6 More Books for Summer 2017, A Review

6 More Book Reviews for Summer 17.png


In between handfuls of dark chocolate chips, cheerios, a pile of tissues from my current cold, and cleaning up dog puke, I thought I would review my last round of completed books before I forgot everything.

If you don't read another sentence - go checkout Lilac Girls and Climate of Hope, nowwww. Everything else can wait.

BTW, you can click on the book titles below to go to their Good Reads pages.


#1. Climate of Hope, Michael Bloomberg and Ron Pope

I told Taylor earlier this summer, I wish there was a resource about what individuals in their communities could do to address climate change. I wanted ideas beyond recycling and reducing personal consumption and carbon footprints. Specifically,

How can people inspire their local government to embrace policies that are not only good for future generations, but provide economic and health benefits to their citizens living and breathing right now?

This book largely answers that question. In doing so, Bloomberg and Pope share a bottom-up movement that is helping communities reap the economic and public health benefits of embracing more sustainable and renewable business practices. As a majorly successful businessman and capitalist, Bloomberg appeals to the masses who fear that 'green' goals threaten job security, local economies, and america's competitiveness in a global market.

Now, I'm not well-versed in the language of markets, policy, and supply chains. I'm pretty damn certain Bloomberg is. His common sense approach to this whole cluster focuses on measuring what needs managed, and finding avenues to achieve what every level of government should strive for -- increasing the standard of living through the economy and public health. 

And then there's Ron Pope, treehugger extroardinaire who historically has focused on saving the environment for the sake of the environment. Together, Bloomberg and Pope put together a compelling argument that we can and will succeed against the large scale threats of climate change. It's up to our city mayors and local governments to see the writing on the wall, and to act to protect the public good. The public good right now.

There were a zillion quotes I would love to share, but please just go get this book. One of my favorite non-fiction reads in recent years, Climate of Hope should be read by every person who feels exasperated and hopeless about the state of climate change and congressional action. It's not a perfect blueprint or cost/benefit analysis of our options in fighting climate change, but damn if it doesn't make you hopeful and inspired 5/5.


#2. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly

Since about 2006, I've had a steady diet of WWII non-fiction books. In recent years I've ventured into historical fiction from that era; novels have added a depth and only furthered the empathy I experience when reflecting on that time period. The Lilac Girls did not disappoint.

Told from the perspectives of a  young Catholic girl in German occupied Poland, a middle aged American worker at the French Embassy, and a young German female doctor assigned to a women's "rehabilitation" camp, Kelly's work reminds us how deep Hitler's propaganda infiltrated the minds of *ordinary* men and women. Further, Kelly's book is based on the lives of three real characters, whom she deeply researched.

I finished this book the same weekend as the KKK and Neo-Nazi rallies in Virginia. Not only was that a haunting vision of a past that millions hoped would never re-surge, but a reminder that opposition to Hitler's systematic genocide was not an easy feat. 

In Introduction to Psychology, I remind my students of the startling truth that social psychology research has exposed -- we are all capable, and indeed it is likely, that put in the same positions as millions of German citizens, government officials, and military personnel, we would have acted exactly the same.
With the escalation of orders (foot-in-the door phenomena), the dehumanization and scapegoating of groups, the power of authority and anonymity, we too would likely commit crimes against humanity and live the rest of our lives haunted.

If you enjoyed All the Light We Cannot See, pick this up next to you head to the library. Next on my list of historical fiction is The Women of the Castle.

#3-#5, the Natchez Burning Trilogy, by Greg Iles

In my opinion, the first and best book in the series. The story is haunting and complex, and moves with machine gun speed. If you are tired of decent but perhaps predictable John Grisham books or other paperback mysteries, I definitely recommend Iles for a change of pace.

Warning: the material is explicit and stomach turning. And unfortunately, the heinous acts described are not dreamt up by Iles, but more likely represent a historical fiction account of the KKK and life during the 1960s. I read this monster of a book in one three-day weekend, 5/5.

"Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor is accused of murdering Viola Turner, the beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. Now Penn must follow a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one—black or white, young or old, brave or not—is ever truly safe."

#4. The Bone Tree, and #5. Mississippi Blood, by Greg Iles

While I enjoyed both of these stories in the continuing saga of Penn Cage, the repetitive and unsolved narrative was at times tiresome. Still, great reads that I finished quickly and would recommend; 4/4.

#6. Purity, by Jonathan Franzen

Ok, so after reading the tome that is Freedom, also by Franzen, I was prepared for a weird and detailed account of a select group of characters' inner and outer lives, spanning decades. This book was exactly that. I can't say I would recommend this book, but I did remain interested throughout and was satisfied with the conclusion.

Like Freedom, I walked away with the feeling that I intimately knew the life history of a few people and with that, gained a new perspective and lens to see the world. I think if I were born about 20 years earlier, and had a better contextual understanding of East and West Berlin, I would have appreciated and enjoyed part of this much more. This is one of those stories that reminds you that your life and your relationships most likely fall in the super average range; 3/5.

"Young Pip Tyler doesn't know who she is. She knows that her real name is Purity, that she's saddled with $130,000 in student debt, that she's squatting with anarchists in Oakland, and that her relationship with her mother--her only family--is hazardous. But she doesn't have a clue who her father is, why her mother has always concealed her own real name, or how she can ever have a normal life.

Enter the Germans. A glancing encounter with a German peace activist leads Pip to an internship in South America with The Sunlight Project, an organization that traffics in all the secrets of the world--including, Pip hopes, the secret of her origins. TSP is the brainchild of Andreas Wolf, a charismatic provocateur who rose to fame in the chaos following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Now on the lam in Bolivia, Andreas is drawn to Pip for reasons she doesn't understand, and the intensity of her response to him upends her conventional ideas of right and wrong.

Purity is a dark-hued comedy of youthful idealism, extreme fidelity, and murder. The author of The Corrections and Freedomhas created yet another cast of vividly original characters, Californians and East Germans, good parents and bad parents, journalists and leakers, and he follows their intertwining paths through landscapes as contemporary as the omnipresent Internet and as ancient as the war between the sexes. Jonathan Franzen is a major author of our time, and Purity is his edgiest and most searching book yet."

So, that's a wrap. Yay reading!

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