PositiveBookpageAnn McCutchan offers an absorbing, affectionate and long overdue portrait of Rawlings and her writings ... Drawing deeply on Rawlings’ archives, McCutchan chronicles the details of Rawlings’ life ... McCutchan looks closely at Rawlings’ letters, stories, novels and memoirs and mines the ways they reveal Rawlings’ writerly mind, her desire to probe the relationship between men and women, families and individuals, and her ability to evoke a sense of place, especially the paradise of her corner of Florida.
RaveBookPageFrom the moment we read the opening sentence of Michelle Zauner’s poignant memoir, we’re hooked. It’s a rare gift; Zauner perfectly distills the palpable ache for her mother and wraps her grief in an aromatic conjuring of her mother’s presence ... hardly ends in defeat, however. As difficult as her grief is, Zauner celebrates her mother in the very place they shared their most intimate joys, losses and pleasures: H Mart.
RaveBookPage... brilliant ... Abdurraqib dispenses prose in motions that shuffle forward, step sideways, leap diagonally and waltz gracefully through five sections exploring different facets of Black performance in America ... Performance can demonstrate self-awareness -- a chance to define yourself by how your body moves when you’re throwing down in a beef, which Abdurraqib vividly illustrates as a kind of performance. He traces the rich history of performance through sketches of Black magicians, dancers and musicians ... Clayton’s chapter may be the best in the book, if only because it gives her the recognition she deserves for her ethereal voice ... A vibrant showcase of sharp writing, Abdurraqib’s A Little Devil in America attests that Black performance at its root is not simply an outward show of talent but also a means of survival. Read carefully. Abdurraqib’s book is a challenge not to accept the usual explanations for the performances we witness.
PositiveBookpagePadnos’ exquisitely painful accounts of his torture, and the tortures and deaths of his fellow inmates, both horrify and provoke a strange hope that it can’t get any worse. He survives, in part, by dreaming of a brook in Vermont, letting his mind drift to the most important parts of his life and, eventually, writing a novel on paper given to him by one of his captors ... Blindfold unfolds at a slow pace with a tedium that evokes Padnos’ own physical and psychic experiences. By the book’s conclusion, we’re drained and relieved that Padnos has survived. With emotional clarity, Padnos endows his captors with humanity, casting them as people struggling to survive in a world turned upside down, just as he is.
PositiveBookPageSearching for one’s identity can be a vertiginous experience, especially for an immigrant shuffling from one culture to another. In Floating in a Most Peculiar Way, Louis Chude-Sokei cannily captures this tumbling free fall through a variety of cultures as he negotiates what it means to be African in Jamaica and the United States ... a compelling story of the challenges of living what feels like \'life on Mars.\'
Janice P. Nimura
PositiveBookPage... compelling ... reclaims the sisters’ enduring contributions to medicine and to women’s history ... breathtaking prose and exhaustive detail ... Nimura’s compelling biography not only recovers the lives and work of Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell but also provides a colorful social history of medicine in America and Europe during the mid- to late-19th century.
Dolly Parton and Robert K. Oermann
PositiveBookPageWhile fans love Parton for her crystal-clear vocals and her charming, witty stage presence, she’s always thought of herself as a songwriter first, and this book illustrates her deep devotion to music that captures a moment or tells a heart-rending tale ... Parton tells her stories with a grin and a twinkle in her eye. Her book invites us to sit a spell as she weaves her enchanting storytelling web around us, wrapping us in the warm, silky threads of her voice and comforting us with her presence.
RaveBookPageWhat...are the long-term risks of the way chemotherapy changes human cellular structure? What are the consequences of genetic editing (cloning, genome mapping) to create and shape human life? With scalpel-like precision, anthropologist Eben Kirksey carves away at these questions ... Various questions fuel his search ... The Mutant Project might provoke and disturb as it raises unsettling questions about the nature of human life, technology and corporate and personal greed, but Kirksey’s entertaining and fascinating combination of detective story, medical history and ethics is a must-read.
Les Payne and Tamara Payne
RaveBookPagePulitzer Prize winner Les Payne’s monumental and absorbing The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X peers into the gaps left by Malcolm X’s autobiography, taking us more deeply into the intimate details of his life, work and death ... essential reading ... it illustrates the forces that shaped Malcolm X and captures the vibrant voice of a revolutionary whose words resonate powerfully in our own times.
RaveBookPageWilliam Souder’s bracing Mad at the World: A Life of John Steinbeck vividly portrays the brooding and moody writer who could never stop writing and who never fit comfortably in the society in which he lived ... Mad at the World vibrantly illuminates the life and work of a writer who is still widely read and relevant today.
Edward O. Wilson
RaveBookPageWhether he’s writing about island biogeography, sociobiology, human nature or biodiversity, naturalist Edward O. Wilson tells a cracking good story ... With characteristic passion and humor, Wilson regales us with Tales From the Ant World, combining memoir and scientific discovery into a spellbinding narrative of his lifelong devotion to myrmecology, the study of ants ... Wilson’s absorbing and delightful book shows how extraordinary (and populous!) this common creature really is ... enchanting.
RaveBookPageThe novelist Walker Percy once asked, \'Why do people driving around on beautiful Sunday afternoons like to see bloody automobile wrecks?\' With this simple question, Percy reveals the depth of human malaise. We seek the bloody in the beautiful and savor the gratifying and self-satisfied thrill of knowing we ourselves have momentarily escaped the suffering of the accident. In her absolutely stunning collection of essays, The Unreality of Memory, which is part medical and psychological sleuthing and part memoir, Elisa Gabbert takes up Percy’s question and places it in our current cultural context ... Gabbert doesn’t only probe into our fascination with the pull of death and disaster. She also peers behind the curtains of mortality and time to explore the ways that memory and story either lull us into complacency about moral evil or allow us to embrace impending death ... Gabbert candidly asks startling and unsettling questions about our view of human nature and the ways we are often complicit in the suffering of others. With the world teetering on the brink of the political, social, environmental and medical abyss, The Unreality of Memory is a book for our times.
PositiveBookPageCardwell’s bracing memoir of the ways that surfing launched her into a new life is as invigorating as waxing up your board and getting in the water ... Cardwell’s moving story washes over the reader with its emotionally rich portrayal of the ragged ways we can embrace our vulnerabilities in order to overcome them.
PositiveBookPageProvocative and disturbing, fervent and moving, Sex and Lies offers a glimpse into a world often hidden from view, allowing Moroccan women to express in their own words their desires and hopes for a sexual revolution in their society.
RaveBookPageBooks by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard aren’t likely on many readers’ nightstands these days ... Yet, as Clare Carlisle demonstrates in the absorbing and captivating Philosopher of the Heart: The Restless Life of Søren Kierkegaard, reading Kierkegaard is much like reading a good novel or a thoughtful poem ... Philosopher of the Heart does what the best biographies do: It sends us back to Kierkegaard’s time so we can see for ourselves the beauty, intricacy and literary artistry of what he accomplished. Carlisle’s meticulous reading of Kierkegaard’s oeuvre reveals that his work deserves a wider audience for its insights into what it means to be human.
RaveBookPage... an alluring and breathtaking history of enticement in the modern age ... These seduction narratives are captivating, and most of us are characters in one or the other in our own lives. Knox’s fascinating book illustrates the magnetism of these narratives as they draw us into their orbits and as we use them to offer explanations of individual and social behavior.
RaveBook Page...a compelling account of modern medicine’s failures to deal humanely and wisely with aging and dying ... Nothing short of a manifesto, Gawande’s book should be on the shelf of every health care professional as well as required reading for anyone—which is to say, most of us—facing the prospect of providing for an aging family member.
PositiveBookPageThe best personal essays allow a momentary glimpse of the writer’s vulnerability and reveal facets of the writer’s personality that they otherwise shroud in secrecy. Yet, for these essays to work, their words and phrases must dance with a lithesome rhythm that carries readers along to a climactic revelatory moment. The essays collected in Evan James’ I’ve Been Wrong Before dazzle with such moments and language ... With spellbinding radiance, I’ve Been Wrong Before illumines the corners of James’ life and loves and captures a man in search of, and discovering, words that describe the jagged, sometimes ineffable paths he’s traversed in his life.
PositiveBookPage... explores in gripping detail the efforts of white supremacists to overturn black political and social power in Wilmington and to eliminate black citizens by any means necessary ... With dramatic opening sentences Zucchino creates a suspenseful atmosphere as he unfolds the stories of white supremacist Democrats who would stop at nothing to, as they saw it, take back Wilmington ... a riveting and mesmerizing page turner, with lessons about racial violence that echo loudly today.
PositiveBookPageIn his sprawling and detailed look at the ways that Christianity grew to be such a powerful force in the Western world, Holland traverses widely over time and space to narrate the rise of Christianity ... Holland shows that Western culture in the 21st century—whether it claims to embrace Christianity or not—is thoroughly imbued by the language, thought and theology of a religious tradition that shuttles between universalism and exclusivism. Holland’s writing energetically conducts us through some often-dull history and ponderous concepts to demonstrate just how insidious Christian beliefs are in modern culture.
RaveBookpageJaquira Díaz’s Ordinary Girls reaches deep into your heart and seizes your emotions from the very first sizzling paragraph. And as it carries you into some of Díaz’s darkest shadows and out into variegated light, it refuses to let go ... In fiercely honest prose, Díaz turns back every page of her life ... The stunning beauty of Díaz’s memoir grows out of its passion, its defiance, its longing, its love and its clear-eyed honesty. Díaz’s story hums with a vibrant beauty, shining a light out of the darkness that shadowed her life.
RaveBookPageBeautifully written and moving, Benjamin Moser’s Sontag: Her Life and Work reveals with illuminating clarity Sontag’s ceaseless quest to understand and be understood; her often arrogant and condescending manner, even to those closest to her; and her attempts to use art to fashion herself into the iconic figure she became in life and death ... Moser’s monumental achievement captures the woman ... This brilliant book matches Sontag’s own brilliance and finally gives her the biography she deserves.
RaveBook PageBewilderment, pain, rage and resentment flow through the bones of Men We Reaped ... Searingly honest and brutal, Ward holds nothing back as she strives to find her way in a community that she both loves and hates. There are no platitudes for her as she comes to terms with her losses ... She makes her readers feel that pain, too; but more than that, she makes us understand that these men mattered—that their lives were worth something after all.
RaveBookPagePart history of ideas and part mystery story, Moller’s briskly paced chronicle opens in the great library in Alexandria, where Ptolemy discovered Euclid’s writings and used them as an indispensable guide to his own astronomical writings ... Moller delivers a brilliant tour-de-force in the history of ideas, illustrating the sometimes-messy ways that important ancient texts endure over time and encouraging us to consider the religious and intellectual tolerance that often led to the desire to preserve and transmit these books.
RaveBookPage... mesmerizing ... Blend[s] classic stories of descent into the underworld with his own lucid stories of his experiences in geologic time ... As Macfarlane descends through some of these narrow passages in search of enlightenment, we often hold our breath and feel our hearts racing, but when he emerges we see with him the beauty of the world beneath our feet.
PositiveBookPageIn his characteristic free-flowing style, Dave Barry stares down aging by taking lessons from his 10-year-old dog, Lucy, in the delightful Lessons From Lucy ... Even as we’re laughing out loud at Lucy’s and Barry’s behavior, his witty and wise stories about aging with his dog touch our hearts
RaveBookPageWith rich detail and drawing upon never-before-seen material from the FBI archives, Gilbert King ... [writes] Marshall...as a crusader, deeply committed to equal opportunity for blacks ... With a cast of characters that seem to come straight out of the pages of an Erskine Caldwell novel...Devil in the Grove is an engrossing chronicle of a little-heard story from the pre-Civil Rights era.
RaveBookPage\"... an intimate, affectionate and candid portrait of [Mewshaw\'s] friendship with Conroy ... In a letter to Mewshaw in 2003, Conroy asked him to write about \'you and me and what happened.\' In The Lost Prince, Mewshaw lovingly, colorfully and splendidly does just that.\
Esme Weijun Wang
RaveBookPage\"Esmé Weijun Wang delivers stunning insights into the challenges of living with schizoaffective disorder in The Collected Schizophrenias. Wang provides glimpses of her journey toward understanding herself with deliberate, sparkling prose and exquisitely fine-tuned, honest descriptions filled with intimate details of her struggles ... Wang brilliantly explores the relationship between herself and her psychosis ... The Collected Schizophrenias easily takes its place among the best memoirs about illness and the transformative power of embracing it.\
RaveBookpageCockroaches repel us, we run from spiders in our bathrooms, we kill crickets in our basements and moths in our closets, while our dogs and cats track in dirt full of bacteria. Much to our dismay, our homes are filled with uninvited guests. In Never Home Alone, ecologist Rob Dunn examines the biodiversity we live with every day in our basements, bedrooms and kitchens ... Never Home Alone posits that if we look around us as Dunn does, we can begin to see the glorious biodiversity of our indoor worlds and wonder at its complexity and capacity.
PositiveBookPage...[a] compulsively readable memoir ... Gerald’s staccato prose and peripatetic storytelling combine the cadences of the Bible with an urgency reminiscent of James Baldwin in this powerfully emotional memoir.
RaveBookPageQuite simply, Christian Wiman’s He Held Radical Light is a beautiful book, floating as it does on elegant, lyrical prose ... Wiman reveals that faith and art give form to feelings that are incipient, and they offer us a means \'whereby we can inhabit our fear and pains rather than they us, to help us live with our losses rather than being permanently and helplessly haunted by them.\' Luminous and moving, He Held Radical Light brilliantly reveals the inextricable bonds of poetry and faith, and it serves as an evocative companion to Wiman’s 2013 memoir, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.
C J Chivers
PositiveBookpageIn The Fighters,...journalist C.J. Chivers narrates the stories of six combatants, peeling back the curtain on these individuals’ sacrifices, their commitment despite their nagging uncertainty about the morality of the war, and their lives after service ... Chivers...brings to life...combatants, caught in a web of circumstances beyond their immediate control, who are determined to serve America and the country in which they find themselves assigned to duty. The Fighters offers an absorbing and indelible account of war and its costs.
RaveBookPage\"In her fascinating study, The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do about Them), seismologist Lucy Jones examines 11 of history’s most destructive natural events, from the Lisbon earthquake in 1755 and the floods in Sacramento in 1861-1862 to the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and the great 1927 flood in Mississippi, to reveal what we can learn from them ... Jones’ fascinating book takes a long view at natural events in order to help us understand our environment and to prepare for and survive natural disasters.\
RaveBookPageRichard Rhodes’ dazzling Energy: A Human History tells a compulsively readable tale of human need, curiosity, ingenuity and arrogance. In a fast-paced narrative, he conducts readers on a journey from humanity’s dependence on wood as the primary fuel source to the use of coal and up to the development of nuclear energy and solar energy ... his exceptional book is required reading for anyone concerned about the human impact on the future of the world.
RaveBookPage\"In Maker of Patterns, Freeman Dyson weaves a quilt sewn from the colorful memories of the early years of his life ... Maker of Patterns reveals a glimpse into the keenly curious mind and the passionate life of one of our greatest scientists and public figures.\
Joshua B. Freeman
PositiveBookPageFreeman’s fascinating history of factories, even with its darker chapters of labor unrest, illustrates that humans have persistently searched for ways to reinvent the world, striving to find ways to make their lives and work easier.
RaveBookPageBoot’s mesmerizing, complex biography and cultural history not only recovers Lansdale and his foreign policy strategies but also illustrates the ways that those strategies might be effective in dealing with various military conflicts today.
Gerrick D. Kennedy
RaveBookPageWith the staccato, sure-fire delivery of a rap artist, Kennedy chronicles the early lives of each of N.W.A’s members—Eazy-E, who died of complications of AIDS in 1995, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren and DJ Yella—and how they came together to form N.W.A ... Kennedy’s compulsively readable book shines a glowing light on a brilliant group once accused of destroying America’s moral fabric but now occupies a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their astonishing contributions to music.
RaveBookPageAlthough a number of the essays in this collection appeared previously in The New York Review of Books, they read as if they’ve been written just for us. In the essays, Sacks moves over and through topics ranging from speed and time, creativity, memory and its failings, disorder, consciousness, evolution and botany ... Sacks’ golden voice and his brilliant insights live on in the essays collected in The River of Consciousness, and for that we’re fortunate.
RaveBookPageWith his typical eloquence, Greenblatt explores the life of a biblical story that artists, philosophers, theologians and poets have struggled for hundreds of years to understand and interpret ... Greenblatt paints an exquisite portrait of artists such as Albrecht Dürer, who imagined the beauty of the original couple in his engraving 'The Fall of Man,' which illustrates, for Greenblatt, a 'vision of those perfect bodies that existed before time and labor and mortality began' ... In the end, Greenblatt elegantly concludes that the story of Adam and Eve is a powerful myth that deeply informs our understandings of temptation, innocence, freedom and betrayal, the choice between good and evil.