The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

Premise:

Colonel Percy Fawcett was a man with a mission–to explore the Amazon and find the lost city of “Z” or what the rest of us would call, El Dorado.  He believed that the Amazon was home to an ancient city of magnificent proportions and untold wealth.  Fawcett took several trips to the Amazon to carry out his explorations, but in 1925, he simply disappeared.  David Grann examines the mystery behind Fawcett’s disappearance and tries to discover what happened to this epic explorer.

My thoughts:

My son picked this book up at the library, but put it down after just a couple of chapters.  If the action doesn’t grab him right away, he’ll often abandon a book.  I read the synopsis and decided it looked really interesting.  I’m glad I decided to give it a go!

This is a truly dramatic story about what it was like to explore the Amazon towards the end of the era of Victorian explorers.  The unifying thread of the story is the adventures and disappearance of Colonel Fawcett, but in reality it encompasses more than just his story.  The reader gets a good overview of his contemporaries, the history of European relations with indigenous tribes, the perils of exploring the Amazon, and the state of anthropological exploration during that time period.

If you like detail and understanding a subject from many different angles, then you  will like this book.  If minutiae drives you nuts, then you will probably see much of this book as unnecessary and boring.  Personally, I enjoyed all of the background information because it gave me a greater understanding of the time period, why characters behaved in a particular manner, and other issues which had an impact on the story.

The story that specifically pertains to Fawcett left me feeling sad.  This man had amazing drive and abilities, and it seems to have been thrown away on his mad quest to find a magnificent ancient city.  Current information shows that he was correct in his assertion that the Amazon was home to an ancient, complex civilization, but during his lifetime he never had the satisfaction of finding conclusive evidence himself.  His life was consumed by this obsession to find “Z” and prove that his theory was correct.  His wife and family sacrificed for many years as he prepared for and went on his explorations.  I wondered about his children and how much time they missed out on with their dad.  That was the saddest part, to me.  While Fawcett made many contributions to the exploration of the Amazon, it came at great cost in his personal life.  I suppose that is fairly common with people who are obsessed with a greater cause.

One thing I’d like to warn you about if you’re thinking of reading this book, is that there are a good number of descriptions of fairly yucky things.  There are many diseases, injuries, and insect-inflicted ailments which are described candidly in the book.  If things like that bug you, you may not be able to stomach this story.  If that sort of thing intrigues you, then you’ll have a heyday!

Also, the narrative skips around between characters and time periods, so that can be a little disorienting.  Having made it to the end of the book, I think it worked in terms of showing how the past and present are intertwined.

I recommend The Lost City of Z to older teens and adults who enjoy detailed historical stories.  If you don’t appreciate a lot of detail, you might get lost in this book.

Possible Objections:

  • Violence
  • Cannibalism
  • Some discussion of sexual things
  • Frank discussion of some awful diseases and parasites

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Advertisements

Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution by Bernie Sanders

This post contains an affiliate link.

A special thank-you to Macmillan and Goodreads for providing an ARC for me to review!

Title: Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution by Bernie Sanders

Premise:

The focus of this book is to share Bernie Sanders’ views on the major political issues of the day and the ways he would address them.  He seeks to inform readers about the broken policies and practices in the areas of a livable wage, taxes, Wall Street, health care, higher education, immigration, climate change, and policing and criminal justice.

My thoughts:

I think that this book accomplishes exactly what it set out to do: share Bernie’s political views and solutions with a younger generation.  The text and explanations are clear and concise, breaking down the issues into language which most young people would understand.  If you’re older or looking for a particularly in-depth analysis and explanations, you’ll be disappointed, but remember that’s not the aim of this book.

I had heard Bernie’s views leading up to the election of course, but this is a quick and easy way to learn about his political views.  The problems he talks about in each area are enlightening and it’s good to be informed about the problems our country is facing and why.  Quite frankly, I got angry and/or depressed after reading each chapter.  There is so much injustice in this country, especially being perpetuated by corrupt big business and political powers.  The rich really do have a racket going on in this country and the little people are at a major disadvantage in righting those wrongs.  So, I wouldn’t recommend reading this right before bed because you’ll probably get angry and sit there fuming in bed while you should be sleeping.

I think Bernie’s aim is not to get people depressed and feeling helpless, but to encourage them (especially young people) to get involved in politics.  While it may seem overwhelming because there are so many areas of corruption, we can each choose one area that we feel strongly about and focus our energies and efforts there.  One person cannot do everything, but each one of us can do something.  A lot of little people working to make change will add up to large changes in our society and political system.  I think Bernie Sanders is a politician with heart who keeps the well-being of everyday people in mind.  That’s a rare thing today.

I recommend Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution to young people who would like to learn more about the major political issues of the day, and see how Sanders would address those issues.  It’s also appropriate for adults who are looking for a basic, concise book about Sanders’ views.

A favorite quote:

“I believe that the government has a moral responsibility to provide for the vulnerable–the children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled.  But I do not believe that the government should burden taxpayers with financially supporting profitable corporations owned by some of the wealthiest people in this country.  That’s absurd.”  (p. 10)

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping & Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D.

Premise:

This book is meant to be a reference aid for those who have experienced the sudden loss of a loved one.  It features personal stories, guidelines for coping and healing, grief recovery exercises, information about the grieving process, additional resources, and more.

My thoughts:

This is the most recent book I read in my quest to find quality books which cover the topic of grief.  The title jumped out at me because of my sister’s sudden death.  I haven’t found many books that deal with sudden death, in particular.

 

Personally, this was a very cathartic read for me.  I came away with a sense of affirmation and understanding, and the acceptance of being okay with my current progress in my grief journey.  The authors really emphasize the fact that grief is a journey, not a destination, and that there is no prescribed method or timeline for it.  For someone who is feeling out of control, like they are regressing, or like they’ll never “get better,” this is a very helpful thing to hear.  I agree with the authors that each person should make their way along the path of grief using the methods which suit them, and according to their own timetable.

 

There were some after-life views which I didn’t agree with, but the authors presented them as different modes of belief, not necessarily their own.  They neither endorsed nor discounted the different after-life beliefs, but left it open so that the book could be helpful for people of all different faiths (or no faith at all).

 

One criticism, if you can even call it that, is that I wish there were more examples of sudden deaths in which the family has to forgive the person who was responsible for their loved one’s death (i.e. murder).  It was lightly touched on, but not given a lot of discussion, probably because of the authors’ lack of experience with that kind of death.  Since it’s outside of their scope, I can’t really complain that they weren’t able to relate to those particular feelings.  I just wish I could learn about some ways to recover from a situation where your family member died a more violent death and you have to accept the fact that their killer gets a second chance at life.  Perhaps I’ll find a book like that one of these days.

 

Aside from that, there are a fair number of errors in the text which would have been caught with more careful editing.  It would have also made the book and writing style come across as more professional.

 

I recommend I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye to those who have experienced the sudden death of a loved one and are looking for healing.  No matter where you are in the healing process, this book should have something of value to offer you.  It’s quite helpful as a reference book on grief.


A favorite quote:“Laws of nature do not make exceptions for nice people.  A bullet has no conscience; neither does a malignant tumor or an automobile gone out of control.  That is why good people get sick and hurt as much as anyone.”  (p. 70, Rabbi Kushner)

“‘Relationships with a brother or sister help children know who they are and how they fit in the family.  The bonds between siblings are woven into the fabric of each one’s life.’  When we lose a sibling, we lose a piece of ourselves, a piece of our family, and a reflection of ourselves.”  (p. 160)

Possible Objections:

  • You may not agree with all of the after-life beliefs which are presented

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Permission to Mourn by Tom Zuba

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief by Tom Zuba

Premise:

Tom Zuba experienced the loss of three of his family members, which caused him to seek out a new way to process his grief.  This book is full of Tom’s feelings and observations about his own grief, and a healthier way for anybody to work through their grief.  It’s told in free-flow poetic form and is relatively short.

My thoughts:

I’m on the lookout for a good book on grief that I can recommend to people.  We now live in a place where the crime rate is high, and I know that we’ll be going to more funerals.  Just a fact of life.  Usually I give people a copy of A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, but I wanted to find at least a couple of alternatives.

Tom Zuba has experienced some horrific loss in his life, and I can’t even imagine how that grief threatened to bury him.  I appreciate his open and honest observations about his grief and how he has and continues to work through it.  Many of the feelings he shared resonated with how I felt and still feel about my sister’s death.  It made me cry, but it’s good to cry every now and again to release some of those feelings.

I don’t really agree with Tom’s ideas about what happen to a person after they die, but I’m okay reading the book just to feel like I’ve met and talked to a fellow comrade in the grief journey.  Some people would probably be upset with his ideas though, so I thought I should lay them out.  He believes that we all go to heaven and that you can communicate with your deceased loved one through signs (i.e. a butterfly landing on your hand is your loved one communicating with you from beyond the grave, etc.), and that you should actively seek out and ask for such signs.  For me the question was: Can I read a book by someone who has some profound observations on grief, but whose life views may not match up with my own?  I thought it was worth the read.

I recommend Permission to Mourn to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, whatever stage of the journey you find yourself in right now.  Even if you don’t fully identify with Tom’s beliefs, his emotions are the same as they would be for anyone else.

A favorite quote:

“Grief is not the enemy.

Grief is the teacher.

The powerful

blessed

gift-from-God teacher.

But you must be brave enough to enter the pit.

By feeling your feelings.”  (p. 54-55)

Possible Objections:

  • different worldview than your own about what happens after death

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding

Premise:

The author seeks to shed light on the meth epidemic and the effect that it has on small-town American life, following the fortunes of the small town of Oelwein which is gripped in the clutches of methamphetamines.  Through interviews, research, shadowing, and by reaching out to others for their wisdom, Nick weaves a complex and disturbing tale of how meth became an epidemic in the United States, how it is affecting small towns, and why it just won’t go away.

My thoughts:

If you ever wanted to learn about methamphetamine and the way it impacts peoples’ lives, this is the book for you.  I thought this would be a mostly anecdotal book, but it turns out that the author shares a lot of background information about meth, as well.  Of course it makes sense to educate readers about how meth affects the brain, the effects it has on the rest of your body, and how it changes your brain functions even after you have stopped using, but for some reason I wasn’t expecting to get so much background information.  I really appreciated getting to know more about the drug and what it does physiologically to a person.  That knowledge makes it all the more scary, but it’s better to be well-informed than ignorant.

It’s rather disturbing to learn that the spread of meth could have been prevented were it not for powerful lobbyists and the interference of a pharmaceutical industry who was looking out for the bottom line.  It’s hard to understand how they could feel justified in blocking legislation that would prevent illegal drugs from being made so easily, but then again, when has big business ever shown itself to have a conscience?

The unfortunate result of the government not taking stronger steps to crack down on the drug problem is that thousands of small town police officers, social workers, mayors, and doctors have to continually put out fires (sometimes quite literally).  They are on the front-lines and have to deal with the day-to-day consequences of a lax system which allows meth to proliferate.  In my neck of the woods (the Midwest), meth is a huge problem.  Kids are entering into the foster care system all the time because their parents are addicted and/or cooking up meth at home and the children are being exposed to the toxins (not to mention the neglect and sometimes abuse that accompany it).  Our social worker told us that they really can’t keep up with the increased need for foster families.

One thing that I find highly satisfying about Methland is that the author looks at the problem from so many angles and really tries to get to the root of the problem.  He doesn’t take the easy way out and blame it on a couple of factors, but shows readers how it is really a complex weaving-together of many factors: drug distribution routes, illegal immigration, Mexican DTOs, lax laws, pharmaceutical lobbying, loss of living-wage employment, the profits to be made from meth, and the mental impact the drug has on its users.  There is no easy answer to the meth epidemic and it would require many different agencies working in tandem and putting forth their strongest efforts to make a dent in the problem.

The author did an admirable job of tying together all of the different threads of the story, though the anecdotal stories were not always strictly related.  For that reason it sometimes felt like I was picking up with a soap opera, revisiting a scene which had been left off during the previous week’s episode.  I suppose that couldn’t really be avoided, though.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters in the book.  They were real people, just like the rest of us, trying to make a difference in a world gone mad.

I recommend Methland to adults who would like to learn more about the meth epidemic.  It’s a fascinating and enlightening exploration of a terrible problem that we are facing in the United States right now.

A favorite quote:

“In 2005, when I called Dr. Clay Hallberg, the Oelwein general practitioner, and asked him to characterize the meth epidemic in his hometown, Clay had told me that meth was ‘a sociocultural cancer.’  What he meant, he said, was that, as with the disease, meth’s particular danger lay in its ability to metastisize throughout the body, in this case the body politic, and to weaken the social fabric of a place, be it a region, a town, a neighborhood, or a home.  Just as brain cancer often spreads to the lungs, said Clay, meth often spreads between classes, families, and friends.  Meth’s associated rigors affect the school, the police, the mayor, the hospital, and the town businesses.  As a result, said Clay, there is a kind of collective low self-esteem that sets in once a town’s culture must react solely to a singular–and singularly negative–stimulus.”  (p. 73)

Possible Objections:

  • some disturbing descriptions of violence, injuries, bodily functions & sexual stuff
  • some adult language

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

City of Light

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker

Premise:

During the reign of King Louis XIV of France, a man named La Reynie was appointed as the first police chief in Paris.  La Reynie worked tirelessly to bring the city’s crime under control, installing so many street lamps that Paris came to be known as the City of Light.  The police chief also uncovered a complicated web of crime which brought to light the poison, witchcraft, and murder taking place even in the upper echelons of society.

My thoughts:

This was such an ambitious book!  Not only was it a monumental task to write, but it’s a challenge to read, as well.  It’s like trying to take five loosely associated soap operas (with all their complicated drama), and trying to form them into one cohesive story.  Not easy.  I think the thing that saves the book from becoming totally unmanageable is that the subject matter is so juicy and interesting.  Even if you have to keep going back to check who the characters are and what they did, you do it because you want to understand the intricacies of this twisted tale.

While reading this book, you may doubt that it’s non-fiction because of how fantastical the events are, but rest assured that this is authentic French history at its finest!  I told my husband when I got done with the book that I was so glad that I wasn’t alive back then.  Those were some majorly messed up people!

So, the gist of the story is that La Reynie was appointed the first official police chief of Paris–a city positively drowning in crime.  The book talks about some of the general improvements and goals La Reynie had for the city, but the bulk of the story centers on a strange period of time called the Affair.  In a nutshell, it was La Reynie’s investigation into some very high profile poisonings and other crimes, and the extremely tangled web he tried to unravel.  You will be quite shocked by the lengths some of these nobles went to to get what they wanted.

I found the book highly interesting, but I’ll warn you that you need to be mentally on your toes to follow the story.  The author necessarily had to give a lot of back story and weave together many threads, and it can be difficult to follow.  There are also a few parts that might be rather uncomfortable to some readers.  Most of it is towards the end of the book when the interrogations take place.  Some of the things they described are just gross and offensive.

I recommend City of Lights, City of Poison to adults who enjoy history and are not afraid to hear all the ugly details.  Even if you’re not a history fan, this book reads like fiction, so you would probably enjoy it, too.

Possible Objections:

  • some grotesque descriptions
  • some semi-explicit sexual stuff
  • violence

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Walk in the Woods

This post contains an affiliate link.

Title: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

Premise:

This is a humorous memoir about Bill’s quest to hike the Appalachian Trail, a good portion of it with his friend Katz.  Additionally, Bill shares his observations and opinions on topics which are pertinent to the story, such as, the National Parks Service, invasive species, conservation, mining, etc.

My thoughts:

It would not be an understatement to say that I LOVED this book!  It wasn’t a page-turner that I just couldn’t put down, but more like an old friend that I would return to for shared jokes and just to appreciate being together.  I wanted to savor my time with this book.  Bill’s wry humor really suits me and I appreciate the way he uses it to draw attention to and poke at issues he cares about.  Sometimes it’s more effective to criticize something through sardonic humor than by railing against it in an angry tirade.

When I picked up the book, I didn’t really think it would be all that exciting.  How can you make an exceptionally long walk entertaining?  Well, Bill figured it out and delivered beautifully.  His comedic timing is like strawberries and whipped cream: perfect.  Let me state again that I am in love with his writing style and I look forward to reading more of his works.  How can I have gone so long without reading any of his books?

The last thing I wanted to comment on was how Bill brought little nuggets of history into his story.  I love history when it’s presented in an engaging manner, and Bill incorporated it seamlessly.  I was particularly intrigued by the opulent hotels which once existed in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the sad history of the town of Centralia in Pennsylvania.  I had previously studied Centralia when I was on a kick about ghost towns, and it is a haunting setting to be sure.  If you’ve never heard of it, do a bit of research.  It’s fascinating.

I recommend A Walk in the Woods to adults and mature teenagers who enjoy a humorous adventure story.  If you like wry humor, you’ll especially appreciate Bryson’s writing.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“’Daniel Boone, who not only wrestled bears but tried to date their sisters, described corners of the southern Appalachians as so wild and horrid that it is impossible to behold them without terror.’  When Daniel Boone is uneasy, you know it’s time to watch your step.”  (p. 63-64)

“The forest we walked through now was really just a strapping adolescent.  In 1890, a railroad man from Cincinnati named Henry C. Bagley came to this part of Georgia, saw the stately white pines and poplars, and was so moved by their towering majesty and abundance that he decided to chop them all down.  They were worth a lot of money.”  (p. 68)

Possible Objections:

  • a decent amount of swearing

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas by Pénélope Bagieu

California Dreamin'.jpg

This post contains an affiliate link.

A special thank-you to :01 First Second and Goodreads for providing me with an ARC to review!

Title: California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas by Pénélope Bagieu

Premise:

Explore Ellen Cohen’s (Cass Elliot’s) artistic development before she became a part of The Mamas & the Papas.  Cass’s larger than life personality and talent take her to some very interesting places, but it isn’t until she joins with her now famous bandmates that she truly experiences the fame she’s been seeking since she was a child.

My thoughts:

The format of this book is very interesting.  It’s an adult graphic novel, not in the sense that it’s full of garbage, but because it’s an adult-oriented story.  Through Bagieu’s whimsical illustrations, we follow Cass from her early years growing up in a Jewish home in Baltimore, when she dreams of someday becoming a superstar.  At a young age Cass decides to leave home and strike out on her own to see if she can make a go of her dream in New York City.

This takes her to some interesting places and she encounters a lot of unique characters.  Though Cass performs with several different groups, she doesn’t get a big break until she hooks up with her final bandmates — Denny Doherty, and John and Michelle Phillips.  Unfortunately, their success was not to be long-lived because of in-fighting, jealousy, and a weird love triangle sort of thing.  Really, it was rather tragic that a group that had such a unique and cohesive sound should implode quite so spectacularly.

But really, the focus of this book is on Mama Cass and her journey to stardom, along with the final painful moments when her dreams seemed to have fallen completely apart.  Though the book necessarily left out a lot of details because of its format, I think it was successful in conveying Cass’s personality, her hopes and dreams, and who she really was as a person.  This was a really nice book for letting readers get to know Cass a little better and more fully appreciate her life.

I recommend California Dreamin’ to adult fans of The Mamas & The Papas.  It’s fun to look at the early years of Cass’s development, but because of the language and drug use, I can’t recommend it to younger readers.

Possible Objections:

  • lots of bad language
  • a bit of cartoon nudity (fairly tame)
  • some drug use
  • a couple of homophobic slurs

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Wild Beautiful Places: Picture-Perfect Journeys Around the Globe from National Geographic

wild-beautiful-places

This post contains an affiliate link.

When I spotted Wild Beautiful Places at the library, I had to get it.  Anything by National Geographic is almost certain to be stunning!

Premise:

Readers get to see some of the natural beauty all over the globe through amazing photography, with a section devoted to each continent.  Also, there is a short explanation of each of the places visited, as well as a few travel tips for those who want to visit the locale.

My thoughts:

My favorite part of the book is, of course, the photography.  I’m a sucker for a good coffee table book–one which features amazing photos.  This book doesn’t disappoint in that respect at all!  The photos focus mainly on landscape, with a few photos of animals and people thrown in, too.  Many of the places I had never heard of, so it was nice to see something different.  There were a good number of National Parks featured, and not just in the United States.

I don’t think that I’ll ever travel to any of the featured places (Traveling internationally with a family of seven is completely out of the question!), but it’s a nice thought to include travel tips for those who might want to visit for themselves.

I recommend Wild Beautiful Places to anybody who enjoys a good photography book.  It’s appropriate for all ages and would make an excellent coffee table book.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

wild-beautiful-places-2

National Geographic Guide to the World’s Supernatural Places: More Than 250 Spine-Chilling Destinations Around the Globe by Sarah Bartlett

supernatural-places-1

This post contains an affiliate link.

My son brought home Supernatural Places from the library.  I put it up on the shelf because I didn’t want my younger kids finding it; some of the illustrations are rather spooky.  It looked quite compelling, so I perused it one evening once the kids had gone to bed.

Premise:

This is a non-fiction reference book, which gives you a short blurb on many different supernatural locations around the world.  It covers everything from haunted houses to ancient ruins, people groups to natural spaces.  One page is devoted to each location, and includes a photo and basic information.  The sections include: Haunted Places, Vampire Haunts, Witchcraft and the Dark Arts, Sacred Places, UFO Hot Spots, and Myths & Legends.

My thoughts:

I found this book utterly fascinating, and definitely spooky!  I’m not into horror, so this is about as macabre as I like to go.  Some of the entries are icky–such as the cannibalistic clan in Scotland during the 17th century.  Most of the entries are not gory, but be warned that there are a few.  The photos are wonderful–I love reference books with good photography!

This book is a great teaser for many interesting places and events throughout history.  It’s good as a jumping off point, if you want to do more research and a fuller study of some of these fascinating places.  It would also make a great coffee table book.

I would recommend this book for older teens to adults because of the mature subject matter.

Possible objections:

  • occult themes
  • sexual themes
  • gory elements
  • general scariness

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

supernatural-places-2

Kingdom Works: True Stories about God and His People in Inner City America by Bart Campolo

kingdom-works

This post contain an affiliate link.

Kingdom Works is another social justice book which I read some time ago.  For those of you interested in that subject, this book is full of anecdotal stories from an inner-city Christian ministry director.

Premise:

This is a collection of stories from Bart Campolo, the leader of a volunteer organization called Mission Year.  Mission Year brings young people into the inner city to live together in community with other young Christians, to partner with local churches, and to minister in their communities.  All of the stories come out of that setting.  It isn’t meant to be a textbook on how to do ministry, nor does it outline deep spiritual insights that can be learned from each story.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book, though there are parts that are uncomfortable to read.  When it isn’t just a made up story, but the heartache experienced by real people, it can be difficult to look at.  Our natural inclination is to turn away.  Each of the stories, whether things turned out good, bad or somewhere in between, has insights to offer and will broaden your thinking.  That is where the value lies in this book–it makes you think and it challenges your preconceived ideas.  Most stories leave you with more questions than you started with and wondering about theological issues and how they relate to the problems shared.

A couple of favorite quotes:

In speaking of the type of ministry that Mission Year engages in, Bart said, “This is not a high-powered evangelism ministry.  There are plenty of those already.  This is a settle-down-and-love-your-neighbor ministry, where the evangelism has to come naturally if it comes at all.” (p.31)

“In that awful moment I realized for the first time that out there in the real world the choices are not always between right and wrong, but sometimes between bad and worse.” (p. 53)

I would recommend this book for adults and possibly high schoolers, depending on their maturity level.  Many of the stories talk about things like drinking, drugs, sex, and violence.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Sexual themes
  • Drug references

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

This post contains affiliate links.

Evicted was recommended to me by my husband and a friend who had both heard about it on the radio.  They know that I’m interested in social justice issues and thought it would be right up my alley.  Guess what?  They were right!

Premise:

Matthew Desmond wanted to do some field research about eviction and the way that it affects the lives of poor people.  He settled on the city of Milwaukee as a good middle-of-the-ground sample city.  Matthew lived in the inner city for a good chunk of time and did field research, took notes, recorded audio, conducted interviews and surveys, shadowed people, and looked at the work of other researchers.  In this book he shares his findings and gives readers a front row look at how eviction has affected real people.

My thoughts:

This book was utterly fascinating.  I loved it!  I had no idea that eviction could affect so many areas of a person’s life–school and work attendance, job stability, increased costs (for storage, etc.), wasted time (looking for new housing and jobs), stress, depression, and the list goes on.  I feel like I’ve gained some great insight into one of the major problems in our large cities throughout the United States.

I found that I became quite attached to the people in this book, even those who were struggling with their own demons.  It was hard to see them trying so hard to overcome adverse circumstances and just get sucked down into the mire again.  There was one character, however, who really made me mad.  I thought the landlady was despicable in how she treated her tenants and I really wanted to ream her out.

The format of the book is highly readable.  Desmond does a great job of balancing real-life stories, his own observations, and facts gleaned from his research.

I highly recommend this book to adults and anyone who is interested in social justice issues.  It’s not really appropriate for the younger crowd because the quotes from real people contain quite a bit of bad language.

Possible Objections:

  • Bad language
  • A bit of violence

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff - WM

This post contains an affiliate link.

The book Stiff is a fascinating compilation of author Mary Roach’s research on the human cadaver.  This isn’t just your average list of facts and figures, but an in-depth exploration about the many different situations a cadaver can find itself in once its animating essence has flown away.  So, let’s talk about the second-to-last book in my Friends & Family Top Picks Reading Challenge.

We shall begin with the topics covered in this book.  They are extremely wide-ranging and I really had no idea that there were so many things that could happen to a person’s body after they died.  There are sections about plastic surgery, dissection, early anatomists and body snatching, the study of human decay, embalming, car impact studies, army research, the shroud of Turin, organ harvesting, the use of cadavers for medicinal purposes, cannibalism, composting cadavers, and plastinated cadavers.

Firstly, I am a bit squeamish about things like human cadavers.  Secondly, I’m even more squeamish when somebody starts talking about cutting them open, etc.  With that being said, I was able to make it through the entire book.  Mary Roach has a wonderful gift for making this subject matter palatable by injecting just the right amount of humor when things get too uncomfortable.

As for the information she shared about cadavers, it was absolutely fascinating.  Mary did a very thorough job of researching the subject and sharing it with readers in a cohesive, logical and entertaining manner.  I know much more about cadavers than I ever thought I would care to know, but I feel better for knowing it.  As strange as that may sound, this book made me realize how important it is to understand the end of our lives, just as we would seek to understand any stage between conception and death.

I’d also like to share a couple of my favorite quotes from the book which highlight Mary’s style of writing:

“And ever since, the U.S. Army has gone confidently into battle, knowing that when cows attack, their men will be ready.” (p. 134)

“He is telling me about the pine beetle epidemic in the area.  I point to a stand of dead conifers in the woods a quarter mile back behind the target.  ‘Like over there?’  Scottie says no.  He says they died of bullet wounds, something I never knew pine trees could do.” (p.140-141)

I highly recommend this book to adult readers who are not overly offended (or disgusted) by a frank discussion about the human body after death.  You will be utterly fascinated by this book.

If you’ve already read Stiff, please let me know what you thought of it!

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time,

Lori

Save