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What We’re Reading, 6 Books to Dive into This Summer
I always look forward to putting together the summer reading blog with my colleagues because when I am not reading a book, I love to read about books! As a kid I was a roamer. I grew up in a beach town so roaming the seaside was a favorite of mine but nothing beats roaming the rows of books in the library. If I close my eyes I can still remember the smell. Books, all gathered together, like people, have a distinct odor. The leather, paper, cardboard, and ink create a bouquet that swirls with adventures and love stories and life stories… and so much more.
Of course, that was before the internet. Now, I watch my kids read on their phones and wonder if e-reading brings the same magic. I get it, I really do; the convenience of it all. I, too, have a Kindle but I also have a pile of books right by my bedside. Recently, my husband asked if I wanted to put the books in the bookcase instead of having them piled right there next to the bed and I shivered with fear.
“Oh, no, definitely not!” I exclaimed. I need that pile of books like a fish needs water. And, speaking of water… on to the first book on our Summer Reading list!
The Water Will Come – Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. By Jeff Goodell, reviewed by Deb F.
This summer I am finally digging into a book that has been in my bedside pile for a few months. Goodell’s book The Water Will Come explores the sobering facts of climate change and rising sea levels. Partly built on stories he has written for Rolling Stone, he visits low lying cities in critical danger of being submerged: Venice; Miami; New York; Lagos; Norfolk and Rotterdam and describes their struggle with water from storms and high tides and how they are managing the threat.
Goodell does a good job of leveling the playing field by convincing the reader that rising sea levels is a global threat. He writes that everyone will feel the effects of a rising sea because the water will drive populations to seek dry ground and he paints a dire picture of the migration that will go on around the world.
“Globally, about 145 million people live three feet or less above the current sea level. As the waters rise, millions of these people will be displaced, many of them in poor countries, creating generations of climate refugees that will make today’s Syrian war refugee crisis look like a high school drama production.”
With that said, Goodell spends a good part of the book talking about the real losers of sea-level rise and the population that has contributed the least to global warming – the poor. As an example, he cites the $3 billion dollar barrier that has been proposed to protect New York City’s Wall Street that could have dire effects by diverting the water into poorer neighborhoods.
Five thousand miles from New York City, Goodell visits another coastal city, Lagos, where slum-dwellers are currently living in shacks that will float during flooding andy 2050, result in close to eight million Nigerian climate change refugees.
Goodell’s book is a sobering and well-researched look at sea-level rise. He supports his case for imminent peril to coastal and global populations through storytelling and interviews with a broad spectrum of policy and science experts, city engineers and planners, flood victims and politicians. It is a must-read for anyone interested and curious about the subject. As Goodell states, “Sea level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity, it will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.”
Florida, Short Story collection by Lauren Groff, review by Therese L, Operations
What an exquisite collection of short stories! Each story is like a storm, some small, some large, and storms are somewhat the center of each story – whether created by mother nature or a human storm inside one’s head or heart. Beautifully written, wonderfully imagined, with characters that you can easily – sometimes begrudgingly – recognize, identify or sympathize with. As a reader, you wonder which storms are actually worse – the physical ones created by weather events or the emotional ones created humans. I will warn the reader, however, there are no stories with happy endings, and there are even some stories that seem to be without endings. That will really annoy some people. But isn’t that life: some situations, good or bad, just continue on?
Even though I found this collection of short stories riveting, it took me several sittings to finish it as each story is that intense. Each sentence Ms. Groff crafts requires, at least for me, slower reading and a bit of pondering. For example, in one story, she describes a TV program: “about the sunlight, the twilight, and the midnight zones, the three densities of water, where there is transparent light, then a murky darkish light, then no light at all” and it takes me awhile to connect it to how the main character is feeling, a deepening fear about her situation. So after reading a story, I would need time to digest before I could read another. Writing that makes you think is a wonderful thing.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West, review by Matt M, Fulfillment
Picked up this book expecting a challenge; and yep, I got it. Lindy West, a web and blog commentator on issues of personal identity, reproductive rights and “de-stigmatization” (I borrowed this one), offers insights into her life as a productive – and, yes, loud – comedian, writer and social critic.
At first, Ms. West comes at you as a comedian (“Look how f-d up my childhood was…” joke, reference, joke). It didn’t work for me. Yep, it was loud, but it was also a superficial and untethered rant. I almost put the book down, figuratively (joke) and literally.
But, because I won’t quit at anything, I kept going and fortunately, the opening act is just a set-up. As the book progresses, Ms. West settles into a more important role as an insightful voice into some of the ills of we who populate modern culture. These are blunt but thoughtful words about how we misread and mistreat others; off-handedly, insidiously, often – but not always – blindly. Her insights into the importance of power relationships to the liberty we can and shouldn’t take in our speech and actions moved me from my secure self-satisfied base, leaving me feeling, deservedly, a bit more vulnerable. I actually hope they will continue to do so.
This book will not be for everyone. It is loud. It is confrontational. But I enjoyed it and (believe) I am better for having read it.
When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (Paperback) by Ira Katznelson, review by Bill N, Finance
This was an eye-opening look into the racism built into the social benefit programs of the New Deal that many of us are most proud of; Social Security, Fair Labor Act, the GI bill. Professor Katznelson walks you through the development of these groundbreaking pieces of legislation; legislation that lifted so many boats of those on the lower rungs of our economic ladder; to show how the outsized influence of Southern Democrats kept these noble programs out of the reach of the great majority of African-Americans – not by intent but through execution. I had no idea that for over 15 years, social security was not available to farmworkers or domestics, the two jobs that employed the great majority of blacks in the South. Nor was I aware that, while the GI Bill was race-blind, the Southern Democrats saw to it that implementation was left to local municipalities and local banks, ensuring that blacks couldn’t participate through great swaths of the South and Southwest. Shame on me for not knowing? Yes, but I feel for the words, “I was blind but now I see!”
So few people read non-fiction. Fewer still, topical history. It is unfortunate that my strongly recommending that one read this book will probably have little impact on getting many to do so.
Bad Blood by John Carryrou, reviewed by Kelsey H, Customer Service
I am not usually a non-fiction reader but this book is so good I am glad that I got over my “true stories” prejudice. This book had me saying from the prologue, “this can’t be real!” And each chapter gets wackier and wackier.
I had paid little attention to the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the CEO of Theranos, and her meteoric rise to fame when the company first became a “unicorn” (a privately held company whose market valuation reaches $1 billion), though many people wondered how this college dropout managed to convince the heavy hitters of Silicon Valley to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in not just an unproven medical technology but one that she would not even tell them about. I paid more attention to the story when it was later revealed that these titans of Silicon Valley had been duped by this young woman like the residents of Oz by the Wizard of Oz. How did this happen? It’s not just money at stake but actually body parts…and lives! Weren’t these people the smartest people in the room? Or have we been duped by Silicon Valley, when all this while they have just been the greediest people in the room? I was hoping this book would answer that question for me.
The book never answers that question directly but it is incredibly well-researched well-written and it does give you a lot of information to chew on, so you can decide for yourself. What is so fascinating in this entire tale is Elizabeth Holmes herself. As each chapter unfolds, you are agog (never get to use that word and it is so appropriate here so thank you, Elizabeth!) with her evolution as a person, as a leader, as a megalomaniac with no moral center. As a thinking rational human being, you simply don’t understand how Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos comes into being. Some would say she is simply evil, willing to risk people’s lives to enrich her own, but you can’t help but wonder if she simply believes in what she is creating and building with Theranos even though all facts point to the opposite.
The story, of course, is bigger than Elizabeth Holmes herself. It is also about how the investors, business partners, and even the US Government enable her and the company to thrive and grow and give her the stamp of legitimacy even though there is no legitimacy and her “product” puts lives at risk. So, there is plenty of “bad blood” to go around in this book. If you want a true-life page-turner, pick up this book!
Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, review by Tami C, Marketing
A masterpiece of language and insight by an author who to this date has not gotten the recognition she deserves for this powerful work.
This story of love and striving, of a young woman’s courage to seek meaning in her relationships, is spellbinding, particularly so when you consider the constraints upon blacks and even women, in general, in the early-20th century.
It is hard to put into words how fulfilling this read was. It carried me to another place and time, walking beside characters as one does with Faulkner. You travel with the protagonist, Janie Starks from her back porch, where she sits as a young girl with her grandmother, as she discovers life and love on a 40 year odyssey through the deep south, and then back home, again, to that same porch, where she narrates this tale to her close friend.
This is one of those books that you so hope won’t end. You want Janie to continue narrating life for you. Because the life she reveals, while as different from yours as you can imagine, seems so close, so instructive and so real.
Just wonderful. Highly – very highly – recommend.
Thank you, reviewers! So, that’s our summer reading this year, we hope you are enjoying your summer and making plenty of time to include a good book, see you in the next blog!
Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer, she worked with Julianna Rae in graphics and customer service, she currently writes lifestyle pieces for the blog at JuliannaRae.com/blog.