Tea Partiers in Their Own Words

Book review: Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild In the last decade, but especially the last few years, we’ve seen an especially polarizing shift between the American political left and right, culminating in the election of a previously non-politically-involved narcissistic billionaire (or is he?) bully with an inferiority complex. But even before that menace was in the White House, the unrest and dissatisfaction from the … Continue reading Tea Partiers in Their Own Words

The Bones of Bioarchaeology

Book review: Built on Bones, by Brenna Hassett Brenna Hassett is a bioarchaeologist. If, like me, you have no idea what that is, it means she studies human bones and remains, such as teeth found in archaeological sites, looking for clues to understanding more about human existence and how it’s evolved through the ages. Her book focuses especially on cities, or our earliest iterations of urban developments, asking … Continue reading The Bones of Bioarchaeology

Musings on Art and Loneliness

Book review: The Lonely City, by Olivia Laing “It was becoming increasingly easy to see how people ended up vanishing in cities, disappearing in plain sight, retreating into their apartments because of sickness or bereavement, mental illness or the persistent, unbearable burden of sadness and shyness, not knowing how to impress themselves into the world.” Olivia Laing unexpectedly became a British expatriate alone in New York City, … Continue reading Musings on Art and Loneliness

Looking Beyond

Book review: Surviving Death, by Leslie Kean “The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?” This Edgar Allan Poe quote, a chapter opener in Surviving Death, is fitting for the book as a whole. It’s a question many wonder about their entire lives, and one that isn’t easily resolved for a plethora of … Continue reading Looking Beyond

America’s Most Fragile

Book review: Glass House, by Brian Alexander Journalist Brian Alexander is a native of Lancaster, Ohio, a city highlighted by Forbes in 1947 with the shining, post-war pride declaration, “This is America.” Now it’s one of many towns in America’s Rust Belt that’s fallen victim to plagues of misfortune in recent decades – the restructuring and eventual closures of big companies, leading to economic bust and rampant opiate abuse. These towns … Continue reading America’s Most Fragile

Images in the Ink

Book review: The Inkblots, by Damion Searls Beginning as a biography of the oft-overlooked Hermann Rorschach, developer of the eponymous psychological and personality test, and becoming a history of the test’s uses and controversies, The Inkblots is a continually surprising, enlightening work of narrative nonfiction. For creating a test so famous that it long ago crossed from the specialized psychology domain into pop culture and household status, little is commonly … Continue reading Images in the Ink

In Support of the Shy

Book review: Shrinking Violets, by Joe Moran Shyness is about much more than just shrinking away. Violets “shrink” not in retreating from the world but in evincing nature’s talent for endless variation and for sustaining life in the most varied habitats. Shyness, too, can flourish in many climates and soils and express itself in many ways. It can, like the violet, be accompanied by a … Continue reading In Support of the Shy

Better Off Dead?

Book review: Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud by Elizabeth Greenwood What a fun read this is, considering the weightiness of the subject matter! Elizabeth Greenwood needs an out from her life – saddled with the burden of crushing student debt, frustrated working a job that will never earn her enough to pay the loans off, she latched on to a … Continue reading Better Off Dead?

Nerves and the Nervous

Book review: Hi, Anxiety: Life with a Bad Case of Nerves, by Kat Kinsman Food writer and former CNN writer/editor Kat Kinsman writes a baring, unflinching memoir of her lifelong experiences living with anxiety. I started reading it and had to stop and take a break, because even confronting the subject made me feel anxious. There are some difficult passages – I guess if a specific strain of … Continue reading Nerves and the Nervous

Stop Romanticizing Victorian London

Book review: The Good Old Days: Crime, Murder and Mayhem in Victorian London, by Gilda O’Neill Author and historian Gilda O’Neill, well-known for her social history books exploring the changing face of London’s East End, examines the problems that plagued the “good old days” of the Victorian era, using the thesis that problems of the present day really aren’t all that different from the past, and the past is … Continue reading Stop Romanticizing Victorian London

“Insanity is a strange, peculiar thing.”

Book review: Not Just Evil: Murder, Hollywood, and California’s First Insanity Plea by David Wilson Shortly before Christmas in 1927, a twelve-year-old girl was kidnapped from her school in Los Angeles. After a ransom was arranged with her father, Marion Parker’s horrifically mutilated body was returned. Her killer, a young man named William Hickman, was quickly apprehended following a media frenzy and public outcry. Hickman was a … Continue reading “Insanity is a strange, peculiar thing.”

On Long Island, Victims Are a Long Time Lost

Book review: Lost Girls, by Robert Kolker In the early morning hours of May 1, 2010, Shannan Gilbert, who was working as an escort, took off running into the dark marshland of Oak Beach, a private residential community in Suffolk County, Long Island where she’d had a professional date. Her disappearance was the catalyst for the discovery of what would turn out to be ten murder victims. Some were scattered and … Continue reading On Long Island, Victims Are a Long Time Lost