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Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Having heard the author, a Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at Berkeley interviewed on Terry Gross, I listened to his book. While there was an element of “a hammer sees everything as a nail” to the book, I found much in it that was persuasive. He is able to trace all manner of bad outcomes for individuals and society as a whole to the lack of sleep. It became rather depressing...

There There by Tommy Orange

This one will make my list of favorites for the year. The world of Native Americans in this country is hard to imagine and painful to confront. The confinement to reservations is somewhat familiar to us; this book brings us into the world of urban Native Americans, in this case, in Oakland. The author introduces many characters and slowly reveals the connections among them.  The narrative moves...

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

It is hard to connect the comedian we know from The Daily Show to the story of the person born in 1984 who is the subject of this autobiography. Noah’s mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah was always an independent person. She learned secretarial skills, although those jobs were not available to black women. She lived in the city of Johannesburg, though black women were forbidden to live there...

A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

Peter Carey is one of the great Australia writers, though he has lived in New York for 25 years. Anyone who can immerse himself completely in both 1950s automotive Australia and the horrifying connections between Europeans and the indigenous population and intertwine these two strands, well, maybe only he can do that. And he did it with this book published in 2017. The story is told in chapters...

American Fire by Monica Hesse

The subtitle of this book is Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land, and what a fascinating story this is. It is set in Accomack County on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, a 70-mile long peninsula with the Chesapeake Bay on one side and the ocean on the other.  The area experienced great wealth from agriculture at the turn of the 20th century with the early building of railroads that gave...

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

It was Tony’s review that sent me to this book, and thank you for that, Tony. It is set in London and begins in 1945 when Nathaniel, the narrator and his sister were teenagers and their parents left them “in the care of two men who may have been criminals.” Nathaniel tells us the story, not always in a linear manner, from his vantage point as an adult. He brings the odd corner...

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

This 1989 autobiography tells the story of a truly rare person, a brilliant academic born in Australia who came to the US to study when she was 25. She was the first woman to be president of Smith College. This is the story of her childhood on the family’s 32,000-acre sheep station in western New South Wales, her teenage years in Sydney, and college years at the University of Sydney. Her...

The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser

There is much to admire about this book, but at half way through, I gave it up. I want to read Michelle de Kretser’s two recent novels, but this was available at the library, so I gave it a try. It is set in Sri Lanka and begins with a first person narrative by a man born in 1902. His description of himself and his family paint unpleasant portraits, told with a light, amusing touch that is...

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Another book in the Maisie Dobbs series; this is my third and again I appreciated the accompaniment as I worked on routine tasks. This one, like Birds of a Feather is set around 1930 and though the economic hardships are referred to, the main focus is The Great War. Maisie is asked to find information about two soldiers and she goes to France for research. During that trip she visits the location...

That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott

Kim Scott won his first Miles Franklin Award in 2000 and was the first indigenous writer to win that prize. I listened to his winner of the 2011 Miles Franklin as an audiobook, then bought it for my kindle. And I was amply rewarded for each way of experiencing the book. This is the story of interactions between the Noongar people and the early arrivals of Europeans in the area of Albany, Western...

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