"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

AMERICAN CIVIL WARS: THE UNITED STATES, LATIN AMERICA, EUROPE and the CRISIS of the 1860s (audiobook) by Don H. Doyle

                  I tried. I really did.

Published in 2017 by Tantor Audio.
Read by Johnny Heller and Jo Anna Perrin.
Duration: 8 hours, 58 minutes.

Benito Juarez (1806-1872)
Unabridged.

The premise of this book is interesting. The idea is to place the American Civil War in the context of the currents of the politics of the larger world of the time in order to show how the war changed the politics of other areas (prime examples are the Dominican Republic and Mexico - both were invaded by European powers while the United States was unable to enforce the Monroe Doctrine) and how those outside political forces influenced the Civil War. One of the stated goals is that teachers read this book and try to bring these insights to their students in the classroom.

Don H. Doyle is the editor of this book. I think that it more accurate to say that he "collected" a series of essays by experts in non-American history that focused on how the Civil War affected their regions. I wish he had been a true editor because this book would have been much less repetitive. I estimate that 2 hours or more of judicial editing could be done to this 9 hour audiobook and do nothing but improve it. As I stated above, this book is supposedly aimed at the non-professional historian, but the writing is almost uniformly done in a dry academic style. The sentences are quite lengthy and hard to follow, especially in the audiobook format. It's not like I am unfamiliar with the topic - this is my 101st review of a Civil War-related book since 2001 and I read many more  before I started reviewing regularly. And, it's not like I am not used to audiobooks - this is 458th audiobook review.

The readers were also an issue. There are two. The first is Johnny Heller. I am literally a big fan of Johnny Heller as an audiobook reader, but he was completely miscast when he was hired to read this book. Audiobook readers are essentially actors performing the book. Heller reads very quickly, which is not usually a problem. But, with the length of these sentences (you can hear the semi-colons and parenthetical insertions), it was hard to keep track of what he was saying sometimes. To solve this, I was forced to re-set my phone's playback to 80% of the normal speed.

Jo Anna Perrin's readings, though, were worse. Robotic is the best description. It is full of strange pauses that remind me of a caricature of William Shatner at his worst. I assumed that she was a friend of the editor who persuaded him that she should read half of this audiobook. I was very surprised to see that she reads a lot of audiobooks. Hopefully, this is not her typical work. Oh, and yes, I did re-set my phone to play at normal speed.

I tried to finish it. I made it 6 hours and 58 minutes and then started listening to an essay that was literally covering the same ground as the previous one and just couldn't do it any longer. I literally have no problem with the research that went into the book or the conclusions of the authors. My problem in entirely in the presentation of the facts. I am reminded of this quote: 
"No harm's done to history by making it something someone would want to read." - David McCullough.

I rate this audibook 1 star out of 5. This book can be found on Amazon.com here: 
AMERICAN CIVIL WARS: THE UNITED STATES, LATIN AMERICA, EUROPE and the CRISIS of the 1860s by Don H. Doyle.

Monday, July 30, 2018

ONE SUMMER: AMERICA, 1927 (audiobook) by Bill Bryson



Published by Random House Audio in 2013.
Read by the author, Bill Bryson.
Duration: 17 hours, 3 minutes.

Unabridged.


Boxing champ Jack Dempsey (1895-1983)
Bill Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927 is an immensely interesting book, as would any book that featured Charles Lindbergh, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Sacco and Vanzetti, Jack Dempsey, Gutzon Borglum, Charles Ponzi, Al Capone, Al Jolson, Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Henry Ford, several Hollywood stars and more.

The book starts out with the story of Charles Lindbergh and the other flyers that were attempting to cross the Atlantic in a non-stop flight to claim the $25,000 Orteig Prize.

Bryson moves on to tell the stories of the other people I named above - often cleverly lacing them together with the story of Charles Lindbergh. We learn about baseball, boxing, Hollywood (there's a hilarious story about Jack Dempsey with a starlet), the beginnings of "talkies" and the movie palaces, the rise of radio networks, the first experiments with television, the beginnings of America's fascination with the automobile, Prohibition and Al Capone's brief career. There were a lot of bombings in the 1920's and Sacco and Vanzetti may have participated in some of them.

About those bombings - I have a theory that certain horrific crimes become "trendy" - they become the thing to do when you want to make some sort of "statement." School shootings are that statement nowadays. In the late 1980's and early 1990's there were a rash of workplace shootings by postal workers, thus the term "going postal." In the 1920's it was bombings. Some were politically motivated, some were motivated by family stresses, such as the worst school piece of school violence ever - the Bath Township elementary school bombing in 1927.

As he tells the story of the summer of 1927, the reader realizes that America was being introduced to a lot of new things in the 1920's that are a normal part of everyday life in modern America such as consumer culture (paying by way of installment plans was a new concept), big time sports, radio networks (paving the way for TV and other media networks), presidential trips and even gang violence over banned drugs (in this case it was alcohol, but the same lessons apply with other drugs nowadays).

Bryson is not fond of any of the Presidents in the 1920's and he justifies that disdain pretty well. Herbert Hoover comes off as a first-rate pompous self-promoter, even if he was very effective at feeding millions of people after World War I. Calvin Coolidge was treated a little too roughly, in my opinion. The more I hear about Warren G. Harding, the more I am amazed at his staggering incompetence and crudity.

The audiobook was read by the author. I warmed up to his reading style after an hour or so, mostly because I kept trying to place his accent. Bryson grew up in Iowa but has lived most of his adult life in the U.K. This has left him with an ambiguous accent not unlike that of Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn.

This was one of my favorite books of the summer and I heartily recommend it.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: One Summer: America, 1927


Monday, July 23, 2018

LANDS of LOST BORDERS: A JOURNEY on the SILK ROAD by Kate Harris



To be released on August 21, 2018 in the United States by Dey Street Books.

Kate Harris and her childhood friend Mel decided to go on a bicycle adventure that approximates Marco Polo's trip along the Silk Road from Turkey to China. This is not a trip taken on a whim. Harris has read about explorers and dreamed about being an explorer all of her life. She's a scientist by training but she can't stand to be in a lab - she has to get out and see the world.

Actually, she started out wanting to go to Mars and actually went so far as to participate in a Mars simulation complete with spacesuits out in the Utah desert.  The simulation told her one important thing - being in a space suit denied her the tactile experience of exploration such as the wind in your hair and the smells.

So, rather than Mars, she decides to go to one of the most remote areas of the world, for a couple of Canadians - Central Asia. It has vast deserts, literally the tallest mountains in the world and arcane bureaucracies that sometimes make it about as challenging as a trip to Mars.





Kate Harris is a talented writer and her descriptions of her trip are a joy to read. The people, the weather, the animals, the troubles getting permission to cross one border after another - especially the troubles with the border into China-controlled Tibet.  The real fun, though, is with little details that she pops into the story that made me want to go tell my family all about them such as the fact that there is a word in Georgia that says, "I accidentally ate the whole thing." 

My favorite, though, took place in Tajikistan. A family let them stay the night in their home rather than camp out. The mother fed them dinner and insisted that she share cell phone numbers with Kate and Mel even though the woman lived in a cell phone dead zone and they didn't understand a word the other said. But, she just couldn't let those two women head off down the road without a friend to call on. It was sweet and a very human moment.

This was a fantastic read and I rate it an enthusiastic 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: LANDS of LOST BORDERS: A JOURNEY on the SILK ROAD by Kate Harris.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

THE INFLUENTIAL MIND: WHAT the BRAIN REVEALS ABOUT OUR POWER to CHANGE OTHERS (audiobook) by Tali Sharot



Published by Macmillan Audio in 2017.
Read by Xe Sands.
Duration: 5 hours, 24 minutes.
Unabridged.

The author.
Tali Sharot has written an interesting little book about our brains and the way they work. Clearly, she is an expert with a PhD in psychology and neuroscience, but she has that rare talent of being able to make the complicated seem pretty basic using real life examples.

If you've ever had an online argument, you know the frustration of doing research to show your opponent that they are clearly wrong, only to have them completely ignore the facts. I recently had this experience with a friend that posted a story about a single truck stop in a nationwide chain that had stopped flying the American flag. The "reporter" asked a cashier why the flag was not out and he said it was because they didn't want to offend drivers from Mexico. Boom! Big story, right? It turns out that their oversized flag pole's mechanism for raising and lowering the flag was broken and it was going to be fixed soon - not a conspiracy to insult America. I linked two articles about the true story behind the flag and still people continued to pile on about immigrants and crappy un-patriotic American companies even though it clearly wasn't even a real story.

What was that all about? Sharot starts with this phenomenon - it's called confirmation bias. Everyone tends to see the facts of any situation in such a way that they confirm what they already know. We make fun of conspiracy theorists for this (the fact that we don't have more proof that we faked the moon landings just shows how good the conspirators are at covering it up, right?!?!). However, it turns out we all do this with all kinds of less obviously conspiratorial matters.


For me, the most interesting thing was "the power of agency". In short, if the other person feels like they are participating in some way, you can influence them.  We are hard-wired to like choices and to feel like we are needed. Sharot refers to a study that involved nursing home residents who were given a plant to take care of - a plant that depended on the resident because there was no way that the staff had time to water it or make sure it sat in the sun (not true, of course). Those residents did much better because they had something depending on them. We need choice and we need to be needed - two important thing to remember in life.

This is the first audiobook that I have listened to that was read by Xe Sands. This is weird because she is a prolific audiobook reader and I am a prolific audiobook reviewer (this is my 456th audiobook review). Also, I am online "friends" with audiobook reviewers that know her. Because of that very loose connection I always note her name when I read reviews or look through audiobooks. She sounded exactly like a confident PhD in psychology and neuroscience making a particularly well-done presentation to a group of laypeople in an extended TED Talk. I finally get to hear Xe Sands in action and she nailed it.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: 
THE INFLUENTIAL MIND: WHAT the BRAIN REVEALS ABOUT OUR POWER to CHANGE OTHERS by Tali Sharot.

Monday, July 16, 2018

ALL the DREAMS WE'VE DREAMED: A STORY of HOOPS and HANDGUNS on CHICAGO'S WEST SIDE (audiobook) by Rus Bradburd



Published in 2018 by Blackstone Audio.
Read by Donald Corren.
Duration: 8 hours, 38 minutes.
Unabridged.

Rus Bradburd's All the Dreams We've Dreamed is both a complicated story and a simple story of two Chicago men whose lives have revolved around the game of basketball. It's a story of a coach and a player. It's a story of connections between people and also a story of bureaucratic neglect. It's a story of remorse and shame and a story of pride of place and love for one's teammates and players. It's a story of love and a story of catastrophic violence. Mostly, because it is set in the free fire gun zone of Chicago's West Side, it is a tragedy.

The book centers on Marshall High School and its basketball program. Perhaps you have heard about the wave of gun violence that has swept through Chicago's South and West sides, earning it the nickname "Chi-raq" because it is reminiscent of Iraq during the bad old days of The Surge at the end of the Bush Administration. Marshall lies in that violent zone.

Marshall is an old school, well over 100 years old. It prides itself on being a family and its basketball programs, even with declining enrollments. Shawn Harrington exemplifies that sense of family. He is a graduate of the school, he went away for school and came back with his degree to be an aide in the special education department and to help with the boys basketball team. By all accounts, he was great at both things. He connected with his students and his players and went above and beyond for them because he believed in the power of the "Marshall Family".

Until one fateful day when Shawn Harrington was shot in a case of mistaken identity - another casualty in the ongoing tragedy. He leaned across the body of his daughter to protect her and in the process was shot in the back and left paralyzed.

This is where the author, Rus Bradburd comes in. Years before, Bradburd was an assistant basketball coach at New Mexico State University but he used to scout high school teams in Chicago. He recruited Harrington to play at New Mexico State and Harrington was successful - until he had a knee injury. Bradburd agreed to cut Harrington from the program - something he is not proud of. But, Harrington went to a smaller school, played ball and, most importantly, graduated.

Nevertheless, Bradburd felt bad about the way Harrington left New Mexico State and saw this as an opportunity to do the right thing and make amends. He began to call, to write, to cajole and talk to anyone about Shawn and his amazing spirit and his desire to continue his work with the kids at Marshall. Ironically, he couldn't continue as a special education aide because Marshall was not retrofitted with an elevator or ramps to get to the upper floors - a basic requirement of the Americans with Disability Act. No one at Chicago Public Schools sees this oversight as a problem so Harrington is left to fend for himself and maybe figure out what else he can do.

Harrington gets stuck in the bureaucratic maze of the Chicago Public Schools and the healthcare system (how do you get physical therapy that you need to go back to work when you have no money to pay for it because you don't have a job because you need to get to the physical therapy so you can go back to work?) and Bradburd does what he can to help. He bothers so many writers to write about Harrington that eventually one of them tells him to write the story himself - the genesis of this book.

But, the book becomes more than just Harrington's story. Harrington is not an isolated case in a city that had more than 4,000 shooting victims in 2016. That violence strikes Marshall again and again. Bradburd tells the stories of other players who were struck down. Over and over the mantra is for young people to get out of Chicago so they can have a chance. Harrington left - but he came back to help his Marshall Family and he paid the price.

Ultimately, the book is a tragedy. You know that the bureaucracy will eventually close Marshall. You know that the violence will continue. But, there is comfort knowing that good men like Shawn Harrington are out there, providing a powerful example and refusing to give up. And, if they can bring in enough friends like Rus Bradburd, maybe...

I was struck by this audiobook because I teach in an urban high school in Indianapolis. While our situation is not nearly as bad as Chicago's, we have our moments. For example, a year ago a former student of mine was paralyzed by a bullet shot at another student from my school. It is very common for my students to wear R.I.P. t-shirts with a picture of a young person who was killed. I think Bradburd did a solid job of describing how these neighborhoods have been weakened and how the charter school movement and foolish decisions by the Chicago Public Schools helped. It's not a pretty picture.

The audiobook was read by Donald Corren. He did a great job and I plowed through this audiobook in just four days. It was an excellent book and I rate it 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: ALL the DREAMS WE'VE DREAMED: A STORY of HOOPS and HANDGUNS on CHICAGO'S WEST SIDE by Rus Bradburd.

Please check out this book as well: 
AN AMERICAN SUMMER: LOVE and DEATH in CHICAGO by Alex Kotlowitz.

Friday, July 13, 2018

ONE SHOT (A Jack Reacher Novel) (audiobook) by Lee Child



Published by Brilliance Audio in 2005.
Read by Dick Hill.
Duration: 14 hours, 37 minutes.
Unabridged.

Lee Child
Technically, this is the ninth Jack Reacher book that Lee Child has published, but since Lee Child doesn't write the books "in order" there are two broad time periods that Jack Reacher novels occur in: 1) In the Army, 2) post-Army. This is post-army book. It is also the book that inspired the first Tom Cruise Jack Reacher movie, but if you have seen the movie you can read this book and have an entirely different experience. It inspired the movie, the movie didn't follow it too closely.

Reacher doesn't appear for the first hour and ten minutes of this audiobook. Instead, the readers are witness to a mass shooting in southern Indiana that draws Reacher from Florida because he knew the accused shooter in the Army. Once he arrives, Reacher immediately knows that something off and finds himself in a rare moral quandary. But, Reacher figures out how to proceed once it becomes obvious that someone really wants him to leave Indiana...

I have often wondered when Jack Reacher was going to have an adventure in my native Hoosier state - he goes through it as he wanders America, but never seems to stop. I can't tell if Lee Child, a Brit, actually visited Indiana to research this book - he certainly picks on the presence of the limestone quarries that run through southwest Indiana throughout the book. My guess is that this book is set in Evansville or a fictional hybrid of Evansville, Vincennes and Bedford.

So, how is the story? It's a pretty good mystery that takes a hard surprise turn in the first third of the book and had this reader wondering how all of the little pieces clicked into place until the last few minutes of the audiobook. In that sense, it was a success. But, it moved fairly slowly. This audiobook is 14+ hours long. Editing out an hour would have helped it move along nicely.

Dick Hill read the audiobook. He is my all-time favorite audiobook reader and he is the reason that I quit reading this series as books and only listen to it as audiobooks.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. It can be found in multiple formats on Amazon.com here: One Shot (A Jack Reacher Novel) by Lee Child.



Monday, July 9, 2018

SPEED GIRL: JANET GUTHRIE and the RACE that CHANGED SPORTS FOREVER (kindle) by Stephen Talty



Published by Amazon Publishing in 2017.

Janet Guthrie becomes the first woman to qualify
for the Indy 500 in 1977.
Every racing fan has heard of Danica Patrick. She raced successfully for seven years in IndyCar, raced in 8 Indy 500s (with 6 top ten finishes) and 7 years in NASCAR (with less success). Long before Danica there was Janet Guthrie - a true pioneer in motorsports.

This short kindle book puts Guthrie's achievement in context in two ways. First, it details how truly startling it was to the drivers at the top levels of NASCAR and IndyCar for a woman to show up and try to add a little diversity to the field. Drivers that I always looked up to, like Richard Petty, said startlingly sexist comments about Guthrie.

The second way the book puts Guthrie's achievement in context is the more important one.  The author, Stephan Talty, describes how Guthrie worked her way up the ranks, tore apart engines, suspensions and body work and worked on her cars in her spare time as she gave up her personal life to go faster and faster in any car she could get her hands on. As a racing fan, this is the same story I have heard over and over again - which means she was what she always wanted to be - a racer. Not a fluke, not a curiosity - a racer.

I am a fan of the Indy 500. I've been to 32 straight Indy 500s and when I was 11 years old I got an autograph of Janet Guthrie in 1980 at a qualification day or practice for the Indy 500. Turns out that that was her last attempt to make the Indy 500 due to a lack of funding. Sponsors didn't know what to do with her and when there is no money, there is no car. There are times in a book like this that the truth is ugly, but it was good to read about the big names of yesteryear again, such as Foyt, Andretti and even Dick Simon.

The Kindle version of this book is enhanced with video built right into the page. It does little to advance the story, but it is fun. There is also an audiobook version of the book. They can be found on Amazon.com here: SPEED GIRL: JANET GUTHRIE and the RACE that CHANGED SPORTS FOREVER.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

THE DISAPPEARED (Joe Pickett #18) by C.J. Box



Published in 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Game Warden Joe Pickett and the new governor of Wyoming have a turbulent relationship at best. The previous governor used Joe as his own personal law enforcement officer from time-to-time. This wasn't because Joe was some sort of rogue cop - quite the opposite. He knew that Joe was a dogged investigator who had a talent for following clues where they led him - or at the very least stumbling around blind and stepping in the middle of the problem on accident. Sure, it had a real cost in damage to trucks (a tradition continued in this book), but Joe could be trusted to do the right thing.

The new governor found about Joe and has tried to use him to deal with political problems masked as law enforcement problems. Joe has refused and the new governor does not deal with rejection well.

However, this time there is a real-life law enforcement issue to deal with. A female British executive and media darling has disappeared after vacationing at a very high end dude ranch - the same ranch that employs Joe's oldest daughter as a wrangler (cowgirl guide for the rich and famous that want to experience a bit of cowboy life). The British executive checked out, drove away in her rental car and never arrived at the airport. She just vanished and the British press is having a field day. The fancy dude ranch is concerned that it will hurt their business and this has gotten the attention of the governor and his surly chief of staff.

So, Joe is off to investigate in the middle of winter and enters the very touristy world of dude ranches for the world's elite. But, there are other issues to deal with - the Governor's office is very impatient, Joe's daughter has a serious boyfriend at the ranch and Nate Romanowski is pestering him about eagles...

All Joe Pickett books are a worthy read for me - I've been reading them for eight years now, thanks to the recommendation in a comment left on one of my online reviews. Joe is like an old friend and this one is a tough read because Joe is off balance for the duration of the book. It is also not as satisfying a read because it is clearly part of a two-part series (or more). One set of problems are resolved only to stumble upon even more problems and I am not satisfied only because I want to know what is going to happen next (If you are a Marvel movie fan, you know the feeling - it's the one you had at the end of Infinity War).

So, I rate this one 4 stars out of 5 and it can be found on Amazon.com here: THE DISAPPEARED (Joe Pickett #18) by C.J. Box.

P.S. Watch out for Nate Romanowski and his fish!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

SH*TSHOW: THE COUNTRY'S COLLAPSING and the RATINGS ARE GREAT (audiobook) by Charlie LeDuff



Published by Penguin Audio in May of 2018.
Read by the author, Charlie LeDuff.
Duration: 7 hours, 21 minutes.
Unabridged.

Charlie LeDuff has done a lot of things, but mostly he's been a reporter. He's worked all over the place, he won a Pulitzer Prize in New York City but lately he's settled down in Detroit. He told his irreverent version of the collapse of Detroit in Detroit: An American Autopsy. He takes that same vision outside of Detroit and talks about the rest of the country and finds that Detroit may be a mess, but it's hardly unique.

In 2013, LeDuff was offered a job at Fox News travelling the country and taking a look at regular Americans and their struggles in a segment called The Americans. He jumped at it and went all over the place. He went to New York City to look into topless women in Times Square (it's legal). He went to both of the Bundy family standoffs and spent most of his time talking to the hangers on that joined the family. He looked into why car factories in the South are not voting to unionize and into the fast and loose situation at the border (you will never forget the Jet Skis on the Rio Grande).

He went back home to Detroit to tell about the mayor and how his friends caught cushy contracts to tear down abandoned homes and then didn't tear them down. He also looked at the Flint, Michigan water situation and explains it better than anyone else I have heard try to explain it.

He covered the GOP Presidential Debates in 2016, but he was pulled from that story because he refused to take it seriously. LeDuff called it in 2013 before anyone else - America is struggling and would not be in the mood for business as usual in 2016, explaining the rise of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

LeDuff's style is often that of an irreverent rant. He frequently adds in curse words to add some punch (as demonstrated by the title of this book), so if curse words are an issue for you, don't even think about reading this book. His storytelling style sometimes makes you wonder if he is off of his attention-deficit medication, what with the random interjections and the off-the-cuff remarks.

I have no idea if LeDuff votes Democrat or Republican but, as you listen, you realize that he has a larger point, no matter the topic and that point is that the little guy is getting the shaft over and over again while the guys at the top are helping each other get rich.

LeDuff's reading of his book was excellent. This book was so good that I wish it were twice as long and he had covered twice as many topics. LeDuff is always smart, always irreverent and always interesting.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5 and it can be found in multiple formats on Amazon.com here: SH*TSHOW: THE COUNTRY'S COLLAPSING and the RATINGS ARE GREAT  by Charlie LeDuff.


A SHORT HISTORY of the WORLD (audiobook) by Christopher Lascelles



Published by Tantor Audio in 2016.
Read by Guy Bethell.
Duration: 7 hours, 20 minutes.
Julius Caesar (100 B.C. to 44 B.C.)
Unabridged.

The entire history of the world is less than 7 and 1/2 hours? Yep, that's what Christopher Lascelles purports to offer in his A Short History of the World. He acknowledges that this is not a complete history - he never intended it to be. Instead, his aim is to connect some of the dots that the average reader may have picked up in history class, movies and History Channel documentaries (and hopefully spark a bit more interest).

Lascelles does succeed in hitting many of the high points and certainly does a better job at not being as Eurocentric as other short world histories have been, such as A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich. Lascelles spends quite a bit of time discussing China, Japan, India and Mongolia. All that being said, there are entire civilizations that are ignored or get nothing more than a passing nod. That is always the problem when writing a history of the world - what do you leave in? What do you leave out?

England gets a bit more of the limelight than it deserves, in my opinion. Not way out of proportion, but a bit. That is to be expected, thought, since the author is from London.

Really, the only complaint I have about the book is its size limits it - but that is the entire point of the book - it is a SHORT history after all.

Guy Bethell read the audiobook and he did a good job. I blew right through the audiobook in 2 days. It was put together in an interesting and logical way.

I rate this audiobook 5 stars out of 5 and it can be found in multiple formats on Amazon.com here: A SHORT HISTORY of the WORLD by Christopher Lascelles.

Friday, July 6, 2018

STRANGER: EL DESAFÍO de un INMIGRANTE LATINO en la ERA de TRUMP (en español) by Jorge Ramos



Published by Vintage Español in 2018.

If you are not a viewer of Univision, you may be unfamiliar with Jorge Ramos. He is a news anchor/reporter for the network. I knew Ramos for one reason - he was literally thrown out of a major press conference during the Iowa Caucus season for asking then-candidate Donald J. Trump too many pointed questions about the centerpiece of his campaign - the wall. 

Ramos (on the left with no tie) trying to ask then-Candidate Trump
a few tough questions during the Iowa press conference. 
Ramos was born and raised in Mexico City, but moved to America for additional journalistic training and in search of the opportunity to be more free in his journalistic practice. He kind of lucked into broadcast journalism but he has run with it and done quite well for himself. He has become an American citizen as well.

Ramos addresses the press conference story right away. It's not as dramatic as it looked on TV, because the future President did let him come back into the press conference and did a private interview with Ramos afterwards. This moment set a couple of precedents, however. Trump and the press have had a rocky relationship, to put it mildly. Also, Ramos brought up a great number of statistics to the candidate and he ignored the facts, preferring to go with his gut. 


Another precedent was set as well. While Ramos was cooling his heels outside of the press conference, a Trump supporter, complete with a red "Make America Great Again" hat, told Ramos: "Get out of my country!" Ramos informed him that he was an American citizen, only to be told: "Whatever!" For the first time in years, Ramos felt like he truly was a stranger in his adopted country, thus the title of the book.

Ramos builds on this last incident for a while, discussing how the President's behavior and commentary has emboldened many to act out, sensing a change in the political climate. He also discusses Civil Rights inequities for Hispanics, his own mostly positive experiences and how the current political climate is disorienting for a man that has lived more than half of his life in America and thought that he knew it well. Personally, I think he was living in a Blue State bubble, working out of Miami and New York City and California, but I live in a Red State that was one of the very first to be called for Mr. Trump on election night.

Ramos also talks about how he lives in two worlds - holding dual American and Mexican citizenship. He frequently covers Mexico for his network and spends entire days speaking only Spanish or only English. Most of his family is in Mexico, but his children were born and raised in the United States. Ramos also includes several essays that he has written for other publications on this theme. For those that think Ramos is only critical of President Trump and nothing else, he is just as critical of the (now) outgoing President of Mexico.

Ramos includes an extensive set of endnotes.


The edition I read was in Spanish. It's been a while since I read a book in Spanish, but Ramos writes in a clear style that I had no problem reading. There is an English translation of this book available as well.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5 and it can be found on Amazon.com here: STRANGER: EL DESAFÍO de un INMIGRANTE LATINO en la ERA de TRUMP (en español) by Jorge Ramos.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

THE MIDNIGHT LINE: A JACK REACHER NOVEL (audiobook) by Lee Child



Published by Random House Audio in 2017.
Read by Dick Hill.
Duration: 13 hours, 6 minutes.
Unabridged.

Jack Reacher is on the road again. Fans of the series know that Reacher just can't stay in one place too long so he is on a bus out of Chicago. The bus stops in a Wisconsin town for a "comfort stop" and Reacher decides to stretch his legs. He is window shopping in a pawn shop window and sees a woman's ring. It is a Class of 2005 West Point ring and he wonders how it ended up there. He is also a graduate of West Point (from 20+ years before that) and he knows that no one just gives up their ring.

Reacher lets the bus go on without him, buys the ring and starts backtracking how it ended up in the pawn shop. Right away, he develops a lot of resistance in the form of lies and eventually a serious attempt to drive him away. Of course, all of this makes Reacher even more determined to figure it out. Besides, what else does have to do...?

This is much more of a detective story than most Reacher books. Along the way, Reacher picks up an entourage of sorts. It is not unusual for him to pick up people along the way, but the vehicles get a bit crowded from time-to-time in this one. Some of the topics come straight from the headlines, others are a little more philosophical. I am rating it 5 stars, but really it's more of a 4.5 stars. It drags a bit about 80% into the book, right when everything starts to come together. But, everything before that is interesting and the ending is as well.

Dick Hill read this audiobook - he has read most of this series and he is great. There's a reason why he has won so many audiobook awards.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: THE MIDNIGHT LINE: A JACK REACHER NOVEL by Lee Child.