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Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Real Life

Hidden America
Laskas, Jeanne Marie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I really enjoyed this book! I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, but Jeanne Marie Laskas kept me interested in all of the stories of Hidden America. I learned so much. I have to admit, I never really think about how my fresh fruit gets to me, but after reading the chapter on migrant workers, I am not sure I will look at my daily apple the same way. Also, I thought she did a great job when she went to Yuma, Arizona to the gun shop. That story didn't turn out like I expected it to. But the best chapter is about our trash and the people who tend to it. I just thought a landfill was a place where our garbage went to never be seen again. But there is a lot that goes into landfills and garbage. This was such a fascinating book! A great read and a really good book for a book group. So much to discuss!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Krakauer, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

John Krakauer, author of Under the Banner of Heaven, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air, brings his literary non-fiction style to addressing the topic of rape and sexual assault at the University of Montana, which is located in the titular city, Missoula. Krakauer examines the assaults of five young women with ties to this university during the period of 2008-2012. These case studies examine the culture of sexual assault and how these cases are dealt with by the criminal justice system and the university. Readers should be warned that this book does have some graphic content due to the nature of this topic.

Readers of Krakauer who enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven will find a similar style of reporting found in this work. Krakauer champions the stories of the five women whose assaults he details as he works to debunk many of the myths surrounding the topic. Most interesting to this reviewer is the research that he presents that not many men commit sexual assault, but those that do tend to be repeat offenders. And many of these perpetrators fail to even realize that their actions are criminal.

Krakauer thoroughly takes to task members of the criminal justice system who oversee the charging and prosecution of these crimes. Other reviewers have found his treatment of those officials to be harsh and one-sided, claiming this to be a departure from Krakauer’s normally unbiased reporting style. This reviewer found that the critical lens Krakauer uses when discussing the many missteps of the criminal justice system to be warranted. He also is critical of the football culture of the area that strives to protect its athletes even if they have harmed others. We see how university officials try to navigate bringing offenders to justice in this type of culture. This book is really more about the culture of sexual assault than it is about Missoula. While it is an emotionally challenging read, it is a worthwhile read and it will hopefully bring more attention to sexual assault and ways that we as a society can prevent these crimes.

Reviewer's Name: Deb
Awards:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures
Fadiman, Anne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An insightful look at intercultural conflicts in the medical field. This book follows the case of a young Hmong girl named Lia Lee, the daughter of refugees, who presented with epilepsy in her infancy. The author, Anne Fadiman, follows both the parents and the doctors involved in the case, interviewing the key parties and untangling the miscommunication that led to Lia’s eventual brain death. The author is respectful to both sides and manages to explore the conflict that arises over the medical care without placing blame, instead asking what both sides viewed as good medicine, what they hoped to accomplish, and why they were unable to communicate their ideas to one another and agree on how to handle Lia’s treatment. The edition I read also had a helpful afterword in which the author updated readers on where the people she interviewed are now, some 20 years later, and how the hospital in Merced (and other hospitals throughout the country) are starting to change how they train their staff to interact with a multicultural community that might have very different ideas about what good medical care looks like. This book always makes top non-fiction lists, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it I can say that for me it lived up to the hype.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts: A Memoir
White, Neil
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I admit, I didn't know much about leprosy before reading this book. I didn't realize that patients were segregated from society. I thought the disease had been eradicated decades ago! I was impressed with how Neil White told the story of the patients at Carville. Unlike the prisoners housed there, they didn't feel sorry for themselves. They just went on with their lives despite their disease. There was no reason to feel sorry for them.

What I didn't like about the book was Neil White's personal story. I do feel he was remorseful for taking money from innocent people to pay for his big dream of being a magazine publisher and living large. I just didn't like the examples he used when he was trying to express regret like when the first black family moved into his neighborhood or how he blackballed fellow students from joining his fraternity. The worse example was when White discussed how the patients had been disfigured by the disease and how he could "relate" because of the scar on his forehead. That passage really bothered me.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Book Review: Protecting the Gift
De Becker, Gavin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a very informative, and honestly slightly scary book. The takeaway is to heed your intuition and gut-feeling regarding the safety of your children. We brought Zoe to a Kidpower workshop, which was just wonderful. Zoe now has some tools to keep herself safe and I feel a bit less worried. Still worried of course, but a bit less... I definitely recommend this book to all parents, especially mothers.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Boo, Katherine
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

It has taken several days since finishing 'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' for me to put together what I might like to say about it to others. Before now I've basically just resorted to, "Yeah, you should really read this book."

But, yeah, you should really read this book. Even if you're not like me, and you DON'T try to pick at least ONE book about India every time you pile up your requisite stack from the library, you should still really read this book.

Narrative non-fiction books are some of my favorites, and Katherine Boo does an incredible job of telling a true story that reads like a novel. The action takes place in the slum of Annawadi, one of the many shantytowns or slums in the city of Mumbai, India. Mumbai has one of the highest concentrations of people in the world, and nearly 3/4 of the population lives in poverty. Poverty that is abject beyond anything you would see in the United States. No electricity or running water, and diseases that have long been extinct in other developed countries.

Boo has chosen to chronicle the stories and lives of a few of the slum's inhabitants, and it actually gives the reader a closer look at how a specific group of people have inserted themselves into the global market. In a place where so few have so much, and so many have so little, even trash is a commodity that is bought, sold, and traded. Many of the people of Annawadi scrape out a meager existence on the scraps of plastic and metal that are thrown away and discarded by others. I don't think I'll ever look at trash in the same way.

In summary, an excerpt from the advance praise on the book jacket aptly describes the book like this: "There are books that change the way you feel and see; this is one of them. If we receive the fiery spirit from which it was written, it ought to change much more than that." ~Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Reviewer's Name: Evan
Cullen, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fascinating account of the Columbine massacre, the months leading up to it, and the aftermath. Very thorough analysis of the minds of the killers. I was riveted by this book. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is I'd have liked to see pictures, not of the carnage, but of the involved parties so I could easily associate faces with names. A thought-provoking book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Grogan, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

John and Jenny were young and in love. They brought Marley home and oh my goodness ! Marley was very mischevious, such as chewing through sheetrock, stole womans undergarments. Obediance school did no good as he was expelled.

Reviewer's Name: Mike
Ryan, Kevin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book tells about stories from several young people who used to be young homeless. They came across to know Covenant House, which have led and supported young people throughout the North America to become responsible adults. They provide resources, connections and programs. Their mentoring supports have impressive impacts on such youth and longer positive effects on their future lives. These stories help us understand situations, many of which are intense, that young homeless in this diverse society are facing, and give us hope that young adults can gain healthy choices thorough available and friendly resources such as the Covenant House.

Reviewer's Name: Chi