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"Adventures in Eden'' is a book with photographic tours of fifty European gardens-about forty percent of them from the UK and Ireland. I'm reading one profile a day, which should take me to spring in my own garden. There are a handful of reasons that this is one of the very best garden coffee table books that I've seen. First, the gardens chosen are relatively modern and modest gardens which, although not part of the RHS or National Trust, still have a habit of opening to the public, whether from private tours or open garden days. Several of these gardeners have lectured in Michigan (Peter Korn was just in Ann Arbor a few years ago). Second, Mullett is a long practicing garden designer from the US, aware of plant combinations, and plant palettes attractive to particularly American gardeners, which makes this book have greater appeal than just eye candy. Much of what she shows can be done at some level in our gardens. The garden art is often from repurposed objects or architectural salvage. Although the formal boxwood and yew topiary is not as much of our tradition, we know from American Pearl Fryar what can be done in one generation. The US hardiness range for these European gardens is 3-9, with particularly a lot of zone 6-8, so many of the gardeners' favored plants are perfectly hardy in your garden or microclimate. Mullett is also a good writer, and her essays add a lot to your understanding of each garden. But critical for this book, she is writing this from the perspective of a garden tour guide, with a great talent for both taking and selecting other people's photographs. The gardens are featured at all distances: the middle, plant or garden art close ups, borrowed landscapes. I don't think that I have ever seen a more well selected group of photographs for a collection of gardens. Don't take my word for it. The author has a facebook account "Garden Design with Carolyn Mullet" with over 1.6 million followers.
When I moved into my house during the Dark Ages (i.e. before YouTube) I planted a tomato next to the house, right under the eaves. My helpful new neighbor leaned over the fence and said she was sorry to see the forsythia go. Yes, I had just dug up a small forsythia, which I thought was a weed, to make a hole to plant the tomato plant in the shade. The kindness of new found gardening friends-like the helpful neighbor in “The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food”- has guided me ever since. Joseph Tychonievich has done a series of always interesting gardening books, including rock gardening and plant breeding. Unlike every other vegetable gardening book, and there are many, this tells you what you really need to know and nothing more. (He does provide a list of sources to go to for the more to know part.) It’s geared to success (grow Swiss chard, not spinach) and avoiding failure: don’t buy the biggest plant in the smallest pot, and don’t plant your heat-loving plants too soon. Confession, I rarely read graphic novels, but I felt an instant kinship with George the neighbor over the fence, and novice gardener Mia, who at least has the benefit of a smartphone. I want to go to Mia’s harvest party, too! Kudos to illustrator Liz Anna Kozik for making these gardeners seem real. The best part is this book can be read by or shared with readers of all ages.
Our bookstore customers favor books of well-reviewed fiction and modern poetry, so it surprised me to see so many enthusiastic customers of books by Adam Grant, who teaches organizational psychology at Wharton's business school. It turns out that Grant also has a University of Michigan connection, having received his graduate degrees in psychology here. Like those (Duhigg,Thaler, Harford) who have come before him, this book has wide appeal from psychology to sociology to politics. His book explores what Grant calls the joy of being wrong--"because it meant I'd learned something." He asks us not to be so much preachers, politicians, and prosecutors" in our beliefs and debates with others, but "scientists". Each chapter is often a case study or profile: a forecaster who competes in tournaments (who knew there was such a thing?); a woman who convinced African villages to be vaccinated; Mike Lazaridis, the founder of Blackberry, versus Steve Jobs, who both were wrong about the future of smartphones. One of the joys of the book is its clever selection of graphics, expanded footnotes, and cartoons like the one with this caption: "We'd now like to open the floor to shorter speeches disguised as questions." When I'm done reading a book, I give many of them away. I'm keeping this one.
This is by far the funniest book that I have read since the pandemic began. I admit to being attracted by the title of Gurwitch's memoir. It reminded me of my favorite Edward Gorey rhyme from "The Doubtful Guest": "It came seventeen years ago, and to this day, it has shown no intention of going away. " However, I was even more intrigued by the subtitle "Adventures in Downward Mobility." I am drawn to accounts of women falling through the holes of our slender social safety nets (see "Maid" and "Nomadland") and still getting up. And even more if they can laugh about it. Gurwitch is the friend that I wish I'd had to share my own humiliating times with, from parenthood to middle-age, when I thought that they were mine alone. As soon as I finished it, I went right out and got her earlier book, "You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up." I am a fan for life.
While we have understandably been focused this past year on racial justice, the pandemic, and the growing number of Americans who believe conspiracy theories promoted by actual fake journalists, social media, and enabling politicians, the human rights crisis in China has been exploding. China is continuing their purge of dissidents, ethnic minorities (e.g. Uighurs) and religions, particularly the Falun Gong, a modern mash-up of Taoist and Buddhist practices whose very devoted adherents/cultists are seen as a threat to the hegemony of the Communist Party. Author Pang retells and enlarges upon the story of Sun Yi, a Falun Gong follower, whose story is also told in a 2018 Canadian documentary, "Letter from Masanjia.( I saw "Letter" after reading "Made in China" and I highly recommend it. ) The last time the U.S. was able to track it, China had over 1400 re-education camps, which are really torture/brainwash camps that manufacture cheap Chinese goods for export. These are not the famous FoxConn factories, which make your iPhone. It is likely, however, that some small parts of your phones are produced by people that have been tortured in these camps, and are making their way into all of our phones through these factories, despite routine international inspections. Cheap "fast fashion" clothing, housewares, and holiday decorations are all documented as produced by tortured laborers: if the price of a product is too good to be true, no good has been exercised in the making of it. Pang took enormous risks posing as a businesswoman looking for product sourcing, and in the process learned about many of the ways the Chinese hide their practices: renaming companies that have been banned; software that produces fake time cards and other records; calling re-education camps detox centers. With the use of billions of cameras and advanced biometrics (which the pandemic has helped its population accept), it's increasingly grim for Chinese dissidents. As horrifying as all of that, the author also touches on medical organ tourism (see the 2014 documentary "Human Harvest") and China's fast turnaround for those who can pay top dollar. I will never again look at a "Made in China" tag without thinking about this book.
Perhaps particularly this winter, people who seem to have it all, and yet find themselves waking up okay one morning and unhappy the next, will identify with the story of Martha, child of eccentric artist parents, the sister to a supportive but take no prisoners mother of too many, and wife of martyr, auditioning for a doormat, Patrick. You won't always like Martha much, at least in the beginning, but you will recognize her. As someone who has read a lot of memoirs about mental illness, I was, however, somewhat distracted by trying to decipher: what is wrong with Martha? I'm not going to reveal that plot twist, but I can tell you that I had no trouble enjoying every turn of this first novel. Reading it will definitely provide some short term relief from a case of the pandemic blues.
This book is a very useful introduction to adding garden worthy native trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials to your Midwest landscape. It includes an essay on the advantages of native plants, as well as tips for picking plants and designing with them. The bulk of the book is an illustrated list of plants to choose from. The author uses the common names (the Latin is also given) and no US hardiness zone, but gardeners in southeast Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio can assume that, some soil conditions excepted, they can successfully grow all of these. His sense of humor and honesty remind me of legendary garden writer Allan Armitage. I loved this description of the swamp white oak: "the darling of city foresters in urban-damaged soils." Yes, that's the tree planted in front of Literati after others failed to survive. My neighborhood sidewalks are shaded by the Kentucky coffee tree, a dinosaur whose bark is "probably a protective armor for "long-extinct ground sloths." What the author fails to mention is its relentless suckering, its lateness at leafing out, and the giant seed pods that fall on your head. I have planted and sometimes killed the majority of the perennials that he recommends. When I had tall coreopsis I had flocks of goldfinches, but also-once they found them-annual flocks of aphids. And when the author tells you that a plant is aggressive, believe him the first time. It took me five years to remove non-native running bamboo from my yard: the running native pipevine will go down with the house. On the other hand, I would not be without yucca, butterfly weed ( there is always a short-lived milkweed bug visit in the fall that I actually enjoy-no harm done) maidenhair fern, marsh-marigold, virginia bluebells, wood poppies, and dozens of other natives. Get this book and go visit the new Belle Isle Piet Oudolf designed garden this spring to see a naturalistic planting that uses many (but not all) native plants.
An ironic result of our country's uniquely botched and embarrassing response to a global pandemic, is a renewed interest in what other countries are doing. We can't visit them, but in all cases their better outcomes have led many of us to ponder: how have these other countries managed to eclipse the United States, the country that gave the world both the Marshall Plan and Silicon Valley? Zakaria's heavily footnoted chapters address international cooperation, the United States' uniquely quid pro quo governance by congressional bills and tax codes written by lobbyists, the bipolar superpowers of China and the US, and how death may be the great equalizer, but COVID is the great unequalizer. Although I missed an index, this is a book that few could have written, and as good an introduction as one could wish for, to what our government could accomplish in the next decade, if it resumes a place of leadership in the world.
In her contemplative little book, English author Katherine May writes about her recent annus horribilis. Both she and her husband had debilitating health problems. When hers caused her to give up a teaching job, still thinking she could replace the income with her writing, her six year old son became anxious about attending school, and the time spent taking care of him left little time for writing. This is one of those uncategorizable books (e.g. Gift from the Sea) whose autobiographical essays on May's challenging year, cross into travel writing, self help, inspiration, and parenting. Living near a beach where she could also literally walk a one day pilgrimage to Canterbury, her interest in the natural world is keen and closely observed. As May reminds us, life is not just linear, it is also cyclical: "we pass through phases of good health and ill, of optimism and deep doubt, of freedom and constraint." I expect many readers will find her book particularly comforting over this winter's long haul.
Author Smarsh ("Heartland") has many important parallels in her life to Dolly Parton's: escaping a life of rural poverty and widespread illiteracy into success as a writer, and understanding that having her own children would get in the way. Dolly, of course, has famously given both books and presumably literacy to millions of other people's children through her Imagination Library. But her biggest gift may be her legacy of the 3,000 country songs that she has written, many celebrating the lives of poor women who make the best of it, or manage to escape. Smarsh ties the songs to Dolly's life and addresses the elephant in the room--Dolly's stage persona of tight clothes and big hair, etc-- and why it means more and less than her audience thinks it does. She also notes that country music radio airtime for women performers has shrunk to only ten percent in this decade, and how that may reflect on the 2016 election results. A woman who is abused is never more at risk from her abuser than when she escapes. The gains that women like Dolly have made over their lives and careers still represent a threat to at least some men who want to maintain control.
Our staff knows John Banville as a Man Booker prize winner and not as a mystery author. So after removing copies of "Snow" a few times to reshelve in mysteries, I got curious about it. After all, Michiganders know snow--what can an Irish author tell me? This is a classic police procedural set in the 1957 Irish republic, when the Catholic church held much more power over government offices than it does today. DI Strafford (NOT Stafford) is a protestant investigating a priest's gruesome death, a crime that no one else seems to want solved. Although the plot moves along quickly enough, it's the characters that are so ripe for a BBC series. The comparisons to Nabokov and James are deserved. And it turns out that Banville has been writing another series of police procedurals under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. Time to seek them out.
Andrew Wakefield, a lackluster British medical researcher, but born to a wealthy doctor and with some personal charm, is the person most responsible for the anti-vaccine movement, and perhaps the prominence of social media conspiracies (e.g. anti-maskers) in general. After a couple faulty versions of the MMR vaccine were withdrawn from the UK market in the 90s, Wakefield met an ambulance chasing lawyer named Richard Barr (!). Barr was hoping to profit from class action lawsuits, by showing that the MMR was linked to autism. Wakefield and others provided the fraudulent research paper (while being paid by the lawyer); the British medical journal The Lancet, published it to their eternal shame; the media on both sides of the pond amplified Wakefield's lies in an irresponsible way. Brian Deer, of the Sunday Times of London has spent over two decades investigating this elaborate scheme which exploits the parents of autistic children and money from wealthy benefactors (and some well known celebrities) to feed Wakefield's narcissism. As Deer puts it: "The way I saw it, it was never about the science, the children or the mothers. It had always been about himself."
"Women aren't as funny as men. They've done actual studies on it" says the swain in the caption placed on candy box painter William Bouguereau's painting at the Met. In my head I can hear Mike Brady explaining this to Carol. Every woman has heard variants of the "mansplaining" captions in this book ("I don't think you understand my joke. It's funny because the pigeon is dead") but never so hilariously combined with photos of old master oil paintings. Many are from the first great masters of domestic scenes, the Dutch, and their state museum, The Rijksmuseum. I suggest the sequel could feature captions from women: see Karel Dujardin's "Return of the Holy Family from Egypt" at the Detroit Institute of Art, in which Mary's gesture seems unexpectedly modern.
Even if I didn't love Jacques Pepin for being the first Frenchman who seems to actually like Americans, or even if I didn't love him for his wonderful watercolors of chickens. And even if I didn't love him for being the man who brought clam strip rolls on split top buns to Howard Johnson's restaurants--creating at least one dish that travelers in the 60s could rely on as being delicious, I would still love him now for saying he always has corn tortillas in the freezer, because that is now our essential Americas ingredient. But yeah, he has an easy cassoulet recipe that uses Polish kielbasa and Italian sausage, and an "instant" chocolate mousse, as well as a (Key) lime one. This is the melting pot cooking that mirrors our dream of being a welcoming melting pot country. Enjoy this whimsically illustrated, warm-hearted hug of a family cookbook!
The cover of mystery novelist Jacqueline Winspear's enjoyably immersive memoir looks more like a photo from my mother's generation, even though Winspear and I were born the same year. She's holding hops, an agricultural crop which her whole family used to pick in the summers when she was a little girl. (I grow an ornamental form and can attest how much picking it would have scratched up her skin.) Winspear tells the story of her grandparents and parents lives (in London and rural South East England) along with her own. It's a good reminder how hard it was to live through the bombing of Britain and then the post war England of shortages, where basic housing, indoor toilets and heating could not be taken for granted. Her young parents felt lucky to acquire an old Romani wagon to live in, as well as being looked after by one of their communities. Years later her parents chose not to emigrate to California to be near their daughter because of the "abysmal American healthcare system."
I usually try to read and review books for the store that no one else is reading or reviewing. That often means that when it comes to fiction, I am reading first novels that aren't getting as much buzz. But I have again broken my rule: failing to find anything that grabbed my attention in the piles of books that I have on my bedroom floor, I took up a copy of "Such a Fun Age." Although it has already been reviewed by a colleague, I can add my two cents that the "Reese's Book Club" sticker on its cover should not deter you or your Jonathan Franzen fans. Intricately and symmetrically plotted, our sympathies shift among the three lead characters: a Philly baby-sitter and transcriptionist trying to survive in the gig economy, her Instagram influencer/young mother boss, and the baby-sitter's techie boyfriend. It turns out everybody lies and all three can learn in this half farce, half serious disquisition on friends and childcare, race and money, and finding your way when you don’t know that you are lost.
Although I avidly watched Nadiya Hussain's winning season of "The Great British Baking Show" (Season 6), I never really followed up on the "where are they now." In the succeeding five years, she has become a huge celebrity in the UK with television shows, cookbooks, a memoir, and an MBE. She is one of the most prominent faces of modern Muslim womanhood. Her newest cookbook, "Time to Eat" is filled with delicious adaptations of her Bangladesh heritage, adapted for British family cooks, and excepting a few Britishisms, American ones. She has the rules you want: e.g. "every dish is two dishes'; "everything is an ingredient." Since she got her start as a baker, she has lots of dessert recipes (they tend to look healthier than most), but this is really a book of cross-cultural savory dishes (such as "pizza paratha") and weird wonderful pantry dishes ("hoop fish Bake"--hoops are Spaghetti-Os to us) that will appeal to family members of all ages. but not tax the abilities of the average cook.
Some twenty years ago, on a trip to Seattle, I bought two souvenirs for my increasingly gardening obsessed partner: a packet of flower seeds and a book that I saw stacked up in a local bookstore, "The Explorer's Garden" by Dan Hinkley. At that time Hinkley owned a plant world famous nursery named Heronswood, and lived on the property in Kingston, Washington. Like others, we have kept our old Heronswood Nursery catalogs because they are one of a kind. After Hinkey sold Heronswood, he moved to a new home Windcliff, the subject of this book. Hinkley has Michigan connections. He grew up on a still extant heritage farm in Evart, Michigan and has a horticulture degree from Michigan State. Perhaps because of that, he frequently lectures in Michigan. (I had tickets to see him again this past spring.) In 2012, three of us were on a small garden tour that included Windcliff. Now twice as old, it's wonderful to see what he and his architect partner Robert have wrought. You will not be able to grow all of the plants you see in his garden, at least in the ground, but there is still a lot of inspiration to be had.
I had a surprisingly reflective reaction to this touching novel about a professor's widow, her teenage daughter, and the young male college student whose life intersects with the professor, and later with them. I was a teenager around the time that this story set in the early 70s unfolds, and my Mother, although older than mom Virginia ("from Virginia"), was very much struggling to find her place with the new feminism, and how to pivot from a stay at home wife/mother to a student and a job outside the home. The music mentioned in the book is the music I grew up on. The war is the one I heard daily about as my Mother worked with various anti-war groups in our small Ohio town, and even hosted a couple journalists from Japan needing lodging while they reported on Kent State. There is also a "Brett Kavanaugh" incident. Along with the disparagement of professional women (in "The Wrong Kind of Women," the female professors are called the "Gang of Four" by the male faculty) it's a reality that links all of our generations of women together. I'm so glad that I got to read Crow's impressive debut.
Page Dickey has written pretty much the perfect garden book. For 34 years she gardened intensively on three acres in New York's Westchester County, her renowned garden becoming increasingly crowded with carefully curated, and often rare annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. In her 70s-and with her husband even older--she decided to find a new place that acknowledged their aging knees and financial necessity. But instead of trading down in space, she traded up--to 17 acres in rural Connecticut. There is something in her book for every gardener, particularly those of us who toil to make their yards more beautiful in hardiness zones 4 to 7.
Her new garden exhibits the biggest trend that I see in the gardens that I visit: not just mixing perennials and shrubs, or edibles with ornamentals, but natives and non natives. Along with adding native plants, these gardeners are carefully accepting new "improved" cultivars of old plants, and those from other countries, but they are paying attention to the habit of each, mindful of invasive plants like buckthorn and Japanese honeysuckle, that have been loosed from our landscapes into our wilderness, crowding out wildflowers and plants needed by insects that support all of the other wildlife.
Each chapter, although written as a whole, could standalone as an essay. There's a great index filled with great plants (e.g. 4 solidagos and 5 Sanguisorbas), inspirational photos of both her old place and her new, and cautionary advice on greenhouses, new garden beds, the elusive meadow, and keeping unspoiled native plant areas. Winter is coming:
"I, for one, am more than ready to take a break from gardening in winter, relieved to be forced by frozen soil and single-digit temperatures to call it quits. What a pleasure it is to read books without the weeds calling, to bake cakes and slow cook stews, to daydream about flowers. I have time to scheme about gardens, to change my mind multiple times on how to improve their design, to plot what plants to add next spring, what seeds to order."
Buy (or gift) this now for scheming and dreaming.
I think this may be my favorite Ina Garten cookbook yet. Although Jeffrey fans will be disappointed that he makes an appearance in name only, and TV fans can only keep Ina’s sultry voice in their heads (sadly no audio) the selection of recipes is spot on for ease of execution and modern tastes. The vegetables include shishito peppers, broccoli rabe, and rainbow chard. Her nachos, tuna melts, and grilled cheese recipes are elevated just enough to be both comforting and interesting. She continues the one sheet pan method of preparing foods that are normally more work in a skillet. And she gives make ahead tips (muffins) and keep warm tips (buckwheat crepes) that make the timing easier. I don’t know if I can get my Brussels sprouts hating family to try the shaved sprouts pizza, but I am all in!
This is a good little guidebook that has the unfortunate experience of coming out during a pandemic, preventing many of its featured activities (music, fairs and festivals) from happening, and shops, restaurants, and bars from opening as normal- sometimes for the first time in decades. So buy it for now and the future, as places begin to reopen, and friends and relatives plot their visits. Or even just to argue with others over which items should have been included that were left out. Literati is in here, as are a couple dozen wonderful places within just a block or two. Some of us are still temporarily takeout and curbside, but all of the places mentioned in this book are planning to return for more years to come.
"If life is lived between pain and pills, we end up with too much rage and not enough empathy, too much solitude and not enough solidarity."
Historian Timothy Snyder was misdiagnosed and incompetently treated last December, in two different countries, two different states, and in three different hospitals, for appendicitis. His appendix burst, and turned into life-threatening sepsis, and by January, while still in the hospital, a likely case of (never tested for) coronavirus. Still not completely recovered, he's had a lot of time to think about what Jefferson meant by the "pursuit of happiness," and how this right does not exist without healthcare for all. We've been "duped" into thinking that what we have is somehow adequate, even though our country spends more per capita with worse results, worse in some measures than dozens of other countries. We blame other countries for our viruses, but model our healthcare on just in time practices that lead us to push patients out of hospitals too soon. It meant the US understocked medical PPE and did not have enough hospital beds in the pandemic. Snyder, whose brief book "On Tyranny,' is a perennial bookstore bestseller, is a master at finding the telling moment, such as this tweet, for instance, by our Surgeon General on February 1st:
" Roses are Red/Violets are Blue/Risk is low for #coronavirus/But high for the flu."
Every few years, I rediscover the genius that is Ludwig Bemelmans, whether it's a short story of his that I stumbled upon when I was a teen, or a memoir about working at the Ritz (aka the "Hotel Splendide"), reading "Madeline and the Bad Hat" to my toddler, or seeing the Bemelmans Bar with its murals of Central Park at the Carlyle. Recently, I saw a new edition of "Sunshine" in our kids department. There is no Madeline in this one and the rhymes are a bit more adult: "And the thing that mostly grates me--Is that my own lawyer hates me." But the trademark pictures--his crowd scenes are particularly magical--and the heartwarming finale, are all definitively him. More than Madeline, it's a book for all ages, and like it, it's a book for all the ages to come.
A number of years ago (before the advent of smartphones), my partner's brother stayed overnight at his apartment. The brother confidently had not brought anything to read and went to bed, knowing there was a big bookcase in there. What he did not know was that my partner had filled the whole bookcase with poetry, something most people no longer seem to read much. Since then, the new guest bedroom bookcase holds books of essays and humor, trivia and profiles, and "Moth" collections. But I have to believe that if the bookcase had been empty with just a Billy Collins book on it, his brother would have been okay. To quote my partner: it's Collins' "delight in imagination for its own sake" that makes his poems so successful, but sometimes his accessibility can make him "seem trivial," when it's really great skill. Like many of us, I'm finding it hard to concentrate on anything other than politics this week, so here is the shortest poem that I found in this collection: "Cupid"
Fresh in from the rain/you asked me/how long a cubit is./I thought/the subject at hand/was love./But it was an ark/you were building,/a little one/just for you.
If you want, you can imagine that it's what George said to Kellyanne.
By the time Bob Woodward's last book "Fear," was published (not entirely coincidentally on September 11th, 2018) many were already exhausted by the lies, chaos, and incompetence of Trump's administration. Steve Bannon, Gary Cohn, and Rob Porter were obvious off the record sources for Woodward's first book. This time around we can thank former Senator and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coates, General Jim Mattis, Rex Tillerson, John Kelly and a growing tsunami of others as the pandemic hit the fan of indifference to science and decency. This is by far a more interesting book than the first one, whose thunder was taken by earlier books from James Comey and Michael Wolff. And of course, "Lordy," to paraphrase the former FBI Director, this time we have the tapes. Trump gave Woodward seventeen on the record interviews (of varying length) starting in December, 2019 and ending in July. As COVID unfolded, that caused a major course correction for the second half of the book. But Woodward set out at first to look at the oxymoron of Trump's foreign policy: "Mattis was frustrated with the message being sent to China, Russia, and North Korea. "What we're doing is we're actually showing how to destroy America," he said later. "That's what we're showing them. How to isolate us from all of our allies. How to take us down. And it's working very well. We are declaring war on one another inside America. It's actually working against us right now." Says Trump (on tape): "my f***ing generals are a "bunch of pussies."
I hadn't read any Graham Swift novels before, but there has been one in my pile of pre-publication review copies at home. I finally decided to sort them by date, to encourage me to read a few more pending books, and fewer articles about the U.S. response to COVID-19. "Here We Are," although lacking much of a title, is a little jewel box of a story, and the setting on the Brighton Pier is irresistible for English novel fanciers. I could almost see the "Masterpiece Theatre" series in my head. I spent most of my time worrying about the fate of Ronnie Deane, the most compelling character, but I was satisfied by the ending.
Move over Tony Soprano and Dr. Melfi. The therapy session that you want to see is Mary Trump exploring with Trump fixer/personal attorney and mob-styled ex-cult member Michael Cohen, his abusive relationship with "The Boss." While Mary's best-selling book gives the deeper psychological profile of what's going on inside the mind of 45, no one may know more about the last 15 years of Trump's business cheats and build up to running for office than Cohen. There's a lot he leaves out, including information that would incriminate him and other clients, but there's enough to discourage any small contractor without a large legal team behind them from ever doing business with the Trump family. Special mention should go to the Benjamin Moore SuperHide Paint/Doral Golf Course story, as well as exploring how to cheat your way up Internet polls with the help of Liberty University's IT department. There's a lot of gossip--Cohen is not a fan of Ivanka and Jared, and particularly Corey Lewandoski. The heroine of the story is Cohen's own daughter Samantha (who went to college with Tiffany). She spends almost the entire time that Cohen works for Trump telling him that he needs to get out of there. The book is entertaining, but not a masterpiece, and looks like it had some help from a ghostwriter, who probably does not want to be named for personal safety considerations. We won't cry for Michael Cohen. For all of his crimes, he has spent only a few weeks in jail.
We've all been "baptized in "Just Say No," but we haven't won the war on drugs. Even if we clawed back every dime from every opioid manufacturer, we still wouldn't. Thanks to the "iron law of prohibition," many more people have died, but about the same percentage of people remain addicts. As we've pulled resources away from employment, affordable housing, and healthcare by trying to "arrest our way" into a cure, this bad policy and the resulting incarceration destroys families and communities. What really works, is the focus of this book. "This is Ohio" makes a great follow up to "Glass House" by Brian Alexander, which looked at the effects of de-industrialization on another Ohio town. Shuler should be required reading for all of those elected and appointed officials who make decisions about public health.
It's a brilliantly ironic idea to send an adventure travel writer to embed with Trump political rally super fans, and report back on their beliefs and behaviors. Eating with, saving their spots together at the front of the lines (sometimes for days), rushing into the auditorium as one, learning their life stories and how they became MAGA devotees, Hoffman is always respectful, but clear eyed. The fans run the spectrum from obviously mentally ill to gullible, to lonely but smart enough to know better. The book shows how hard it is to convince a friend or relative that their world view is a cynical social media driven web of conspiracy theories, either designed to undermine Western democracy or promote a particularly extremist version of Christianity: "If you believed the Rapture was imminent and were looking for the Mark of the Beast, why not that vaccines caused autism or that the Q Clock was a font of coded messages or that Hillary Clinton raped babies or that the deep state in collusion with the Fake News was trying to stage a coup?" Still, the book is not all grim. There are funny details about the rally programming (jumbotron Lara Trump, over and over). And gay anthems "YMCA"-- with crowd participation-- and "Macho Man"- the second to last song before Trump appears to the strains of "God Bless the USA"--were always a part of the eight rallies the author attended.
Confession: I've watched thousands of hours of the "Food Network" (good white noise to stop the dog barking at people outside walking) and fewer than 20 of Fox "News." In this well-researched, riveting and damning book, Stelter makes clear that whatever intentions Ailes and Murdoch had when they founded the "lifestyle brand," to make it a conservative cable network, it took a sharp turn in 2008 when a black man was elected president and its attacks on Obama were surprisingly well received by the hitherto more silent racist minority. (Fox has daily ratings meetings analysing minute by minute.) It's filled with stories about how college drop-out and "elites" hating Sean Hannity turned into the president whisperer, and "phones" his stories in--he was on tape on the last big election night!--from his mansions in Long Island and Naples. How the Russian Intelligence Agency invented the cruel Seth Rich conspiracy to hurt Hillary Clinton, and how Fox ran with it. How Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit included complaints of "severe and pervasive sexual harassment" by nice guy Steve Doocy. How "Team Roger" member and "leg chair" Kimberly Guilfoyle had no choice but to hitch a ride on the "Trump Train," after being forced out of Fox. Since the only reading that Trump does is Twitter and Fox News chyrons (Stelter's reporting indicates he watches opinion TV for hours a day) the eternal feedback loop of Hannity, Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson, and Trump Twitter has created a state supported propaganda machine of unparalleled destruction. The author quotes David Plouffe arguing with Brian Kilmeade on a rare appearance on "Fox and Friends": "Media accounts should hold the powerful to account--not the account to the powerful."
"How the South" is about the enduring fabric of our national story: equality versus oligarchy. Equality for all makes progress, only to be trounced by oligarchy, usually with the support of our branches of government and lots of dark money. The original southern plantation owners gave way to western mine owners and cattle ranchers and oil barons--what Richardson refers to as the extractors. They first suppressed slaves, then sharecroppers and miners, migrant workers and nursing home aides. Women and people of color were actively disenfranchised by very wealthy white men and their fellow travelers. And a false oligarch narrative of violence and fear and communism/socialism/the radical left was spun while wealth trickled up. Sound familiar? If your last major romp through US history was Plessy vs. Ferguson, prepare for some shock and ire as you learn that America is the home of the brave, but the brave are often people you have not heard about. Richardson, the author of the indispensable free daily newsletter "Letters from an American," -- the greatest individual feat of journalism in this past decade--has managed to vault over other popular historians, with this accessible read, and an essential service to all of us who want to understand why up is down. Tracing the entire political history of America in 200 pages (and in a way that would cause the Texas State Board of Education to go into total apoplexy) you will finish it and breathe, and then immediately want to read it again.
This is really 3 or 4 books in one, interconnected in an astonishingly adept fashion that like all good books of history (and historical fiction) will leave you researching for more. The real Ziggy Johnson ran a theater and dance school for young Black girls in Detroit, wrote an entertainment column for Detroit's Black newspaper, and knew seemingly everybody in Black American cultural and political circles, when Detroit was really the "third city" and the "caramel Camelot" for Black people. The impact of the auto industry is explained by one of the 52 "Saints" profiled in this book: "Boring, profitable work will send you out to a club. [ ] Work on an assembly line and you're hungry for human interaction. And all that going out meant everybody wanted to play Detroit." Fictional Ziggy and a young girl (how much of that is our author--most or all?) trade off narrating. A delightful bonus are the 52 cocktail recipes developed in honor of these black saints.( Helpful tip: a pony is half a shot.) You will weep for how everytime Detroit's black culture rose, it got kicked down again by auto layoffs, urban renewal, and even the Michigan Lottery (see "The World According to Fannie Davis" for a look at how the "numbers" were one of the few paths for black families to the middle class). Read this and take a trip to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History--it's appropriately built on the land where Ziggy's school used to be in "Black Bottom."
In July we took a short trip to Northern Michigan (the "sunrise coast") using DuFresne's user friendly guide to the best places to hike in the lower peninsula. We had great parks ALL TO OURSELVES, and NOT in a scary way. Well marked trails, decent pit toilets, parking and informational signs were all included with your recreational passport or daypass. The beaver and bald eagle at close range were no additional charge. In any year these places are beautiful, but this summer they are necessary.
There is no shortage of novels about the legal profession in the U.S., but this book feels both original and authentic. Set in the world of "BigLaw," it tells the story of first year associate Alexandra (Alex to her friends, Al to her boyfriend) as she sets her sights on "matching" with the Mergers and Acquisitions department at her firm, a notoriously male bastion of lawyers who bill the most and behave the worst. The frat party atmosphere of booze and drugs encourages sexism and sexual harassment; the round the clock hours and sleep deprivation comes with a great cost to families and relationships. Will Alex match with M&A, and will her new found rampant materialism, and ethical lapses cause her to lose her soul? Filled with great workplace details and well-delineated characters, it entertains as it makes the case for more women partners.
"Turn wheresoe'er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more". from "Ode: Intimations of Immortality"-Wordsworth
Zadie Smith has given us the first book about life under COVID-19 (and all of her author royalties are going to either The Equal Justice Initiative or The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund for New York). I think the short interlinked essays, reflections and brief portraits, will be read ten years from now on the strength of the phrase crafting ("the cage of my circumstance"). It's short enough to be read in one sitting. It's wise enough to share with your book club.
In a year with so much political divisiveness, it's good to remember some of that has always been with us, and historical perspective heals some of those wounds. Former Michigan picture book author McDivitt won awards for her children's biography "Nature's Friend". Grand Rapids native son and Michigan wolverine Gerald Ford is her newest subject. Read the book and then take a field trip to the Gerald Ford Museum in Grand Rapids and the Ford Library in Ann Arbor when they reopen.
I'm a fan of Wizenberg's prior memoirs. I stumbled upon "Delancey," about opening a Seattle neighborhood restaurant with her husband, and then went back to read her earlier book "A Homemade Life." Food is not the focus of this third volume. Instead it's about coming to grips with her evolving sexual identity in middle age, and what happens to her marriage. She is a polished writer and a careful reader, who shares her own research to help her (and her readers) understand her personal dilemma.There are all the elements of a good story here-drama, romance, eureka moments, catharsis, and acceptance. I found it both delightful and moving.
A family portrait of Donald Trump, his parents, and siblings, this is the first Trump family memoir that sounds truthful. Mary's psychological profile of her Uncle's sociopathy and its root causes in an abusive father are compelling. Even after all the news leaks from the book, there were many stories that I had not yet heard. One of the most intriguing, offers the best evidence yet, that Trump is not the multi-billionaire he claims to be. After the bankrupted casinos, and the schemes that defrauded tax collectors, Mary Trump notes that the entire Trump Management company was sold in 2004, after Fred Trump died, to just one buyer, and at a huge discount. This was likely to stave off Donald Trump's debts (why his siblings did not protest is the heart of the book). Even to this day, you can find news stories saying the huge jump in his income from 2004 to 2005 must have been due to "The Apprentice" and no mention of the sale of 1,000s of apartments that his Father had acquired. Split four ways, it netted each of Fred Trump's children 170 million, instead of the bank's valuation of 250 million. A great deal--for the buyer.
Some of my favorite novels appear to be the most autobiographical. This is a first novel about a University lecturer in Southern California, who was born in India, and moved here as a young man, written by an author who was born in India, teaches in Santa Barbara, etcetera. It's a testament to how good this book is, that I haven't spent much time wondering about how many of the events in the book have happened to the author, because they are so specific and universal at the same time. Raj Bhatt is in trouble with his tennis club for mindlessly blurting out loud an offensive rap lyric during just the wrong time at a new members selection committee meeting. And the very next day, some students in Raj's popular cultural anthropology course, decide to label him anti-Christian and demonstrate to have him fired. As his very bad week humorously unfolds from crisis to crisis, we all ask with him: how far are we ''from our own moment of communal violence?"
I like reading true crime, but usually only in short form. This collection of articles by Mark Bowden features many types of criminals: the accidental, the entrapped, the bad cop, the psychopath, and the amoral. There is one celebrated cold case that Bowden was probably the first to write on in depth, the murder of Sherri Rasmussen, which has since become a "Dateline" episode, a book, and probably inspired a raft of Lifetime Movies. His introduction covers the challenges of writing about crime in a succinct fashion in the age of information glut, but this is a challenge that he meets. And it's of interest not just for the addictive cases, but the issues (unequal justice, bogus oft-repeated crime stats, police that protect their own, sexual harassment) that we still grapple with in the over 30 year span this book covers.
"While nineteenth-century girls used their diaries to write about their goals for character improvement. girls at the end of the twentieth century wrote almost solely about the ways they wanted to improve their bodies." Author Burton grew up in small town Michigan and Boulder, Colorado in the mid 80s and writes movingly about her battles with binge eating (a newly designated separate disorder from bulimia) and anorexia. As a student at Yale in the early 90s, she could only find two books about eating disorders in the entire library, and the shame prevented her from being able to share her situation for decades. Many women and men in the US have suffered from food compulsions-myself included--and I think this memoir will surprise some who thought they were the only one with that particular behavior or outcome. It should help others get help or just reconcile with the impact it had on their past.
Confession: I don't follow any Instagram "Influencers," but I easily stuck with this novel about a Goopy company ("Richual" LMAO!) and its young female co-founders (the smart but sloppy one, the self-absorbed one, the underrated one). It's a fun edition to both the beach read and the business novel genre. And its satisfying boardroom conclusion, more than made up for learning a bit too much about cleanses and detoxes.
Fun fact: President Trump may have committed felony voter fraud in Florida, when he initially listed his residence as 1600 Pennsylvania on his voter registration. Felons in some states lose their right to vote--forever!-- and needless to say, the law is applied unequally by race. In a state by state and tactic by tactic review, Daley shows how state legislatures and county governments have tried to suppress voting by voters they believe will not vote for their party. From the petty (not letting college students vote in the state where they go to college-without a car- if they don't change their driver's license address) to the venal--giving Native Americans only three hours a month in which they can register to vote in a building hours from their residence, and only if they have a street address (which few do)-- the will of incumbents to keep their personal entitlements knows no bounds. Cue the fair voting activists, like Katie Fahey in Michigan with her "Voters Not Politicians" drive, mathematicians using Monte Carlo simulations in court to disprove the fairness of gerrymandered districts, and Stephanie Hofeller who handed over to Common Cause, evidence that her father had enabled a generation of suppressive voter ID laws in the name of non existent voter fraud. An inspiring and suspenseful story of claiming democracy for all, and the playbook for the change we all need.
As a young child author Moore escaped from her home in Liberia, across the border to Sierra Leone and then on to the US, during a terrifying civil war that was often fought by armed teenage rebels. One of those rebels commits an unimaginable act of altruism, and Moore goes back years later to Liberia to see if she can find her. The author easily pivots from her remarkable first novel about Liberia's origins, to this new short memoir. It's an instant classic, that's likely to be added to many class booklists. I can't stop thinking about it!
Author of more than a dozen books on American political history, Dallek takes a look at ten presidents of the past century (ending with Ronald Reagan) and how their actions appear to be preludes to those of Donald Trump. Taking one brief chapter per president, he recounts the great legislative triumphs, foreign policy blunders, lies to the American people (and those of other countries), failed promises and promises kept, how each worked with Congress and their own administrations, how they campaigned, and which of their achievements remain to secure world peace and order. He covers a wealth of material infectiously, and even an avid reader of presidential history will have new anecdotes to share. In the last chapter on Trump, Dallek leaves little doubt that in the author's expert opinion, Trump has accomplished little to nothing, and his lack of intellect, education, and morality puts him outside the norms of presidential behavior. Dallek opens with a quote from John Dos Passos, which surely gave instigation to writing "How Did We Get here": "In easy times history is more or less of an ornamental art, but in times of danger we are driven to the written record"
If I could give one book to every family in our country to entertain and educate them this summer, it would be David Allen Sibley's new book on bird behavior. It's a book to give Dad (or Mom) to share with their children. Sibley's unmatched illustrations spill out from generous full page spreads on bird types (cranes) and specific birds (American Robin). Even experienced birders will have a new understanding of our unexpected and best quarantine companions, and your fledgling artists may be inspired to take upon themselves the challenge to be the next Sibley. This is a book to leave close at hand on your coffee table, or with your binoculars at your kitchen window or on your porch. (I've already bought 3 copies.)
Whenever I travel to a place, I like to find a bookstore and buy at least one book (often a mystery) that is set in the state or city that I am visiting. Ironically, the only place that I am traveling these days is my home state of Michigan, and not very far either! I was glad to discover Molly Fader, who is a prolific author of fiction and romances (under a pseudonym). In her new novel, she gives you a taste of the mechanics of the cherry harvest at a small orchard near Alpena, Michigan, a few family mysteries (what is Aunt Peg hiding?) and a believable romance between a single mother and her neighbor. More people stuck at home have been looking for relief when they turn off the news. "Bitter and Sweet" provides non video entertainment without embarrassment. When you are done, you can pass it along to your girlfriends and they'll thank you.
"forget about the small decisions, sort and organize the medium decisions, and reserve your mental energy for the high-stakes ones."
I have read and learned from the books of both the authors of "Joy at Work." Combining the Martha Stewart of home organization, with the best-selling author of the management book "Stretch" may not seem like a natural, but they had me wanting to stop part way through "Joy" to commence my own "festival of tidying!" Organizing clothes and gadgets is not that removed from organizing tasks, meetings, emails, and teams. Kondo contributes the overarching KonMari philosophy of creating work-life balance, by the reduction of unnecessary things--whether physical or psychological. Sonenshein adds what he's learned from a career as a consultant and business professor. Most readers will get at least one or two suggestions from this synthesis of methods, that will make their work-life, and thus their home-life, more joyful.
What 18 year old wouldn't want to go to an elite academic college like "Catherine House,' with free tuition and free room and board ( a bacchanal of anachronistic gourmet meals, endless dessert teas, and all the wine you can drink). The only "catch" appears to be that you can't leave the expansive campus for three years or be in touch with the outside world. Ines Murillo finds herself on the run and grateful for the shelter...at least initially. This is a skillfully written school thriller with a dystopic secret which will remind you of everything from "Brave New World," to Ivy League fraternities and secret societies, and Scientology. Creepy and intelligent, the author makes good use of her art history knowledge.
In "Midwest Futures," Michigan author Christman challenges what you thought you knew about the Midwest, from the economics of railroads, Native American genocide, "racial quarantines," and whether these states are really any better positioned to ride out climate change disruption. The title refers to where the nebulous "Midwest" is headed, and also to the Chicago Board of Trade whose futures exchange serves as an example for the many "innovations" in these states that have both helped, and then gone on to harm the same people. (The small farmers who first saw their grain prices stabilized by the futures market, later went on to lose their farms to the agribusinesses that could exploit it better.) The author shows us in 36 short interlocking essays that speculators, not settlers have always controlled the Midwest's fortunes: he wants us to summon up the collective will to change that.
Most of the fiction that I've read has been mysteries or classics, but recently I've been turning to some fun commercial authors who've been updating the formula. Frankly, they write much better than the authors that I have picked up (and put down) in the past. All Adults Here is one such author new to me. The three grown siblings of the Strick family in Upstate New York, haven't spent a lot of time together in recent years. The goat farmer, intentionally pregnant and single, the beautiful man-child former teen star, and the striving firstborn who never feels he measures up, are about to brought together over the course of a few months of small family traumas. It will also bring them closer to their mother and her wise beyond her years grand-daughter. The book is filled with great small town details, that will increase your nostalgia for your hometown, but not for high school.
After a breakdown and her resulting job loss, Kate Aitken hires on as an archivist working in the Marin County house where famed art photographer Miranda Brand lived, and where her mutilated body was found 25 years ago. Who killed troubled photographer Miranda Brand? Her jarring photo series are described brilliantly in the book-anyone who has gone to museum exhibitions can visualize them. Was it her jealous less successful artist husband, her jealous lover, her attractive but preoccupied son, who has hired Kate to look over the hoard of papers to prepare them for auction, or was it Miranda's rapacious art dealer? The book is cleverly composed of alternating archival documents (letters and diary entries from the 80s and 90s) and current day chapters that follow Kate's progress as her suspicions build. A moody first mystery that gets the art world details right.
Michael and Bunny, high schoolers living in the rapidly gentrifying area near LAX, are the most unlikely of best friends, except that they are both bullied. Michael is the intellectual and closeted son of a mother in prison, and a father who has abandoned him. He lives with his working poor Aunt and her brutish son, next door to Bunny, the almost freakishly statuesque only child of a widowed real estate developer. Several tragic events cause the moral high ground and the upper hand to shift back and forth between the two friends. This is a well-crafted and believable coming of age story.
In the first twenty years of marriage to Don Galvin, his wife Mimi bore twelve children, and six of them were diagnosed in their lifetime with schizophrenia. All of these births were too late to have prompted pregnancy counseling.This Colorado family became both the best hope for finding a genetic link and a cure to our most feared mental illness, and the reality check for how difficult it would be. From Freud's theory about the destruction of the ego, to nurture theories of "refrigerator mothers," and the as yet unfulfilled promise of psychotropic drugs and genome sequencing, the author shows us how far we've come. He also manages to paint memorable portraits of each of the family members (nine of the children are still living) and the researchers who have followed them for decades.
I've read several middle grade readers in the past few years. I find myself more attracted to them than dystopian YA selections: fine reading about horrible things in nonfiction, but I usually want something smaller and more personal in fiction. I give a resounding Yes! to "The List of Things That Will Not Change." Our heroine Bea is dealing with her parents divorce, her own anger and therapy, her Mom's depression, and the forthcoming wedding of her Dad to another man. There is also a would be stepsister who is staying distant, even though Bea wants her to be the sister she never had. Ultimately warm and reassuring, at a time we need it, and likely to inspire reflection in readers both young and not so young.
All of us know someone whose mind we want to change: the friend who believes in conspiracy theories, the customer who thinks wearing a face mask in a pandemic is a worthless gesture, the housemate who keeps everything they ever bought, because it might be useful someday, and the boss who always sides with the consultants instead of their employees. Using research drawn from psychology and behavioral economics, Berger translates principles into future actions using the easy to remember acronym REDUCE: Reactance, Endowment, Distance, Uncertainty, and Corroborating Evidence. Not all of these roadblocks to change will have strategies that will work in all instances, although sometimes they can work in tandem. The author uses some unexpected examples: the effectiveness of the slogan "Keep America Great," for instance shows the power of the endowment principle as surely as working with a family member reluctant to upgrade their software or clean out their closet. For fans of Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Duhigg, and even Gretchen Rubin, because sometimes the person whose mind you want to change is yourself.
In "A Hundred Suns," an impoverished young American schoolteacher in Paris, meets and marries a Michelin heir, and convinces him to take a job overseeing the company's rubber plantations in French Indochina. Reminiscent of du Maurier's "Rebecca," most of this novel is set in the northern Tonkin "protectorate" in 1933. It's an atmospheric look at the French colonies that would become modern Vietnam, both a story and a true history of decadence and cruelty, secrets and moral compromises. A rarely explored period, it adds to the reader's understanding of Vietnamese attitudes towards Western interference. For another interesting parallel view of 1930s Western attitudes to Asians, check out the 1932 film "Red Dust," (Clark Gable! Jean Harlow! Mary Astor!): the first few incredibly racist minutes, open a storyline also set in an Indochinese rubber plantation.
If you've been to Durham, North Carolina, you will probably recognize the fictional Carter University, (also a bit of a doppelgänger for the self-described "Athens of the Midwest"...) Adkins gives her three heroines a full portfolio of modern college issues: an evolving definition of sexual harassment, alcohol abuse in fraternities, student debt, legacy and donors, and donors and influence. One of our characters is studying law on a scholarship, and also performs in an improv troupe. One woman works at a campus coffee shop, and could never afford a school like Clark. She struggles to help keep her family afloat, while enrolling part-time in nursing classes, and falling deeper into debt. And Annie is a student with a music scholarship, whose traumatic event will bring them all together. I read the author's first tragic/comic epistolary novel and throughly enjoyed it. Everything about this novel is different, except that it is equally engrossing. I look forward to more.
Wonder no longer if Pfeiffer is as good a writer, as he is a podcaster. Hilarious and sobering, with footnotes worthy of the two Daves-- Foster Wallace and Barry--he gives us an abbreviated history of "Trumpism": "billionaire-funded racial grievance politics," and how to bring about its demise. From Nixon's "Southern strategy" to the racist Tweets of the "authoritarian curious" Trump himself, the author warns that the nihilist GOP will push Trumpism beyond 2020. Trump is the symptom and not the cause. He posits that Dems focus too much on the presidency, and not enough on the down ballot races. As long as younger people find blue states more attractive, the red states will continue to exert anti-democratic and reactionary power using our own increasingly irrelevant House of Lords, the Senate. (I think abolishing it might be the way to go, as did John Dingell.) Filled with wisdom, strategies and action items, you need to read this right now.
I thought it was time to update my knowledge about political campaigns. Other than yard signs and giving money, I haven't done any canvassing or working at the polls in almost 40 years. This was not a fun book to read: despite the former Obama campaign manager's exhortations to get us out to register voters, host watch parties, make phone calls, and knock on doors, it is clear that the contest will be fought with incremental steps on the one hand, and what he calls the "Fox News/Sinclair/Breitbart media-entertainment vortex from hell" on the other. Without an Aaron Sorkin style campaign speech, a Shepherd Fairey, or some viral hashtags (#Yes We Can), it's going to be as hard to unseat an incumbent as it ever was. But for those who just want to quit social media and go back in your cave, now is not the time. Plouffe wants all of the resistance on social media, because this election--like the last one-- will be won or lost on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Ida Tarbel ("The History of the Standard Oil Company") was one of the most famous journalists of the Gilded Age. Her publisher, S.S. McClure, less well known today, could count among his friends Arthur Conan Doyle, R.L. Stevenson, Twain, Kipling, and Willa Cather (who was also one of his editors). Other reporters who worked for "McClure's" magazine included Ray Stannard Baker, a pioneer of civil rights journalism (he studied under famed MSU botanist William Beal, and married his daughter) and Lincoln Steffens ("The Shame of the Cities"). With Tarbel, they were repeatedly denounced by president Theodore Roosevelt as "muckrakers," when they reported against his own political interests. Gorton's book is an absorbing look at the birth of investigative journalism in our country, the influence of mega business in politics, and at a period in US history with many ironic parallels to our own.
It's a rare book on developmental child psychology and parenting, that can capture the interest of a reader not actively involved in childcare. Yet, this book caught mine. McConville explores, using examples from his private practice, three types of transitions that adolescents must navigate on their way to adulthood: becoming responsible administrators for their own lives (e.g. paying bills and keeping appointments); making supportive new relationships with friends and mentors, while moving their parents from a supervisor to a counselor role; finding direction and commitment, i.e. relevancy, in their new adult world. Reading Failure to Launch, you may start looking in a new light at the behaviors of other family members--not just your child, but also your partner, parent, sibling, and of course, yourself! The author also addresses the complications of anxiety, guilt, shame, depression, catastrophizing (particularly in parents), and risk avoidance. This is a motivational master class in family dynamics.
New York City and the Silicon Valley are the holy grails of smart young people looking for bragging rights entry level jobs, whether it's publishing or bigger money tech companies. In a post recession recovery, the author left a couple such publishing jobs, to find more money and meaning in the "Uncanny Valley." She's cagey with names: the second of two unnamed Valley start-ups she works for is obviously GitHub (which recently sold its "Open Source" soul to former enemy Microsoft, for billions.) But it's her description of the anonymous first Valley company, that will resonate for many employees who start with any kind of small company that grows: "We had experienced an early, more autonomous iteration of the company. We had known it before there were rules. We knew too much about how things worked, and harbored nostalgia and affection for the way things were." Comic and bittersweet, and unusually honest, it challenges the origin myths of the (mostly male) tech hoodie elites.
The United States has manufactured and supplied most of the guns that arm the Mexican drug cartels, the armed cartels that have destroyed the tourist-based economies of coastal cities like Acapulco and Tijuana, and have given Mexico 6 of the 10 deadliest cities in the world (in 2019). Against this background, Jeanine Cummins has produced an indisputably great American novel. The first ten chapters of "American Dirt" made my heart stop. Lydia, the wife of a crusading journalist in Acapulco, and her 8 year old son Luca (an "aspy" obsessed with geography facts) are fleeing from a drug cartel hit ordered on her family. Lydia can assume that every other policeman is in the pay of the narcotraficante, and every cell phone has an alert with her description and photo. The novel chronicles the real challenges of today's migrants: finding food and shelter, avoiding thieves and assault, hopping trains, and making a border crossing that requires physical stamina and luck. I think that if enough people read this novel, it will move hearts and minds to empathy and action.
When Literati's owners asked staffers last month to chose our "Best of 2019" book, I took a gamble that it wasn't one that I had read, but one that I had yet to read. My bet paid off when I chose to read Edison. The descriptions of his experiments were sometimes a challenge, my chemistry education ending at age 12, but the inspiring narrative propelled me on. Like other famous early business owners, Edison can be villified in our modern no fouls allowed culture. Yet his innovations in sound and light and running a research laboratory put him ahead of any other technologist of his era. There are many unforgettable stories here of eureka moments and near financial ruin (he was no titan). Morris, who died last May after working 10 years on his book, had access to unreleased family letters. (The excerpts from his second wife Mina's letters reveal a gifted correspondent deserving her own book.) Although Morris experimented with reverse chronology in this biography, it didn't detract from my enjoyment or understanding. A trip to Greenfield Village is on my calendar.
Since 'Hillbilly Elegy," more publishers have discovered that readers are interested in the lives and struggles of the rural working class. This memoir about growing up in small town Indiana has a big twist: someone committed identity theft against the author's parents and herself when she was a young girl. The author's mother, the self-appointed financial manager for the family, took charge of the investigation and the accounts, while her father worked two full-time jobs as a farmer and a grocery store manager to stay ahead of the past due notices. The culprit and the full extent of the crime is not revealed for another 25 years, and the repercussions continue to this day. It's a true crime tale with an ending that both satisfies, and makes you mull over how much we really know about anyone, even family members. A classic portrait of marital dysfunction and child neglect, that you will not be able to forget.
In this amusing travelogue, Slate journalist Kois and his attorney wife, trade in DC beltway affect disorder for 3 month stays in New Zealand, Delft, Costa Rica, and small town Kansas, dragging their skeptical 9 and 11 year old daughters with them. The daughters, particularly older daughter Lyra, are great characters: I have not identified with a child in a book as much since "Harriet the Spy." The natural beauty ( although Kois admits "Quiet reflection in nature is for Thoreau, because he is childless and dead") and the idiosyncrasies of each location are explored, from friendly Kiwis to the unfailingly polite Dutch, who are, however, just not very interested in you. The author contrasts his own parenting style with the laissez-faire New Zealanders and the family decision-making by consensus of the Dutch: “my way or the highway” might not make a lot of sense in a country where most people travel by bicycle. The effects of expat gentrification in Costa Rica mean local Ticos live further and further from the beach. The residents of Hays, Kansas just live further away from everything.
A memoir and a family history as a legacy for the author's daughters, "In the Country of Women" has an enormous cast of characters. Luckily for the reader, each chapter is riveting enough to stand on its own. Novelist Straight mentored with James Baldwin in college, but returned to her hometown to teach at UC in Riverside, the 58th most populous city in the country, and a California city you've probably never thought about. As a small blonde woman who married her tall black high school sweetheart in the 70s, she learned to navigate the inevitable public and private tensions, from skeptical relatives on both sides, to police pullovers (two black teenagers is okay, but three is a gang...). Stories of Jim Crow and a direct family connection to the 1921 Tulsa race riot, poverty, abuse and parental neglect in both families, are overcome often due to the strength and sacrifice of strong female relatives This is an unforgettable story of resilience and reconciliation.
Although both Stradal's humorous novels celebrate the food of the flyover coast, "Lager Queen," like his debut splash "Kitchens of the Great Midwest," is ultimately an appreciation of its strong daughters. Two of our protagonists are female brewer/owners: "Laverne and Shirley" they are not. Helen is the "Lager Queen," who has created a wildly profitable light beer she knows is crap ("Drink lots, it's Blotz"). Diana is starting a microbrewery, like the ones that are gobbling up marketshare from older beer brands -and risk being gobbled up in return. Their connection is Edith, Diana's impoverished mother, who has a knack for baking pies--and is also Helen's estranged sister. Cue family betrayal, beer wars, and the only plausibly satisfactory ending. Stradal must have many well-loved women in his own family: I have to believe these portraits are from life. Take this and some assorted IPAs to your next bookclub meeting.
This jaw-dropping insider look might better be called "Wage Theft." Guendelsberger took short term jobs at an Amazon fulfillment center (irony unintentional), a call center, and a San Francisco McDonald's--so you don't have to. The policies of all three workplaces are designed to claw back minutes and dollars of low level contract employees. After long commutes, they wait in lines off the clock to punch in (cannot be a minute early). A 15 minute break at Amazon's warehouse can involve 4 sets of stairs and a long walk to use the bathroom. At least there's a (free with badge swipe!) painkiller packets vending machine, because you can't bring in anything they sell. That old work hard and get ahead, has become work through the hurt, because the robots are coming for even the crappy jobs.
Before the advent of admission fixers and Photoshop scholar athletes, one of the surest paths to an elite college was attendance at a prep school like Phillips Academy Andover. "Andover," was founded in 1778, but did not admit women until 1973. The four Andover classmates of author Cohan, who are profiled in this book, were all men. All four died young. One of them took an apparent stupid risk, causing his young daughters' deaths as well. One was fatally gunned down with seven others in the "101 California St" massacre. Will Daniel --a grandson of Harry Truman--died crossing a street. And then there's John F. Kennedy Jr. Their tragic stories, with testimony from classmates, friends, and family, are unforgettably told in this book, that's part elegy, part "What if."
Are habits of experience (Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 hours") really more important than habits of mind? Epstein makes the case that failure and experimentation, and the ability to make analogies across often unrelated disciplines, lead to more creativity and scientific breakthroughs than our current love of head starts, specialization, and data collection: "We have been using the wrong stories." He shares what he thinks are some of the right ones about how we learn and how we should teach, including chapters about Johannes Kepler, the Girl Scouts' Frances Hesselbein, Venetian Ospedali, and Andy Ouderkirk. Most chilling is a chapter on the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster--the mistakes made will remind readers of the Boeing 737 Max debacle.
Bookmark, dog ear (shudder!) or copy pages 11-12. You will want to refer back to the profiles of the nine Raleigh area families, who agreed to allow researchers to study their family meal practices, as each family is revisited in this powerful book. What becomes clear is that "eat food, mostly plants" is a lot harder than it looks, if you are part of the increasing number of people who are forced to pay too great a percentage of their household income for housing. There are additional complications: gendered roles, lack of control over job schedules (one household has four adults working at Wendy's!), peer pressure, and food deserts. And most troubling of all, is a federal government hostile to providing help to poor stay at home adults with children, but more than willing to provide welfare for large agribusiness. Lowering diabetes, hunger and malnutrition won't be an easy fix in this country. The authors illuminate how our many blame the victim attitudes and policies make things worse, but suggest ways we can improve. This would make a great "community read."
In less than 250 pages--many with sidebars, maps, and illustrations--author Hawes covers over 2,000 years of a Germany more divided than united. This is geography as destiny, as the borders of regions that are part of today's Germany are redrawn again and again. Readers will find disturbing political parallels everywhere, but at least can be reassured that Central Europe has always been a messy place, particularly east of the Elbe River. This is a must read if you will be traveling there, and get most of your information from old History Channel documentaries. The book is a good argument that the study of geography is still relevant in a world of GPS devices.
Recent college graduate Will, and his parents, classics professor Sue Ellen and celebrated novelist ("The Light of Our Shadows") Dean, are off on a summer vacation to Greece, partially funded by Sue Ellen's lecture stipend for the Golden Age Adventures Cruise line. Whether it's the setting ("Mamma Mia!"), the perils and temptations of academe, or the interlocking plot lines all pointing to a most fitting denouement, Ginder's novel is a very satisfying comedy of love amid the rubble of betrayals and their discoveries.This is the second novel that I've read by Ginder. Honestly, I enjoyed the other one so much, I set this aside as a holiday survival treat.
I enjoy reading memoirs: I've read over thirty in the past five years. Although that list includes "Hillbilly Elegy," 'Educated," and the inimitable Ruth Reichl and Augusten Burroughs, "The Master Plan" is the memoir that has provoked me, angered me, inspired me, and changed my mind the most. The author was sentenced to life at the age of 17 for killing a man he thought was going to kill him first. Wilson's life's challenges could not begin to be encompassed by the College Board's "adversity" scoring index. Poorly regulated guns, prisons, big pharma, and our unequal justice system form a collective assault on poor citizens, and mock our notions of democracy. This is the third prison memoir that I've read (including 'Orange is the New Black") and it's the most powerful.
Thanks to Sarah Blake, we now have an enjoyable and convincing surrogate for an Edith Wharton novel written in our times. Ogden Milton is a man of property, a mostly self-made business titan, and a good guy--or is he? What are those business trips to prewar Nazi Germany all about? This family saga skillfully jumps back and forth from New York City in the 30s, to Midcoast Maine in the 50s, to today. The climax is an island house party celebrating a Milton daughter's engagement, when each family member will be tested by the eternal scourges of racism and anti-semitism. The choices they make to act responsibly--or ignore--reverberate all the way to a contemporary coda.
Irwin Winkler (often with the late Bob Chartoff) has had a hand in producing an almost unmatched number of Hollywood movies in the past 50 years. His first was with Elvis Presley. Many of his best were with Martin Scorsese (“Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas”), Robert DeNiro, and Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky” ad infinitum). He even produced for Ryan Coogler (who went on to direct “Black Panther”). Winkler has stories about all of them, as well as some pre scandal glimpses of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. But it is his look at the oversights and roles of executive producer—sourcing and creating the script, putting together cast and director, finding locations and financing— that makes this the best film industry memoir since “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”
I didn't put this essay collection down until I finished reading it. From the Southernisms of the title (think Dana Carvey and his "Isn't that special?" Church Lady), to Ellis's father's made for litigation Halloween party surprise, the humor, light and dark, caught me in its grip. As did the personal yet universal reminiscences by this New Yorker by way of Alabama author--the bad male doctor she saw as a teenager, the decision not to have children, her first experiences with legal marijuana. After you're done, you'll want to go out and buy a package of "Nutter Butters"--not because you are hungry, but you too, will want to serve her retro party snowmen cookies.
After reading Ruth Reichl's long anticipated and worth the wait memoir about her ten years as editor-in-chief of "Gourmet" magazine, I went down to my dusty basement and unearthed two copies of the magazine: October 1991 (254 pages) and November 2009 (130 pages), which turned out to to be the last issue. The back covers of both feature a full page ad from Chanel: in a major recession, who is Chanel going to stay with, "Vogue" or "Gourmet?" Yes, there are famous chefs, over the top meals, and a few great recipes (as well as a weird cameo by infamous hedge fund manager Bill Ackman), but the "highlight" is the insider look at magazine publisher Conde Nast as it fumbles the Internet age.
This novel about a young wife's stay at a small residential treatment center for eating disorders, stunned me into complete absorption, the same way as reading "The Bell Jar" once did. The story moves back and forth between Anna's previous life as a ballerina, and her current situation, told in dialogue both spoken and internal. Every hour of each patient's day is monitored and accounted for with calorie counted meals, therapy sessions, and the occasional family visit, class, or outing. Not finishing any meal (including all of the salad dressing and all of the cream cheese that comes with the bagel) sentences an inmate to a feeding tube. Anna's fellow patients Valerie, Julia, Emm, and Sarah are well drawn characters who represent an unfortunate reality--most will relapse, and many even die from anorexia, as their families fail to see it and struggle to understand it. Not only is this an accomplished first novel, it is likely to become recommended reading for families affected by anorexia and bulimia.
Janet Malcolm went to U of M in the 50s and never had a female professor. Nora Ephron applied for a job as a reporter for "Newsweek", but "Newsweek" didn't hire women reporters in 1962. Author Dean has put together entertaining and enlightening biographical essays about ten women writers, essays that emphasize their influence on each other as a precursor, mentor, competitor, friend or frenemy. Most were (are) famous in their time. There were only one or two writers, any of whose work I had never read, but what I knew about them prior to Dean's book included the famous men in their circle (e.g. Edmund Wilson, Algonquin Round Table members, H.G. Wells, Dashiell Hammett, Carl Bernstein) and not the women. A clever, eye-opening look that connects these ten with their strong opinions, and explores their evolving views on feminism.
Executive marketing assistant Iris Massey is also the author of the website "Dying to Blog," and yes, poor Iris is. This sad funny story unfolds in blog entries and emails to and from Iris's boss Smith--whose brand management business is in serious and self-inflicted trouble, and her sister Jade, a chef who is better at dishing it out than taking it in. Comic relief is provided by ambitious intern Carl (worthy of his own book!) who has never composed an email that he should have sent. Although the random client communications and accusations, blog comments, solicitations, emojis and heartfelt epistles are all tangled in the sargassum of their inboxes, the novel's characters manage to thread their way through loss and love to the reader's heart.
The author's mother was a Numbers "banker," the "House" if you will, in the illegal betting that people make on their lucky numbers, or hunches. Fanny Davis, part of the postwar migration north, survives poverty, the disadvantages of being a black female entrepreneur, and the decline of Detroit, only to meet her greatest business challenge-the Michigan State Lottery. This is a fascinating inside look at a little known path for black Americans to the middle class: if all you know is "Guys and Dolls," you don't know. An historical look at the last few decades of Detroit, and a beautiful family memoir with great relevance to our fractured civic discourse.
I worked in a hotel laundry in the 70s and if I finished early, I pitched in and helped clean guest rooms. Adjusted for inflation, I made at least 25% more an hour than author Land did as a housecleaner ("maid') in the years after the 2008 recession. In addition, I got a hot meal at lunch. And health insurance. I had a set schedule of normal weekdays. And I didn't have to drive (unpaid) sometimes long miles from house to house in my own car. And, most important, I wasn't a single mother of a young child. If you've never earned a "living" cleaning other people's houses --or their bathrooms--or been told by someone that you should appreciate "my taxpayer dollars" supporting someone like you, this book will be an eye-opener about how America is still "nickel and diming" its most vulnerable workers. No prince ever comes to Land's rescue as she shares her story about her years of great risk and transformation.
I put off reading Harari's celebrated books on our past ("Sapiens") and our future ("Homo Deus"), because our series of unfortunate electeds have left me struggling to concentrate on anything but the here and now. It turns out though that "21 Lessons" is a must read, but not a difficult read, despite being an ology of many ologies, ranging spectacularly across our modern conundrums of immigration, jobs lost to technology ("Democracy in its present form cannot survive the merger of biotech and infotech"), ignorance, and fake news. And on the threats posed by nationalism and religious extremism, Harari reminds us that "Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question."
'the kind of book that, discovered unexpectedly on the shelf in a friend's guest room during an overnight visit, will make you happily late for dinner, and eager to turn in early after the meal is done."
That's the author writing on a less celebrated mystery novel, but it could be about Mustich's brilliant book. The familiar, the forgotten, and the undiscovered all make their appearance here in a book that took fourteen years and a lifetime of reading to compose. I've long been a fan of Workman's addictive "1,000 Before You Die" series. This is now my favorite. It includes " if you like this" suggestions, and a review of TV and movie adaptations when available. A book for every compulsive reader on your gift list from about age ten and up. (P.S.- and it's too heavy to easily fall off the bed!)
Silicon Valley and its job status merry-go-round, international banking fraud, family drama and relationship hilarity, and most central, the story of Chinese Americans melding old traditions and new realities. Matriarch Linda, while navigating a dating site for Asians, is working to get her children Fred and Kate to safeguard a family inheritance from their new stepmother, before ailing father Stanley dies. All things will do not go well. Read it on your next airplane flight: "since this was American Pacific, the stewardesses were either preemptively hostile or undergoing the slow inertia of death.” A fast and furiously funny read.
Things you probably won't feel the same way about after reading this book: --the Cabinet Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce (an insider's look at what they really do is the focus o Lewis's book) --AccuWeather --big data --Chris Christie (who briefly ran the Trump team's transition) --inorganic kitty litter Things you will probably feel the same about: Donald Trump's fitness for office. No one explains the intersection of science and economics in a more powerful way than Michael Lewis. A look at how an incoming administration's ignorance, greed, and laziness are putting America at risk.
The last couple years I have been drawn to memoirs about women farmers, whether they work on a commune, a CSA farm , or now the hardscrabble Kansas family farm that Sarah Smarsh grew up on. Kansas was the first state to hold an all state referendum on women's suffrage in 1867, and the 6th state to pass the doomed equal rights amendment in 1972. But now when many of us think of Kansas, we think about "what's the matter with Kansas," and its obsession with controlling women's reproductive freedom. In her very original and dare I say elegiacal look at the generations who shaped her, the author understands her family members belief that their hard work will pay off, but she knows the odds are it won't. Her memoir is addressed to the child she never had, escaping the single mother trap of her forebears, who cling to a sentimental belief in the pioneer spirit, and are unable to rise far from the poverty they grew up in. This is long listed for the National Book Award.
From "Gidget" and "The Flying Nun" to "Norma Rae" and Mary Lincoln, Sally Field is one of the few female actors to transition from pablum television to lead dramatic roles in big films. Raised by an alcoholic mother who did B movies and guest roles on television, and a stunt man stepfather who sexually assaulted her for much of her girlhood ( this is the first time that Field has talked about this), it's not a stretch to say that the chapter about her paparazzi catnip relationship with Burt Reynolds is only one of a dozen of the most unforgettable parts of this memoir. Not since Brooke Hayward's "Haywire" have I read a memoir by an actor that so captures an era.
We now know that it wasn't sixteen Puerto Ricans that died as the direct result of Hurricane Maria: it was at least 2,975. That's almost twice as many as died in Louisiana from Katrina. As a leading chef and restaurateur with a charitable foundation focused on feeding families caught in natural disasters, Jose Andres put himself and his other employees and friends on the ground in the immediate aftermath, delivering millions of hot meals and sandwiches to many who had lost power, water, and gasoline. A day by day first person account of those first critical weeks, a how-to for other disaster response groups, an indictment of government and Red Cross response: I think this is the most important book that I have read this year. You cannot read this book without thinking that Puerto Rico needs its own senators and representatives to end the economic apartheid that makes its citizens de facto colonists.
Both fable and origin story, "She Would be King" combines historical details about the creation of English-speaking colonies of emancipated slaves, colonies which become Liberia in 1847, with an unforgettable fictional tale of three young people. June Dey ("Moses") is the child of a slave and a Virginia plantation owner; Norman is the child of an English researcher and a Jamaican slave. Once transported to Africa, June and Norman meet up by chance with each other and with Gbessa, a Vai tribe member, exiled for her alleged witchcraft. Together they become part of the country's independence movement. The author shares a wealth of detail about the violence of the slave trade in the Americas and Africa, the politics of self-determination, and the culture of indigenous tribes in West Africa. None of it gets in the way of an absorbing and very moving look at how the human spirit survives the unspeakable.
Growing up in a small town in the sixties, my first experience of Chinese food served table side in a grand manner was on our annual vacation to visit family. Just like the suburban D.C. Duck House in Lillian Li's poignant novel "Number One Chinese Restaurant," the Empress restaurant--near the White House!--boasted about its Peking Duck. My inexperienced tastebuds usually skipped it for salty sweet Mu shu pork, a big step up at least from the canned chow mein at home. The Duck House connects three generations of a restaurant dynasty and three star-crossed pairs of lovers, lovers who are about to find out, that like a good stir fry, timing is everything. This is a masterful debut. I came for the fun Chinese restaurant setting, but I stayed for the characters.
Clark puts together two stories: the Flint water crisis and the plight of Midwestern cities since the decline of the auto industry and other manufacturing. These two stories alone would take a dozen books to tell in depth. She does a laudatory job laying out the timeline of Michigan government malfeasance regarding Flint (The Center for Public Integrity ranked Michigan dead last in 2015-even before Flint made national headlines). However, her lack of interviews with the best known clean water activists -who may have their own books- leads her to dismiss them unconvincingly with a "white savior " trope. She does give a good overview of the longterm consequences of redlining, the real reasons so many Michigan cities end up with emergency managers, and why Flint water costs so much. A good introduction to all of these topics.
"Read before you write, find people who know the truth, or a truth, and let the facts tell the story." We have Dick Cheney to thank for Seymour Hersh's new book. Protecting sources who were still in powerful positions in the military and government, became too great a challenge to writing a book on Cheney (for now). Knopf said don't return the advance, write a memoir instead. In his look back at 50 years as a correspondent for wire services, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and as a freelancer--Hersh got the Pulitzer for his investigation of the My Lai massacre as one--he has little good to say about American foreign policy and the architects of our failed modern wars, and no administration from Kennedy through Obama escapes. This should join "All the President's Men" on the short list of must read books about reportiing. I loved it.
World famous artist, female entrepreneur, one of the "Rosies" during WWII, and of course advocate for the natural world, Michigan's Gwen Frostic did all of this while suffering from a cerebral palsy-like illness that made it harder to use her hands. She lived and worked to a very old age, and also left millions to Western Michigan University. I've read this picture book half a dozen times now, and also watched it read to a group of eager elementary school children. An inspiring debut by former Ann Arbor resident Lindsey McDivitt. The illustrations from Eileen Ryan Ewen deserve some extra study as well. If you go to Meijer Gardens, make sure you check out the shade garden named in Frostic's honor.
The GM plant in Flint, Michigan stopped using city water to build trucks in October, 2014, because it corroded vehicle parts. Flint's State Office Building ordered purified water and water coolers for its employees in January 2015 (and kept it quiet). And still the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Governor, the Governor's appointed City Managers, the (mostly powerless) Mayor, and the EPA told residents their water was safe: safe to drink, safe to cook with, safe to mix with powdered baby formula, safe to bathe in. The criminally negligent poisoning of tens of thousands of Flint residents, and the stonewalling and criminal cover-up, became international news. "What the Eyes Don't See" from leading Flint activist and researcher "Dr. Mona," is the inside story of the fight to make the crisis public and the facts irrefutable. Part memoir and part thriller, reading her book is to experience equals parts anger, admiration and inspiration.
It's the on call economy: nannies who must be available any time any day; 24 hour "extreme" day care; teachers who spend their evenings driving for Uber; sales clerks who get their work schedule for the next week only days before. And everyone from lawyers to nursing home aides is in danger of losing their jobs to AI software and robots that don't call in sick or unionize. Compared to 40 years ago, American families in the bottom 80% are making $11,000 less a year, and those in the top 1 percent are making $750,000 more. Author Quart wants us to know that we live "in a country whose inhabitants have been taught to seek only individual solutions for problems that are often collective or systemic in nature." We increasingly are a nation that produces worthless college degrees (and only 1 in 6 professors now have tenure) and spiraling student debt, but not enough affordable housing, quality childcare, or healthcare. Quart makes the case that it will take our collective will to stop blaming ourselves or worrying about others cutting in line. It's now a line for many that leads to much less than their parents could count on.
I picked this book up only knowing that its setting was in a Japanese convenience store. Photos of mysterious, beautifully packaged snack products and onigiri (rice balls) arranged in artful displays, in flavors that will never reach our shores, have always intrigued me. In this little gem of a novella, we follow the life story of Keiko, a probably high-functioning autistic woman (although this is never mentioned) who has found a measure of fulfillment the last 20 years, working part-time shifts at the Hiromachi train station "Smile Mart." The employee manual is her Bible--and almost as long. This is not enough for Keiko's friends and family, who want her to have a husband and family, or a career. The comedy is served both light and dark, as Keiko polishes her "normal" act.
In June of 1962, a chartered Air France jet crashed trying to abort its takeoff from the Orly Paris airport. Aboard were over one hundred mostly wealthy white patrons from Atlanta's charity art scene, mostly women and mothers, who had just finished a three week tour of a lifetime to European art museums. Only two flight attendants survived. "Visible Empire" is an imagining of the traumatic weeks that followed "the day Atlanta stood still." Pittard weaves together the interconnected fictional stories of society matrons and surviving family, journalists, and the city's black and white working class. A few characters, like progressive Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. are real people. This lesser known chapter of recent American history is fascinating, and the author has painted a perfect narrative of Jim Crow and civil rights unrest, moral failure, and unexpected love.
A self described "projects" rat from South Boston (gangster Whitey Bulger's stomping ground), Lynch is Boston's most successful chef/restaurateur, responsible for half a dozen venues.( She is also the mentor of Michigan raised Kristen Kish, the "Top Chef" winner in season 10.) A high school drop out and juvenile delinquent, Lynch had no culinary school training. Despite her dyslexia, she taught herself from books and jobs in private and public kitchens, where she was often the only, or one of the only females. "Out of Line" is a humorous and inspiring memoir of a self-made working class woman making it all the way to the top of the restaurant world. And it has a few recipes!
Seligman helped to coin the term "positive psychology" and its principles, and is probably the leading figure of the last few decades in what has become a dominant school in therapy and research. This book, his memoir, is filled with stories of important psychologists after Freud, including serendipitous moments of discovery, and academic jealousies and intrigues. Seligman explores how his own much vaunted co-discovery of "learned helplessness" was 50 years later proved to be 180 degrees off by neuroscience advances. He also details his work with the Army, and a controversial episode with the CIA, which still stings him, an alarm bell for other academics working with our government. He shares his own experience with depression and lapses in judgment, along with his many accomplishments. This is both a riveting piece of social history and a complex self-portrait.
"Fair Cuba sits enthroned in an ocean of light"--these were the lyrics to a popular song about the the island's enchantment taught in grade schools before Castro's time. (Yes, just like Puerto Rico, there's an ocean between us..) I don't remember reading a mystery that struck me with such a strong sense of place as does this novel about mostly impoverished Havana set in 2003. It makes me root for better relations with the US and Cuba--neither side has anything to lose and Cubans have much to gain. Yarmila, author of the blog "Yarmi Cooks Cuban" is found dead by her California journalist boyfriend. Matt has just come to Havana to propose despite having only visited her once before. The police, the Cuban secret service, and a Santeria diviner for hire all investigate The blog posts complete with recipes and her followers comments are a bittersweet highlight. You can do a lot with canned milk.
This is a really intelligently designed guide to either renovating or re-inventing your garden and yard. Most of Schwartz's examples are either smaller projects or adaptable to a more affordable scale, whether done DIY or by a landscape company. She is particularly strong on advice for hedge materials, how to correctly plant trees, and patio decisions. The author is both a landscape designer and plant enthusiast working out of Northern, Ohio, so her plant choices and design ideas all translate well in Michigan's similar climate (and other zone 4-7 areas). A book that I will return to as I re-imagine my own garden.
As one of the 14% of people who self test as true early birds (or larks in Daniel Pink's phrase) I am organized enough to remember to write this blurb at 7am, but you won't see my best creative work: larks are more insightful in late afternoon. Also: you should eat lunch not breakfast like a king; the mid-life crisis as we understand it is a myth; naps are necessary, but only if you keep them between ten and thirty minutes. And synchronicized activity, be it group dancing or singing, or a drum circle, or maybe even getting a shipment of new books on the shelves with co-workers while you work the register and phones, might be more important to your health and happiness than even mindfulness. A fun, thought-provoking book, that will probably cause you to experiment with changes to some part of your daily activity or your job. Tip to would be parents--if you like to sleep in, have your baby in the summer.
Fagan is cofounder of the money website" The Financial Diet," which is appropriately heavy on motivational "listicles" like the 5 or 10 things you need to do to start saving now. Her book is an appealing beginning personal finance book. It's a shame it naturally has the word diet in the title, with all of the baggage that word now brings. It's not all about suggesting minor deprivations like cutting out cable and macchiatos. This is really a book about developing a healthy relationship with money, with maybe its most important advice that it's important to break the taboo and talk openly and freely about money with friends and family, particularly when there are income disparities or differing goals. The author includes her own advice as well as short interviews with her financial mentors. "The Financial Diet" provides a good beginning for those supporting themselves for the first time, as well as some new tips for veterans of financial checkups.
"Peonies are stunningly beautiful, easy to grow, relatively carefree, and adaptable to any garden style. They are a favorite flower everywhere they can be grown" The Midwest has one of the best climates in the world for peonies. While gardeners fuss with roses that get blackspot and Japanese beetles, or those with forgettable little blooms and no fragrance ("Knockout"), peonies, which star in all of those amazing Japanese style gardens, have been neglected in our country. Don't just keep passing along cuttings from your grandparents' garden peonies, either. There are now over 4,000 named varieties, with stronger stems that don't flop, blooms (if you have several different kinds) that can carry you from April through June, and bold colors. And unlike many Dutch bulbs, peonies retain a pleasing shrubby appearance until they disappear at frost (or lose their leaves if they are a tree form). The authors --a curator at Matthaei's world famous peony garden, and a long-time peony grower--pick the 200 most garden worthy peonies. Get this book now and make some plans for spring.
I buy few huge compendium cookbooks,but this is a big cookbook to cherish. Reading through the recipes I travel back in my mind to where or with whom I first had the dish: lobster rolls at the NMAI with my sister, New Orleans style pralines that my father brought home from a business trip, a frisbee-sized pork tenderloin sandwich in Missouri last spring. When we road trip, I look for regional specialties. This book combines the ease of the Internet search (it has an exemplary index), the armchair dreams of a Rick Steves book, and a large cast of James Beard Award chefs giving you recipes they feature in their restaurants, but that you can also recreate in your kitchen. This is a book I can cook from and that I'll return to after each new trip. I've got 7 states left on my bucket list, and Clam Pie, West Indies Salad, and Knoephla Soup, too.
It's been almost 40 years since the publication of the first Tales of the City novel, Armistead Maupin's innovatively topical and infectious creation, first serialized in a Marin County paper, and then the San Francisco Chronicle. Maupin (and yes, Armistead Maupin is not a pen name) covers his early years in North Carolina as a young Republican trying to please his unreconstructed father--segregationist and toxic homophobe Senator Jesse Helms was even a family friend. College, Naval officer school and Vietnam, beat reporting and feature writing, and the journey from 26 year old closeted virgin to activist member of the gay community in San Francisco, all follow. There are memorable stories with famous friends like Rock Hudson, Ian McKellen, Harvey Milk, and Christopher Isherwood. There are sad vignettes with a biological family that won't accept Armistead's homosexuality. And we meet the close friends (the "logical family") who will in some cases fall victim to HIV/AIDS. An expert at holding an audience, Maupin's relatively short memoir makes you want to hear more.
Untold numbers of poor Americans, many of them seniors, are now living in run-down vans and campers, bunking at one week and out public campgrounds, Walmart parking lots, and even suburban streets. White vans are their camouflage. Often the consequence of bad investments and foreclosures, or ill-considered loans to family members, there is nothing romantic about this life on the road. Author Bruder gets to know and travel with people who do seasonal work in Amazon warehouses (branded "CamperForce"), and the privatized and poorly paid campground jobs at state parks. She even takes a job with migrant farm workers processing sugar beets: it's just as bad as you expect it to be. Bruder's subjects don't whine. They share their skills for cutting hair, small space cooking, and solar power collection. Still, you can only imagine what the people who wouldn't talk to the author might have to say. Both disturbing and uplifting--these "workampers" are resourceful in a country that has given them less than they are owed.
It's no surprise that Harford's book is based on a series of podcasts that he does for the BBC. Harford's writing has the same engaging appeal as the best of those. Although the number of case studies has increased since his earlier book The Undercover Economist, more of this book will stick with me. Many of the inventions he cites are not things normally bought at a store--tradable debt, double-entry bookkeeping, intellectual property. Many are: batteries; clocks; the IKEA Billy bookcase. Some are mentioned for their unexpected value: Selfridge's department store and the emancipation of women; M-Pesa and the reduction of civic corruption-- and some for undesirable consequences: leaded gasoline and the gratuitous poisoning of people; antibiotic use in livestock. Finally, since most of the inventions that Harford cites are by men, he makes a plea to educate and empower more women. Worsening crises like climate change, antibiotic resistant bacteria, and cyberwar (or worse) from malignant nation states will need many minds and governments.
Despite having read about Alice Waters for years, I only managed to eat at her famous Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse, just once: for lunch in the cafe on May 21,1983, when she may well have no longer been working in the kitchen. (With no reservations, we waited for two hours for a table.) Her career as chef was fairly short-lived, but those of restaurateur, cookbook author, and food activist, are ongoing. Coming to My Senses is about a young person finding her way in a world where sex and politics, and the role of women was a spin of the roulette wheel. Waters takes us up to the opening of her restaurant in 1971, and not much beyond. Readers will want to compare this to Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me With Apples and Tender at the Bone. Waters is too modest to belong in the pantheon of great memoir writers--this is more a perfect peach fondly remembered than an elaborate tasting menu-- but her place in the pantheon of great Americans is assured.
When Mitt Romney was secretly videotaped dismissing 47% of Americans as whining "victims" who think that government "has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it" he was paraphrasing beliefs spread by an increasingly powerful group of wealthy free market followers of Charles Koch and proteges of Robert Mercer (e.g. Steve Bannon, Mike Pence). Their roots, as exposed in Democracy in Chains, go from slavery defender John C. Calhoun, to segregationists who fought "Brown versus Board of Education," to a small group of economists whose most influential members may not be F.A. Hayek (The Road to Serfdom) or Milton Friedman, but the less celebrated James McGill Buchanan (d. 2013). Author MacLean followed the trail to a neglected archive of Buchanan's correspondence and papers at George Mason University. What she found was the playbook of the so-called alt right, a group working to empower the very wealthiest and disenfranchise those who do not agree with privatizing government services-- excepting the police and military. A disturbing look at the intersection of social history and economic philosophy, and a riveting and cogent call to action, to take back government for all of the people
"The joy of lemon cannot stand alone; it needs sugar or olive oil, something to bring it back to earth. Vinegar literally cries out for fat. Fat falls flat without salt or sugar. Chile heat sings with brown sugar. And bitterness, well that needs it all"
For many years Thielen and her sculptor husband Aaron Spangler left New York City and her jobs in the kitchens of famous chefs, to summer in their native northern Minnesota, in a remote cabin without phone service, electricity, refrigeration or running water. Despite the challenges, or because such constraints force creativity, she turned her cabin in the woods into a great kitchen in the great Midwest. An absorbing and lyrical memoir of working the line in the man's world of Manhattan kitchens, and homesteading the coldest place in the continental United States. One day into reading Give a Girl a Knife I realized that my favorite magazine recipe for a modernized (leeks!) "hot dish" --made again by me that week-- was one of hers. There were no leftovers.
Despite a subtitle with the word "Selling," a term as loaded as they come, this is a fair-minded love letter to grocery stores and the many positive changes that they've made in the past couple decades. It will have you planning a field trip to Cleveland, and maybe forgiving Wholefoods for some of its prices. This is part memoir of life with a grocery store loving father, part history of the grocery store and innovations like frozen foods, cardboard boxes, and the shopping cart, and part exploration of the decisions and suppliers of each section of the modern grocery store. We meet among others, a rancher who grazes his pristine sheep on federal land, and a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic who has a very different take on the problem with GMO food. Ruhlman even gives you in the footnotes (all of them worth reading) the recipe for the single best-selling recipe at Heinen's, the family grocery chain who give him full access from fancy food shows to a stint as a grocery bagger. Ruhlman masterfully connects how we shop to how we live best, in this worthy update to Michael Pollan's Food Rules.
If the last gardening age was a nod to the tropical look (the bigger the better) then rock gardening should be our next one. The "art of growing alpines and other miniature plants"--rock gardening is a flexible enough canopy to shelter xeric gardening, native plant collectors, perennial border builders, fans of garden rooms and modernism, bonsai enthusiasts and conifer coneheads, rooftop, urban, and even fairy and railroad gardeners. The author even gives you permission to mix in your big box plants and American cacti. There is also just the right amount of helpful and deliberately plainspoken information on propagation, soil and climate, garden design and plant selection. I wish I'd had this book 20 years ago: it would have saved me from many mistakes. Buy it for the gardener you love.
Drop the Ball is a book for every girl who has ever been called bossy, for every female employee who uses the phrase "I'm sorry more times in a day than a male employee uses it in a year. For every neighbor woman whose first words to a guest are "my house is such a mess." For every wife or mother whose husband has never sent the thank you note or scheduled the dental appointment. This is a book filled with insights and strategies for women who have already "leaned in," and for those who don't believe that they can. Dufu is a popular speaker and leader of female empowerment non profits. With stories, advice, and aphorisms from her Sage Mentors ("Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.") , she urges women to "drop the ball" and become less "communally minded" in their home lives. With women still only one in five top executives, allowing men to assume more responsibilites for children and chores is the best path to more equity outside the home.
The very first management book that I ever read was "In Search of Excellence." I owned no shares of any of the companies that were featured. I'd never been in a Walmart. I took all of the anecdotes about best practices, like "management by walking around," as gospel. Many years later, having worked for a large corporation, suffered through consultants, owning mutual funds with most of the companies in "Search," and having read more about American businesses than most people my age (I had to tell my broker who Fastenal is), I come to Stretch, and I think it's one of the better written, more inspiring books on successful companies that I have read. Its axioms about identifying and repurposing the resources that you have can be applied to daily living. That said, I cannot separate a company's political or environmental record (e.g. Yuengling) from its financial performance, and in one business case, I know enough of the backstory to disagree with a conclusion or two about that company's demise- they certainly "chased" the wrong things, but the examples given were only a blip in their race to ruin.
Five years ago Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, The Big Short) profiled psychologist Daniel Kahneman in Vanity Fair. Kahneman had just written a book, which he was sure few would read. That book, Thinking Fast and Slow, has now spent most of the past five years on bestseller lists. Lewis's new book is part joint biography of Kahneman (who won the Nobel prize in Economics) and his major collaborator Tversky (a "Genius Grant" winner). It's a moving look at friendship enduring in the academic marketplace. But Lewis also takes great care exploring their major contributions to decision-making science. His stories and examples, some drawn from sports, medicine, and the Israeli military, contribute to making this a book most will think about for a long time.
"Tempered" first makes me think of chocolate. Rose, however, equates his more novel use of the word to the English title of Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier. A city is thus well-tempered by the relational adjustments that must be made to its "notes"--for instance, housing, transportation, jobs, green spaces, water, and waste management--to retain or achieve a more pleasing composition. Unusual for a book on urbanism, Rose nimbly covers the entire history of the city from ancient peoples to our time of "VUCA," a military acronym he introduces, which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. His perspective as a developer gives him additional authority beyond his amazing mastery of his sources: the bibliography could serve for an entire degree program syllabus. But he also emphasizes the dangers that economic inequality and climate change are bringing to our cities, which are indisputably a more efficient and environmentally sound way of organizing ourselves for the future. This is a book that I would like to see in many people's hands.
After decades in bookstores, I am perhaps not surprisingly immune to picking up a new book by a prolific author. I tend to assume, as with rock songwriters,that an author's best work is always behind them. If that is true, then I have seriously missed out by not having looked at a work by Hoffman before. I pretty much inhaled this book. Faithful, although destined for the adult fiction section, reads like a smart YA novel and would be a perfect pick for a mother/daughter book club. Real teens, real young adults and their parents, and one life-shattering mistake. The young Laura Bush, was famously at fault in a car accident that killed another teenager. I always wondered: how does someone recover from that? This book imagines it for me.
Take a glance at the index. Gottlieb edited the books of most of those authors and celebrities.The best editor of his generation, and if you've opened Look Homeward, Angel lately (sorry, Maxwell Perkins) the editor of the most best books of the past century. And he's still going. In his own telling, Gottlieb is a quirky, nerdy guy, and as interesting to this reader as the parade of famous names. He brakes for garage sales and collects plastic purses from the 50s! He writes a column on dance. Although he was famously fired as editor of The New Yorker in favor of Tina Brown, Terry McDonnell (the Gottlieb of magazine editors and author of the new memoir Accidental Life) could tell him how unusual it is to last as editor of any major magazine. A must for all students of publishing and media.
Recently on HBO's "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver put forth that North Carolina's new requirements for proof of registration at polling places had in effect "Moneyballed racism." With that coinage (borrowed from Michael Lewis's chronicle of the uber use of statistics in baseball), Oliver has also summed up the heart of this book: the unintended and unfair consequences of using big data in rating our schoolteachers, deciding who goes and serves how much time in prison, and who pays the most for college. Read WMD (author O'Neil's term for an ever more complex statistical model that renders great harm to our society) and weep. You probably already know about the misuse of supposedly neutral data and its complicity in the recession of 2008. But you will never see prison and recidivism, college football and student loans, or even car insurance, in the same light again. O'Neil is a former quant and author of the Mathbabe blog. She proves to us that statistics not only lie--they steal.
Moving to a tiny house? This articulately voiced cookbook would satisfy as the only one you need for a decade. It's hard to break into the cookbook market without a television show or a hot restaurant, but this is the book that is worthy. Turshen has helped develop recipes for both Ina Garten and the PBS show "The Kimchi Chronicles".Still have most of your bottle of fish sauce, or an old can of chickpeas, or have you noticed that mussels at the supermarket are a lot cheaper than king crab legs? With all of her recipes, Turshen includes treasured tips ("small victories") and improvs ("spin-offs") that will make you feel you got your time, money, and tastebuds' worth with each recipe.
Like millions of other people, I read Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine over thirty years ago. I never imagined how much computers would be a part of my life and career in the decades to come. And that's kind of the point: it takes someone with extraordinary gifts to imagine so much change. Kidder's newest book will not seem as groundbreaking as Soul. It's an extended profile of a genius serial entrepreneur (who coincidentally worked once at Data General, the featured company in Soul). What makes this somewhat different for a business profile, is that the subject, Paul English--one of the co-founders of the Kayak travel website--is on the bipolar spectrum. He gave Kidder unique access to himself and others to tell his story--depressions, hypomanic episodes, dangerous rages, and business failures are all included. English is a compassionate, philanthropic figure, with a little band of well chosen business partners, who have sensed what he needs without having to ask him about what's wrong with him. They form a "skunkworks" that would follow English even if he didn't have a magnetic attraction for trucks full of money.
Just in in time for Brexit, we have the paperback version of Misbehaving, as good an explanation as any of the neurological and psychological biases that cause people to act against their own economic interest. Part autobiography, Thaler's career almost perfectly aligns with the start and almost universal acceptance of the new field of behavioral economics. Incidentally, Thaler advised both the Redskins and David Cameron. You can lead a horse to water....
In the next few years, Robert Caro will finish the fifth and final volume of his magnum opus on Lyndon Johnson. We can guess at that, because each volume has take slightly less time to finish--the time between volumes 3 and 4 a mere ten years! "Working" is about so much more than its subtitle suggests. It's a memoir about sacrifice and partnership: Caro's wife Ina sold their first home to keep them afloat, so he could finish "The Powerbroker," and she's his only research partner. And it's an education about the dance between the powerful and the powerless. We may never have a President like LBJ again, whose political experience and influence spans so many decades, or a greater historian than Caro.
I had family members who had to drive to the Detroit Airport the morning after the crash of Northwest Flight 255, the plane crash infamous for both a sole survivor, and the cockpit crew's fatal mistake: not using the runway taxi "checklist" to extend the plane's wing flaps. Monday morning the wreckage was still visible by the side of the road. Duhigg's essays and observations in Smarter Faster Better--including another look at Air France Flight 477's more recent oceanic crash and the "cognitive tunneling" that lead to another avoidable tragedy--are the kind that you will feel compelled to share with others. The various motivational strategies and theories, you may want to test in your own life. Whether it's a look at how the Frozen movie team rescued their storyline, or a good explanation of why professional poker players bet when an individual Texas Hold'Em hand's odds are only 20% favorable, fans of Gladwell, Gawande, and Thinking Fast and Slow will all enjoy this well researched book.
Duckworth is the MacArthur "Genius" grant recipient who has developed the Grit Scale that is popping up everywhere in psychology, business, and sports. This is her theory, her research, and her examples, in a fun book for the general reader. The good news--students don't need new textbooks and computers as much as they need bands and clubs and other . extracurricular activities that teach them to model the best. The bad news: you can't just claim you can't do it anymore--research has shown with effort, you probably can.
As beautifully constructed and fluidly readable as any book by Robert Caro or David McCullough, I see a Pulitzer Prize in Mayer's future: it seems to be about the only award that she hasn't won. Everything negative that I see in the news seems to lead me back to what's covered in this book--the changes in our tax code that have fostered the growth of extreme right wing foundations that mask as charities, but are really tax shelters. From Citizens United, record income inequality, our embarrassing season of primaries, and even the Flint water crisis--learn how we got there.
I read a lot of food related cozy mysteries, but I like mine savory. No cupcakes. No understanding husbands. No cute pets.Until recently, there didn't seem to to be the same interest in food themed non genre novels. Then last year we had the very good Bread and Butter, the amusing Delicious!, and now the even better Kitchens of the Great Midwest. There is a doting father and a not so doting mother, who between them spawn the food prodigy Eva Thordal. From the joys of lutefisk (not) and ghost peppers (super not) to church lady bake sales, dining clubs, and pop up dinners, I loved everything about this book--funny, warm-hearted, and a definite tribute to my native Midwest.
I read this book in my 50s, after seeing a "Proust questionnaire" with Nigella Lawson, who named it one of her five favorite books. There are strong female characters here, but no evil ones like Cruella DeVille in Smith's more famous book. An unforgettable coming of age story about artistic dysfunctional parents, and their children who manage to make the best of it.The 2003 movie with Bill Nighy is also worth seeking out.
Reading this book will change your life. Seligman is the highly respected Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and internationally known as the leading light of the positive psychology field. This is not another "happiness" self help book, although the best of those books lean heavily on the research of Seligman and his colleagues. If you are looking for more joy and meaning in your life, this book will either give you the tools or show you that you've had them all along.
Sometimes you want to read a book of history that won't take a month to finish, that's still relevant, readable, and reliable.From the design flaws of the WTC towers that allowed their total implosion, to the neglected dams of New Orleans, McCullough's history of the Johnstown disaster reminds us that successful engineering is still a communications art, An engaging early work by one of our most popular, award-winning historians.
The best book that I've read on urban planning since Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, this book will explain to you why cities are greener than the burbs, our streets are too wide, and our infrastructure is too costly to replace unless we rethink how we now live. A readable, lively overview on what's new since Robert Moses inspired so many city fathers to put a highway through their downtowns.
The best way to learn to garden and how to design your garden, is to visit other gardens. Luckily, we have a couple recent developments in the US that duplicate the success of the UK's Open Garden Days and their National Garden Scheme. One is the Garden Conservancy Open Days, and the other is the multitude of local garden walks. Ann Arbor's garden walk is slightly older than Buffalo, New York's. Buffalo's is definitely bigger--over a 1,000 gardens in their metro area in New York and Canada. That's probably why the authors lay claim to this gardening trend, one that makes paint, whimsy, and found objects, almost as important as the plants. This book just makes me smile: the generous illustrations make it the next best thing to being in Buffalo at THEIR best time of the year. For a list of garden walks in Southeast Michigan, go to Michigangardener.com.
Michigan produces more annuals and herbaceous perennials (bedding plants for gardens) than ANY OTHER state, and a lot of the reason is Proven Winners. You are likely to see new plant cultivar introductions, that are produced by their network of growers, at most garden centers. "Winners" was jointly founded in 1992 by a California nursery, a New Hampshire nursery, and Four Star Greenhouse in Carlton, Michigan (a half hour south of Detroit Metro Airport). This book, by seasoned garden authors, is a very affordable guide to using some of the most widely available garden plants in good garden and container designs. Putting the right plant in the right place will also save you money. (After you read it, you might want to visit Four Star's display gardens as well.)
Leading his first trip since the pandemic, a tour guide friend’s Facebook posts of Charleston have me envying the shrimp and grits, and okra. At least thanks to Ann Arbor's celebrated deli Zingerman’s, I almost always have pimento cheese in my refrigerator, a relish I first had in a Charleston restaurant. However, the next best thing to being on a tour of the South, is this miracle of a cookbook by a two times James Beard Award-winning author. Recipes are tweaked for today. Tributes to individual ground-breaking African American cooks, along with short essays, make it an excellent gift book or introduction to Southern/Soul Food. Recipes are tweaked for today. If you are counting calories, you can start by adding one of these dishes to your ordinary meal, although there are plenty of naturally heart healthy recipes, too.
The shoulder seasons like October have always been a great month to travel in Europe for people whose children are grown and can fend for themselves. Since I was a little girl, my most fond wish has always been to travel to Europe and eat the food and see the museums (drinking the beer and wine came later). For many years, thanks to Rick Steves' books, I have been able to meticulously plot any lucky trips that I have, even down to where I will walk until I collapse as late as possible on the day that always starts with that hellish overnight flight and ends with catatonic jet lag. Rick has taught me which advance tickets to get to save time, which Parisian cafes don't hate Americans, and which neighborhoods to see on foot. My sister and I--non churchgoers both--spent a whole day visiting Roman churches on foot, thanks to a tour in "Rick Steves Rome." And we spent an entire day on foot walking the city of Barcelona when the Catalan general strike of 2017 closed all museums and public transportation. Seventeen miles of sights that many tourists will never see, it turned into one of the best days of my life. Steves and his co-authors are notably strong on Italy, Spain, and France, and perhaps less sympathetic (I think) to Germany and Switzerland. The pandemic has taught us many things, including don't put off the travel that you have always wanted to take. This collection is a fun (and full color illustrated) collection of reflections from decades of travel. It's what I call a guest room library book as well. You don't have to read the essays in order. As all of those October Facebook memories remind me of pre-COVID life, I'll be reading to plot my return.
Because there are no vacations with lots of time to read, because there is no place to go that is managing the pandemic better than my hometown, I've been going back to read books that I knew I wanted to read, but which had been quickly read and reviewed by other employees. (The pressure to review different books for our little store is real, but mostly self-imposed.) "Sweetbitter" was one such book that I just finished. Since my younger adult days of reading mysteries by authors like Dick Francis and Emma Lathen, I have loved fiction centered on businesses. If you are wondering if someone three times her age, can love reading the story of a young woman landing her first restaurant job at one of the most famous posh restaurants in New York, the answer is yes. Danler makes it obvious from the first pages that this book is based on the Union Square Cafe, whose founder Danny Meyer wrote a business classic called "Setting the Table," which I also enjoyed. Although the legendary Union Square Cafe closed in 2015, the year before "Sweetbitter" came out, it was able to reopen in 2017. Let's hope it survives the pandemic.
No one knows more about good food than Mark Bittman. To his cookbooks (his “How to Cook Everything” series), he has now added a crusade to get the world to eat food that is healthy for us, and healthy for the planet. “How to Eat” is organized as a series of conversational questions (“So how many carbs should I really be eating?”) and answers (“It’s very easy to ask a bad question and design a trial to answer it. And there are no good answers to bad questions.") But just in case there is something about food that Bittman doesn’t know, he has brought on co-author and nutrition expert Dr. David Katz. The section on cooking oils alone is worth the price of the book. Although he doesn’t present food rules like Michael Pollan, he does make some suggestions for your diet, like looking for the incremental improvement: if you eat doughnuts for breakfast, then yes, eggs are an improvement, but if you are eating eggs for breakfast now, then steel-cut oats and berries are even better. And yes, eat mostly plants.