad things happen to animals and, let’s be honest, that describes most human interactions with whales. Whale hunting did play a large and sometimes graphic role in this story. However, I was able to make it through those bits because the author approached them with curiosity and empathy. The author clearly wanted to understand how humans interact with the natural world and whether we can all be moved to preserve it. Read more »

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