In-depth, straight-talking reviews

The difference between #metoo and #churchtoo is that the latter tackles a whole litany of abuses, mostly centered on sexual purity. In the evangelical world, purity means no talk, knowledge or experience with sex before marriage. It only applies to women, of course, and marriage can only be to a Christian man. Also of course. The result is a whole tribe of damaged women who have been blamed and punished for men breaking the purity code. …


It is a truism that no one person understands all of the income tax law of the United States. It is that bizarre, convoluted and complicated. To this, David Pogue is adding all of the potential disasters from climate change. In his How to Prepare for Climate Change, Pogue exhaustively describes what readers can only hope is every conceivable disaster, weakness, aid agency and product to help readers survive. It is not merely exhaustive; it is exhausting.

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From one angle, the book is an almanac of all the many destructive forces making their presence known on Earth. It describes floods, droughts, firestorms, hurricanes, tornadoes and other such fun in excruciating detail. …


Almost as s a public service, Jesse Singal has investigated numerous famous frauds of social/behavioral psychology. These are the fashionable, authoritative life hacks that can be described in cute memes or no more than a simple declarative sentence. The kinds of hacks that have made millions for psychologists, and continue to, long after they have been proven wrong if not totally bogus, and even after their creators have admitted as much. It is a delicious overview of what is wrong with psychology and why its credibility bounces along the zero level. They make his book, The Quick Fix, a great, animated read. …


On Time and Water is a very personal environmental book, which makes it different than the rest. Andri Magnason of Iceland is a documenter. He is all about tracing his relatives as back far as he can, preserving their stories and their photos in print. And this being Iceland, everyone seemed to have a really intimate connection to glaciers. As most readers will not have such a personal history with glaciers, the book can be captivating. It will not even occur to most that people can have personal relationships with glaciers. …


In the mids 80s, Monty Python’s Graham Chapman wrote his autobiography. He titled it A Liar’s Autobiography, and the preface was by the six co-authors. Now, Derek DelGaudio has published his own, called Amoralman, a chain of memoirs about people who lie, cheat and steal, as well as magicians who simply deceive. Spot the difference?

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DelGaudio’s story is much more cohesive. It is a very well-constructed collection of memories, often introduced by mysterious stories that later play into the memoir and are thereby explained. He keeps the reader’s interest, because really, no one ever knows where this is going.

DelGaudio was/is the product of a broken marriage. He lacked drive, ambition and persistence. No friends, no relatives, a gay mother, and an unsociable loner. That is until he discovered magic and a magicians’ store. He was so enamored of it all he practiced until he was a polished expert, and took a job at the store, impressing customers and getting them to buy their own. Never finished high school. …


Black Magic is an attitude that successful American Blacks all seem to have in profusion and variations. According to Chad Sanders in Black Magic, it can be many different things, from drive to perseverance to empathy to connections. In his delightful and wide-ranging collection of interviews and personal memoirs, Sanders develops the concept of Black Magic into a very real strategy that make the difference in Black careers. It is a fascinating and most worthwhile investment to make –for them and for readers.

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Growing up Black in America can be torture. Good parents find they must teach their children to twist themselves into numerous contortions to avoid trouble, from beatings to arrests to death. Blacks have to be extra careful, extra aware, and extra vigilant. They must instantly evaluate every word and gesture from whites, and find a way to dress and speak that works in their particular situations. It’s a crazy way to live, but if they can master all the necessary tricks, they can develop tools that leverage their own talents. They have turned their blackness into a concrete advantage. …


The pandemic has given the people of the world an(other) opportunity to pivot. It could be the opportunity to get together over issues in common. It could be the opportunity to alter the paths mankind and the nations of the world have been blindly rolling down. John Feffer has put together a whole congress of activists from all over the world. In The Pandemic Pivot, they add comments from their specialties and how things have unraveled for their concerns because of the pandemic. Their eloquent opinions are a common sense, sensible and often profound analysis of the state of society. It is a delightfully different kind of book, a sort of informal report card by expert watchers and witnesses. …


The history of Central America is the history of outside interference and destruction. It began with the Spanish invaders, the reason Columbus Day is a day of mourning throughout the region. In the first 150 years, the Spanish oversaw a reduction in population from 5–6 million to just 600,000 by 1800. In Aviva Chomsky’s Central America’s Forgotten History, the mistreatment of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are all different, a cornucopia of tactics that have kept them all violent, vile and oppressive — just the way America wanted it. It’s a horrifying, if comprehensive run through the descent of a once balanced society into violence, poverty and constant fear. It is a story of murder, slaughter, torture and dispossession. …


Nothing is forever. Every society turns over, just like every empire and religion and being. In Samuel Cohn’s All Societies Die, the idea is to learn what makes that happen at the societal level. For me at least, it doesn’t work.

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The book attempts to list all the many factors that might cause a society to fall, fail or fade away. Cohn talks about the fall of the Roman Empire, which lasted nearly 800 years. It had been defending itself from outsiders and rebellions for centuries, but the rot was likely from within. …

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