Friday, June 16, 2017

Is It All in Your Head?

Psychogenic. Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan, a neurologist, has written an interesting and engaging book about psychogenic disease titled, Is It All In Your Head?. Spoiler alert: yes, it is in your head, but that doesn’t reduce the very real physical pain. In medicine and in society at large, there have been huge gaps in communicating effectively about psychosomatic illness. Through the cases presented in this book, O’Sullivan calls attention to the challenges of communicating effectively, and reveals her own shortcomings with different patients. Her overall treatment is sensitive and informative. The mind is a marvelous thing, and can exert significant control over the body in ways that become debilitating. Health care professionals or general readers interested in medicine or the mind are those most likely to enjoy reading this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Is It All in Your Head from amazon.com.

The Last Days of Night

Cravath. Fans of historical fiction that doesn’t stray far from fact are those most likely to enjoy reading Graham Moore’s novel titled, The Last Days of Night. Set in the 1890s, the novel features a large cast of well-known characters including George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla, J.P. Morgan and Alexander Graham Bell. The protagonist is young lawyer Paul Cravath whose name may be known to many, but whose life hasn’t been written about often. Cravath is hired by Westinghouse to defend his company in lawsuits with Edison over light bulb patents. Moore captures the excitement of the time when inventions were proliferating and fortunes were being made. Moore even makes the lawsuits exciting. The pace of the novel is quicker than most thrillers, and I was enthralled and entertained from beginning to end. A friend who is an attorney recommended this novel, and I put it at the top of my queue. I never would have guessed on my own that a lawyer could have been such an interesting character. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Last Days of Night from amazon.com.

A Horse Walks into a Bar

Standup. After I finished reading David Grossman’s novel titled, A Horse Walks into a Bar, I was as physically drained as I am after a heavy workout at the gym. The structure of the novel covers one night, the bulk of which we observe as protagonist Doveleh Greenstein performs a standup comedy routine for an audience in Netanya. Dov’s shtick is funny at times, but he is not an endearing character, and much of his humor is dark. I might have been one of the audience members to leave the show. Personal reflections on his life get darker as he describes life with a Holocaust survivor mother and a detached father. Grossman won the Man Booker International Prize for this novel. My guess is that the raw, unremitting truth and the efficient writing appealed to the judges who recognized Grossman’s great skill. Get a good rest before reading this novel, because Dov leaves everything on the stage before he ends his standup and being an audience member listening to him can become physically draining. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase A Horse Walks into a Bar from amazon.com.

The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation

Resistance. Ron Dreher proposes a radical form of community life for Christians in his book titled, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Instead of struggling to raise our children to not conform to the values they discern from secular culture, Dreher proposes forming communities of individuals with shared values. This call to community life has a long history which Dreher describes. While he belongs to the Eastern Orthodox Church, his message can apply to any believer struggling with the challenges of how to live a Christian life in a secular culture. Living in and not of the world has a long tradition, and whether a reader agrees with Dreher’s analysis and advice or not, most engaged Christians will find serious points for personal and communal consideration in this book. Non-Christians who wonder what all the fuss is about will also find clarity on some issues in this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Benedict Option from amazon.com.

The Fix

Dance. The third novel in a series by David Baldacci to feature protagonist Amos Decker is titled, The Fix. Fans of this series will enjoy the continuity from the last novel and the setup for the next one. I see this continuity and setup as the dance between the serial author and readers: for some dance partners the pace is too slow and for others the dance never lasts long enough. I was entertained by this novel, mostly because I think Amos Decker is a very interesting character, and he continues to develop in this novel in interesting ways. The dance for me was neither too fast nor too slow. The series moved on incrementally, and I look forward to another installment. Fans of Baldacci novels, whether this series or others, are those most likely to enjoy reading this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Fix from amazon.com.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Testimony

Changes. One of the many things I like about Scott Turow’s legal thrillers is that the author always respects the intelligence of readers. In a new novel titled, Testimony, Turow describes the work of the International Criminal Court in The Hague and a case involving possible war crimes in Bosnia. Protagonist Bill ten Boom has embarked on several life changes at age fifty: leaving his wife, his law career and his country. Turow develops Boom with great skill, drawing readers into understanding of this character. A supporting cast of characters are also well-drawn and animate a plot that’s engaging, although slowed on occasion with expositional details about the court and war crimes. Fans of Turow are likely to zip through this novel quickly, and any reader who enjoys legal thrillers may find this novel among the best in the genre. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Testimony from amazon.com.

Gwendy's Button Box

Custodian. Did you know that even a prolific writer like Stephen King gets writer’s block? After telling fellow author Richard Chizmar that he was having trouble finishing a story, King accepted Chizmar’s offer to show him the story. What followed was a back and forth email exchange with both writers contributing to a novella titled, Gwendy's Button Box. Set in Castle Rock, Maine, the novel presents protagonist Gwendy Peterson who becomes the custodian for a time of a magical button box that has the capability to deliver both good and evil. King and Chizmar tackle coming of age, power, trust and responsibility in this short novel. I read it quickly and enjoyed every page. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Gwendy’s Button Box from amazon.com.