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Front Page » Table of Contents » Books & Book Reviews

By Diane Wahto on July 3, 2011

Gail Collins took on a monumental task when she set out to write When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present, published in 2010, with an updated appendix. Collins is the former editorials editor of The New York Times and writes a column for the Times op-ed page. Her method of detailing the history of the second wave of the feminist movement is to include personal anecdotes of individual women with the historical events that marked and shaped their lives. The personal anecdotes based on interviews with hundreds of women make the book readable and entertaining.

As a person who came of age in the '60s and who felt the exhilaration of first, seeing the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement unfold, then secondly being a part of The Feminine Mystique generation, I not only had my memory jogged as I read this book, I relived some of the events that took place during those years. Many women of my generation woke up to the realization that they didn't have to follow the traditional path that their mothers and grandmothers had trod. Rather they had choices that included activism but did not necessarily have to include having sex with and making coffee for the men in the anti-war and Civil Rights movements.

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By Diane Wahto on January 12, 2011

Someone in my family gave me Jon Stewart’s new book, Earth (The Book), for Christmas. It is subtitled A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race. Having read a few pages of Earth, I have found it lives up to my expectations in that it deals with a serious issue, the extinction of the human race, in a chuckle-provoking manner. In the introduction, Stewart first addresses the alien readers, those who have come from outer space to a planet now devoid of human beings. He then addresses the human readers of the book, starting with the line, “It’s perfectly clear that we as a species are not long for this world.”

The world is what this book is about. Not just the geographical world, but the world we human beings inhabit, everything from the religious, (rituals, beliefs, holy wars) to the physical (physiology, bathroom habits, sex—well, everything). He even throws in Barbie and Ken dolls. This book is nothing if not comprehensive.

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By Pamela Jean on November 23, 2010

"My name is Wendell Potter and for 20 years I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies, and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick -- all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors."

That's how he introduced himself to a Senate committee.

As a senior vice president of CIGNA, Potter had access to the inner workings of major insurance companies.

He had walked away from a six-figure salary and two decades as an insurance executive because he could no longer abide the routine practices of an industry where the needs of sick and suffering Americans take a backseat to the bottom line. The last straw: when he visited a rural health clinic and saw hundreds of Americans standing in line in the rain to receive treatment in stalls built for livestock.

Now, Wendell Potter is the insurance industry's worst nightmare.

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By Weeden Nichols on February 28, 2010

My purpose today is a book review of Tularosa, by Michael McGarrity (a novel of McGarrity’s “Kevin Kerney” series, 1996, W.W. Norton & Co, Inc., New York, NY).

In my previous reviews of series-type crime/police novels (particularly James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series), I have started with background on the author. I have provided insight into particular characteristics of the author that seem to inform all the novels in the series. I have commented on the strengths and weaknesses of the author, the novels in the series, and the central characters. In this particular review, I am writing from the viewpoint of a retired Army criminal investigator – me. “CID,” in the US Army is now a generic term. There is no “Criminal Investigation Division” as such. Army CID agents are now part of the centralized US Army Criminal Investigation Command. Even though “Division” (or “Department”) is not a part of the name, “CID” is officially incorporated into the official acronym for the command – USACIDC. All this is important for the reader’s understanding of what is, or is not, included in the novel.

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By Gerald Britt on January 29, 2010

I'm a huge fan of Princeton University's Cornel West . I've read several of his books, but most inspirational has been the opportunities I've had to meet him on a couple of occasions. The first time was at a seminar sponsored by the Industrial Areas Foundation, where I and a group of leaders from across the southwest engaged in community organizing had a chance to not only listen to him lecture, but engage with him personally.

The second time was when I had the privilege of being a member of the inaugural class of Harvard University's Summer Leadership Institute. He was one of the presenters, at that time a member of Harvard's 'Dream Team', a group of African-American professors whose academic excellence and prodigious intellects were held in high regard.

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By Darrell Hamlin on January 1, 2010

Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life (PublicAffairs Books, 2009) is the story of an exceptionally privileged daughter of corporate power who somehow stretched beyond the constraints of journalism to become a beloved icon of progressive ideals. Armed with a devastatingly precise wit, Ivins embraced her passionate subjectivity and fought like hell – for civil liberties, for all those who suffer the consequences of a corrupt and oligarchic public life, for liberals who needed laughter with their morning outrage. She unleashed a voice that mooned scoundrels who seek public office so they can pimp government to the desires of private lucre. Ultimately, the story of Molly Ivins is the tale of a life lived tall and big-grinned, driven by moral purpose and the good times, but not without a share of the sadness that makes a life full.

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By Richard Head on December 26, 2009

I've stumbled on what has become a valuable resource for me as a citizen journalist, particularly for those times when I'll want to talk with someone directly in an interview.

A recent book entitled, Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production, has a wealth of information, tips and techniques, and personal accounts about "getting the story" from the NPR reporters we hear on public radio every day. Author Jonathan Kern is the Executive Producer for Training at NPR, and he has worked in almost every position in radio news, including executive producer of NPR's All Things Considered.

Now, before you dismiss the book as something you don't want to bother with because it's about audio recordings and radio, keep in mind that the majority of the book deals with topics contained in chapters that Kern titles "Fairness," "Reporting," "Field Producing," "Story Editing," "The Reporter-Host Two-Way," "Hosting," and "Beyond Radio," among others. So the material has terrific value for those times when you want to venture into direct interviews, rather than reporting what others have already written.

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By Weeden Nichols on November 29, 2009

Tree of Smoke is a 2008 National Book Award winner. The reason this novel, or a review of this novel, might be of interest to many readers is that the novel is concerned most centrally with the Vietnam War and, in a broader way, with the Cold War era. Many of you, like me, have been around, since long before the Cold War. Some of you, as I did, participated in the Vietnam War. Many of those who are younger are old enough to remember the Cold War. All of you have watched the entire world affected by policies and decisions driven, or purportedly driven, by our intelligence agencies. I begin with my usual disclaimer – that it is my position that the purpose of a book review is not to disclose the entire plot (which, I admit, would be difficult in the case of this novel). If, based upon my review, other reviews, and/or word-of-mouth, you choose to read the book, then you will know the plot.

There are, in my opinion, relatively few writers who write in a totally detached mode, entirely for money, without an intellectual, philosophical, or emotional connection to the material. The hacks who write the features in the airline magazines one finds in the airplane seat pockets might be among the “relatively few” to whom I refer. Denis Johnson is not. My approach to making sense of either novels or poetry is to seek some understanding of the writer, as well as to pay careful attention to what the writer writes.

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By Marty Keenan on August 26, 2009

Most biographies about the Kennedys are either written to make them look better than they are or worse than they are. This team effort by the Boston Globe is right in the middle.

It appears to be an honest effort to summarize the nature of Ted Kennedy: his substantial personal failings, coupled with his efforts to compensate for those failings with overarching legislative accomplishments and small acts of personal generosity.

Until I read this book, Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy, I never believed those who said Ted Kennedy had more impact on American legislative history than Jack or Bobby. But I believe it now.

More than Jack or Bobby, Ted was a natural politician, and a natural Senator. He was a throwback to his maternal grandfather, "Honey Fitz," who loved meeting people and plunging into crowds.

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By Larry James on June 17, 2009

E. P. Thompson published Making of the English Working Class in 1963. I picked up my well-worn copy the other day for the first time in about thirty years. So, it's been a while since I worked my way through the story rise of labor in England. Once you get into Thompson's rhythm and style, the book flows. And that is good, the book is a tome - over 800 pages - not exactly a quick, weekend read, but well worth the effort.

The history of democracy and the growing insistence on democratic reform in England in the days just before, during and following the French and American revolutions makes for fascinating reading. The London and provincial corresponding societies provided regular meeting opportunities for revolutionary minded, anti-monarchical thinkers, most of whom were common, laboring people - artisans, tradesmen, dissenting clergy and the like.

The interests of these groups - often persecuted, spied upon and, at times, suspected of plotting insurrection - remained largely unchanged across the reach of English labor history, at least in principle. Much of the conflict and debate stirred by these groups pitted a vision of traditional "moral economies" against emerging "free markets" - one product of modernity and a system served by expanding trade options.

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