PositiveBookreporterWinchester, whose rigorously organized mind seems able to codify and categorize any human endeavor into sustained good reading, could easily have hopped from continent to continent, country to country, exploring each region’s land relationships through the perfectly legitimate lenses of history, geology, governance, resources, economies and as many other parameters as made sense. And he does all these things, but not in a predictable textbook fashion.
RaveBookreporter... amazing ... Like his precursors from the early 19th century to the past decade, Swafford also could have milked the hypothetical \'future Mozart\' idea, but gives it an elegant pass every time it comes up ... Instead of hypothesizing, or further mythologizing a life whose true facts are far more interesting than popular fiction, Swafford dug deep into every conceivable fragment and tidbit of the Mozart family’s life and times, along with those of their friends, relatives, employers, rulers and influencers ... But what makes Mozart yet another milestone in Swafford\'s series of substantial composer biographies is his unique fusion of raw data with truthful storytelling and thoughtful extrapolation. Orchestrating words and themes as deftly as any of the composers he so vividly has revealed to date (who will be next, we wonder?), Swafford transforms a deluge of available information into imaginative yet fact-based contexts that reveal Mozart’s talent in a down-to-earth and memorably human way ... In deft, empathic and knowledgeable prose, he treats a piano concerto here, an aria there, a string quartet or opera scene somewhere else, as lovingly as one might describe a dear friend: all as unique \'personalities,\' entirely formed within the reader’s receptive imagination ... unsurpassed.
RaveBookreporter... brilliantly introduces new fans to her astonishing breadth of interests ... captures Mantel’s remarkable career to date, not in a nostalgic or retrospective way, but in a series of small and large literary explosions that collectively cleanse and brighten both mind and spirit. That may seem a vast description for items usually written to deadline for particular occasions, such as book releases or news events, but their very timelessness within the traditionally short-lived character of journalism speaks to something very special in the way Mantel approaches her subject material ... Mantel’s vivid and often visceral command of language interweaves with the diligent and often exhausting research that flows so close to the surface on every page ... While each essay and review was replete with \'aha moments\' that deepened my knowledge of subjects or events that I thought (wrongly) I knew something about, I couldn’t help feeling both humbled and impressed by Mantel’s most personal piece ... There is a riveting in-the-moment quality to her writing that captures vulnerability and courage interacting in very close quarters.
RaveBookreporterEven the title of this richly drawn anthology of more than two dozen essays, Kant\'s Little Prussian Head and Other REasons Why I Write, speaks to the dry wit and arresting spontaneity that permeate her very personal reflections on life, great authors of the past and present, and art in various forms. Although at the peak of her creative power, Messud also seems to be casting an experienced retrospective eye over several decades of critically acclaimed writing ... concentrated and vibrant prose ... Every page exudes her quiet yet compelling joy in the power of well-nourished language, a vast vocabulary treated with the awe and reverence that a great painter treats the endless potentialities of color or a composer the myriad combinations of notes in a score. Where arrogance will throw words, colors or sounds onto the page in clever combinations, mindful greatness will patiently blend and mold them into uniquely memorable sensory and emotional experiences ... Messud could easily and successfully have collected or composed all of her essays in the autobiographical vein but stretches the promise of the book’s subtitle by dividing her anthology into three unequal parts. Whether or not they should have been three separate books is difficult to decide, as they all express aspects of her own character as well as that of the individuals enlarged by her acute observations.
RaveBookreporter[Seager] describes frankly and honestly how autism impedes the brain’s ability to emotionally inflect speech ... What makes Seager’s book both scientifically fascinating and memorable as a personal story, however, is that her drive and passion for scientific progress is entwined with the challenges of being a parent and the trauma of losing her first husband Mike to cancer while their children were still young and her career was accelerating ... Perhaps Sara Seager’s greatest accomplishment in The Smallest Lights in the Universe is that she doesn’t simply interleave stories of her own beginnings, her family life, her grief and the remarkable women who shared it into her scientific career. Instead, she has created a compelling narrative counterpoint, a kind of prose fugue in which all the facets, the voices, of her life co-create the whole. This is a book that I both felt and heard, as so many of its \'smallest lights\' took on substance and wonder.
RaveBookreporter... a 19th-century Japanese woman whose brief existence comes vividly to life amid cataclysmic global changes ... Carefully archived and catalogued along with the bulk of her family’s correspondence, Tsuneno’s letters, lists and expense diaries remain as small but important pieces of a mosaic that Stanley has elegantly and expertly reassembled into a life. In fact, the first thing one notices about Stranger in the Shotgun\'s City is that it often reads like a novel or biography, but every turn of phrase remains steadfastly true to historical fact. Nearly 90 pages of notes, bibliography and indexing attest to Stanley’s diligent and painstaking research ... measured and empathic prose.
PositiveBookreporter...compelling ... The impact of that namelessness never really hits home until the book, rather than concluding, simply ends ... Arafat covers a great deal of emotional, cultural, geographical and sensual ground in capturing the fragmented existence of a young Palestinian American woman caught amid conflicting expectations ... Fictional by creation, but quite believable in its depth of psychological and social detail, You Exist Too Much evokes the malaise experienced by all too many women whose transitions from childhood through youth and adulthood lack strong landmarks.
RaveBookreporterThrough flowers, stories about them, flashbacks to previous joys and terrors, and the challenges of everyday encounters outside their respective physical and psychological walls, each and every character of The Heirloom Garden grows beyond grief and pain to embrace things that really matter and keep us going through the toughest of times --- trust, courage, empathy, optimism and, of course, love, the greatest power of all ... Shipman navigates real and substantial issues of grief, pain and healing through a lively and engaging story that exquisitely balances those deep and serious themes with the ever-emerging beauty that gardeners may know best, but is freely shared with all who care to stop, look, smell and listen with an open heart.
PositiveBookreporterWhile she takes a mainly optimistic, celebratory and supportive view of what women have achieved thus far within the strictures of societal patriarchy, her many in-person interviews with and anecdotes about successful women also reflect concern, along with a tinge of sadness and empathy for the obvious and more subtle costs of that success ... The temptation to enfold a long and glorious list of major women—especially those whose names have been invisible even to avowed feminists—is overwhelming. But to do so would undermine the richness of Kaplan’s achievement in both celebrating and questioning what it has taken for women to be as successfully recognized as men, often in the same jobs and professional fields. To fully appreciate The Genius of Women, even the most skeptical reader needs to enter openly into its surprising diversity of feminine narrative.
RaveBookreporter... refreshingly unconventional ... fluctuates, squirms and coils its way through nine wonderfully unpredictable chapters, each comprised of several sub-sections, like the movements of a musical sonata ... anything but a smooth chronological account of how one of America’s most respected truth-to-power voices found her stride as a writer of substance ... Like a masterful composer or orchestrator, [Solnit] draws from a broad literary toolbox ranging from tight journalism to poetic wonderment, giving her prose a personal yet universal character ... So while Solnit reflects very closely at times on her physical presence in the world, Recollections of My Nonexistence offers surprisingly little in terms of intimate or deeply personal detail. Just as surprisingly, one doesn’t miss this layer of self-expression, which in many memoirs tends to become annoying self-absorption ... Instead, Solnit is most engaging when she connects with some of the many social currents flowing through her life as she researched, interacted with and reacted to the often grueling process of researching, writing and getting her against-the-grain work published ... What is different about Recollections of My Nonexistence is its cumulative atmosphere of becoming, through which Solnit reflects on claiming, little by little, who she was meant to be. So instead of ending as a finished and definitive work, this memoir reaches a pause-point where the achievement of social change for so many of the people whose plight filled Solnit’s heart has been real. While not quite enough (and it may never be enough), here we are all meant to breathe deeply, gather strength, ignore all the gaslighting voices and soldier on.
RaveBookreporterDense with primary text, copious numbered endnotes, and clusters of oddly interesting footnotes, the pages...did not turn quickly --- but turn they did, with the rhythmic fascination and promised (but sometimes withheld) revelations of a fully-staged Wagnerian opera ... In this exhaustive and astonishingly detailed account of Thatcher’s third term in office until her death...Moore interweaves numerous overlapping and interdependent political issues with consummate ease, harking back at just the right moment for an average reader’s memory to earlier volumes or chapters in which the same or similar issues are previously discussed. This literary courtesy alone is enough to remove much of the intimidation one might feel in navigating through such a complex account without losing track of time and place ... In fact, Moore takes such pains in contextualizing the relevant personal and professional details of Thatcher’s career that the book almost seems to unfold in real time. Just trying to imagine a dated timeline of events in Margaret Thatcher: Herself Alone is mind-boggling; I can safely say that not a single week of that entire quarter century would have escaped his diligent research and brilliant analysis ... Love her or hate her, [Thatcher] was a real person doing real work, dedicated (as she herself put it) to the service of her country. One can say no less of Charles Moore, who took what many researchers would call an almost impossible task and gathered its countless frayed ends into a work of enduring value for generations to come.
A. N. Wilson
RaveBookreporter... generously detailed ... brings long-overdue recognition to a complex, brilliant and even tragic figure in history ... Drawing on a vast array of personal correspondence and royal archival documents not previously available, Wilson offers a thorough, deeply engaged and often surprising portrayal of a brilliant yet practical idealist who literally created an indispensable and unprecedented role for himself unlike anything in the history of reigning British monarchs ... Wilson doesn’t simply weave a plethora of exacting data into the fabric of his life. What gives this biography an ever-changing and magnetic texture are the numerous contextual details and commentaries he inserts that give Albert’s story an unusual range of feeling and aesthetic substance ... For anyone enthralled by 19th-century history, Prince Albert is a must-read --- not just once, but at least twice, to savor the full range of Wilson’s abundant research and enticing prose.
RaveBookreporter... nothing short of a big surprise in a genre where so many dystopic novels fail because they simply rearrange the same old post-apocalyptic elements without creating any new meaning from them ... Those familiar background paradigms are there in mind-numbing abundance, practically choking every page. In fact, their effects are as thick as the toxin-permeated air that King predicts most of North America will be breathing by the late 21st century ... King makes it strangely compelling by concocting a barely credible mission that can only be accomplished by traveling great distances through unsafe territory. And he assembles such a messed-up crew of characters to do it that you keep on reading just to see how badly they’ll fail. To add more uncertainty to the effort, only two of the four are human ... behind more than 400 pages of energetic, witty and grotesquely picturesque writing, the scariest thing is that King really \'knows the stuff\' in all the areas where a country that once led the free world could come apart at the seams. Some folks, from within and without, fear that’s already happening.
RaveBookreporter... proclaims a present-tense optimism that I soon realized is neither naïve nor presumptuous ... To her enduring credit, The Moment of Lift humbly and pointedly interweaves her intentional experience of a world beyond affluence and gets to the point, the places in life where \'lift\' happens. As she tells it with compelling candor, there are many points of engagement and numerous \'moments of lift\' ... doesn’t claim to be a definitive guidebook for how to \'do good\' in the world, nor is it a self-justifying \'warm fuzzy\' outpouring of an entitled celeb whose name itself conveys power. If anything, readers will be struck by Gates’ humility and even vulnerability in the face of these remarkably resilient women who gave her unique, unvarnished opportunities to share the best and worst parts of their lives ... should be a must-read for anyone involved in volunteer or philanthropic work of any kind. It will clear the lens through which we see the entire human family.
RaveBook ReporterThrough nine densely packed and brilliantly argued chapters, [Applewhite] unpacks the origins of ageism and how we are conned into self-identifying through numbers alone, debunks myths around cognitive decline, separates the misaligned concepts of youth and health, busts the idea that mandatory retirement is somehow good for the economy, and campaigns for a more intergenerational and interactive culture as a long-overdue normal ... A widely acknowledged expert-activist on ageism and its antidotes, Applewhite brings her combined gifts as author, storyteller, social historian, advocate, influencer and determined disturber to the so-called \'problem\' of being old in the 21st century ... She easily could have pulled off a Lone Ranger approach to the subject and delivered a highly credible book. But in mindfully citing a wide diversity of international voices, she has gone far beyond the merely competent to deliver something with potentially huge impact on how we understand every stage of life in healthy communities.
RaveBookreporter... delightfully varied ... weaves a rich tapestry of influences, obsessions, curiosities, passions and achievements worthy of the often-misused phrase \'Renaissance Man.\' In Sacks’ case, the distinction is a perfect fit ... Sacks places each case within a very human and empathic context, building connections and relationships that are both memorable and compelling. He writes for people, not specialists ... Reading this elegant and diverse collection reminded me that the unannounced encore often turns out to be the concert’s most memorable performance. In so many ways, this literary encore, the unannounced \'one more thing,\' beautifully sums up the remarkable legacy of Oliver Sacks.
PositiveBook ReporterHart is a proven master of the intentionally unbalanced narrative ... the taste of crime is distilled into every morsel of food and drink that is woven into Hart’s complex and often grotesque storylines. Without exception, each moves with unnerving efficiency, usually not to a predictable conclusion, but to an abrupt end ... Like some dishes whose seasoning is never quite right on the palate, yet compel us to take another and another bite, Hart’s tortuous tales remind us that fiction can be as strange as real life when viewed from underneath ... a superb series of tight, visceral experiences for those with strong stomachs who love to read dangerously.
PositiveBookreporter\"... fast-paced, gripping and sometimes gruesomely violent story ... As Zero Sum Game unfolds in a maze of unbalancing twists and turns, the reader, along with Huang’s increasingly frustrated characters, begins to question the basic principles of good, bad, right, wrong, moral, amoral and so on ... As Huang brilliantly conveys in the unsettling open-endedness of Zero Sum Game, [the story\'s] no-win outcome is not a return to the status quo for either side.\
PositiveBookreporter\"The Diary of a Bookseller isn’t the only captivating memoir of life spent in this glorious but all-consuming profession. For our times, however, it\'s the best inducement I’ve ever come across to set aside my occasional flirtation with e-readers, walk into a bookstore and get my hands on the real thing.\
RaveBookreporterIn The Boy on the Beach Kurdi vividly, nostalgically and poignantly documents (with the instrumental aid of writer Danielle Egan) how she was compelled to respond to the politically created tragedy that robbed her family and so many others of young lives ... Not surprisingly, a recurrent theme of The Boy on the Beach is that of cultivating awareness, rousing the international community at all levels to build sustainable and productive solutions to the world’s ever-growing refugee problem ... Kurdi reinforces the inescapable truth that as long as fellow human beings are displaced in their millions by callous, cruel and incompetent fake governments, the rest of the world will be challenged to share its available resources with them. The Boy on the Beach is one of the most compelling narratives you’ll ever read in support of basic human dignity.