Capsule Reviews

by Carolyn Dane

The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey by Chris Beard
Most of us are familiar with the controversies about the lineage of our human ancestors from a few million years ago (Lucy et al), which have produced something like consensus for the main outlines of the story. Now the investigation moves farther back in time in the search for the point where hominids split from the apes. Surprisingly, it looks like it took place in Asia rather than Africa, at least according to this account, which actually told me quite a bit more than I really wanted to know about the topic. You have to be really, really interested to enjoy the whole thing. ! !

The Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini
The author was born in Afghanistan and emigrated to the U.S. as a child (age unspecified). This novel is an emotionally wrenching story centered around a childhood friendship in Kabul and the terrors of life under the Taliban. Tragic and unforgettable. ! ! ! ! !

Mexifornia by Victor Davis Hanson
A thoughtful, well-balanced look at all aspects of our immigration crisis, the likely consequences and possible remedies. ! ! ! !

The Deep Dark by Gregg Olsen
The story of the Sunshine Mine fire in Wallace, Idaho, 1972, a disaster that killed 91 men. Portraits of many of the miners, their families, the mine owners, the press covering the story, and others involved. The tragedy is that a synthetic foam sold to the mines as a means of walling off parts of the mine to deal with fire was itself flammable and productive of toxic fumes that killed nearly all of the 91 men. This had been known for ten years at the time, but, with the usual level of federal responsibility, no one at the Dept. of the Interior told the miners. Gripping and well done. ! ! !

The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler
A look at what will happen to the U.S. and the world as we run out of oil. The back cover of the book depicts a horse pulling a car. Life will become much more local; globalism will die of the cost of transport. Poorly documented, but I googled several of the author's conclusions and found them well supported. There is much to dread and a few things to be thankful for. According to Kunstler, it looks like nuclear power is our only hope for buying a bit of time as we adapt to a world with much less oil. ! ! !

The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas Woods
The history that all of us ought to know but few do. Nice to have handy to educate your kids or grandkids. Well written. ! ! ! !

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
A look at the very-short term judgments we make in a split second to a few seconds, which sometimes convey an amazing amount of information and other times lead us astray. Several interesting examples. Quite entertaining and informative. ! ! !

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh
Don't bother.

Searching for the Sound by Phil Lesh
A must for Deadheads. Prompted by my book group's recent discussion of Sometimes a Great Notion, The Great Northwest Novel by Ken Kesey, I have lately been revisiting the 60s, reading lots of books by and about Kesey and his associates. If our culture ever comes to terms with its love/hate relationship with currently illegal drugs, Kesey will be remembered as the great writer he was and not for the Bus or the Acid Tests. Anyway, I enjoyed Phil's account of his life with the Grateful Dead. ! ! !

The Coming Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It by James Turk & John Robino
The historical evidence is overwhelming. No nation's greatness has ever survived the destruction of its currency. Read it and prepare. ! ! !

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.
The author's previous novel, Housekeeping, won lots of prizes, and while it was very well written, I didn't care much for it because the characters were so badly traumatized that they weren't very likeable and I wasn't particularly interested in what happened to them. This unpretentious novel is just the opposite. It takes the form of the letter of an old man with a heart condition, facing death with believable grace, to his young son. Knowing he will not see the boy grow up, the father writes to him about his forbears and the things he wants him to know. The father's quiet voice is luminous with the ordinary love of family and friends and appreciation of life's simple pleasures. The wisdom is unobtrusive but pervasive. A jewel. ! ! ! ! !

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