Source: Library

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#NBAwards Longlist Review: The End of the Myth

December 8, 2019 Uncategorized 2 ★★★

#NBAwards Longlist Review: The End of the MythTitle: The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America
Author: Greg Grandin
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: This felt light and anecdotal, which was a disappointing approach to this timely topic.

This book is based on the premise that “ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation–democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America has a new symbol: the border wall.” (source) The author suggests that this focus on expansion made it possible for Americans to get away with ignoring domestic issues related to class and race. Then stalled expansion led to a lot of energy and aggression being channeled into issues that are closer to home. Read more »

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#NBAwards Longlist Review: Race For Profit

December 3, 2019 Uncategorized 0 ★★★★

#NBAwards Longlist Review: Race For ProfitTitle: Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership
Author: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was a fascinating, infuriating, and important read, but it could also be dry and repetitive at times.

I’m so glad I got around to doing an end of month round-up and realized I’d not yet reviewed this book, because I’m excited to tell you about it. Like many of the National Book Award nominees, this book deals with a heavier topic. It covers the many ways that government housing subsidies in the 1960s and 1970s disadvantaged black families. Several major problems with the program allowed race-dependent outcomes. In particular, it seems that none of the administrations that ran the program were willing to enforce civil rights law or provide adequate oversight of housing quality. This allowed the real estate industry to continue racist practices while receiving government funding. Add to this some perverse incentives that meant banks could make more money on mortgages if tenants were evicted and you have a recipe for disaster. Read more »

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#NonficNov Review: How to Build a Car

November 14, 2019 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★

#NonficNov Review: How to Build a CarTitle: How to Build a Car: The Autobiography of the World’s Greatest Formula 1 Designer
Author: Adrian Newey
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was an engaging read and I loved the insider perspective, but I’d have liked more technical details.

I’ve been enjoying watching Formula One with my husband for the past few years and, as a computer scientist (me) and an engineer (him), we’re both fascinated by the technology behind these cars. Unfortunately, a lot of the available books on Formula One seem to be unauthorized driver biographies of varying qualities. So, I was very excited to see that Formula One designer and engineer Adrian Newey was releasing a book called How to Build a Car. Each section is devoted to a car he worked on and I had high hopes for some cool technical details in this book. Read more »

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#NBAward Shortlist Review: Say Nothing

November 10, 2019 Uncategorized 6 ★★★★★

#NBAward Shortlist Review: Say NothingTitle: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Author: Patrick Radden Keefe
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: Well written, well researched, engaging, and educational – this had everything I want from a National Book Award nominee.

This is a story of The Troubles, the violent conflict that tore Northern Ireland apart from 1960 through 1998, separating people based on their religion and whether they wanted to be part of the United Kingdom. It starts with the abduction of Jean McConville, a mother of 10 and one of perhaps a dozen people who were disappeared during the Troubles. The author then follows not only Jean’s story and her family’s, but the story of Brendan Hughes, high ranking IRA official and hunger striker; Gerry Adams, (probable) former IRA member turned politician; and Dolours Price, who participated in IRA violence as a teen and was troubled by her actions as an adult. These four stories all end very differently and the author uses them together to give a nuanced look at a terrible conflict. Read more »

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#NBAwards Shortlist Review: What You Have Heard is True

October 21, 2019 Uncategorized 0 ★★★★

#NBAwards Shortlist Review: What You Have Heard is TrueTitle: What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance
Author: Carolyn Forché
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: A beautiful, disjointed memoir that did a great job capturing the emotional impact of the history it covered.

“Carolyn Forché is twenty-seven when the mysterious stranger appears on her doorstep. The relative of a friend, [Leonel] is a charming polymath with a mind as seemingly disordered as it is brilliant. She’s heard rumors from her friend about who he might be: a lone wolf, a communist, a CIA operative, a sharpshooter, a revolutionary, a small coffee farmer, but according to her, no one seemed to know for certain. He has driven from El Salvador to invite Forché to visit and learn about his country. Captivated for reasons she doesn’t fully understand, she accepts and becomes enmeshed in something beyond her comprehension.” (source) Read more »

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#NBAward Shortlist Review: Solitary

October 16, 2019 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★

#NBAward Shortlist Review: SolitaryTitle: Solitary
Author: Albert Woodfox
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was a powerful story showing the human cost of systemic problems.

This is the memoir of Albert Woodfox, a man who survived more than 40 years of solitary confinement imposed for a crime he didn’t commit. As you might expect, a lot of the power of this book came from the author’s experiences. It was absolutely incredible how he was able to focus on the people who helped him, rather than on those who wronged him. The purpose he found in his life is inspiring. Read more »

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#NBAward Shortlist Review: The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

October 14, 2019 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★★

#NBAward Shortlist Review: The Heartbeat of Wounded KneeTitle: The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present
Author: David Treuer
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: An informative, relevant, and enjoyable blend of memoir, first-hand reporting, and history.

This book begins with the observation that Native American history is often presented as though it ended in 1890, with the massacre at Wounded Knee. This book challenges that perspective. The author shows that the view of history as “made by white people and done to Indians” (direct quote) is outdated. Although much of Native American history from 1890 through at least the 1960s was shaped by ill-conceived US government policies, those decades were also a period of impressive ingenuity and adaptation by Native Americans. Simply to survive required the creation of new social structures and forms of government. By the 1960s, Native Americans were also influencing US politics as part of the civil rights movement. As American citizens and members of ‘sovereign dependent nations’, Native Americans form growing, thriving communities and continue to shape politics and culture in the US today. Read more »

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#NBAward Longlist Review: Burn the Place

October 10, 2019 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★★

#NBAward Longlist Review: Burn the PlaceTitle: Burn the Place: A Memoir
Author: Iliana Regan
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: A fascinating memoir, enjoyable both for the author’s emotional account of her struggles and for the cool technical details of her career.

Iliana Regan is perhaps best known for her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth, but I first heard of her as the author of this National Book Award long-listed memoir. The book blurb sells it as searingly honest, which it is. It covers the sort of difficult topics the phrase ‘searingly honest’ conjures, like Iliana’s struggle with alcoholism and her difficulty accepting her sexuality. But her honesty also led to some surprising moments of humor, often through unexpected profanity. Her honesty definitely helped me feel involved in her life, but the primary strength I identified in this book was the author’s ability to tell a good story. As a child, she describes escaping into her imagination and now she says uses her menus to tell stories. That ability carries over to her memoir as well. Read more »

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Reading on Dorothea Lange

September 25, 2019 Uncategorized 2 ★★★★★

Reading on Dorothea LangeTitle: Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits
Author: Linda Gordon
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: A fantastic, detailed, personal biography.

After reading a fictional account of depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange’s life, I was excited to learn more about the real woman behind the story. This particular biography has won numerous awards and it was easy to see why. It seems like a definitive account of Lange’s life, covering both her personal life and her career in great detail. The physical book itself is of high quality. The paper it was printed on was heavier stock than most books and pictures were both scattered throughout and available on glossy inserts. The pictures were well chosen to enhance the text. Read more »

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True Crime Review: Chase Darkness With Me

September 11, 2019 Uncategorized 7 ★★★★

True Crime Review: Chase Darkness With MeTitle: Chase Darkness with Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders
Author: Billy Jensen
Source: Library
|Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was an entertaining book, but sometimes the tone was off-putting.

Crime writer Billy Jensen is someone that I know of because of his work completing Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. In addition to helping to finish Michelle’s book, Jensen hosted a crime radio show with her; worked as a journalist writing about both sports and crime;  and has recently begun to use his social media skills to help solve crimes. This book was a mix of memoir and true crime, with a focus on his recent work with police. Read more »

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