CategoryReviews of Non-fiction Books

After by Bruce Greyson

Bruce Greyson, a professor emeritus for psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at UVa,  has been studying near death experiences for much of his career. He begins this book by recounting an experience in the ER with a student who had attempted to commit suicide. She was unconscious when he examined her; the next day, she told him about their meeting, including a detail about a spaghetti stain on...

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach

I’ve appreciated this diverting book about unfortunate interactions between wildlife of all sorts and humans. The phenomenon is increasingly problematic as human habitation grows and overwhelms wildlife habitation. Bears in the mountains of Colorado have more interactions with the humans who also love places such as Aspen. Those tasked with keeping them apart and safe have quite a challenge...

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

This is my second book this year that featured the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary; the first was a wonderful work of fiction, The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. Now I’ve listened to the irresistible Simon Winchester’s book, mentioned with enthusiasm by Dorothy. The “professor” was the editor of the OED, James Murray, whose own story is quite dramatic...

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

Clint Smith tells how the story of slavery is conveyed to the general public by describing his visits to seven historical sites. I was especially interested in the book because I knew the author had visited Monticello and described the changes that have occurred to the narrative about Thomas Jefferson to broaden the story from “author of the Declaration of Independence, Founding Father...

The Color of Water by James McBride

Having loved James McBride’s recent book Deacon King Kong, I was eager to be in his world again and this book truly does take you there. His mother grew up in Suffolk, Virginia in an Orthodox Jewish family. Her father was a rabbi who, always fired by his congregation, finally became a successful merchant in a Black community. He was nasty and unpleasant to his customers and in general was...

Stranger in the Shogun’s City by Amy Stanley

I took a long time reading this wonderful book so that I could savor it bit by bit. It is a history of a working woman, born in 1804 in snow country in Japan to a Buddhist priest. Japan was in a long peaceful period when the Shogun ruled from Edo (now Tokyo) and the emperor was in Kyoto (1603-1867). What is known of Tsuneno comes to us through her many letters and those that her family wrote...

Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn

It is hard work to read a biography of a liar, a person who works to create myths about themselves. My previous experience of this was with Calamity Jane, that denizen of the Wild West who is buried near Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood, S.D. When I read a short academic take on her life, I found it was an unsatisfying effort to separate facts and myth with no charm. This author, by contrast, is...

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed

A memoir by the eminent scholar who wrote so impressively about the Hemings family of Monticello is not to be missed. The importance of Juneteenth made it especially appealing to me because a beloved professor I knew organized a Juneteenth celebration every year at our local community college. Gordon-Reed admits to having felt some resentment when celebrations of Juneteenth outside Texas began to...

Tangled Up in Blue by Rosa Brooks

Rosa Brooks is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, the political activist who wrote Nickled and Dimed. Brooks was unable to explain to her mother, her fellow law professors at Georgetown University, and her friends why she became a part-time volunteer police officer in Washington. If she had told them she wanted to write a book about her experience, they would have understood, but that was not...

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Natasha Trethewey was the US Poet Laureate in 2012 and 2013; this book is a memoir that tells of her connection with her mother who was killed when Trethewey was 19. Gwendolyn Grimmette was killed by her second ex-husband (not Trethewey’s father). For the ten years Joel Grimmette was in their lives, he beat her mother and though he tormented Trethewey, there was no mention of physical abuse...

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Blogs I Like