Category Archives: Book Review

Here’s what we’re reading and what we think!

Book Review: The Facts of The Matter: Looking Past Today’s Rhetoric on the Environment and Responsible Development By David Parish

This is a thought-provoking book from an author who worked for many years as a lobbyist for companies in the area of natural resource development.

Here he lays out a strategy for working to address today’s environmental and societal problems.

He believes that progress can be made if people are willing to listen to the “other side”. Too often, we get locked into an “us vs them” mentality.

He points out problems (and solutions) surrounding news media, politicians, and groups with agendas working on both sides of an issue. He does not hesitate to go after both sides.

But he is hopeful that our problems can be addressed. While he lobbied for big corporations, he is also a strong advocate for the environment. He argues how changes can be made that help the environment, improve people’s standard of living, and raise up entire societies.

I learned a lot from this book. I had never really thought about where “the stuff” to make electronics and power our country comes from. Zinc, copper, molybdenum, rare earth elements are vital to these industries. And with more and more demand for power and electronics, we will need more and more of these products. So we cannot do away with mining or the other industries that generate power. Mr. Parish argues that the production of natural resources is changing and can be done in an environmentally safe way.

Whether or not you agree with everything he says, it will make you think.

Book Review: The Client by John Grisham

Here is an oldie but a goodie. This is one of my favorite Grisham books.

An 11 year old boy learns a secret. Murder! Now he is being chased by the mob and the Feds. So Mark (the young boy) decides he needs a lawyer.

Enter Reggie Love. She has been practicing for a whole four years. How can she refuse this most unusual case?

But the Feds and the mob discover that Reggie will do whatever must be done to protect “the client”.

They are no match for her or this streetwise kid.

Book Review: On the Clock: What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane, by Emily Guendelsberger

“I get to leave.” That was the mantra going through Emily Guendelsberger’s mind as she endured almost a year of low-wage jobs. Unlike her suffering co-workers at Amazon, Convergys, (a call center used by AT&T) and a San Francisco McDonalds, Emily knew that her time at each position would only last a few months.

When her newspaper folded, reporter Emily Guendelsberger decided it was the optimum time to fling herself into the low-wage workplace, to see for herself the indignities and despair dished out to those at the bottom of the labor market. A year later, she left with burns, a recurrence of PTSD, bad feet, a repetitive-motion injury to her wrist, and never-ending respect for the people stuck in such thankless jobs.

Like many people, Guendelsberger worked fast food in her teen years. She was raised on the rule “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” She thought she had a good idea of what would be asked of her, but instead she entered a new era of technological surveillance. Time management studies, scheduling software, and the ability to track every minute of a worker’s day has made even the thought of having “time to lean” an impossibility.

Amazon stocks vending machines with pain killers workers can access with a swipe of their badge, because that wastes less time than going to see the nurse. Convergys has mind-numbing acronyms and procedures that must be precisely followed – until they’re changed the next week. There’s always a line at McDonalds and the McFlurry machine is always broken because the algorithm scheduling workers ensures that no one has a minute of extra time for preventative maintenance. Fed up enough to quit? Go ahead, no one cares. Constant turnover is just one more accepted business practice.

On the Clock has terrific insights about how these types of jobs deal out stress and despair along with low wages. Guendelsberger provides clear explanations on the beginnings of time management studies, human anxiety, and the current business practices that suck all the personal control and joy out of a multitude of jobs. Why do we have our present government? Why are people so stressed out? Why is there an opioid crisis? Read this book and you might begin to understand why.

Book Review: Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by [Adam Makos]

This is the true story of Jesse Brown, the U.S. Navy’s first black carrier pilot.

It is a story of an unconventional friendship that developed between the son of a poor sharecropper from Mississippi and a rich white kid from New England.

It is a war story from the Korean War. It portrays the horrors and heroism that can be found when nations collide. Being a true story, the good guys don’t always win.

But it is also a love story. You will follow Jesse as he meets the love of his life and starts a family.

This story will make you laugh, cry, shake your head at events that happened. But it is for me ultimately an inspiring story of a young black man who overcame prejudice and racism to make history.

Warning: This book is an unflinching telling of Jesse’s life. It begins in the South of the 1920s. Some readers today may find it hard reading about what Jesse and his family endured. But you do not learn from history by running away from it.

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Paperback The Martian : A Novel Book

Well at least he doesn’t have to worry about coronavirus. Talk about social distancing!!

This is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read.

For those who have not seen the movie, this story follows an astronaut/scientist who is accidentally stranded on Mars. What follows are his endeavors to survive while back on Earth they are trying to figure out if a rescue mission can even be attempted. You will love this guy. He is funny (in a self-deprecating way), very innovative in his solution to problems (and they are nonstop), strong of spirit (never give up). But he is also very aware of the dire predicament that he is in.

For those who have seen the movie, it closely follows the book. But due to time constraints, you have only seen a small part of the story. If you liked the movie, I think it is worth your time to continue with his story.

Andy Weir was a software engineer and follower of science before turning to writing. This book is not science fiction portraying events hundreds of years from now. I think it is an actual attempt to place this event in our very near future and follow what might really happen if a rescue mission was ever needed.

Book Review: The Science of Star Wars by Mark Brake and Jon Chase

The Science of Star Wars: The Scientific Facts Behind the Force, Space Travel, and More! by [Mark Brake, Jon Chase]

I would heartily recommend this book to other closet scientists like myself.

It looks at 50 topics and tries to explain in real-life terms whether these things could happen. Is The Force real? How much would it cost to build a Death Star? Could a single blast from the Death Star destroy the earth? Can you build a light saber? And many more.

Mark Brake developed the world’s first science and science fiction degree in 1999. He also launched the world’s first astrobiology degree in 2005.

If you have advanced training in the sciences, this book may not be detailed enough for you. But the book is written in a way that I understood it while I was reading it. It was fun and thought provoking at the same time.

May The Force Be With You!!

Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

This book is classic Stephen King. The premise is: “Can a person be 2 places at once?” WARNING: The book starts with a brutal, graphic murder of a young boy. If you can get through the first chapter you should be okay. A man who witnesses place at the murder, suddenly has credible witnesses that place him miles away. The race is on to find the killer. The tension builds, the bodies stack up, and the horror begins.

My only complaint is I think the book would be better if the editor had chopped out 50 pages. This is a long book and at times can drag. But given that, if you like Stephen King, I think you will like this book.

Book Review: Earth as it is by Jan Maher

“This was the burden Charlie Bader was unable to lay down: his need for softness.” In one quiet sentence, Jan Maher captures the heart of Earth As It Is, a richly layered novel about one person’s journey across time, place, and gender to find softness, community, and love.

In the hands of a lesser writer, a novel about a cross-dressing man living as a woman could become shallow and sensationalist, but not in Maher’s. Maher’s understanding and empathy for the honest complexity of individuals is a gift both to her characters and her readers.

Maher constructs her novel in such a way so that when Charlie Bader moves to Heaven, Indiana, as Charlene, readers know Charlie’s history but Heaven’s residents do not. To them, Charlene is just Charlene, the hairdresser who shampoos, cuts, and perms the hair of Heaven’s women even as she hears and holds in confidence their stories and secrets. Charlene is a woman to be trusted, and so they do, to the benefit of the whole community.

Earth As It Is reminds readers that Earth truly is as it is, woven through with heartache, longing, secrets, love, sacred trust, softness, and a desire to be in every moment one’s best and truest self.