Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Book review: Them and The Elephant in the Room, by Jon Ronson This book began its life in 1995 as a series of profiles of extremist leaders, but it quickly became something stranger. My plan had been to spend time with those people who had been described as the extremist monsters of the Western world – Islamic fundamentalists, neo-Nazis, etc. I wanted to join them as they went about … Continue reading Jon Ronson Double Feature: “Them” and its Could-Be Addendum, “The Elephant in the Room”

Inside the North Korean Gulag

Image of Workers’ Party of Korea Monument in Pyongyang by Mannen av börd, edited by Entheta (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons Book review: The Aquariums of Pyongyang, by Kang Chol-Hwan, and Pierre Rigoulot During the first days of my detention, I met a kid who wore black socks. At least that’s what I thought until I realized his socks in … Continue reading Inside the North Korean Gulag

David Sedaris on Getting Older, Complicated Families, and the “Sea Section”

Book review: Calypso, by David Sedaris His most recent publications have been a bit of a diversion for David Sedaris. Last year, he published the first part of his diaries, Theft by Finding, which showed the genesis of some of his well known works, as well as being an unconventional glimpse into his early life and bizarre, often hilarious thought processes. I absolutely loved it, but I … Continue reading David Sedaris on Getting Older, Complicated Families, and the “Sea Section”

The Subtle Joys of Traveling Alone

Book review: Alone Time, by Stephanie Rosenbloom What follows are impressions of four journeys; a love letter to loners, to witches and shamans, to those who cherish their friends, spouses, and partners yet also want alone time to think, create, have an adventure, learn a skill, or solve a problem…find your “thinking path,” to discover what you want from your own solitary moments. New York … Continue reading The Subtle Joys of Traveling Alone

Reinvestigating Roanoke

Book review: The Secret Token, by Andrew Lawler Roanoke has long been a setting for our national nightmares. A recurring topic of Andrew Lawler’s new exploration into the lost colony of settlers at Roanoke in the 1580s is just how much this story, from the early beginnings of European history in North America, fascinates us. And why, when there have been so many other strange … Continue reading Reinvestigating Roanoke

The Strange and Sad History of Humans and Orcas

Book review: Orca, by Jason Colby Author Jason Colby’s father was one of the last orca hunters in Washington state, capturing the apex predator from its natural habitat to fill orders for aquariums worldwide. Colby writes this detailed, descriptive but very readable history of human-orca interactions from a place of lifelong personal interest, having witnessed his father’s deep regret over his actions. It also allows … Continue reading The Strange and Sad History of Humans and Orcas

Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

Book review: For Single Mothers Working as Train Conductors, by Laura Esther Wolfson Laura Esther Wolfson’s essay collection, the Iowa Prize in Literary Nonfiction winner, is composed of dreamy, reflectional, sometimes confessional pieces of memoir. An interpreter and translator by profession, the idea of translation and the role of language in life, love, questions of identity, relationships, and everyday interpersonal interactions is its common thread. … Continue reading Love, Loss and Languages We Spoke

A 1937 Crime and Trial Setting Historical Precedence

Book review: Little Shoes, by Pamela Everett I noticed this book was coming out after reading Piu Eatwell’s take on Elizabeth Short’s infamous murder, Black Dahlia, Red Rose. In that book, Eatwell repeatedly references the profiling work of Dr. Paul De River, a psychiatrist who, before psychologically profiling and interviewing Dahlia suspect Leslie Dillon, had used similar techniques to help secure a conviction in the case of … Continue reading A 1937 Crime and Trial Setting Historical Precedence

The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Book review: Hidden America, by Jeanne Marie Laskas I discovered this book through the excellent New York Times Match Book column. If you’re not already familiar, people write asking for specific book recommendations based on previous favorites or highly specific genres. This one was mentioned in a social issues-themed reading list. Hidden America began when author Laskas was writing about coal mining and ended up spending … Continue reading The America Hiding in Plain Sight

Life Writing Through Micro-Memoir

Book review: Heating & Cooling, by Beth Ann Fennelly Poet Beth Ann Fennelly writes a collection of 52 “micro-memoirs”: mini-essays, a genre idea I love, loosely based around family, marriage, love, sex, and sometimes grief. This book got a surprising amount of buzz upon its release last year, in my opinion, for an essay-cum-memoir-cum-almost poetry collection. It seemed to hit a sweet spot for a lot … Continue reading Life Writing Through Micro-Memoir

New York City’s 16-Year Manhunt and Criminal Profiling’s Beginnings

Book review: Incendiary, by Michael Cannell In 1956 there was no such thing as criminal profiling; nobody could recall an instance when the police had consulted a psychiatrist. It was a collaboration fabricated in detective novels, but never found in real life. Every one of today’s profilers, real or televised, traces his or her lineage back to the psychiatrist who depicted the serial bomber with … Continue reading New York City’s 16-Year Manhunt and Criminal Profiling’s Beginnings

What You Wear Can Change Your Life: Sartorial Lessons in a Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz

Book review: Measure of a Man, by Martin Greenfield with Wynton Hall Martin Greenfield was born Maximilian Grünfeld in Pavlovo, then part of Czechoslovakia and now in Ukraine. At age fifteen, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz, like so many other Jewish families in this part of the world during WWII. The infamous Dr. Mengele separated him and his father from his mother … Continue reading What You Wear Can Change Your Life: Sartorial Lessons in a Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz