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Reviewer's Bookwatch

Volume 23, Number 1 January 2023 Home | RBW Index

Table of Contents

Carl Logan's Bookshelf Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf Charles Holdefer's Bookshelf
Clint Travis' Bookshelf Israel Drazin's Bookshelf Jack Mason's Bookshelf
John Burroughs' Bookshelf Julie Summers' Bookshelf Margaret Lane's Bookshelf
Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf Michael Carson's Bookshelf Robin Friedman's Bookshelf
Sarah Book's Bookshelf Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf Susan Bethany's Bookshelf
Willis Buhle's Bookshelf    

Carl Logan's Bookshelf

Handbook of Behavioral Economics and Climate Change
S. Niggol Seo, editor
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781800880733, $285.00 HC / $TBA ebook 456pp

Synopsis: Situating a comprehensive microbehavioral analysis of the economics of climate change within a discussion of the most pressing global climate change issues and policy negotiations, the "Handbook of Behavioral Economics and Climate Change" is a timely collection of new research on the behaviors of economic agents that are essential to an exposition of climate change economics and policymaking.

The chapters comprising "Handbook of Behavioral Economics and Climate Change" identify both microbehavioral causes of and responses to climate change by numerous economic agents, in doing so elucidating the relationship between climate policies and behavioral changes. This includes examination of individuals' behaviors to cope with and adapt to climate change; the policy decisions aimed at altering behaviors at individual, business, and international levels to achieve climate policy goals; and the motivations behind behaviors driven by culture, history, or religion with regards to climate change.

These behaviors are contextualised within a global analysis of pressing climate change issues in land-based and ocean-based systems, including Sub-Saharan agriculture, hurricanes and sea-level rises in North America, Latin American Pampas, the small island alliance, South Asian rice agriculture, and hydroelectricity in the Himalayas.

Critique: Compiled and edited by S. Niggol Seo (Muaebak Institute of Global Warming Studies, Seoul, Republic of Korea), and with a global scope, the "Handbook of Behavioral Economics and Climate Change" will prove invaluable to students and scholars of climate change, environmental studies, and behavioral economics. With practical examples and case studies, it will also prove useful for governmental policymakers working in climate legislation. Simply stated, "S. Niggol Seo, Muaebak Institute of Global Warming Studies, Seoul, Republic of Korea" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library Environmental Economic Impact collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Carl Logan

Carolyn Wilhelm's Bookshelf

It's Chinese New Year, Curious George!
H. A. Rey and Maria Wen Adcock
Clarion Books
c/o HarperCollins
9780358683643, $7.99, tabbed board book, 16 pages

Curious George visits Mei and learns about Chinese New Year cultural traditions. It might be the special events, but for once, George happily takes part and even helps. For those who know, the Chinese New Year is not the same as Lunar New year in other countries. It is a separate and unique time of the year.

The sections include information in adorable rhymes for Let's Celebrate, Zodiac Animals, Lucky Start, Family Reunion Dinner, Lucky Money, Chinese New Year Day, and Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival begins at the end of the new year's observance.

Child-centered and entertaining, children will enjoy the happy monkey and his friend prepare for and enjoy the new year events. George is paying attention, so the children's "mirror neurons" will cause them to pay attention. Clever! Rhyming words beautifully explain to help children's understanding.

Carolyn Wilhelm, Reviewer
Wise Owl Factory LLC

Charles Holdefer's Bookshelf

The Secret Adventures of Order
Vincent Czyz
Rain Mountain Press
9781733791670, $20.00 pbk / $9.95 Kindle

In a recent essay, Mary Gaitskill expressed anxiety that today's fiction readers are so preoccupied by plot as a device for political messaging that they are deaf or indifferent to the importance of style. A writer's style, for Gaitskill, is the lifeblood of serious fiction, the inner force that enables a higher imagination. Without style, why even indulge in narratives that aren't literally true? Gaitskill fears that perhaps we've reached an inflection point, where fiction has become a pale replica of journalism. The culture has moved on.

To which, I suspect, Vincent Czyz would respond: Not so fast! Although he probably shares many of Gaitskill's concerns, his latest book, The Secret Adventures of Order, offers a spirited defense of the ongoing importance of style, both in his appreciations of other writers and as embodied in his own prose. A collection of literary essays, creative nonfiction, and even biblical exegesis, this volume's sensibility is made explicit in Czyz's response to the writing of Guy Davenport:

I gravitate toward work that's been praised for the strength of its language, for its striking imagery and lyricism, while generally being chided for its weak storyline. But why should poets have exclusive rights to make insight, observation, and beautifully arranged words the strength of their pieces?

Czyz argues in favor of "plotting against plot" and, echoing William Gass, believes that "story is what you do to clean up life and make God into a good burgher who manages the world like a business." The opening essay, "Prose, Thinly Disguised as an IKEA Superstore..." refers variously to Sylvia Plath, ancient Greek pottery, and Mehmet the Conqueror to raise questions about the construction of a big box store in New Rochelle, New York. Czyz shows how the idiosyncrasies of a neighborhood and its inhabitants could be sacrificed for a sleekly efficient commercial center. He asserts, "the poetry lost wouldn't be worth the prose gained."

As the above example makes clear, Czyz does not limit his purview to texts. He writes engagingly of growing up in tough neighborhoods in New Jersey, time spent in Turkey, and friendships. Moreover, some of his more astringent observations are actually reserved for literary stylists who lose themselves in preciousness.

In "A Brief Reply to Gary Lutz's The Sentence is a Lonely Place," he takes Lutz to task for reductive and imprecise descriptions of prose prosody. For Lutz, the sounds of letters can take precedence over image or even meaning, and he is, according to Czyz, "mistaking a few floral dabs of icing for the cake." Czyz demonstrates how Lutz's allusions to Gordon Lish's "consecution" rely on arbitrary phonetics. The author underlines that "The practice is neither new (it's not even modern), nor does it have much to do with Lish."

Czyz remains on guard against prose writers whose search for the poetic slides into squashy self-indulgence, like someone picking up a karaoke microphone with a mistaken confidence that they really can sing. He argues that rigor cannot be replaced by pseudo-intellectual posturing.

Skepticism of a different kind of posturing characterizes his response to Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station. Czyz shares David Foster Wallace's sentiment that irony has been used to the point of exhaustion by fiction writers, expressed in his description of Atocha as "another novel that dodges sincerity as though one bite would begin the zombie apocalypse." Note the emphasis on sincerity, which for Czyz is akin to "our subjectivity - quaintly dubbed 'soul' or 'heart' depending on the spin you prefer." Subjectivity originates in style, and the allusion to "soul" or "heart" makes it clear that style means more than the ability to turn a felicitous phrase.

Czyz praises writers like Basho, John Berger, John Ash, the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, and the novelist Sabahattin Ali. An international perspective is palpable in these essays. He describes a visit to the elderly Ash in his apartment in Istanbul, contrasting the writer's spare style to his "multiphasic" personality: "Depending on the day, he could be irascible, understanding, condescending, generous, abrasive, compassionate, savagely belittling, surprisingly gentle, pointlessly combative - and I don't think that exhausts the spectrum." In "No Bones to Venerate," he writes of Ali's mistreatment and incarceration in Sinope Prison, which now lugubriously hosts a museum shrine to the writer. Ali died at the hands of the state, which now enjoys a "new income stream" from "dark tourism."

A separate section of The Secret Adventures of Order includes creative nonfiction of an autobiographical nature. These essays offer glimpses of the individual behind the critic. "The Cold War" - perhaps the standout piece of this collection - recounts Czyz's troubled relationship with his physically abusive father. Highly sensitive subject matter is artfully presented and nuanced. "My father hit all of us," Czyz writes, while patiently dissecting how his understanding of the experience evolved over time. "Flat out hating him would have been a lot easier. Unfortunately, my father had a lot to admire in him." One could imagine this story being expanded to a book-length memoir, but here, the conclusion of the short form essay is pitch-perfect and very powerful.

Other autobiographical pieces describe Czyz's experimentation with ayahuasca to deal with his psychological rages, or in "Paluccaville," a travel narrative provides a tribute to his literary mentor and friend, Stevie Palucca. Now deceased, Palucca was a man who, by conventional measures, might be considered a lost soul, but in Czyz's affectionate depiction, he emerges as a great soul.

The collection ends with a section of biblical exegesis. At first glance, it might seem incongruous; it is, in any event, curious, from a writer who describes himself as an atheist. But here, the volume comes full circle by suggesting that stylistic considerations in foundational texts, even for seemingly recondite subjects, such as Hellenistic influence in the Gospel of Mark or misunderstandings of Lucifer, can affect contemporary political interpretations or even public policy. We are not so far from Gaitskill's concern about contemporary fiction's dumbed-down political messaging.

For example, Czyz refers to the literalist readings of the Bible that remain commonplace in the United States, where leaders like Reagan and the younger Bush have used millennialist rhetoric. At high levels, it has been respectable discourse to refer to the "end times" preceding Armageddon, or to justify the torture of terrorist suspects because such tactics would be permissible, in the words of Bush's biographer Jean Edward Smith, against "agents of the Devil."

I lack the specialist knowledge to say how much Czyz's readings align with contemporary biblical scholarship. (His allusions to the Victorian speculations of Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough give me pause.) But he is surely correct to underline the pitfalls of Americans' attachment to literalist messaging and ahistorical readings of ancient texts, as well as a perversely willful ignorance of questions of translation, intertextuality, and yes, style. A writer's style is not an ornament or luxury: It matters fundamentally when a very real Armageddon, of the nuclear sort, remains a risk.

Overall, The Secret Adventures of Order is serious work, consistently entertaining, and sometimes very personal. Czyz is opinionated, but he makes actual arguments and does not settle for snark. These pieces, though disparate, reveal a coherent and persuasive sensibility.

Charles Holdefer, Reviewer

Clint Travis' Bookshelf

Wolf at the Door
Joel McKay
Birchwood Press
9781778231209, $8.00, PB, 129pp

Synopsis: All Charlotte Deerborn wanted was a nice Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. Too bad for her no one else wanted to be there. By the time the turkey is carved, old grievances, bad behavior and crass remarks have transformed her dinner party into a disaster. And then a werewolf shows up to do some carving of its own!

Critique: "Wolf at the Door" by Joel McKay is a deftly crafted, fast-paced, inherently fascinating, absurdist take on modern creature horror, levering humor and action to highlight how one family comes to grips with what really matters in life in a holiday season. A fun and unique read from cover to cover, "Wolf at the Door" is highly recommended for community library Horror/Fantasy collections and is available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $2.23).

Editorial Note: Joel McKay ( is an award-winning writer who calls Prince George, B.C. home. "Wolf at the Door" is his first novella, which won the 2022 Global Book Award gold medal for horror. His most recent published fiction was the short story Number Hunnerd in Tyche Books' anthology Water: Selkies, Sirens and Sea Monsters, and the splatterpunk western short story Hands, which was published in Brigids Gate Press' anthology Blood in the Soil, Terror on the Wind.

Ghost Mark
JP McLean
Windstorm Press
9781988125633, $15.99, PB, 288pp

Synopsis: Jane Walker's nightmares are back-and this time, they've unleashed a brutal killer. Jane's nightmares aren't imaginary -- they're glimpses into the traumatic past; and the past can be dangerous, especially now that her protective birthmarks are gone.

Worse, she's no longer invisible within her dreams -- and learns this the hard way while using her power to incriminate a ruthless killer. Inadvertently revealing her ghost form, she launches him on a relentless hunt to track her down.

Even more disturbing, Jane knows this man. She once tried to use her power to save him from injury, but instead set him on a path of violent crime. Now, he's targeted the man she loves, and Jane must keep one step ahead of this cold-blooded assassin before he gets rid of Ethan permanently.

Jane has one last chance to fix the mistake that altered this man's history, but that means taking her most dangerous dream journey yet-one from which she might never awaken.

Critique: "Ghost Mark" is the second installment of the Dark Dreams Series by JP McLean and continues to showcase her natural flair for originality, memorable characters, and deftly crafted plots replete with unexpected twists and turns in the kind of narrative driven storytelling style that keeps the reader's rapt attention from first page to last. While highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for the growing legions of JP McLean fans that "Ghost Mark" is also readily available in a digital book format (2940166556790, $4.99).

Editorial Note: JP McLean has an informative website that will be of special interest to her fans at

Clint Travis

Israel Drazin's Bookshelf

A Guide for the Jewish Undecided: A Philosopher Makes the Case for Orthodox Judaism
Samuel Lebans
c/o Koren
9781592646098, $29.95

A Guide for the Jewish Undecided

Maggid Books, together with Yeshiva University Press, published "A Guide for the Jewish Undecided: A Philosopher makes a case for Orthodox Judaism" by Dr. Samuel Lebens, a rabbi and Orthodox Jew who is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Haifa in Israel. His other books are "The Principles of Judaism" (2020) and "Philosophy of Religion: The Basics (2022)." He was a co-founder of the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism. While the book deals with issues of philosophy, it is very easy to read and understand.

In his Foreword, Dr. Daniel Rynhold, Dean and Professor of Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University, states that Dr. Lebens' book is a significant contribution to contemporary Jewish thought because he shows the rationality of the Jewish religion by using the tools of analytic philosophy. He adds that Lebens gives good reasons for Jews to commit to Orthodox Judaism because Orthodox Judaism "makes the most rational sense." Readers of Dr. Lebens' book will find themselves agreeing with many of Lebens' ideas and being interested even in those they disagree with because they will find them to provoke their thinking.

Days Are Coming: A Journey through the Jewish Year
Sivan Rahav-Meir
c/o Koren
9781592646029, $24.95

Maggid Books just published "Days are Coming" by Sivan Rahav-Meir, an easy-to-read, enjoyable, and inspiring book translated from Hebrew by Yehoshua Siskin. The book has many insightful ideas from sages, Bible commentators, and others regarding Jewish holidays, days following the holidays, and times when we remember people who taught us significant lessons that can improve our lives and make them enjoyable, such as the biblical matriarch Rachel and the philosopher Maimonides.

Concerning the holiday of Shavuot, for example, she tells how Dr. Yael Ziegler, a college lecturer on the Bible, notes the practice of reading the biblical book Ruth that has no huge headlines, only simple everyday acts. It teaches us to look deeper at minor details and events because they could have eternal significance. She also tells us that Rabbi Kook, Israel's first Chief Rabbi, explained that differences are good, every person has a unique connection to the Torah, and each is important.

Regarding Hanukka, she reminds us of the Hasidic saying, "We need to listen to what the candles are telling us." She discusses six of the many lessons. (1) Unlike other holidays, Hanukka is not biblical. The sages developed its laws and customs. The holiday teaches the importance of tradition. (2) We light the candles in the evening when darkness falls, reminding us that darkness is part of life. We need to prepare for it and bring it light. (3) We ignite candles to be seen at home and outside. We should strive to bring light to ourselves and others outside. (4) We light an additional candle every night to inspire us to move forward and do more each day. (5) The candles are set in a particular place and should not be moved. So too, a Jew should be cautious not to step away from Jewish values. (6) Once we light the candles, they shine on their own. We must be vigilant that the values we teach others are so meaningful that they won't be ignored in the future.

The holiday of Hanukka is also a time of thanksgiving when we are prompted to pay attention to the small details in our lives, appreciate every kindness, and ensure that nothing good goes unnoticed or unfelt. We should not think that light is only found elsewhere. It can be found at home. And when we begin by lighting up our homes, our light will pour out and flood the streets of our cities.

While true, some of what Dr. Lebens states may surprise some readers. For example, he describes the different approaches the New Testament took of Paul's acceptance of Jesus and the Midrashic depiction of Ruth converting to Judaism. In the New Testament Acts 9, Paul accepts Jesus because Jesus appeared to him when he traveled to Damascus and filled him with the Holy Spirit. While the book Ruth in the Hebrew Bible does not say Ruth converted to Judaism, ancient Midrashim describe her converting to be a Jew. Her conversation with her mother-in-law Naomi is given in detail in the Midrashim. She never says she believes God exists. Even when she says, "Your God is my God," she is referring to Jewish practices. In essence, Ruth said, "I want to become one of your people." Even today, it may surprise some readers that converts to Judaism do not need to say they believe in the existence of God. Furthermore, they do not even have to promise to observe all the Jewish commandments.

It may also surprise readers that although Orthodox Jews have accepted the Orthodox title applied to them by others, a word meaning a commitment to specific opinions or beliefs. Orthodox Jews are Orthoprax, accepting certain practices and behaviors. Indeed, the Torah does not demand beliefs but the observance of prescribed practices.

Lebens concedes, as does Maimonides (1138-1204), that we cannot prove the existence of God. But this does not mean we cannot argue that one might have good reasons to believe in God's existence. The two and many others see the Torah itself saying we cannot know anything about God. This occurs in Exodus 33 when Moses requests God to tell him about God. God replies that humans cannot understand God but can see what God has created.

Nevertheless, Lebens offers some ideas that may persuade some people that God exists. Among others is the testimony of many people who have experienced God's presence. There is also the famous argument by the poet Yehuda Halevi (circa 1075-1141) that the Israelites experienced God at Sinai and told their children about it. Their children told their children until the present time. Thus, according to Halevi, we have the testimony of God's existence. Lebens is not impressed with this notion. He gives about two dozen other arguments for the existence of God.

Lebens also discusses other related items, such as whether the revelation at Mount Sinai, which many Jews consider the basis of Judaism, actually happened. Interestingly, there are many vastly different ideas among rabbis in the Talmud and Midrashim about what actually occurred at Sinai. He also talks about the Frenchman Blaise Pascal's (1623-1662) famous notion that believing in God is a good bet. He points out the irrationality of his notion and offers in its place what he considers a beneficial bet to accept Jewish practices. In his appendix, Lebens also discusses a recent disturbing development regarding conversion to Judaism.

In short, readers will find Lebens' book interesting, thoughtful, and enlightening.

The Well
Chaim Grade
Jewish Publication Society of America

In my previous reviews of Chaim Grade's books, I gave my opinion that Grade (1910-1982) should receive the Nobel Prize for literature. He was one of the leading Yiddish writers of the twentieth century. According to many, he was the best of an amazing group. His books are classics. I still feel this way.

The French literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869) wrote an extensive interpretation of "What is a Classic" based on the writings of past thinkers and his idea. He wrote. "A classic, according to the usual definition, is an old author canonized by admiration." It denotes a writer of worth and distinction, a writer of account, and those who have become models.

Sainte-Beuve added, a true classic, "as I should like to hear it defined, is an author who has enriched the human mind, increased its treasure, and caused it to advance a step; who has discovered some moral and not equivocal truth, or revealed some eternal passion in [the] heart where all seemed known and discovered; who has expressed his thought, observation, or invention, in no matter what form only provided it be broad and great, refined and sensible, sane and beautiful in itself; who has spoken to all in his own peculiar style... easily contemporary with all time."

Chaim Grade's books meet these definitions.

In the 276-page 1967 translation of his masterpiece "The Well," we read an engrossing story of life in a Jewish shtetl after the First World War that is tragic, funny, moving, emotional, and filled with exceptionally well-drawn portrayals of many inhabitants of the shtetl and their feelings and thoughts about what is transpiring before them. What they think makes us think.

There is a well in the synagogue courtyard of the shtetl from which Jews and non-Jews draw water. It was their only free source of water. One day it broke and would cost a fortune to repair. Jewish housewives, half dead from lack of water, run to the monastery, where despite being impoverished, they have to pay for the water. Mende, the porter, an orphan without any education, whom no one apprenticed to a trade, a laborer who carries people's packages and delivers for them, takes the task of finding funds to repair the well upon himself. He feels that it is a mitzvah, a pious deed. Although he has no money to give toward the repair bill, he goes from place to place, even to a convention of ultra-pious rabbis, to beg money to pay for the repairs.

We read about the strange inhabitants of the shtetl. Among the multitude, Sarah the Conjuror is an old great-grandmother who casts out the evil eyes that torment Jews. She prescribes remedies for various illnesses such as toothaches, "Pour a few drops of camphor and a few drops of horseradish on a piece of cotton and push the cotton into the bad tooth. Boiled tobacco and alcohol is even better." The widow Badane, whose saintly husband, a rabbi, died, looked younger than her daughter Rebecca who rejected two suiters, an outspoken communist and a beardless scribe whom pious Jews refused to use because he had no beard. She wants to marry Yerochum, who insists that everything on earth is just an illusion. He prefers spending time philosophizing and not working for his father, the wealthy merchant Reb Avigdor. Rebecca's mother, Badane, wants to marry Reb Avigdor, making the lovers Rebecca and Yerochum brother and sister. There is a beggar who is nearly blind and is a miser. He does not seek a remedy for his eyes because the doctor's bills would diminish his considerable savings. He donates a Torah scroll to the synagogue that he can hardly read.

Reb Bunem tries to help Mende the porter acquire funds. All of his children died, and his wife is now barren. He approaches the foremost rabbi of the generation. Could the rabbi please bless him and his wife so they can have another child? The rabbi refuses because nowadays, no one knows how children will turn out, and he may have a gangster as a child. We read about other ultra-Orthodox rabbis who considered the Mizrachi rabbis un-Jewish because they refused to wait for a miraculous messiah to appear and worked to reestablish Israel as the Jewish homeland. Would they contribute to repairing the well?

Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer

Jack Mason's Bookshelf

The End of Victory: Prevailing in the Thermonuclear Age
Edward Kaplan
Cornell University Press
9781501766121, $39.95, HC, 280pp

Synopsis: With the publication of "The End of Victory: Prevailing in the Thermonuclear Age" Edward Kaplan recounts the costs of failure in nuclear war through the work of the most secret deliberative body of the National Security Council, the Net Evaluation Subcommittee (NESC). From 1953 onward, US leaders wanted to know as precisely as possible what would happen if they failed in a nuclear war -- how many Americans would die and how much of the country would remain. The NESC told Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy what would be the result of the worst failure of American strategy -- a maximum-effort surprise Soviet nuclear assault on the United States.

"The End of Victory" also details how NESC studies provided key information for presidential decisions on the objectives of a war with the USSR and on the size and shape of the US military. The subcommittee delivered its annual reports in a decade marked by crises in Berlin, Quemoy and Matsu, Laos, and Cuba, among others. During these critical moments and day-to-day containment of the USSR, the NESC's reports offered the best estimates of the butcher's bill of conflict and of how to reduce the cost in American lives.

Taken with the intelligence community's assessment of the probability of a surprise attack, the NESC's work framed the risks of US strategy in the chilliest years of the Cold War. "The End of Victory" now reveals how all policy decisions run risks (and ones involving military force run grave ones) though they can rarely be known with precision.

Critique: An impressively informative and seminal work, "The End of Victory: Prevailing in the Thermonuclear Age" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library American Nuclear/Military Strategy collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, it should be noted for students, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject Nuclear Weapons & Warfare History that "The End of Victory: Prevailing in the Thermonuclear Age" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $15.33).

Editorial Note: Edward Kaplan is the Dean of the School of Strategic Landpower at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He is also the author of "To Kill Nations: American Strategy in the Air-Atomic Age and the Rise of Mutually Assured Destruction". (

Jack Mason

John Burroughs' Bookshelf

To Build a Brave Space: The Making of a Spiritual First Responder
Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz
Post Hill Press
9781642935424, $27.00, HC, 240pp

Synopsis: When Matthew Gewirtz was a boy, he told his mother that he wanted to become a rabbi on a motorcycle. This was a joke in his family for many years. As a young man (despite his love of Israel and a strong spiritual and cultural connection to Judaism) he did not believe that his own childhood prediction would ever become a reality. And yet, for over twenty-five years, he has now served large synagogue congregations and shepherded hundreds of families through unspeakable tragedy, unfettered joy, and complicated times in our country's history.

"To Build a Brave Space: The Making of a Spiritual First Responder" is his personal memoir, as he reflects on where he came from and how he got to his current place as the Senior Rabbi of a Temple, B'nai Jeshurun of Short Hills, NJ.

As he reports: "Not only have I grown and changed professionally from my early days of rabbinical school, but my philosophy on how to lead a community and how to bring people together during trying times has evolved over many years of trial and error. My hope is to inspire other clergy and people in general to find a way to help their communities thrive, even during our current climate of fractured politics and overt hostility among one another."

Critique: An inherently interesting, insightful, informative, entertaining, well written, and ultimately inspiring life story, "To Build a Brave Space: The Making of a Spiritual First Responder" by Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz will be of special appeal to readers with an interest in Contemporary Judaic Memoirs. Highly recommended for community and academic library Judaic Biography & Memoir collections, it should be noted for personal eading lists that "To Build a Brave Space: The Making of a Spiritual First Responder" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).

Editorial Note: Matthew D. Gewirtz ( has served as the Senior Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, the largest synagogue in New Jersey, for sixteen years. He serves as the President of the Coalition of Religious Leaders for the State of New Jersey. A regular contributor to a number of publications, he is also the author of The Gift of Grief: Finding Peace, Transformation, and Renewed Life after Great Sorrow. He also appears as a religious commentator on MSNBC's Morning Joe and CNN's State of the Union. For several years, he served as a tri-anchor of PBS's A Matter of Faith with a Bishop, an Imam and a Rabbi.

John Burroughs

Julie Summers' Bookshelf

The Loneliest Places: Loss, Grief, and the Long Journey Home
Rachel Dickerson
Three Hills
c/o Cornell University Press
512 East State Street, Ithaca, NY 14850
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781501766091, $19.95, PB, 248pp

Synopsis: The essays comprising "The Loneliest Places: Loss, Grief, and the Long Journey Home" began as a chronicle of Rachel Dickinson's life after her seventeen year old's son's suicide. The then the individual pieces became so much more. Dickinson writes the unimaginable and terrifying facts of heartbreaking loss. In "The Loneliest Places" she tells stories from her months on the run, fleeing her grief and herself, as she escapes to Iceland and the Falkland Islands -- wanting to be as far as possible from the memories of her dead son, Jack. She frankly relates the paralyzing emotion that sometimes left her trapped in her home, confined to a single chair, helplessly isolated.
The tales from these years are bleak and Dickinson's journey home, back to her changed self and fractured family, is lonely. Conjuring Emily Dickinson, however, Rachel describes how hope was sighted, allowed to perch, and then, remarkably, made actual.

Critique: Absorbing, thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Loneliest Places: Loss, Grief, and the Long Journey Home" is an extraordinary testament to love and loss, a child's suicide and the grief that is life changing -- and could be soul destroying if note dealt with successfully. Exceptionally well written, "The Loneliest Places: Loss, Grief, and the Long Journey Home" is unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, community, and academic library collections. It should be noted that it is also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212195973, $31.95).

Editorial Note: Rachel Dickinson ( writes about travel, history, bits of science, and anything else that interests her from her home in perpetually cloudy Upstate New York. She's the author of six other books including "American Dynasties" (2021), "The Notorious Reno Gang" an account of the world's first train robbers, and "Falconer on the Edge" where she followed a hardcore falconer through a hunting season in Wyoming. She has an MFA in Nonfiction from Goucher College, did graduate work in American History at the University of Delaware, and has a geology degree from Kirkland College.

Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-Religious Violence
Georgette F. Bennett, author
Jerry White, author
Post Hill Press
9781637581018, $28.00, HC, 352pp

Synopsis: Religion-related violence is the fastest spreading type of violence worldwide. Attacks on religious minorities follow a clear pattern and are preceded with early warning signs. Until now, such violence had no name, let alone a set of policies designed to identify and prevent it. A unique attempt to create a new moral and legal category alongside other forms of persecution and mass murder, "Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-Religious Violence" by Georgette E. Bennet and Jerry White explores the roots of atrocities such as the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust, the Bosnian war, and other human rights catastrophes.

The authors tap into their decades of activism, interreligious engagement, and people-to-people diplomacy to delve into a gripping examination of contemporary religicides: the Yazidis in Iraq, the Rohingya in Myanmar, Uyghur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists in China, and the centuries-long efforts to wipe out Indigenous Americans. Yet, even in the face of these horrific atrocities, the authors resist despair. They amplify the voices of survivors and offer a blueprint for action, calling on government, business, civil society, and religious leaders to join in a global campaign to protect religious minorities.

Critique: A timely (given the rise of White Christian Nationalism and the increasing acts of anti-Semitism in the United States) contribution to personal, professional, community, and academic library Religious Intolerance/Persecution and Sociology of Religion collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists, "Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-Religious Violence" is informative enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of an eighteen page Bibliography and thirty-six pages of Endnotes. An impressive and seminal work of extensive and documented research, it should be noted for students, academia, political activists, governmental policy makers, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Religicide: Confronting the Roots of Anti-Religious Violence" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note #1: Dr. Georgette Bennett ( is an award-winning sociologist, widely published author, popular lecturer, and former broadcast journalist for NBC News. In 1992, she founded the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, the go-to organization for combating religious prejudice. In 2013, Bennett founded the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees, which has worked to raise awareness and mobilize more than $175 million of humanitarian aid, benefitting more than 2.2 million Syrian war victims. She is a co-founder of Global Covenant Partners and served on the U.S. State Department's Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group tasked with developing recommendations to engage religious actors in conflict mitigation. Bennett is a former faculty member of the City University of New York and adjunct at New York University. She has published four books and more than eighty articles. Bennett was awarded a 2019 AARP Purpose Prize, and in 2021 was selected as one of Forbes' 50 over 50 Women of Impact.

Editorial Note #2: Jerry White ( is an activist entrepreneur known for leading high-impact campaigns, three of which led to international treaties: the Mine Ban Treaty; the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Cluster Munitions Ban. White shares in the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. As co-founder of Landmine Survivors Network, he worked with Diana, Princess of Wales, to help thousands of war victims find peer support and job training. White served as U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to launch the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, introducing advanced decision analytics to predict the outcomes of complex negotiations. White is also Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia.

Julie Summers

Margaret Lane's Bookshelf

Communicate with Courage
Michelle D. Gladieux
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781523003129, $19.95, PB, 176pp

Synopsis: Raising your game as a communicator is one of the best ways to make a difference in the world, but it takes courage to open up to others and invite others to open up to you. As a lifelong communication coach, Michelle Gladieux has discovered four sneaky obstacles that can keep you from becoming the best communicator you can be: Hiding (Fear of exposing your supposed weaknesses); Defining (Putting too much stock into assumptions and being quick to judge); Rationalizing (Using "being realistic" to shield yourself from taking chances, engaging in conflict, or doing other scary but potentially rewarding actions); Settling (Stopping at "good enough" instead of aiming for something better in your interactions).

These challenges all have something in common. They require taking risks -- to reveal yourself, to question your beliefs, to take a leap of faith, or to move out of your comfort zone. Each chapter comprising "Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges" includes a real-world practice called a Pro Move and an exercise, both carefully crafted to help you overcome hang-ups and take more joy in communicating.

Courageous communication requires self-knowledge, practice, and a desire to grow. It is a full-body, full-mind, and full-heart effort. "Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges" is like having a caring, expert coach along with you for the journey.

Critique: The next best thing to sitting in a workshop on community as taught by Michelle Gladieux, "Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges" is especially commended to the attention of readers with an interest in Communication Skills in business and in life. While also available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99), "Communicate with Courage: Taking Risks to Overcome the Four Hidden Challenges" will prove a welcome and enduringly appreciated addition to personal, professional, community, corporate, and academic library Communication & Business Management collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists.

Editorial Note: Michelle Gladieux ( is President of Gladieux Consulting, a Midwest-based team known for the design and presentation of seminars in communication and leadership topics around the U.S. She facilitates strategic planning and executive coaching for clients in diverse industries, in governments, at non-profits, and in academia. She has 18 years of collegiate teaching experience at three universities in her home state of Indiana, accepting her first faculty position at age 23. She's worked as a Human Resources and Training Director in the cold storage, robotics, and construction industries and enjoys visiting conferences as a keynote speaker and workshop presenter. She's dedicated her professional life to helping employees at all levels grow.

Betty White's Pearls of Wisdom
Patty Sullivan
Forefront Books
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781637631645, $27.00, HC, 224pp

Synopsis: Betty White's award-winning career spanned seven decades. From the early days of television on the game-show circuit to her unforgettable roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland, she was the first lady of television. With her irreverent wit and comedic timing, she was a force of nature forever cherished by fans young and old.

With the publication of "Betty White's Pearls of Wisdom: Life Lessons from a Beloved American Treasure" dedicated Betty White fans will find a more intimate look into Betty's life as told through the eyes of Patty Sullivan, her lifelong friend and adopted family member. "My remembrances are perhaps an echo of things already said, but I hope my stories hold up a mirror, another reflection of her essence and how she affected my life so profoundly."

Patty met Betty in the late 1960s, and the Sullivans (Patty, her husband, Tom, and their two children) enjoyed a rich relationship and amazing closeness through Betty's final days. Through her stories we see Betty's fun-loving banter over a game of Scrabble, her wisdom imparted on a moonlit Christmas sleigh ride, and her passionate advocacy for all members of the animal kingdom. Betty's uncompromising values were the authentic core of the life she lived and savored -- tasting every minute along the way.

"Betty White's Pearls of Wisdom" provides the reader with a glimpse into the personal relationship with "her Sullivans," and the pearls of wisdom she imparted that forever transformed their lives.

Critique: Absolutely essential reading for the legions of Betty White fans, "Betty White's Pearls of Wisdom: Life Lessons from a Beloved American Treasure" is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library American Biography & Memoir collections. It should be noted that "Betty White's Pearls of Wisdom: Life Lessons from a Beloved American Treasure" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $13.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212243490, $31.95, CD).

Margaret Lane

Matthew McCarty's Bookshelf

Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films
Nina Nesseth
Nightfire Books
9781250765215, $25.99

Horror movies are a staple of cinema both in the United States and around the world. Titles like The Silence of the Lambs, Halloween, Friday the 13th and Saw are synonymous with scary and intense films that have become a part of American culture and villains such as Michael Myers and Dr. Hannibal Lechter are household names. Nightmare Fuel: The Science of Horror Films (Nightfire Books, 2022, 298 pgs, $25.99, $34.99 in Can.) is a great primer on how these horror movies and others that are hallmarks of great cinema elicit strong and memorable reactions among fans and viewers in general. Author Nina Nesseth has woven neuroscience, fear research, psychological research, and sociology into a very interesting and nonacademic volume that describes in detail how horror films have left their mark on how we watch movies and how we interact with others when watching those movies.

Horror movies have long been popular with teenagers, aficionados, fans, academics, and adults who crave an intense, adrenaline-fueled rush. Movies like classics such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are famous for the monsters that they contributed to the modern age. Thrillers like Psycho elicit strong fear responses and a sense of foreboding as the viewers try to figure out what is going to happen next. Nesseth describes how our responses to the movies that we watch come from evolutionary changes in our brains, as well as responses that can even dictate what kind of horror movies that we prefer to watch when we are interested in new and different frights. Nightmare Fuel is almost a manual that we can use to understand how we should approach horror films and how we can understand our reactions to those films.

Nightmare Fuel is an engaging narrative that anyone who is interested in horror movies should read. Nesseth writes with a knowledge and understanding of how the brain works that is both exciting and easy to follow. She explains the terminology of the neuroscientific aspects of fear research with an approach that even the most novice reader can easily identify with. Nightmare Fuel is an excellent read. It should have a place on the shelf of any horror movie fan, researcher, or anyone who wants to experience a good scare.

Matthew W. McCarty, EdD

Michael Carson's Bookshelf

The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers
Andrew T. Huse, author
Barbara C. Cruz, author
Jeff Houchk, author
University Press of Florida
9780813069388, $24.95, PB, 180pp

Synopsis: A Cuban Sandwich (Cubano) is a variation of a ham and cheese sandwich that likely originated in cafes catering to Cuban workers in Tampa or Key West, -- two early Cuban immigrant communities in Florida centered on the cigar industry. Later on, Cuban exiles and expatriates brought it to Miami, where it is also very popular. The sandwich is made with ham, (mojo) roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on Cuban bread. Salami is included in Tampa, where there is a arge Italian population, but is not usually included in South Florida. (Wikipedia)

How did the Cuban sandwich become a symbol for a displaced people, win the hearts and bellies of America, and claim a spot on menus around the world? The odyssey of the Cubano begins with its hazy origins in the midnight cafes of Havana, from where it evolved into a dainty high-class hors d'oeuvre and eventually became a hearty street snack devoured by cigar factory workers.

With the publication of "The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers", three devoted fans of the Cubano (Andrew Huse, Barbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck) sort through improbable vintage recipes, sift gossip from Florida old-timers, and wade into the fearsome Tampa vs. Miami sandwich debate (is adding salami necessary or heresy?) to reveal the social history behind how this delicacy became a lunch-counter staple in the US and beyond.

The three collaborative authors also interview artisans who've perfected the high arts of creating and combining expertly baked Cuban bread, sweet ham, savory roast pork, perfectly melted Swiss cheese, and tangy, crunchy pickles. Of special note are the included tips and expert insights for making Cuban sandwiches at home that will have readers savoring the history behind each perfect bite.

Critique: Nicely illustrated, exceptionally well written, deftly organized and accessibly presented, "The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers" is a Cubano fans delight and an ideal introduction to the history (and controversy) of this iconic sandwich. Enhanced for the reader with the inclusion of ten pages of Notes and a five page Index, and also readily available for personal reading lists in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99), "The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, professional, community, and academic library Food History & Popular Culture collections.

Editorial Note #1: Andrew T. Huse is curator of Florida Studies at University of South Florida Libraries and the author of From Saloons to Steak Houses: A History of Tampa. (

Editorial Note #2: Barbara C. Cruz ( is professor of social science education and codirector of the InsideART project at the University of South Florida.

Editorial Note #3: Jeff Houck ( is vice president of marketing for the Columbia Restaurant Group and previously worked as food editor, writer, and blogger for the Tampa Tribune.

Michael J. Carson

Robin Friedman's Bookshelf

Complete String Quartets 3: The Late Quartets
Ludwig van Beethoven, composer
Dover String Quartet, performer
Cedille Records
B0BB7ZNGN3, $31.22

The Dover Quartet Plays The Late Beethoven Quartets

Ludwig van Beethoven wrote a great deal of music to inspire large audiences, including the Third (Eroica), Fifth, Sixth (Pastorale) and Ninth (Choral) symphonies. He also wrote a great deal of difficult, introspective music that reward solitary listening. Beethoven's five last quartets, written near the end of his life, fall in the latter category. These quartets are deep, closely integrated, and yet varied. They are highly personal and yet metaphysical and abstract at the same time. The five quartets have opus numbers 127, 130, 131, 132, and 135, together with the Great Fugue, opus 133, which was the original finale for the opus 130 quartet before Beethoven replaced it, as too long and difficult, at the urging of his publisher.

The five last quartets will reward repeated listenings spread over time. Most great professional string quartets over the years have recorded these works, often as part of the cycle of the 16 Beethoven quartets. I have been fortunate to have been exposed to these works early in life, through the Fine Arts Quartet of Milwaukee, and then through many live and recorded performances as I grew older. I heard the Juilliard Quartet perform the late Beethoven quartets at the Library of Congress, for example, and I have a celebrated recording of the complete quartets by the Guarneri Quartet, which I reviewed on Amazon on August 18, 2005.

I hadn't heard the last string quartets since before the pandemic and wanted to listen again. I took the opportunity to hear this new 3-CD set, part of a complete cycle, by the Dover Quartet, a young, highly-acclaimed ensemble from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. The quartet consists of Joel Link and Brian Lee, violins, Milena Pajaro - van de Stadt, viola, and Camden Shaw, cello. The violist Pajaro-van de Stadt has subsequently left the quartet.

The Dover Quartet has been compared to the Guarneri, and I find the comparison apt. The Dover Quartet offers a beautiful, convincing performance of these treasured works of Beethoven's age. I was struck by the tone, by the beautiful ensemble playing, and by the close-knit playing in the many fugual passages. The mood of these works ranges widely from the lyrical to the pensive to the abstract. The performance does justice to the range and profundity of this music. I listened to the performances several times, with space in between, over the course of more than a month.

My favorite of these quartets is the A minor, opus 132, with its intensity and its "Hymn of Thanksgiving" which I heard after recovering from minor surgery, as was the case when I heard the Guarneri Quartet recording years ago. The C minor quartet, opus 131, with its complexities and integration also is an extraordinary, passionate work. The opus 130 quartet is large scaled and shows a broad emotional range with a beautiful, lyrical movement called the cavatina. On my listening to the Dover Quartet, I thought that the Great Fugue was indeed the better conclusion to this work than the shorter finale. My view on this matter changes with each rehearing. Opus 127, with its mixture of the broad scaled and the intimate was once my favorite of this set, and I still love it. The final quartet, opus 135, is shorter and somewhat different from its companions. Its final movement "It must be" is a fitting conclusion to the set.

I was grateful to hear the late Beethoven quartets with the Dover Quartet. Nancy November, Professor of Musicology at the University of Aukland, New Zealand, wrote the insightful booklet accompanying this set which will help listeners with the music. Lovers of Beethoven's chamber music will want to hear this recording.

Elias Canetti, author
C.V. Wedgewood, translator
Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
c/o Macmillan
9780374518790, $14.99, paperback

Rereading Auto-da-Fe

I remember when Elias Canetti (1905 -- 1994) received the 1981 Nobel Prize for Literature, and I read an article exploring his books. With the Nobel Prize, his writings became readily accessible, and I read his autobiography, his most famous work "Crowds and Power", and this book, his only novel "Auto-da-Fe". I loved the first two, but had a great deal of difficulty with the novel. I still do.

About twenty years later, my dear late (d. 2021) lady friend saw "Auto-da-Fe" on my bookshelf, picked it up, and read it. She loved it. The mordant humor and blistering tone of the work undoubtedly appealed to her. I found endearing her willingness to read this odd book and her response.

I am in a book group with other serious readers. We are reading "Auto-da-Fe" allowing substantial extra time for the book's length and difficulty. Although I was grateful for the opportunity to revisit Canetti's novel, the book still is a struggle.

"Auto-da-Fe", a work of Canetti's young manhood, was written in German by 1931 and published in 1935. The English translation by Cicely Wedgewood, prepared under the author's supervision, was first published in 1946. The book received little attention until the publication of "Crowds and Power" in 1960 and again when Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize. The novel has since garnered substantial and, as might be expected, varied scholarly commentary.

A long, difficult, bantering work, "Auto-da-Fe" is a work of literary modernism, to use an elusive and only partially helpful term. It is set in Vienna with a relatively short scene in Paris. The book tells the story of one Peter Kine,40, a sinologist famous in his field who is devoted to his books and reading and cares for little else. Kine reads many languages and, with his inheritance, maintains a large library in his apartment, probably the largest private library in the city. He is preyed upon by his housekeeper Therese, considerably older than himself whom he marries after eight years, and by his concierge, Pfaff.

With his devotion to books and study, Kine has little knowledge of people and little in what is called "social skills". In particular, Kine is a virgin, woefully ignorant and inexperienced with sexuality. Male-female relationships form a large theme of the book and many long passages in the work are heavily misogynistic. Whether the views expressed are the author's own is of little consequence., The book is a foil to contemporary feminism and I think should be seen as such. The novel is heavily individualistic in tone and it eschews movements of any kind.

The individualistic, non-social character of the book is shown by the three parts and their characters. The first part, "A Head Without a World" is set in Kine's apartment and covers his marriage and its failure. The second, most bizarre, and difficult part of the book, "Headless World" occurs when Kine leaves his marriage and takes up with a Jewish dwarf, Fisher, (Fischerle), a pimp and hunchback (again there is no correctness in the book), and thief who plays chess and aspires to the world championship. Fischerle is as monomaical about chess as Kine is about books. He is grasping and greedy. In general the characters in the book other than Kine with his devotion to books are also single minded in a less appealing way with their devotion to crime, money, sex. In the third part of the book, "The World in the Head" Kein returns to his apartment where he is visited by his brother George, a gynecologist turned psychiatrist. This is the shortest part of the novel with many discussions about women and books. The author is not a fan of psychiatry. (I was reminded of the Joan Crawford movie "Possessed" about obsession, madness and psychiatry which I saw at a film noir festival while reading this book). His attempt to help his scholarly brother fails with an attendant conflagration indicated by the book's title.

"Auto-da-Fe" is a mad, frustrating book. (Comparisons to Kafka are easy, but trite.) The strongest parts of the book are those in which Kine does what he loves: discusses Chinese philosophy and literature, Buddha and Buddhist Scripture, and German idealism in the persons of Kant, primarily, and Hegel. The book works a tortured path with many long sections bordering on madness. The comparisons are with the "head" and solipsism of idealism and public, shared reality. The book explores fragmentation and one-sidedness, inability to connect with others, and the line between subjectivity and reality. I am reluctant to say much more. I do not want to draw contemporary political conclusions.

I was grateful for the opportunity to think again about "Auto-da-Fe" and Canetti.Just after rereading the book I came across a strikingly apt quote from elsewhere in Canetti: " True spiritual life consists in rereading". "Auto-da-Fe" is not an easy book and not for everyone. I was glad for its iconoclasm and idiosyncrasies, for its love for Buddhism and for philosophy. I was glad to be reminded of human finitude and limitations. And, for what it is worth, for a book that encourages reflection on one's experience and that does not toe to contemporary orthodoxy.

Up From the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times
Aaron Sachs, author
Princeton University Press
9780691215419, $27.21, hardcover

Melville, Mumford, And History

Aaron Sachs tells "the story of two modern wanderers, convinced of their aloneness but still looking for connection" in his new dual biography "Up from the Depths: Herman Melville, Lewis Mumford, and Rediscovery in Dark Times" (2022). Sachs, Professor of history and American studies at Cornell University, has the goal of rediscovering Melville's and Mumford's "capacity for realism, connection, and orientation, amid modernity's ongoing traumas." He succeeds admirably.

Some background may be useful. Herman Melville (1819 -- 1891) is best-known as the author of "Moby-Dick", but he wrote many other novels and also wrote poetry. At the time of his death, Melville was almost forgotten, and most of his books were out-of-print.

Lewis Mumford (1895 -- 1990) was a polymath and a generalist. He was a literary critic, student of the city and of urban planning, and a critic of the impact of technology and unrestrained economic activity on American life. Mumford's best known work is "The Renewal of Life" which consists of four large volumes written between 1934 and 1951. Most of Mumford's many books are currently out-of-print.

Relatively early in has career, Mumford wrote on American literature. In 1929 he wrote a biography, "Herman Melville". His book was only the second biography of Melville, following a biography in 1921 by literary scholar Raymond Weaver. Mumford's book contributed greatly to the revival of interest in Melville among both readers and scholars, and it helped secure Melville's rightful place among great American writers. Mumford continued his engagement with Melville throughout his career, using him often as an inspiration for his own work.

Sachs's book moves in successive chapters between the life and work of Melville and that of Mumford with the aim both of showing common themes and also showing how the work of both writers remains important. With its broad scope, I found the book most interesting in its detail in its description of the work of Melville, which I have long loved, and in the work of Mumford, which, I knew only slightly. His chapters cross back and forth between the two authors, with references to many other figures. He wants to show how both Melville and Mumford wrote about the difficulties and tragic nature of modernity -- a highly elusive concept. Melville wrote against the background of the Civil War while Mumford wrote against the background of both World Wars, the 1918 flu pandemic, and the Depression. Both writers had a strong sense of pessimism and of tragedy and yet both over the course of their long lives were able to use their understanding of history and of their own experiences to come to a sense of hope.

The discussion of Melville focuses on "Moby-Dick", "Bartelby", and "Billy Budd". It also includes his lesser-known works, including, the poetry he wrote late in life, such as "Battle-Pieces" and "Clarel". Melville's poetry has received attention in recent years and is included in a 2019 Library of America anthology, "Herman Melville: Complete Poems", edited by Melville scholar Herschel Parker. Sachs' discussion of Mumford ranges broadly over his works from his Melville book through the works in the "Renewal of Life" series through his increasingly abstract philosophical writings, and through his autobiographical writings from late in his life. Sachs's wants to show that Mumford's works deserve to be revisited. I think he succeeds.

Sachs combines his study of the writings of Melville and Mumford with a treatment of their lives, finding many parallels. He finds much to admire in each writer together with many flaws. There are also important parallels, as both Melville and Mumford experienced the death of a child in youth. Both also had long difficult marriages which somehow managed to endure and to surmount their problems, including, in Mumford's case, a series of long affairs.

Sachs often brings his own perspective to bear in his treatment of Melville and Mumford. In particular he is an environmentalist and a student of climate change. He sees this as a significant issue that needs to be addressed as Americans engage with their past, together with issues of gender and race, which neither Melville nor Mumford addressed fully.

"Up from the Depths" is an eloquent, thoughtful book about the importance of history and of studying change and continuity in difficult times. I enjoyed revisiting Melville with Sachs, and I enjoyed learning about the works of Lewis Mumford.

What Can We Hope For?: Essays on Politics
Richard Rorty, author
Chris Voparil and W.P. Malecki, editors
Princeton University Press
9780691217529, $21.55, hardcover

The Philosopher And His Country

Richard Rorty (1931 -- 2007) is a controversial American philosopher, usually described as a "neo-pragmatist" whose works continue to be read. His books include "Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature", "Contingency, Irony and Solidarity", and "Achieving our Country". I have learned a great deal from Rorty over the years.

Rorty achieved more recognition from a broad readership than most philosophers can hope to receive with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. A passage in the third lecture "The Cultural Left" in Rorty's "Achieving our Country" (1998) appeared to presage the election of a Trump-like figure and garnered him attention as "the philosopher who predicted Trump".

In this new book, "What Can We Hope For" Essays on Politics" (2022) scholars W.P. Malecki and Chris Voparil have gathered together nineteen essays of Rorty written between 1995 and 2007, four of which are published for the first time in this volume. The essays explore the relationship between philosophy and politics, or its lack, in Rorty's thought. In their Introduction to the volume, "The Philosopher and his Country" Malecki and Voparil point out that Rorty would have been uncomfortable with the label "the philosopher who predicted Trump" because, in his view, it gives too much credence to a view of philosophers as "people whose special expertise allows them to see the world more clearly than everyone else". According to the editors, Rorty believed that the American left, with which he identified, was "overphilosophized" and had boxed itself into a corner in understanding the United States and in offering solutions to social issues. Still, and in uneasy tension with his critique of philosophy, the essays in this volume convey "Rorty's pragmatic philosophy of democratic change" and his "recommendations for concrete reforms to ameliorate injustice and inequality and his positive visions for what safeguarding our democracy and its highest aspirations requires."

I was gratified to find this book prominently displayed in the "new books" section of my local public library, as it deserves a broad, non-specialist readership. As always, Rorty writes beautifully and provocatively. The essays in this book are accessible to readers without prior knowledge of Rorty. Malecki's and Voparil's Introduction provides a good introduction to Rorty's life and writings and to the essays themselves to help the reader along.

The essays are divided into three parts which move from the more general to the more specific. Part I, "Politics and Philosophy" consists of five essays which attempt to minimize the current importance of philosophical or religious thinking in building a better, classless United States and minimizing human suffering. This is particularly the case with the opening thoughtful and difficult essay, "Who Are We" which attempts to redirect philosophy from the question "What is Man" which Rorty finds shared by Plato and the Enlightenment to "Who Are We", or identifying and expanding the human community to which we belong.

Part II, "American Politics" consists of eight essays on a variety of issues centering on the Academy and on the tension between Liberal and Conservative in America. These essays emphasize hope for the American future and patriotism, which is often minimized by Rorty's fellow Liberals. The key essay in this Part is, again, the first in its breadth and difficulty: "Does Being an American
give one a Moral Identity?"

Part III "Global Politics" includes five essays on the United States and its relationship to the international community. As a book reviewer, I found of most interest the essay "A Queasy Agnosticism" in which Rorty reviews a novel "Saturday" by Ian McEwan, bringing to bear his own breadth of reading and perspective.

The essay "Intellectuals and the Millennium" serves as an Afterword to the collection. Rorty reiterates that neither philosophy nor religion are likely to serve as a basis for politics in the United States going forward. Rather, he sees the possibility of hope in a "breed of leaders with sufficient imagination to propose bold yet concrete solutions -- solutions to be debated by the newly literate populations of the world's democracies."

This book is challenging and inspiring. I found most important Rorty's American patriotism and his hope for the future as evidenced in the figures and visions of individuals including Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Herbert Crowly, John Dewey, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. American patriotism and hope remain in short supply. I am unconvinced by Rorty's attempt to reject philosophy as it may help in political thinking. Rorty remains a philosopher, in my view, almost in spite of himself. I am also skeptical of some of Rorty's own political views, and find that his work has much to teach to Americans of varying political outlooks.

It is always valuable to read Rorty and to think about philosophy and the United States. I learn a great deal from him.

Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks, Third Expanded Edition
Q.T. Luong, author
Terra Galleria Press
9781733576017, $50.99, hardcover

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land

For most of my career, I worked in the Office of the Solicitor for the United States Department of the Interior. Interior is often referred to as "the Department of everything else" as it includes a collection of agencies with differing missions involving America's lands and people. During my years with the Department, I came to a deepened appreciation of the scope of our country and of its history.

Formed in 1916, the National Park Service is part of Interior, and it administers the National Parks -- often and properly referred to as our country's "crown jewels". My work for the Department over the years brought me into frequent contact with the Park Service, but I was not a Park Service attorney. I had been thinking about Interior when I discovered this book, "Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America's National Parks" (Third Expanded Edition). by QT Luong. This award-winning book consists of color photographs Luong took of each of the 63 National Parks over the course of some twenty years. The book is large, heavy, outsize and difficult to handle. But it is a wonderful means of exploring the National Parks and through the Parks of exploring and thinking about the United States.

Luong's own life story is inspiring in helping to understand his book of beautiful Park photography. Born to a Vietnamese family in France, Luong was raised with a love of mountaneering. He came to the United States for what he thought would be a short stay to pursue education in California. He became attracted to the mountains of California and Alaska and gradually expanded his interests to include other aspects of America's widely varying geography. Luong stayed in the United States after completing his education to pursue a career in computer science. But his developing love for the National Parks and for photography won out. Luong abandoned his scientific career and struck out on his own on a journey to visit and photograph each park in the National Park system. It was a brave, committed thing to do with no contracts and no outside funding. But Luong pursued his dream, and this highly successful and valuable book is the result. As Luong says in the book, the journey is the destination. His life, and his willingness to find and pursue his passion say a great deal in themselves about the United States and its National Parks.

The heart of the book lies in the many color photos of each of the 63 National Parks, from those familiar and frequently visited to those less so. The photographs and parks are arranged in seven sections, titled "Pacific Coast and Mountains", "Colorado Plateau", "Deserts", "Rockies and Prairie", "Eastern Hardwoods", "Alaska", and "Tropics". The headings themselves suggest the diversity of terrain and of biology of our park system. Each park receives a brief introduction from Luong followed by several pages of photographs. After the photos, a short section offers basic background information on each park, including its location, size, number of visitors, date of establishment, and the like. The large photographs and some additional photographs are given in thumbnail with Luong's annotations for those wishing additional information.

The book can be explored in many ways. The format encourages browsing. But each section and each park can also be explored on their own. Readers wishing detail on a park or a particular photo may explore the smaller photographs with Luong's commentary. Part of Luong's goal is to encourage readers to visit the Parks. I have visited some in my day, but the book created in me a feeling of reflection more than a feeling to jump on the road and travel at an advanced age.

Each of the National Parks is effectively a world onto itself and each is also part of a whole system and part of an even broader United States. I enjoyed accompanying Luong on his decades-long odyssey through the Parks. His odyssey brought back memories of what was valuable in my own working life. His own story and the story of the Parks helped me to understand and to appreciate our country and its promise.

Robin Friedman

Sarah Book's Bookshelf

The Rise Of Riverstone (Daughters Of Riverstone #1)
Mandy Schimelpfenig
Independently Published
9781737669609 $19.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle

She was forced to watch her world burn.
They should have killed her when they had the chance.

Praed is a country of vast prairies and looming mountains where the elite make their homes along a mighty river. For hundreds of years, to wear the crown is to tempt fate, for in Praed, any man may become king if he's strong enough

Laria Audrey lives in privilege as the daughter of a famous knight, until one night she's ripped from her bed to find that her entire life has gone up in flames. Forced to serve those responsible, Laria pretends to be deaf and mute to survive. But when days turn to weeks, Laria loses hope of awakening from the nightmare and must admit she's truly alone.

When her sworn enemy approaches her with a shocking proposition, Laria must decide if she'll resign herself to misery or become the hero she never believed she could be.

An enemies-to-friends story,

5 stars!

woah, this book, is like a masterpiece, like i cannot think of anything that means this book, it's amazing, okay, for the new readers, don't let the 488 pages stop you, because i get messages about it on goodreads, but i love this book, sorry its a short review, but i can't, this book has a special place in my heart, and it always will,

Thank you Mandy for the copy!

And watch the short on youtube!

Content Warning: there is a almost rape scene, and references to sexual assault

Pandora's Heart: Walkyer X Pandora Book One
Shaina Anastasi
Independently Published
9798832006437 $17.99 pbk / $0.00 Kindle

To dedicated readers, where one story for the protagonist isn't enough!

This may seem silly, maybe even a little far-fetched, but what if there was a story within a butterfly effect? Each story begins the same, where the girl casts her net for revenge, but as time passes on, new detours emerge.

Three brothers live in a castle; princes they are. However, this isn't a fairy tale; it's far too dark. Every brother has a story and loves to unfold, but what if their love interest was the same girl with her past already told? Now, the brothers don't want to share, nor do I want an RH, so I've done something unusual. There are two to three books for each brother and their story to tell, and the girl - Pandora - will love them within their realm. There will be enemies to lovers, heartache, and tears, but where there's sadness, I'm sure moments will bring frustration, chaos, confusion, and anger - my, those aren't lovely tales at all!

The brothers' stories are trilogies or duologies, and if you are only rooting for one, you can ignore the others. However, I must say I will leave the darkest story for last.

5 stars

Okay, i loved this book, parts had me frustrated, i stopped myself from throwing the book, because books are precious to me but i did get angry at the characters, but still loved it, i loved the writing style, the plot, hated Xavier he seemed like just a thirsty piece of shit, but i think that's what the author intended, but i loved it! This book again has a special place in my heart.

Sarah Book

Suanne Schafer's Bookshelf

Shadow in the Glass
M. E. Hilliard
Crooked Lane Books
9781643858944, $26.99

Like M.E. Hilliard's debut novel, The Unkindness of Ravens, the newest in her Greer Hogan Mystery series, Shadow in the Glass, grabbed me immediately. The first person narration rapidly sucks the reader in the the thought processes of amateur sleuth, Greer Hogan. A former New York City high-powered executive, Greer reinvents herself by becoming a small town librarian after the murder of her husband. Greer's intelligence and personality shine through from the onset. I immediately bonded with a gal who calls herself a "girl detective" and who's read all the Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew mysteries and prefers Trixie to Nancy because Trixie "got into more trouble." Despite her affinity for childhood heroines, Hilliard aligns her protagonist with others within the mystery genre, including Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot.

Unlike the first in the series, Shadow in the Glass is set in upstate New York's Lake Placid. Even in this lovely town, Hilliard does a bang-up job creating a chilling gothic atmosphere with two Victorian lake homes, sitting side by side, one rehabbed completely and the other still untouched and complete with elaborately carved nooks and crannies, creaking floors, doors that close by themselves, and drafty windows, and ravens inside and out. That atmosphere contrasts sharply with the wedding of Greer's best friend.

Though the plot is well-constructed, plausible but twisted, there is some personal growth here as well. Though Greer has reinvented her life after the death of her husband, she is coming to terms with his murder and her feeling that the man jailed for the crime is innocent. She attends the wedding to begin her investigation but gets waylaid by the crimes committed at this social gathering.

Rooted and Winged: Poems
Luanne Castle
Finishing Line Press
9781646629626, $19.99

Like Luanne Castle's other volumes of poetry (Kin Types and Doll Gods), the poems of Rooted and Winged explore family, kinship, life, and death. A trail of images always ties the reader to the earth and nature. In this newest collection of poems, Castle also explores flight and falling and the Sonoran desert.

As the mother of an adopted child now seeking his birth mother, I was particularly struck by lines from "For an Adopted Child": One day you will see us together and understand/the warning you have heard your whole life/about the missing.

I am also coming to terms with the fact that my Black son may not have much interest in the history of his White family. I was particularly moved by the opening and closing lines of Castle's prose poem, "How to Create a Family Myth": My grandfather built a city with his tongue" and I plucked a heart from the clouds and tucked it safely inside/the brick house in the city where it keeps the city alive to this day.

These poems are rooted in the soil, the flora, and the fauna of the Sonoran desert, from saguaro cacti to hawks to bobcats. Castle is an expert at twining words into images that make the heart ache and the mind soar. This is truly an extraordinary collection of poetry.

Hardland: A Novel
Ashley E. Sweeney
She Writes Press
9781647422332, $17.95

Hardland is one of several books I've read recently that topple the Western genre, first by being from a woman's point of view and by not romanticizing the American Old West. The novel follows the life of Ruby Fortune from her early teens, though her rise as an Annie Oakley type sharpshooter in a Wild West show, losing both her parents, her marriage in her mid teens, the four sons she births, and her survival of the spousal abuse she endures - and its aftermath. Gutsy and painfully aware of her flaws, she cusses like a sailor and carries a two-shot Derringer at her waist. She develops into a hard-working capable woman.

Hardland is set as America's Gilded Age winds down, in Jericho, a fictional town situated near Phoenix, Arizona. Sweeney captures the heat and dust of the physical locale as well as the mores of a small mining town populated by drunken miners, grifters masquerading as nuns, a prim school marm, and a love-sick marshall - plus the man Ruby falls in love with. Even among these many oddballs, Ruby struggles to fit in as she tries to raise four boys while running a boarding house.

Written in present tense, the novel draws the reader into a most intimate look at a staunch heroine.

The Fourteenth of September: A Novel
Rita Dragonette
She Writes Press
9781631524530, $16.95

As a contemporary of the protagonist of The Fourteenth of September, Private First Class Judy (named Judy Blue Eyes by her friends, after the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes") Talton, I felt transported to my last year of high school. We protested the war, protested the treatment of Mother Earth, celebrated the first Earth Day, and expanded our consciousness with everything from drugs to Buddhism. Like Judy, I come from a conservative family who hated that I questioned the political situation in the U.S.

As Judy cannot otherwise afford to go to college, she accepts a military nursing scholarship, though she doesn't particularly want to become a nurse. Her first year is a crucial time as she searches for meaning and tries to become informed about politics so she can make an intelligent decision about what to do with the rest of her life. Despite her military scholarship, she finds herself against the war. As she seeks enlightenment, she discovers the proverbial "sex, drugs, and rock and roll." She loses her virginity in her first adult relationship with a young man with rather strident anti-war rhetoric, who wants to lead their college's anti-war movement. With the advent of second-wave feminism, she learns that women shoulder huge burdens yet are unappreciated. She confronts the deaths of her friends both within and outside the military. Her growth over time is well-depicted in a nice character arc. The lyrics of pivotal songs like the Beatles "Let It Be" and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" are woven in to good effect.

It is nice to see the anti-war struggle through a female point of view. The repetition of the weekly body count in the newspaper is a poignant display of how many young American men were butchered, but it also calls to mind the current pandemic with its ever-increasing body count.

Boop and Eve's Road Trip
Mary Helen Sheriff
She Writes Press
9781631527630, $16.95, October 6, 2020

Boop and Eve's Road Trip takes a look at mental illness and its intergenerational effects. Boop (the grandmother) has a breakdown when her daughter, Justine, is born. Boop's minimal mothering leads Justine to smother her daughter, Eve. Though couched in terms of a grandmother-granddaughter road top, the novel takes a serious look at mental illness. The novel doesn't get bogged down in heavy emotions and is, at times, light-hearted and laden with Boop's banal Southern platitudes. The road trip allows the women to step outside their usual roles and attempt to deal with long-term regrets, societal expectations, unspoken hopes, the specter of depression, the need to develop self-worth, and the confidence to chase one's dreams.

The characters are relatable. Eve is dropping out of college as she doesn't want to become a doctor as her mother, Justine, wishes. Justine carries the scars of a tormented mother and a husband who refused to grow up. Boop, meanwhile, carries a secret that made her unable to be the mother she feels Justine needed but revealing it may fracture her family completely.

Bombay Monsoon
James W. Ziskin
Oceanview Publishing
9781608095063, $27.95

Bombay Monsoon is a thriller set in post-Partition India in the mid 1970s. An ambitious young American journalist, Danny Jacobs, arrives in Bombay on a new assignment. He's tossed into a maelstrom of events during which the prime minister, Indira Gandhi, fearing a coup, declares a "state of emergency" to save her office. On top of that, a police officer is assassinated by a Marxist extremist. Then Danny embarks on a hot, unexpected, yet very complicated romance with a lovely woman, Sushmita.

The novel is well-paced, and the setting, India, is well-described as are its foods and atmosphere. I spent time in that part of the world in 1977, close enough to the time frame of the book, and testify that the repercussions of Partition were - and are - still rebounding in Pakistan and India as well as the emotional fatigue brought on by days of endless rains during the monsoons. The weather is definitely a character in its own right; the descriptions of it are deeply atmospheric and evocative. Bombay Monsoon highlights the multiple prejudices of Indian society including the importance of light skin in India and the caste system and relating them to similar problems in American society. The characters are varied and quite interesting, ranging from drug dealers to policemen to US DEA agents, and their roles frequently shift, adding nuance to their personalities. Danny himself is an unreliable narrator and has his own misconceptions and mindsets to overcome. He is rather passive and allows things to happen to him rather than working toward a specific goal.

Heard It in a Love Song
Tracey Garvis Graves
St. Martin's Press
9781250235688, $27.99

This is a slow-burn romance between Layla Hilding, a recently-divorced after ten years of marriage, and Josh, currently divorcing after a twenty-year marriage. Both are struggling to break free from their pasts. Layla had dreams of making it as a singer in a band but set those aside for a husband who never put her foremost in his life. Josh misses the connection he once had with his wife and has remained married for the sake of his daughter. Both Layla and Josh fully recognize their failings - and those of their spouses - and aren't eager to repeat the patterns they've been stuck in.

I enjoyed reading this novel of second chances, in part because the couple is "seasoned" by life and actually use their brains rather than their sexual organs - though their chemistry is readily apparent - to work out their relationship. It's also nice that Layla reembarks on her musical dreams but finds that she doesn't really like the social media aspect required to promote herself. I particularly enjoyed the passages about Layla and her connection to music and her feelings about herself as she sings and the Janis Joplin-esque cover.

The novel is low-key, told in alternating points of view between Layla and Josh, and also switching back to both their pasts in extended flashbacks. The flashbacks are written in italics, and I found the long italicized passages difficult to read.

Dark of Night
Barbara Nickless
Thomas & Mercer
9781662500817, $15.95

I was so impressed with the first in Barbara Nickless's Dr. Evan Wilding series At First Light that I immediately ordered the second in the series, Dark of Night. Author Nickless demonstrates great plotting, fascinating historical references, little-known trivial tidbits, and intriguing characters. I adore the main character, Evan Wilding, Ph.D., an intelligent professor who is a four-foot, five-inch tall dwarf. He overcompensates for his height with a brain that is as delightful as it is immense. He is a tenured college professor who moonlights for the Chicago Police Department as a forensic semiotician, an expert in the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation.

When a corpse is found in a parking lot in a run-down area of Chicago, it is identified as noted historian Elizabeth Lawrence, a friend of Wilding's as well as a great-niece of T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). Wilding joins Detective Addie Bisset and her partner Detective Patrick McBrady as well as a member of Israel's Mossad to solve the crime. As the corpses add up, they realize they are facing a killer with a religious obsession. To find him, the team must shift through legitimate as well as illegitimate purchases and purchasers of archeological finds from Israel, Cambodia, and Jordan while searching for the missing papyri of Moses.

Dark of Night, like At First Light, incorporates many subjects I find fascinating. I've been entranced with T. E. Lawrence since seeing David Lean's fabulous movie, Lawrence of Arabia, when I was ten years old. I've read Lawrence's own book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and Robert Graves's (of I, Claudius fame) Lawrence and the Arabs. I've also been on archeological digs, though searching for Native American artifacts, not missing tracts of the Bible. My favorite thrillers are the Gabriel Allon series written by Daniel Silva, and the Dr. Evan Wilding series has all the sophistication of a Silva novel. I plan to continue reading them as they are written.

At First Light (Dr. Evan Wilding Book 1)
Barbara Nickless
Thomas & Mercer
9781542026413, $15.95

I can't express how much I enjoyed At First Light. Author Nickless demonstrates great plotting, fascinating historical references, little-known trivial tidbits, intriguing characters, and a "ticking clock." I have been binging on all things Viking lately, and At First Light is a contemporary take on the subject. I adored the main character here, Evan Wilding, Ph.D., an intelligent professor who is a four-foot, four-inch tall dwarf. He overcompensates for his height with a brain that is as delightful as immense. He is a tenured college professor who moonlights for the Chicago Police Department as a forensic semiotician, an expert in the study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation. My favorite thrillers are the Gabriel Allon series written by Daniel Silva, and the Dr. Evan Wilding series has all the sophistication of a Silva novel. I plan to continue reading them as they are written.

When a corpse is discovered on the banks of Chicago's Calumet River, Wilding joins Detective Addie Bisset and her partner Detective Patrick McBrady to solve the crime. As the corpses add up, they realize they are facing a serial killer. To find him, the team must shift through ritual murders, bog bodies, Viking poetry written in runes at the scene of each murder, the legend of Beowulf, Grendel, and Grendel's mother. The clock keeps ticking as they learn that five deaths are intended and strive to prevent them.

A Dangerous Business
Jane Smiley
9780525520337, $28.00

Eliza Ripple is a naive eighteen-year-old girl whose parents force her to wed a man visiting her hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. He projects wealth and ambition, so they feel their daughter will be well-cared for. The couple moves to Monterey, California, as the 1848 Gold Rush is winding down. Eliza's husband demeans her and essentially expects her to be his slave. Thus, when her hot-tempered husband is killed in a bar fight, Eliza spends no time mourning him. She refuses to return to the harsh winters of Michigan and her Bible-thumping family. With few viable options, she joins Mrs. Park's brothel and has an easier life than she did with her husband - with the additional benefit of becoming financially independent.

Eliza builds relationships with other women, and they keep each other safe. At Mrs. Park's, Eliza sees one or two clients a day and a bouncer provides physical protection. In addition, Mrs. Park "bans" undesirable men. Her best friend Jean is a lesbian who enjoys dressing in men's clothing, and thus provides a "male escort" when Eliza needs one.

Eliza is unsophisticated and poorly educated, but that doesn't hinder her. She reads avidly and when her sailor clients teach her about the equator, longitude, and latitude, and the many places they've traveled, she absorbs the knowledge like a sponge.

Things take a turn for the worse when Eliza discovers the body of a murdered young woman in a creek just outside of town. As women continue to disappear and local law enforcement refuses to seriously investigate, Eliza and Jean team up to investigate. They readily admit they have no idea what they are doing, but they do have a text book of sorts: Edgar Allen Poe's tales featuring the detective C. Auguste Dupin. The women learn to think logically and look for clues. Eliza learns to observe people, especially men, knowing that at times her ability to predict their actions might save her life.

Jane Smiley's writing is smooth and flowing. She evokes beautifully the time of the Gold Rush and the rough and tumble character of the village of Monterey. Her characters are interesting and likable. I particularly enjoyed her depiction of prostitution as just another job to go to then come home and get some rest. A Dangerous Business is more of a historical novel than an action-packed noir detective book, but, as always with Smiley, I enjoyed reading it and watching Eliza's character develop.

Suanne Schafer, Reviewer

Susan Bethany's Bookshelf

Queen of Thieves
Beezy Marsh
Orion Dash
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
Blackstone Audiobooks
9781398708938, $17.99, pbk

Synopsis: Alice Diamond, the Queen of the Forty Thieves, rules over her gang of hoisters with a bejewelled fist. Nell is a slum girl from Waterloo, hiding a secret pregnancy and facing a desperately uncertain future.

Sensing an opportunity to exploit Nell's vulnerabilities, Alice takes her under her wing and, before long, Nell is experiencing the secret world of hoisting, with all the dangers (and glamorous trappings) that comes with this underworld existence.

Alice has a longstanding feud with Billy Sullivan's all-male gang in Soho, and thinks Nell could be a useful weapon in her vendetta. But Nell has a secret agenda of her own, and is not to be underestimated. And the more she is exploited by both Alice and Billy, the more her hunger for revenge grows. As she embraces the seedy underbelly of London, will she prevail in carving out her own path to power and riches -- and crowning herself the Queen of Thieves?

Critique: Set in 1946 London, "Queen of Thieves" by novelist Beezy Marsh will have a very special appeal to readers with an interest in historical crime fiction. Exceptionally well crafted with interesting characters and a deftly scripted narrative storytelling style, "Queen of Thieves" is especially recommended for community library Crime Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Queen of Thieves" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $12.99) and as a complete and unabridged audio book (Blackstone Audio, 9798212201278, $41.99, CD)

Editorial Note: Beezy Marsh ( is an accomplished novelist and an award-winning journalist who has written for The Daily Mail and the Sunday Times.

Discovering Her Worth
Verne R. Albright
Hellgate Press
9781954163515, $19.95, PB, 470pp

Synopsis: In the 1970s, Malina Yarza (the last living member of an aristocratic Peruvian family) inherits a business that's millions of dollars in debt. In her fifties, penniless and armed with only a finishing school education, she refuses to declare bankruptcy. Instead she sets out to save her family's reputation and discover her worth in a country that doesn't take women seriously.

Critique: "Discovering Her Worth: A Woman in a Man's World: A Tale That Will Make You Laugh, Cry, & Think" by novelist Verne R. Albright will have a very special appeal to readers that appreciate who in the words of the author is "a heroine who solves her problems with intelligence, integrity, competence, ingenuity and empathy". Original, erudite, compelling, populated with memorable characters and unexpected plot twists, "Discovering Her Worth" is unreserved recommended for community and academic library Contemporary Hispanic American Women Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Discovering Her Worth" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $5.99).

Editorial Note: Verne R. Albright ( is a master story teller and his novels are so well written that they have already begun appearing on Best-Seller Lists. It is interesting to note that he has lived adventures at least as exciting as the ones he writes about.

The Imperfect Nutritionist
Jennifer Medhurst
Kyle Books
c/o Octopus Publishing
236 Park Avenue, New York NY 10017
9781914239755, $29.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: Backed by medical science, with the publication of "The Imperfect Nutritionist: 7 Principles of Healthy Eating", registered nutritionist Jennifer Medhurst celebrates food first, rather than looking at it as points on a plate. Instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach and telling the reader what they can and cannot eat, it acknowledges the complexities and uniqueness of the body and offers a diet that you can tailor to your own individual needs.

Part One of "The Imperfect Nutritonist" outlines seven general principles that Jennifer believes underpins any healthy diet: Eat whole; Be diverse; Factor in fats; Include fermented foods; Reduce refined carbohydrates; Know your liquids; Eat mindfully.

Part Two of "The Imperfect Nutritionist" consists of a 2-week plan plus 100 recipes for dishes that you will actually want to cook and eat, using ingredients readily available at any local supermarket.

Critique: Beautifully illustrated with full color, ful page photographs of completed dishes, "The Imperfect Nutritionist: 7 Principles of Healthy Eating" is an informative, inspiring, and highly recommended compendium of palate-pleasing, appetite-satisfying, and health promoting recipes and instructions that are unreservedly recommended for personal, professional, and community library cookbook collections. It should be noted that "The Imperfect Nutritionist: 7 Principles of Healthy Eating" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $11.99).

Editorial Note: Her career in nutrition started almost accidently when Jennifer Medhurst ( was looking for solutions to health issues that had developed while completing her Law degree. After visiting a nutritionist, she was shocked at how quickly her symptoms eased. She discovered a new passion and set up a successful health food catering business and a blog to share her recipes. The increasing volume of conflicting information around diet and her desire to help others compelled Jennifer to pursue her knowledge further and formally train at the College for Naturopathic Medicine, where she completed a three-year Nutrition diploma with distinction. She can be followed on: Instagram: @jennifermedhurst and TikTok: @theimperfectnutritionist

Susan Bethany

Willis Buhle's Bookshelf

Fists Raised: 10 Stories of Sports Star Activists
Karim Nedjari, author
Chloe Celerien, illustrator
NBM Publishing
160 Broadway, Ste. 700, East Wing, New York, NY 10038
9781681123035, $26.99, HC, 192pp

Synopsis: What does Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, have in common with Megan Rapinoe, the badass pink-haired female soccer player? They both achieved perfection in their chosen sport, won medals, and lived the glory. But it is above all their raised fists, when, at a time of their envied existence, they dared to sacrifice their privileges to defend a cause greater than their status of adulated champion.

Rich in authentic anecdotes, "Fists Raised: 10 Stories of Sports Star Activists" tells the fate of professional athletes who paved the way in defended and promoting social/cultural/political reforms. Women and men who have written the political, social or cultural history of sport by taking a stand. "Fists Raised" when sports collides with social activism!

Critique: Laid out in a graphic novel style format by author/storyteller Karim Nedjari and artist/illustrator Chloe Celerien, "Fists Raised: 10 Stories of Sports Star Activists" is an informative, entertaining, and inspiring read from beginning to end. While strongly recommended for highschool, community, and academic library Sports History, Sports Biography, and Sports Sociology collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fists Raised: 10 Stories of Sports Star Activists" is also available in a digital book format (Kindle, $14.99).

Editorial Note #1: Passionate about sports, Karim Nedjari is a prominent French sports journalist with a career in major newspapers and sports media. He is now CEO of RMC (Radio Monte Carlo) and RMC Sport, major broadcast channels,

Editorial Note #2: Chloe Celerien grew up in Valence, France, following the exploits of Valence Sportif in the 90s, as her father coached for the club at the time. She studied in Grenoble, then worked for 13 years in Paris.

Willis M. Buhle

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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