This is an amazing book, one that I’m sorry I did not find earlier in life. The evolution and clarity of Newton’s vision, taken together with his accounts of his legal struggles and political acts, is both coherent and persuasive (and, perhaps, self-serving). I know just a little about the Black Panthers and want to continue to investigate, but there seems to have been much that was good about their work.

Newton’s sexism (which he seems to have inherited from his father) and his homophobia are not to be cast aside or minimized, but I think the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of ideological purity. People,  famous people, leaders have flaws. None of us is perfect. I cannot find the origin of the idea (perhaps Voltaire?), but the notion of not letting perfect be the enemy of better seems to apply here (and in more current situations).

I found this book to be riveting and inspiring. And anyone who inspires me to read Nietzche gets a tip of the hat from me.

The subtitle of this book, An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement, is somewhat misleading (to the detriment of the book, I think). The focus is not really on the families, but they are used to represent the kind of cuisine their culture brought to the United States. So the personal elements are largely superficial. That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of interesting pieces of this book. I enjoyed how Ziegelman set the scenes of the Lower East Side in broad strokes. I also appreciated her myth-busting when it came to food / cultural stereotypes.

Still, the book lacks any kind of narrative drive and comes across as a bit too dry. It reads more like a sociological study in 5 chapters. Maybe it was her dissertation. It was good background reading in preparation for a visit to the Tenement Museum, but otherwise. . .

I wasn’t so sure about this one. The premise, a novel based on a performance by a stand-up comedian, worried me. Was this just going to be an excuse for an epic monologue, as in, say, the wildly overrated The Reluctant Fundamentalist?

Though it is told without chapter breaks, it is far from just a single monologue. It is another brilliant example of Grossman’s ability to combine the personal and political in a compelling story. Here, as in To the End of the Land, it is a story that needs to be told, not for entertainment or information but, as is often the case in Israel, for survival.

I had the good fortune to hear Grossman talk about the book at the 92nd Street Y (a personal Mecca for me), and his insights and explanations made me want to read it again.

On top of all of that, many of the jokes in the book are really funny!

Less a mystery than the story of a kind of “fixer,” Morath, embroiled in the build-up to World War II. He tries to solve problems, both personal and political. Furst is generally not as concerned about plot as he is about atmosphere and details. He certainly makes the situations seem authentic, though of course our man survives every time and beautiful women love him. A good escape.

I’m glad Berlin has been (re)discovered, but I wonder about the decision to put quite so many stories in one collection. Why not just re-print the collections she published in her lifetime?

The stories are off-beat, honest, quirky. I most appreciated the ones where we see the same story from two points of view, not in any clever modernist way, but the story of the old couples watching the sisters on the beach and the story of those sisters – both in one story. A single story, however short, rarely contains just a single story.

Though I could have used a family tree, I also thought the collection picked up when it became apparent that so many of the stories were interconnected. The same characters at different ages, featuring here, having a bit part there. It was, at times, tempting to consider the stories Flannery O’Connor-esque, but I don’t think that does either writer justice.

Good stories. Honest. In interesting places with flawed and fantastic people. Real.

I’m not going to be able to say too much here because I read 2/3 of this a long while ago and then (honestly) misplaced it. I was hoping our son would forget about having asked me to read it, but he didn’t, so I tried to stall for longer by saying I had other things to read ahead of it, but he persisted and I had promised.

Look, I’m not in love with the fantasy genre and haven’t really read much that would allow me to offer an assessment of whether this is better or worse than other fantasy novels. The writing is uneven. Sometimes, it’s wonderfully specific; occasionally, there are some glaring generalities.

I like how Mull handles the genders and that this book has an honest ending, not just a cliffhanger to push me to the next book (#2 of 5, which our son insists I will finish).

Green’s book, subtitled West Virginia’s Coal Miners and Their Battle for Freedom, covers the years from 1890-1933. I’ve started to become more interested in labor history and have a family connection to West Virginia. Like many others, according to the explanation Green offers as his reason for writing the book, I was not aware of the violent intensity between the miners and their families and the owners / operators of the mines. Green says repeatedly that there is no completely accurate account of how many people died, but everyone – the miners (some of whom were WWI veterans), the private guards the operators hired, the National Guard that had to be summoned, and even the US Army – all had guns. The organizers, the likes of Mother Jones, John Lewis and Frank Keeney, were amazingly persistent and resilient people, especially in an era when transportation and communication were far more difficult than they are today.

But the willingness of the ordinary and here often unnamed families to participate in strikes absolutely astounded me, especially in the later years when the country was experiencing a depression. At times, I wondered whether the rugged spirit that was formed in West Virginians during this time was a kind of precursor to Hillbilly Elegy, and perhaps another explanation of the result of our recent presidential election.

I was also quite taken with how diverse and integrated the union was from its very inception. Even when social forces interceded and resulted in things like segregated housing, the union was always open to all.

Green never really hides his pro-Union bias, and it never overwhelms his narrative. Despite this bias, he is critical of certain union decisions and tactics, particularly when corruption infected the organization.

Green makes the case that this is a story that needed to be told, and he told it well.