A lot of energy is spent every election season arguing about the economy. Sure, there are plenty of political issues, but most of them are pretty simple. They’re beliefs. But economics is a science, even if, as it is subtitled in Dani Rodrik’s new book, it is sometimes called ‘the dismal science’. We all want everyone to have a good job, to make a living they can raise a family with, to be able to afford a home and other basic necessities, but knowing how to make that happen? That’s considerably more difficult. Oftentimes, we resort to ‘common sense’ solutions, only to find them blowing up in our faces time and time again. That’s because, as Rodrik’s Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science makes abundantly clear, economies are vast, complex things that often resist the obvious solutions. Thankfully, Rodrik’s book is meant to give a basic primer on how economists operate, what kinds of mistakes economists make, and what it all means for you.
The moment of one’s birth should be a special time remembered with an element of fanfare that celebrates the arrival of a new life with all its possibilities. But not every child arrives with a swell of baby showers, hand knit blankets and birth announcements. Some arrive quite humbly in the starkest of circumstances and begin their lives as overcomers. In her book, Born Survivors, Wendy Holden shares the stories of three young women who gave birth to their babies in the direst of times.
By 1944, World War II was nearing its end by all accounts. But the end was still a year away, plenty of time for more human suffering.
The Pen and the Brush by Anka Muhlstein is full of surprises. Apparently, – and unbeknownst to me – nineteenth-century French novelists were best buds with the painters of their era. The novelists turned out to be the front line critics of those famous painters–and those edgy painters were a big influence on the famous novelists of their time as well.
This story is more of an outline of the painters and novelists of the nineteenth century, and offers a snapshot into their lives and influences.
Four Seasons of Loneliness is comprised of four different stories which, to my understanding, are all actual true case studies that the author chronicled over his many years as a lawyer. Each of the stories is quite different, but they all have one central theme–loneliness, and the different forms it can take.
I found this book to be quite remarkable. I was drawn in to each of the different stories completely, and found myself fascinated by some stories and enraged by others.
The first story centers around two children from an incestuous family. Their grandparents and mom had been having sexual orgy-type interactions with the children since they were babies, and they were placed with an adoptive family after their birth family relinquished their rights to the children after being caught.
Reading It’s Not Fair is like sitting down with a friend over a cup of coffee for a solid chat and lots of laughing. Serious belly laughs. I had to stop reading this in bed at night after the third or fourth time I snort laughed loud enough to wake my husband up. Melanie Dale has a sense of humor that I can identify with. She is self-deprecating and speaks in movie quotes. I have told several friends about this book and plan to lay in a stock of them to give out as gifts to loved ones.
Before I read this book I was not at all familiar with Dale or her blog, Unexpected.org. I may have to familiarize myself with her after reading some of the blog and Twitter excerpts.
I am familiar with The New Yorker, and I am familiar with E.B. White and James Thurber and a few of the other writers who were the publication’s founding voices. But I am not familiar with how the two created and influenced each other. Or at least I wasn’t until I read Cast of Characters by Thomas Vinciguerra. Originally intended as a biography of Wolcott Gibbs, the book developed into a retelling of the formative years of The New Yorker, highlighting its founders, their lives, and their iconic work. I could tell that the main focus was to be Gibbs, as the book began and ended with anecdotes about him, and his son Tony was Vinciguerra’s primary source. But I believe the book struck a good balance between Gibbs and his counterparts.
In 2015, terrorists attacked six different sites in Paris, killing 130 people. A large number of those victims came from the Bataclan Theater, where Helene Muyal-Leiris was attending a concert. While there were survivors of the attack on the Bataclan, Helene was not among that number. With Helene’s death, Antoine Leiris lost his wife and the mother of his child. It is this tragic loss and Antoine’s struggle to move forward that serves as a backdrop for the raw, powerful emotions that are portrayed throughout the beautiful, heart-wrenching You Will Not Have My Hate.
The memoir is structured in short, conversational passages that begin on the night of the attack and end two weeks later. Antoine details everything from his initial concern and then panic on the night of the attacks, to the deep sorrow, desire for isolation, and appreciation for support in the days that followed. Each passage builds a portrait of a man who lost half his heart, but recognized the need to remain strong to raise his son, Melvil.
Unlike the last book of poetry I reviewed, Christine Heppermann’s Ask Me How I Got Here, Jana Prikryl’s The After Party is not particularly narrative. The last third or so of the book, titled “Thirty Thousand Islands,” has some narrative elements, but for the most part the book is built more around form and language and personal history than plot. While that gives Prikryl a considerable amount of freedom to experiment, it also makes the collection a bit more hit-or-miss on an individual level, prone to wild shifts in subject from moment to moment. But Prikryl is an immensely talented writer, and while I never warmed to every poem in the collection, her wit, imagery, and style unquestionably won me over.
Spirit Rising, by Pastor Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, is sub-titled Tapping in to the Power of the Holy Spirit, and does a wonderful job of communicating what Cymbala means by it.
Spirit Rising is simple and explanatory enough for new Christians to understand (ie. Cymbala avoids or defines much of the Christian lingo that some Christian Living books can fall into at times), yet is in-depth and challenging enough to engage and encourage a seasoned Christian leader in his or her own relationship with the Father, Son, AND the Holy Spirit.