Thursday, November 29, 2018

'Shakespeare Saved My Life' by Laura Bates

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the BardShakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dr. Laura Bates writes about her work with the prisoners of Central Indiana, close to where I currently call home. In particular, she recounts her teacher-pupil relationship with inmate Larry Newton. With little formal education, convicted murderer Newton had a keen, insightful mind and a particular gift for relating Shakespeare to the circumstances of his fellow inmates. He might have become the first inmate to earn his Ph.D. in prison -- if the state of Indiana hadn't ended all funding for education in prison.

It's really stupid to end prison education and Shakespeare programs, by the way. They've been shown time and time again to reduce the amount of violence between inmates. America is horrible to its incarcerated persons anyway, but it's especially boneheaded to make the workplace more dangerous for prison employees as well as more dangerous for inmates themselves.

Bates writes that she is not a prison reformer, but maybe she should be. American prisons are a human rights nightmare, as Orange Is the New Black has recently shown many of us. And we should all care, because not every prisoner is incarcerated for the rest of his or her life. They'll become our neighbors, and it's always better to have an educated neighbor with insight into his or her own character and actions.

I checked this audiobook out of my local library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

'Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right' by Jane Mayer

Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical RightDark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is this a well-researched, thoughtful work of journalistic nonfiction? Yes. Is it infuriating? Also yes.

The Supreme Court made a huge mistake when it ruled in the Citizens United decision that money counts as free speech, and now the Republican Party has run with that decision to a disastrous degree. The loser is democracy itself. I wish every American voter would listen to/read this book.

These out-of-touch-to-the-point-of-delusion billionaires push their loony brand of libertarianism out through the "conservative" media and Americans without two nickels to rub together start spouting the wishes of billionaires to their own detriment. Wake up and smell the manipulation, America.

I checked this audiobook out of the library using the Libby app. I was not obligated in any way to review it.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

'Children of Blood and Bone' Is a True Must-Read

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of OrĂ¯sha, #1)Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that's so good, I have a hard time articulating why I loved it as much as I loved it. The story is compelling, the relationships between the siblings and the various other characters are compelling, the world-building is incredibly detailed, and the writing is full-grown. The ending blew my mind. I doubt I've read anything better in the last 12 months (and keep in mind I really, REALLY liked Philip Pullman's latest.)

"Must-read" is bandied about so much in book marketing that it loses all meaning, but in the truest sense, readers who appreciate good YA fiction must read this book. Tomi Adeyemi has the gift.

I borrowed this e-book from my library using the Libby app. I had to keep returning it and checking it out again because it's really popular and I kept stretching it out because I literally did not want this story to end.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History

Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year HistoryFantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year Historby Kurt Andersen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Andersen, one of the two co-founders of Spy magazine, spent several years researching this meandering but compelling history. The 500 years in question begin with Martin Luther and the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation, leading to the Puritans, leading eventually to the "alternate facts" that America runs on today. This isn't an indictment of only the contemporary Republican party - we're all guilty of some of these strange, irrational beliefs - but it pulls no punches in calling BS on climate change deniers, flat earthers, and anyone who thinks the Earth is 5,779 years old and/or takes the Bible literally. I'm not sure if I enjoyed this book or if it just made me want to smack all my fellow Americans on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper like naughty puppies.

I borrowed this e-book from my local library using the Libby app and was not obligated in any way to review it.