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Serendipity: Seemingly Random Events, Insignificant Decisions, and Accidental Discoveries that Altered History

To achieve fame and success requires a lot of hard work and determination. Yet it often requires some good fortune as well. Thomas Thorson tells many of these stories in his book, Serendipity: Seemingly Random Events, Insignificant Decisions, and Accidental Discoveries that Altered History.

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Barbara Lipska on Deciphering and Destigmatizing Mental Illness

In January 2015, doctors informed Barbara Lipska that her melanoma had spread to her brain. With her frontal lobe compromised by tumors, Lipska soon began exhibiting schizophrenia and dementia-like symptoms. The subsequent eight weeks were a harrowing ordeal for Lipska, who was unaware of the affects her illness had on her brain, and her family. Yet two months after she was diagnosed, the experimental immunotherapy doctors prescribed had successful results. With her mental health restored, Lipska applied her skills as a neuroscientist to dissect the physical affects on her brain. Her resulting memoir, The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery, co-written with Elaine McArdle, is a moving account of her illness plus an accessible exploration of the relationship between the brain and behavior.

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Cris Beam on Empathy’s Ability to be Both Personal and Exemplary

In Cris Beam’s I Feel You: The Surprising Power of Extreme Empathy, Beam brings her formidable skills as a journalist to unpack how empathy is deployed in the 21st century, examine its origins in popular culture, and understand its fluid definitions. Along the way she shows the reader the role empathy has played from the […]

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Mario Giordano on Sicily, the Two Fs, and his Glamorous New Detective

Mario Giordano’s Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions introduces an indelible new detective to mystery lovers in the form of the hard-drinking, charismatic Poldi, a Bavarian transplant who has moved to Sicily to drink herself to death. Her end-of-life plans, however, get interrupted when her handsome handyman is discovered murdered. Poldi soon finds herself thrust […]

Diane Barth

Diane Barth on How Noticing the Small Details Enrich Friendships

Diane Barth’s I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives draws on Barth’s extensive experience as a psychotherapist to examine the complexities of female friendship. Barth interviewed a broad range of women about their relationships, discussing how their need for friendship transforms over time and common problems they encounter. The result […]

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi

How Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi Walked Her Novel Before She Wrote It

Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s stunning Z is For Zebra introduces an unforgettable character with Zebra, a 22-year-old literary prodigy from Iran. When Zebra’s father dies, she decides to retrace her family’s journey from Iran to New York. She soon finds herself in Catalonia, where she becomes entangled with Ludo, a hapless philologist who challenges Zebra’s more intellectually insular existence. Steeped in literature, Zebra confidently holds forth on topics such as displacement, war, and sexuality in a manner that is sure to captivate readers. Van der Vliet Oloomi’s was named one of the National Book Award’s “35 Under 35,” and Z is for Zebra was named by a Most Anticipated Title of 2018 by the Boston Globe, Nylon, Book Riot, and The Millions.

ebook reviews

Review – Be Brave: A Wife’s Journey Through Caregiving by Florrie Munat

Losing a spouse or a close family member is one of the most painful experiences any of us can face.

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Maurene Goo on Writing Relatable Characters and her Enduring Love of K Dramas

Maurene Goo’s effervescent I Believe In A Thing Called Love centers around Desi, a phenomenally talented high school senior whose one weakness is her disastrous interactions with the opposite sex. Determined to have a romantic relationship before she graduates high school, Desi turns to her beloved K Dramas for inspiration. Armed with a list of K Drama tropes to serve as guidance, Desi sets her sights on Luca, the dreamy new transfer student with a mysterious past. What follows is both a hilarious romantic comedy but also a sweet tribute to the powerful bonds high school students have with their friends and parents. I Believe in a Thing Called Love earned starred reviews from both Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and was named one of The Best Books for Teens 2017 by the New York Public Library.

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Every Single One of Us has a Role to Play in Solving this Crisis: Dr. Nadine Burke Harris on Childhood Adversity

When Dr. Nadine Burke Harris opened her pediatric practice in San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point, she soon noticed a correlation between patients who had experienced some sort of trauma early in life and their physical health. Her resulting research, which built upon the Adverse Childhood Experiences study performed in the 1990s, led to her groundbreaking The Deepest […]

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Review – Housing Projects, Mansions & Schools: An Educator’s Odyssey by Roger Prosise

Our history is filled with examples of people who rose from difficult circumstances to achieve remarkable things. We often hear about them in politics,  sports, and entertainment. We don’t hear about them as often in other areas of life, but perhaps we should. This is why I found Roger Prosise’s book, Housing Projects, Mansions & Schools: An Educator’s Odyssey to be an interesting read.

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Review – War, Spies, & Bobby Sox: Stories About World War II at Home by Libby Hellmann

This book features three short fictional stories of WWII on the American homefront, an angle on the conflict that hasn’t received as much attention in our popular culture as other aspects of the war have.

A.J. Baime Author Photo

A.J. Baime on Truman’s “Completely Different Avenue of the American Dream”

A.J. Baime’s “The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World” dives deep into the tumultuous first four months of Truman’s presidency. Tracing Truman’s rise from failed farmer to leader of the free world, Baime constructs a compelling argument that no other President has ever faced such a fraught entrance into the office.

Jessica Yu Author Photo

Jessica Yu on Gladys Kalibbala and the Value of the Small Act

Jessica Yu’s “Garden of the Lost and Abandoned” tracks the work of Gladys Kalibbala, a Ugandan reporter whose weekly column on missing children works to reunite her subjects with their families. Equal parts detective, social worker, and child advocate, Kalibbala hunts down the origin of each child’s story, working tirelessly to find a solution for each child’s predicament. Yu brings her skills as a documentary filmmaker (she won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien”) to bring Kalibballa’s story to life. While “Garden of Lost and Abandoned” is her first book, it has been met with rapturous praise. Kirkus Reviews called it “an eloquent affirmation of the vast capacity of the human heart,” while Amazon selected it as one of its Best Books of the Month: Nonfiction. Yu spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on November 6th, 2017.

Phil Harrison Author Photo

Phil Harrison on Finding the Joy in the Darkness of his New Novel

Phil Harrison’s novel The First Day spans decades in tracing the fallout caused by a tumultuous love affair in Belfast. When Beckett scholar Anna meets local pastor Orr in 2012, they embark on a passionate relationship despite their profound differences, thus permanently altering their families’ lives. Thirty years later, their son Sam must deal with the aftershocks of their relationship as he navigates his carefully isolated life in New York City. Publishers Weekly noted “Harrison’s remarkable writing elevates a story that is all the more powerful for its eschewing of easy answers and resolution,” while Kirkus raved that “Harrison’s elegant prose and deeply felt characters create a novel with a fiercely beating heart.”

ebook reviews

Review – Called Out: A Novel of Base Ball and America in 1908 by Floyd Sullivan

Today, professional baseball is a multi-billion dollar industry. But back in 1908, it was still experiencing growing pains. As the young game exploded in popularity, it was also rife with scandal, while unruly behavior from fans often gave baseball a bad name.