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Adventure Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin

With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the “Golden Age” of piracy in the Americas.

Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracy’s “Golden Age”―spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s―when lawless pirates plied the coastal waters of North America and beyond. Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin illustrates how American colonists at first supported these outrageous pirates in an early display of solidarity against the Crown, and then violently opposed them.

Through engrossing episodes of roguish glamour and extreme brutality, Dolin depicts the star pirates of this period, among them towering Blackbeard, ill-fated Captain Kidd, and sadistic Edward Low, who delighted in torturing his prey.

Also brilliantly detailed are the pirates’ manifold enemies, including colonial governor John Winthrop, evangelist Cotton Mather, and young Benjamin Franklin. Upending popular misconceptions and cartoonish stereotypes, Dolin provides this wholly original account of the seafaring outlaws whose raids reflect the precarious nature of American colonial life.

Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious PiratesBlack Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by Paul Brion who was excellent. He was easy to listen to, being well-paced and unstrained, which was perfect for this book. I did miss the illustrations in the physical copy unfortunately, but I felt like the audio version was way to go for informationally dense, topically focused subject matter.

It followed pirate chronicles, mostly those sailing around the Caribbean during the 17th and 18th century, covering a vast amount of interesting material from their goals and accomplishments, the pursuits, intention, tactic and missions, flag identification, penalties, colonization, the weaponry, and even clothing, busting the myths and telling the truths of widely known events and biographical detail.

I liked how it was organized that being both chronological and topical as to not double back over certain points and being easy to follow, keeping the story going in a direction where there was focused story building and climax unique to most nonfiction books.

I also liked the outlook the author brought into the history, taking speculation and known facts into context for the time, even when it came to brutality and forms of entertainment as understood by the people living it whether observer or participant.

I’d highly recommend this well-researched book for anyone interested in a general overview of pirate life as a whole or for anyone wanting to gain insight into a specific pirate, time, or place and build from there.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

The Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary

‘Two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets. The rich and the poor.’ – Benjamin Disraeli

Today we are aware of the habits, thoughts and feelings of the rich, because historians write about them endlessly. The poor are largely ignored and, as a result, their contributions to our modern world are forgotten.

Here, skilled raconteur TERRY DEARY takes us back through the centuries with a poignant but humorous look at how life treated the ordinary people who scratched out a living at the very bottom of society. Born into poverty, their world was one of foul food, terrible toilets, danger, disease and death – the last usually premature.

Wryly told tales of deprivation, exploitation, sickness, mortality, warfare and religious oppression all fill these pages. Discover the story of the teacher turned child-catcher who rounded up local waifs and strays before putting them to work. Read all about the agricultural workers who escaped the clutches of the Black Death only to be thwarted by lordly landowners. Follow as hundreds of children descend into the inky depths of hazardous coal mines.

On the flip side of this darkness, discover how cash-strapped citizens used animal droppings for house building, how sparrow’s brains were incorporated into aphrodisiacal brews, and how extra money was made by mixing tea with dried elder leaves. Courtship, marriage, sport, entertainment, education and, occasionally, achievement briefly illuminated the drudgery; these were the milestones that brought meaning to ordinary lives.

The oppressed and disempowered have lived on the very outskirts of recorded history, suffering, sacrificing and struggling to survive. The greatest insult is that they are forgotten; buried often with no gravestone to mark their passing and no history book to celebrate their efforts. Until now. The Peasants’ Revolting Lives explores and celebrates the lives of those who endured against the odds. From medieval miseries to the idiosyncrasies of being a twenty-first-century peasant, tragedy and comedy sit side by side in these tales of survival and endurance in the face of hardship.

The Peasants' Revolting LivesThe Peasants’ Revolting Lives by Terry Deary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Pen & Sword for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This book was fascinating! I’d recommend it to anyone. After reading this book I feel especially well prepared for a night of trivia. It was incredibly perceptive as it explored daily life and personal practices, living situations, origins of certain folklore, and social implications of peasantry, leading up to their revolt.

I loved the beginning question about choosing to live in any time in history and the answers that followed.

In referencing the Golden Age, comparing its perils to today, it was an enlightening exploration of how the impoverished experienced a certain way of life that only illuminated today’s strides in addressing social injustice, occupational hazards, sanitation, animal cruelty, entertainment, death, marriage, childbirth, child labor, legislation, literacy, technology, educational systems, captivity, and even sports.

Occupations themselves, such as matchstick girls, stood out to be one of the most shocking to me as far as risk for safety is concerned especially because of how far we have come in this world. It really gave a lot of perspective, respect, and value to our advancement in civilization.

The writing style was upfront clear and honest which I liked and further emphasized the very matter of fact tone and subject matter. The content showed a stark contrast as far as how humanity and social norms in general have come, which also lended itself to some humor since some of the concepts back in the day were quite absurd. There were bits of personal interjections that were lighthearted and confirming to my feelings which made this an amusing book to read.

I won’t comment too much on the writing in more detail or the organization itself because I did receive an ARC that was more in somewhat of an outline form than a final, cohesive piece. I do think from that standpoint the final form will likely be supportive enough to deliver such great content.

The quotes from historical figures and summarizations of points in time brought so much enrichment and credibility. References to classic literature, various philosophers, and playwrights such as Shakespeare was incredibly satisfying to me.

I think that each topic could also be expanded to provide further historical context and rationales of the time in a series type form, so I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

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ARCs Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction

Earth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray Whale by Ted Williams

From winter candy and spring quackers to summer’s scarlet farewell and autumn reveilles, noted nature writer Ted Williams invites readers along on a year-long immersion in the wild and fleeting moments of the natural world. This beautifully crafted collection of short, seasonal essays combines in-depth information with evocative descriptions of nature’s marvels and mysteries.

Williams explains the weather conditions that bring out the brightest reds in autumn leaves, how hungry wolf spiders catch their prey, and why American goldfinches wait until late July or August to build their nests.

In the tradition of Thoreau, Carson, and Leopold, Ted Williams’s writing stands as a testament to the delicate balance of nature’s resilience and fragility, and inspires readers to experience the natural world for themselves and to become advocates for protecting and preserving the amazing diversity and activity found there.

Earth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray WhaleEarth Almanac: A Year of Witnessing the Wild, from the Call of the Loon to the Journey of the Gray Whale by Ted Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Storey Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This was such a relaxing read that gave me a sort of feeling of gratitude and peace. I’d recommend it to anyone, especially nature lovers and anyone looking to unwind and learn a bit about plants, insects, and animals in the process.

The cover and title drew me in, piquing my interest by bringing back memories of reading the Farmer’s Almanac on my grandparents coffee table. I loved learning about the life cycle of species and their contribution to the circle of life, even folklore, superstitions, the rationales behind them, and it was all well-suited to bring such awesome wonder contained in this book.

The writing was steady, poetic at times. It read like I was a nature observer on the ideal expedition where time was not pressed, allowing me to take it all in. With the organizational divide into seasons, the descriptions of critters, plant life, and their habitats allowed the content to really highlight the most interesting and sometimes humorous attributes that made each one stand out in the environment.

And I really appreciated that the author did not dwell on perilous, doomsday, global warming issues, but rather pointed out species that have since dwindled in number and celebrated ones that have made a comeback.

Loved the delicate sketches. I would have loved even more, even just simple schematics.

I would like to see another one like this, even a series, perhaps specific to region.

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The Warship Tyger: The Master Shipwright’s Secrets Behind a Restoration Warship by Richard Endsor

A magnificent illustrated history of HMS Tyger, a fourth-rate ship of the Navy of Charles II.

Inspired by the recent discovery of mathematically calculated digital plans for a fourth-rate ship, written by the Deptford master shipwright, John Shish, The Warship Tyger is an illustrated history of the HMS Tyger, one of the smaller warships of the Restoration period.

Tyger was originally built in the middle of the 17th century and served in the Anglo-Dutch Wars. It was sent to Deptford for rebuilding at the end of the wars in 1674, but the ship was left to deteriorate over the next few years and ended up as a sunken wreck at the bottom of the great double dock. Eventually, the yard officers at Deptford wrote that there was “no such thing as the Tyger” and wanted to pay off the last warrant officers belonging to her. However, King Charles II decided otherwise and kept her on the books to eventually reappear as a “rebuilt” but in fact, entirely new ship in 1681.

This book is replete with beautiful and detailed illustrations of the construction of the Tyger and explores both its complicated history and its complex rebuilding, complete with deck plans, internal sections, and large scale external shaded drawings. The title also explores associated ships including another fourth-rate ship, the Mordaunt, which was purchased into the navy and had a dimensional survey made of her at the time by John Shish. A rare contemporary section drawing of another fourth-rate English ship and constructional drawings of Shish’s later fourth-rate ship, St Albans are also included.

The Warship Tyger: The master shipwright's secrets behind a Restoration warshipThe Warship Tyger: The master shipwright’s secrets behind a Restoration warship by Richard Endsor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Osprey Publishing for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

This book was outstanding both in content and narrative! I love anything maritime so this one was like candy for me.

It was filled with interesting details of ship building, particularly centered around those built in the 1600s, portraying the star of the show, Tyger.

The ins and outs of what it took to acquire materials, calculate, design, and build a ship that was seaworthy at that time was just incredible.

Woven into the organizational and technical feats were personal diary entries, old documents with their characteristically fine penmanship of elegant swoops of Ws, Ys, and Cs, inventory lists, maps, and beautiful illustrations showing ornate designs such as cherubim and lion faces carved at the bow. The pictures were pretty to look at and the addition of people characters to show scale was a nice touch and I liked that the illustrative style was consistent with the paintings of the day.

I really appreciated the extensive research put into this, it was super comprehensive!

This book would make a great study reference and conversational piece as both a coffee table book and for any private or public library.

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Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins by Ariane Thomas, Timothy Potts

Mesopotamia, in modern-day Iraq, was home to the remarkable ancient civilizations of Sumer, Akkad, Babylonia, and Assyria. From the rise of the first cities around 3500 BCE, through the mighty empires of Nineveh and Babylon, to the demise of its native culture around 100 CE, Mesopotamia produced some of the most powerful and captivating art of antiquity and led the world in astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences—a legacy that lives on today.

Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins presents a rich panorama of ancient Mesopotamia’s history, from its earliest prehistoric cultures to its conquest by Alexander the Great in 331 BCE. This catalogue records the beauty and variety of the objects on display, on loan from the Louvre’s unparalleled collection of ancient Near Eastern antiquities: cylinder seals, monumental sculptures, cuneiform tablets, jewelry, glazed bricks, paintings, figurines, and more. Essays by international experts explore a range of topics, from the earliest French excavations to Mesopotamia’s economy, religion, cities, cuneiform writing, rulers, and history—as well as its enduring presence in the contemporary imagination.

This volume is published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa March 18 to July 27, 2020.

Mesopotamia: Civilization BeginsMesopotamia: Civilization Begins by Ariane Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Getty Publications for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program.

Fascinating! This book captured the fascinating work, with all the exciting elements of discovery adventure of many of the world’s firsts in both documentation of earliest civilization and supportive artifacts.

I think most people would say that they have wanted to be an archeologist or paleontologist at one point in their childhood and the discovery of Mesopotamia is ultimate. As an adult I get a bit of that recurring excitement when gardening, wondering what I will dig up, year after year. Wondering what it would be like to happen upon evidence of a lost civilization, to find buried treasure, pottery, dinosaur bones. This book took me there.

I love how it was organized, opening up with beautiful geographical maps, followed by timelines of settlement and people group chronology. More history books should model this just to set the stage for easing the reader in.

It felt like I was stepping into a museum. Everything was well-curated and flowed in ways that made sense with respect to both the timeline and subject matter. Occasionally some of the writing was a little bit dry, but I didn’t mind too much. I don’t know much about the behind the scenes/interworking of museums and how artifacts gets acquired and curated. So when this book covered how items have been strategically placed to form full-fledged museums and as featured pieces in others, I felt my interest becoming much more immersive into this type of content as I read on.

The catalogue of exhibitions and mentions of modern and futuristic contributions such as 3-D printing at the end of the book was stellar. I will look forward to visiting the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa and this will make a great conversational/coffee table book!

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Art Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists by Gregory Curtis

In his new book, Gregory Curtis introduces us to the spectacular cave paintings of France and Spain—to the men and women who rediscovered them, to the varied theories about their origins, to their remarkable beauty and their continuing fascination.

The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World's First ArtistsThe Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists by Gregory Curtis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book featured everything from the first excavations of the first expressions of art through paint as we know them. It included how people of the past depicted the celebrations of everyday life and culture as well as dispelling errors in perception, interpretation, and preservation.

I learned an incredible amount from the book and it was consistently intriguing. I feel I can appreciate art with a much more greater understanding as to how the paintings were accomplished with hard work and respect and perceive art in more depth in a more general way as well.

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Book Reviews Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great by Ben Shapiro

America has a God-shaped hole in its heart, argues New York Times bestselling author Ben Shapiro, and we shouldn’t fill it with politics and hate.

In 2016, Ben Shapiro spoke at UC Berkeley. Hundreds of police officers were required from 10 UC campuses across the state to protect his speech, which was — ironically — about the necessity for free speech and rational debate.

He came to argue that Western Civilization is in the midst of a crisis of purpose and ideas. Our freedoms are built upon the twin notions that every human being is made in God’s image and that human beings were created with reason capable of exploring God’s world.

We can thank these values for the birth of science, the dream of progress, human rights, prosperity, peace, and artistic beauty. Jerusalem and Athens built America, ended slavery, defeated the Nazis and the Communists, lifted billions from poverty and gave billions spiritual purpose. Jerusalem and Athens were the foundations of the Magna Carta and the Treaty of Westphalia; they were the foundations of Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.

Civilizations that rejected Jerusalem and Athens have collapsed into dust. The USSR rejected Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, substituting a new utopian vision of “social justice” – and they starved and slaughtered tens of millions of human beings. The Nazis rejected Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, and they shoved children into gas chambers. Venezuela rejects Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, and citizens of their oil-rich nation have been reduced to eating dogs.

We are in the process of abandoning Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law, favoring instead moral subjectivism and the rule of passion. And we are watching our civilization collapse into age-old tribalism, individualistic hedonism, and moral subjectivism. We believe we can reject Judeo-Christian values and Greek natural law and satisfy ourselves with intersectionality, or scientific materialism, or progressive politics, or authoritarian governance, or nationalistic solidarity.

We can’t.

The West is special, and in The Right Side of History, Ben Shapiro bravely explains that it’s because too many of us have lost sight of the moral purpose that drives us each to be better, or the sacred duty to work together for the greater good, or both. A stark warning, and a call to spiritual arms, this book may be the first step in getting our civilization back on track.

The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West GreatThe Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great by Ben Shapiro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was an insightful, thought-provoking read that I think readers will gain something from no matter where they land on the social, religious, or political spectrum.

I ended converting to the audiobook version which is narrated by the author, Ben Shapiro, himself, which I’d highly recommend as it made all the difference in getting into the author’s head, whether it was the objectives in the writing or the subject matter itself.

I’d recommend it to anyone and I think high school and college students in particular will find great value in exploring the topics explored in the book in preparation for topics discussed in ethics, philosophy, political, and religious study courses.

I will say that it took me a bit to get into the rhythm of the book. Largely because I was not invested into the style of writing at first, especially since it had a mix of data-driven research and personal commentary. It was the audiobook version that really helped to make it more of a conversational piece with more clear objectives, personal interpretation, relatability, and more easily distinguished perception/personal application versus data-driven research.

Sometimes it came off as an almost moralizing tone at times coupled with a teetering on a semi-comprehensive 8th grade book report, not that there is anything wrong with writing a book using either approach, but I just wasn’t sure as a reader whether I should expect every sentence to be cited with original research (and cross-check each source as per my norm) or whether I wanted deeper, more personalized, experience-based stories much like the telling of the UC Berkley story and his relationship with his family, or a book strictly exploring apologetics with a focus on reasoning, purpose, and being made in God’s image.

I found all of the content rather intriguing and ended up quite enjoying the author’s ability to integrate it all into one book. There was a lot to unpack and the author did an excellent job communicating the important message. I imagine it difficult to write, organize, and edit a book of such scale and nature that appeals to such a wide audience in just less than 300 pages. Some parts were more generalized where I thought there would be more detail, but others were belabored where I thought there would be less. It was well-researched nonetheless. I appreciated the in-depth review of certain key historical events and figures as well as the “hit the ground running” approach in others.

I think it would serve as an excellent book club discussion as it explores the early social and moral construct of civilization, how it has unfolded, what it means today, and how it will serve and look like in our future. There was a lot of ground covered in this book and it continues to affirm and linger with me, which is what good books do in my opinion.

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Book Reviews Cookbooks Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

American Cookery

This facsimile of the first American-written cookbook published in the United States is not only a first in cookbook literature, but a historic document. It reveals the rich variety of food Colonial Americans enjoyed, their tastes, cooking and eating habits, even their colorful language.

American CookeryAmerican Cookery by Amelia Simmons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The fact that this is a “facsimile of the first American-written cookbook published in the United States is not only a first in cookbook literature, but a historic document” says it all. It’s a small little booklet, but quite insightful, and I’d recommend it to anyone especially those who are collectors of cookbooks and like the looks of having antique items around the kitchen.

I originally found interest in this cookbooks through watching Townsends on YouTube And this particular copy features a hand stitched spine and printing on laid paper, a neat touch, really adding to the character consistent with the time frame in which it was initially published in.

The content of this cookbook was incredibly interesting and insightful. The measurements for the recipes were often in large quantity and some don’t appear to be in quite in perfect ratio for the end dish they were trying to achieve, but I did make a version of the apple cake which turned out to be delicious.

There are also references to meat and vegetable preparation as well as preservation methods.

All in all a cute little glimpse into 18th century cooking!

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Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie

Appeasement is a groundbreaking history of the disastrous years of indecision, failed diplomacy and parliamentary infighting that enabled Hitler’s domination of Europe. Drawing on deep archival research and sources not previously seen by historians, Tim Bouverie has created an unforgettable portrait of the ministers, dukes and debutantes who, through their actions and inaction, shaped their country’s policy and determined the fate of Europe.

Appeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to WarAppeasement: Chamberlain, Hitler, Churchill, and the Road to War by Tim Bouverie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Penguin Random House for providing me with an advance reader copy via access to the galley for free through the First to Read program.

This was an excellent book. I’d recommend it to anyone.

I really appreciated the author, Tim Bouverie’s ability to write about what I feel are lesser known or lesser written bodies of work expanding and knack for condensing perspectives about the avoidance of war and the certain rationales behind historical events leading up to and through WWII.

He brought interesting viewpoints and several players into the discussion with support using a writing style that was straightforward, not fussy, and didn’t dance around with the topics themselves, though as far as timeline, it did jump around a bit at the beginning which made it a little harder for me to follow what the references were at first because I was less familiar, but it wasn’t too distracting, and got better throughout the book.

I enjoyed the depth and thoroughness of the subject matter and was glad to have read this book for my own satisfaction to understand the dynamics of British politics and conflict of interest at the time. I would like to see another work from the counterpart, oppositional viewpoints.

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Adventure Audiobooks Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

“With its huge, scarred head halfway out of the water and its tail beating the ocean into a white-water wake more than forty feet across, the whale approached the ship at twice its original speed – at least six knots. With a tremendous cracking and splintering of oak, it struck the ship just beneath the anchor secured at the cat-head on the port bow…”

In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex – an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship EssexIn the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent book! I’d recommend it to anyone. I listened to the audiobook version which I’d also highly recommend.

The narrative, with historical fact building and adventure, everything about life in the open seas, island life, whaling and its tragedy, ethics, survival, the human condition, all centered around the whaleship Essex and all of it told with such wonderfully creative and engrossing prose.

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Columbine by Dave Cullen

“The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . ” So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.

ColumbineColumbine by Dave Cullen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book took me through so many emotions. Those who remember the tragedy unfolding first hand, as well as those less aware will find the events related to the shootings at Columbine High School to be well documented in this book.

The author, Dave Cullen, did an excellent job presenting the timeline of events through the lens of an observer as well as from the perspective of the two boys, the victims, the community, media, and law enforcement personnel. I can’t imagine the amount of time and research put into the collecting the testimonials and subject matter never mind deciding how to approach, organize, and give clear, unpersuaded perspective to the story. The writing elements were somewhat journalistic in style with a straightforward manner, yet incorporated real time language with unstructured, unfiltered prose. At the same time, the author managed to explore the complexities and depth of human thought, bringing forth reasoning and reconciliation to each viewpoint.

For myself, this book has more impact on me from a relational standpoint. Remembering exactly where I was at the time it happened (20 years ago now) with teachers at school relaying a carefully worded message, being let out of class early, continuing to watch the news at home, all the conflicting reports, so many conversations taking place, discussions about what-ifs, prevention strategies being thought out and put in the place, the possibility of copycats, everyone internalizing their own suspicion of students who wore black trench coats and those who had concerning emotional disturbances in my own school, they were really brought to the forefront of my mind as I read this book. The shock, the horrific imagery, the confusion, the questions, as it were unfolding again in real time. I did have to put it down for several days about half way through to allow myself to process it all.

I was really surprised at the myths that were dispelled and the amount of information that I was completely unaware of. From contradictory reports of what was happening as it took place, to significant discussion of nature vs nurture, they were all outlined in great detail.

I feel like reading this book brought some closure for me in some ways. I don’t think I realized my own grief and the impact on my life at the time. Certain aspects brought on a sense of high school nostalgia for me and it was met with deep compassion for those who suffered from the horror. I really appreciated the writer’s effort to bring honor to the victims and not glorify or sensationalize the evil acts.

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We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman

LONG-LISTED FOR THE CARNEGIE MEDAL

Reminiscent of the work of Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich, an astonishing collection of intimate wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians whose lives have been transformed by revolution, war, and flight.

Against the backdrop of the wave of demonstrations known as the Arab Spring, in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets demanding freedom, democracy and human rights. The government’s ferocious response, and the refusal of the demonstrators to back down, sparked a brutal civil war that over the past five years has escalated into the worst humanitarian catastrophe of our times.

Yet despite all the reporting, the video, and the wrenching photography, the stories of ordinary Syrians remain unheard, while the stories told about them have been distorted by broad brush dread and political expediency. This fierce and poignant collection changes that. Based on interviews with hundreds of displaced Syrians conducted over four years across the Middle East and Europe, We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled is a breathtaking mosaic of first-hand testimonials from the frontlines. Some of the testimonies are several pages long, eloquent narratives that could stand alone as short stories; others are only a few sentences, poetic and aphoristic. Together, they cohere into an unforgettable chronicle that is not only a testament to the power of storytelling but to the strength of those who face darkness with hope, courage, and moral conviction.

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from SyriaWe Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This books shares powerful testimonials of Syrian refugees and the tragedies they have faced. I think everyone should read it. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club.

The book largely presents a compilation of narratives about life in Syria as a refugee. I think the author did a fantastic job organizing and curating each story to give an overall picture of the horrific tragedies and conflicting circumstances that people have faced in Syria. It was incredibly heartbreaking to read about and each person so brave and strong for sharing.

The beginning paragraphs of the book took an informative, somewhat introspective approach to the conflict faced in Syria. Within the introduction, I did find some of the seemingly avoidant inclusion of religious and social ideology as part of a driving forces of oppositional groups interesting choices to note. It touched a bit on the topics later on in the book, but didn’t go into expanded detail. I found some of the translations of terms and phrases, such as “Allah akbar” or the use of ISIS as an organization instead of ISIS militants, ISIS fighters, or other variants to be an interesting approach by the author as well. I would have been interested in these additional details as I think it would have helped to convey the internal conflict that some of the people experienced.

The writing built upon a thought-provoking focus on the political motivation of forces and the emotional responses of the Syrian people which ended up being the overall theme in the rest of the writing. I really appreciated the extensive time and effort the author put into this book as well as the courage of the people who were willing to talk about their experiences and the compassion they had for others who would be willing to hear them.

I imagine trying to convey a complete picture of the historical context and meaning was probably difficult for the author to hone down in the beginning paragraphs, especially when it came to the overarching theme in supporting personal testimonials rather than depicting a complete account of the opposition’s biogeographical movement and underlying motivation.

This book will really bring perspective into your life and help you understand the oppression, hope, and endurance experienced by the Syrian refugees.

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