hello all. I’m not able to get a new book review posted this week, but here is my usual look at some notable nonfiction published this week
- Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Timesby Azar Nafisi.
What is the role of literature in an era when one political party wages continual war on writers and the press? What is the connection between political strife in our daily lives, and the way we meet our enemies on the page in fiction? How can literature, through its free exchange, affect politics? In this galvanizing guide to literature as resistance, Nafisi seeks to answer these questions. Drawing on her experiences as a woman and voracious reader living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, her life as an immigrant in the United States, and her role as literature professor in both countries, she crafts an argument for why, in a genuine democracy, we must engage with the enemy, and how literature can be a vehicle for doing so.
- Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth, by Elizabeth Williamson. Based on hundreds of hours of research, interviews, and access to exclusive sources and materials, Sandy Hook is Elizabeth Williamson’s landmark investigation of the aftermath of a school shooting, the work of Sandy Hook parents who fought to defend themselves, and the truth of their children’s fate against the frenzied distortions of online deniers and conspiracy theorists.
- Ways and Means: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War, by Roger Lowenstein. A revelatory financial investigation into how Lincoln and his administration used the funding of the Civil War as the catalyst to centralize the government and accomplish the most far-reaching reform in the country’s history
- After the Romanovs: Russian Exiles in Paris from the Belle Époque Through Revolution and War, by Helen Rappaport. Given the war crimes perpetrated by Putin in Ukraine, there’s a bit of a bitter taste to reading about those who fled the Russian Revolution to seek freedom in Paris. “Talented intellectuals, artists, poets, philosophers, and writers struggled in exile, eking out a living at menial jobs.” Tell it to the million-plus Ukrainians forced to flee in the past couple weeks.
- The Child Is the Teacher: A Life of Maria Montessori, by Cristina DeStefano. A timely comprehensive biography of the trailblazing educator, given the GOP’s current drive to smother schoolchildren’s autonomy, rights, and access to challenging and diverse knowledge.
- A Deeper Sickness: Journal of America in the Pandemic Year, by Margaret Peacock and Erik L. Peterson. The ‘deeper sickness’ refers to poverty, racism, violence and disinformation, all of which were further exposed by the chaos of the pandemic. Their journey revealed a sick country that believed it was well, a violent nation that believed it was peaceful; one that mistook poverty for prosperity and accountability for rebellion. The companion website is worth checking out.
- In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women Are Still on Trial, by Mona Chollet. Celebrated feminist writer Mona Chollet explores three types of women who were accused of witchcraft and persecuted: the independent woman, since widows and celibates were particularly targeted; the childless woman, since the time of the hunts marked the end of tolerance for those who claimed to control their fertility; and the elderly woman, who has always been an object of at best, pity, and at worst, horror. Examining modern society, Chollet concludes that these women continue to be harassed and oppressed. Rather than being a brief moment in history, the persecution of witches is an example of society’s seemingly eternal misogyny, while women today are direct heirs to those who were hunted down and killed for their thoughts and actions.
- Rebel: My Escape from Saudi Arabia to Freedom, by Rahaf Mohammed. In early 2019, after three years of careful planning, Rahaf Mohammed finally escaped her abusive family from her in Saudi Arabia–but made it only to Bangkok before being stripped of her passport. If she was forced to return home, she was sure she would be killed, like other rebel women in her country. As men pounded at the door of her barricaded hotel room, she opened a Twitter account. The teenager reached out to the world, and the world answered–she gained 45,000 followers in one day, and those followers helped her seek asylum in the West.
- Pleading Out: How Plea Bargaining Creates a Permanent Criminal Class, by Dan Canon. 97% of criminal cases are settled in plea bargains, despite the mythology of the jury trial as the heart of our justice system. Law professor and civil rights lawyer Dan Canon argues that plea bargaining may swiftly dispose of cases, but it also fuels an unjust system. This practice produces a massive underclass of people who are restricted from voting, working, and otherwise participating in society. And while innocent people plead guilty to crimes they did not commit in exchange for lesser sentences, the truly guilty can get away with murder.
- The Far Land: 200 Years of Murder, Mania, and Mutiny in the South Pacific, by Brandon Presser. A look at seven generation of life on Pitcairn Island, colonized by fugitives from the mutiny on the Bounty in 1808.
- In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss, by Amy Bloom. In this heartbreaking and surprising memoir of her husband’s early-onset Alzheimers, Bloom sheds light on a part of life we so often shy away from discussing–its ending. Written in Bloom’s captivating, insightful voice of her and with her trademark wit and candor, love is an unforgettable portrait of a beautiful marriage, and a boundary-defying love.
- Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos, by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam. Two neuroscientists reveal why consciousness exists and how it works by examining eighteen increasingly intelligent minds, from microbes to humankind—and beyond.
- Red Paint: The Ancestral Autobiography of a Coast Salish Punk, by Sasha LaPointe. With little more to guide her than a passion for the thriving punk scene of the Pacific Northwest and a desire to live up to the responsibility of being the namesake of her beloved great-grandmother—a linguist who helped preserve her Indigenous language of Lushootseed—Sasha throws herself headlong into the world, determined to build a better future for herself and her people.
Set against a backdrop of the breathtaking beauty of Coast Salish ancestral land and imbued with the universal spirit of punk, Red Paint is ultimately a story of the ways we learn to find our true selves while fighting for our right to claim a place of our own. .
- conversations, by Steve Reich. The legend of modern classical music sits down with past collaborators, fellow composers and musicians as well as visual artists influenced by his work from him to reflect on his prolific career from him as a composer as well as the music that inspired him and that has been inspired by him
- The Galloping Gourmet Cookbook, by Graham Kerr. Those of us of a certain age may remember the television chef Graham Kerr, the ‘Galloping Gourmet,’ who charmed with his urban persona, wine and food in his afternoon television show. His original cookbook from him is being reissued. Kerr is still alive and active at age 88.
All book links in this diary are to my online bookstore The Literate Lizard. If you already have a favorite indie bookstore, please keep supporting them. If you’re able to throw a little business my way, that would be appreciated. Use the coupon code DAILYKOS for 15% off your order, in gratitude for your support (an ever-changing smattering of new releases are already discounted 15% each week). We also partner with Hummingbird Media for ebooks and Book.fm for audiobooks. The ebook app is admittedly not as robust as some, but it gets the job done. Libro.fm is similar to Amazon’s Audible, with a la carte audiobooks, or a $14.99 monthly membership which includes the audiobook of your choice and 20% off subsequent purchases during the month.
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