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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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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

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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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

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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Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

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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ARCs Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

A History of Cadbury by Diane Wordsworth

When John Cadbury came to Birmingham in 1824, he sold tea, coffee and drinking chocolate in a small shop on Bull Street. Drinking chocolate was considered a healthy alternative to alcohol, something Cadbury, a Quaker, was keen to encourage.

In 1879, the Cadburys moved to Bournville and created their ‘factory in a garden’ – an unprecedented move. It is now ironic that today’s Bournville is surrounded by that urban sprawl the Cadburys were so keen to get away from.

This book looks at some of the social impact this company has had since its inception, both on the chocolate and cocoa business in general and on the community at large, both within and without the firm of Cadbury.

In 2024, Cadbury’s will be celebrating 200 years of the first store opening. This is the story of how the company began, how it grew, and how they diversified in order to survive.

A History of CadburyA History of Cadbury by Diane Wordsworth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

I love chocolate and I love history so it was no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one! I would recommend it to anyone. Those who are fascinated with historical accounts presenting the inception of companies, the evolution of business practices among the 19th and 20th centuries, confectionary in the age of industrial revolution, and of course, anyone who enjoys chocolate would particularly be enlightened.

The author, Diane Wordsworth, gave great insight into the development of the Cadbury company through a chronological telling of events. I really appreciated the thoroughness of the material covered. Excerpts of article letters, testimonials, and the photos, illustrations, and pictorial designs really enhanced my enjoyment of the book. From the beautiful factory grounds to a woman carefully painting the classic logo on a box of chocolate, I really valued the inclusion of such a gallery of historical images within the book.

I was interested to learn about the historical perception of chocolate itself and the creation of product. From boilers to produce steam, weighing chocolate by hand, moulds, the shaker, transportation, the setting the chocolate on stone slabs in a cellar, the boxing of chocolate, I found myself engrossed in the process of it all.

I also appreciated the discussion of the foundational company culture and values concerning the welfare of their employees. Fair wages for factory workers, as well as the offering of occupational medicine, apprenticeships, and vocational training through an employment package really helped to define the ethos and build a sense of community which was a unique concept among companies at the time. The exploration of working conditions as they relate to business philosophy was an important issue to cover in this book. With support for the abolition of slave trade and labor in the Portuguese islands of cocoa harvesting, this content would make an interesting volume in and of itself. “In these professedly enlightened days, commercial progress cannot well be considered apart from moral progress; we want to know not only how work is done but who and what they are who do it.”

The company story was told with great context. Significant topics of the time such as women’s suffrage movement and the impact of wartime were mentioned. With employees called to service and in the face of ingredient shortages due to imposed restrictions on the transportation of cocoa, a diversification of the company had also included the manufacturing of dried vegetables, biscuits, and fruit pulp. Other contributions in meeting the needs of the military through craftsmanship included part making for guns and aeroplanes which I found intriguing.

I would be interested to see an extension of this book to include additional details of the changes experienced in the industrial age as it relates to a deeper look into confectionery factory life and the process of chocolate-making. I can only imagine the difficulty in organizing and deciding upon the inclusion or exclusion of content for this or a subsequent piece since the manufacturing of chocolate is so multifaceted. I’d also be curious about additional material with the incorporation of the future of the company in reference to an entrepreneurial endeavor by Cadbury’s great-grandson, James, who has since started a company called Love Cocoa. The characteristics of these products include being natural and free-from palm oil and embraces environmental conservation efforts through a partnership with the Rainforest Foundation.

I think this would make a great gift and coffee table book for your home, office, or business place.

And I thought this was a cute craft: Felt Cadbury Bunny Easter Craft.

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ARCs Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Mystery Nonfiction Thriller

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper LeeFurious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

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 book was absolutely fascinating! I would recommend it to anyone. If you have fond memories of reading Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird as a child or are looking to read classics this year, be sure to put this one on your TBR. It’s also a type of story within a story about a story whose final works (those being Harper Lee’s) were never published in which readers of true crime/thrillers will appreciate.

Furious Hours made full circle as it encompassed the published/unpublished works and the personal and literary life of author Harper Lee. As the first chapters unfolded into a compelling story of the accused Reverend Maxwell, I gained incredible insight into the norms of Southern living as well as the cultural and political climate of the times. From the perceptive value of the aesthetic and functional features of the Alabama courthouses to the practice of law itself, the intriguing writing style kept my full attention.

The author, Casey Cep, did an amazing job articulating and organizing the depth and reach of Harper Lee in a way that was captivating. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about influential circumstances and notable people who crossed paths with Harper Lee, including Truman Capote. All these details added so much biographical context to how Harper Lee lived her life, the choices she made, and how it shaped her writing as an author. This is one book you won’t want to put down!

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Book Reviews Books Cookbooks Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

French Cooking in Early America by Patricia B. Mitchell

Influences of early French settlers on American cooking. Brief review of French cuisine in the 1500’s and 1600’s, and numerous accounts of adaptations to the New World. Author Patricia B. Mitchell utilizes primary source materials to explain the dietary habits and cooking techniques of Gallic immigrants. Generous endnotes detail sources of information for scholars, and actual old recipes and modernized recipes illustrate principles discussed in the text. Quotations from the time period help the reader feel connected to these early colonists. Huguenots, Cajuns, Creoles, French Canadians, and others with French ancestry, plus all who appreciate food of merit will want to try such dishes as “Pain Perdu,” “Chicken-Andouille Gumbo,” and “French Biscuits.” 21 authentic and commemorative recipes; 117 research notes; 12,050 words.

“French Cooking in Early America” is also available in French translation as “La Cuisine Française des Premières Années de l’Amérique du Nord.”

French Cooking in Early AmericaFrench Cooking in Early America by Patricia B. Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this little cookery booklet! I would recommend it to anyone.

It has a good selection of recipes and interesting tidbits of historical information woven throughout that made for good reference as well as an intriguing read. I was unaware of the level of French influence and distinction for certain adaption and origination of many of the recipes in Early America so this was incredibly insightful for me. The recipes have proven measurements and directions are complete, which was very helpful.

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Book Reviews Books Cookbooks Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Victorian Parlors & Tea Parties by Patricia B. Mitchell

“Victorian Parlors and Tea Parties” describes “the tea meal,” especially as practiced in the American home during the Victorian period. Just as the stereotypical Victorian room was deliciously stuffed with furniture and bric-à-brac, so is “Victorian Parlors and Tea Parties,” brimming with engaging information. Researcher/author Patricia B. Mitchell’s descriptions of the decor of the opulent Victorian house with its lustrous wallpaper and rococo furnishings, its beautifully over-adorned exterior, and the well-regulated activities of the mistress are most enjoyable to read.

Victorian Parlors & Tea PartiesVictorian Parlors & Tea Parties by Patricia B. Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this! I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to cook, enjoys hosting tea parties, and appreciates learning about history, particularly that of the Victorian era.

The booklet was short and sweet. I liked the way it was organized and incorporated lines of poetry and quotes from the Victorian age. The old-fashioned recipes were wonderful and were often paired with insight about them, as well as norms and etiquette that were quite interesting to read about.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends—what percentage of the world’s population live in poverty; why the world’s population is increasing; how many girls finish school—we systematically get the answers wrong. So wrong that a chimpanzee choosing answers at random will consistently outguess teachers, journalists, Nobel laureates, and investment bankers.

In Factfulness, Professor of International Health and global TED phenomenon Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - And Why Things Are Better Than You ThinkFactfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book. I listened to it via audiobook which was excellent, so I cannot make comment to the figures and graphs found in the book. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to expand their worldview especially as it relates to global health, epidemiology, or socioeconomics. It would also make an excellent graduation gift for students graduating high school or college.

I enjoyed the author, Hans Rosling’s writing style and organization of the chapters. There was some redundancy in the beginning chapters and chapter transitions, but I did appreciate the reiteration by way of rewording for review and summarization purposes most of the time. I liked the integration of personal stories that allowed for tangible means of communicating the instincts that helped me understand theoretical concepts. There was a bit of over overexplanation in the subtext in general, however.

As far as the main points were concerned, as they related to the instinct factors, which are influenced by internal and external bias, I think the premise could be summed up as a way of reframing context and perception of how we view the world and actual state and that the results may surprise you. I surprised myself by getting 12 of 13 questions correct before reading the book, but there was a lot that I was unaware of. At some points I did feel somewhat ambivalent as to the rationales behind them. The optimistic framework was both comforting and eye-opening to me. I would have liked to have seen more information about the quality of the data sets themselves, perhaps something along the lines of evaluating the methodology over time and underreporting.

I feel the author could have expanded on a couple of other topics topics as well. First, the definition of health, not as it relates to morbidity and mortality, but also to quality of life. It seems the concept was largely absent. I would have also liked to have seen additional emphasis on the value of human life outside of socioeconomic status and health outcomes. Also more elaboration on risk and risk perception and psychological implications. It also could have included conditions and diseases that are noninfectious or noncommunicable.

For example, I would have been interested in learning the stats on alcoholism or depression, in addition to subjective and objective measures of personal success, happiness, or joy as well. And how the development of bias and fallacies in journalism occur, how it has changed over the years, and its impact. Would have liked national security efforts and major disease pathways from a humanitarian perspective to be integrated into this book. I would have also liked to have seen debt factored into the reportable income stats and how that would play out in the different levels. I just felt there could have been a bit more information on these topics to further support his case and reasoning.

Apart from the writing itself, there was an overall tone of personal bias, mostly a heavy liberal one at that, however. For the most he did share his road to self discovery which was insightful and communicated his own shortcomings, limitations, and achievements as it relates to personal bias on most points which I did appreciate because it helped to give a sense of balance, perspective, and disclosure of any potential conflict of interest.

Also minor, was the wording about soap killing germs when it’s actually the mechanical means of removing bacteria that lowers microbial count (unless it’s antibacterial of course), the wording of “high quality researchers,” and the interchangeable use of the words nation and country. I found myself over analyzing some of the background data that was presented because again, opposing/contrasting viewpoints were mentioned and much appreciated, but not necessarily as an appraisal of the quality of the data itself/original research which I thought would be important for a book about factfulness. Probably my expectations from the author were high from these regards because of his level of expertise and the audience this book is seemingly intended for and what I was looking for.

All in all, with relabeling and change perception, the hierarchy still remains and it’s quantity driven. I certainly learned several facts that I did not know before reading this book and really liked how the author was willing to share his insight and perspective. I would have been curious as to what he would have thought about the labeling of patients by diagnosis, ie… cancer patients or diabetic patients, etc… based on his premise of the book and reevaluation of the term “developing country.” I think this book opens itself up to excellent discussion about how we value, perceive, and experience the world. And I always appreciate it when authors set out to educate an audience about specific topics such as this, especially when they’re guided by enthusiasm, positivity, and personal experiences within the field.

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