Monday, October 16, 2017

Unbelievable by Katy Tur


Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History

by Katy Tur

You won't believe how it ends!

This was a good book to read to basically go back and re-live the presidential campaign from a "road warrior" point of view.  It's been just under a year since some Americans voted Trump into office.  I was hoping Trump would have quit by now.  After the shock of election night, I gave him four months.  There's no way he'd last any longer.  I'm still waiting.

I read the ebook version of this one.  There were two word choice errors that I found - use of "pore" rather than "pour" and I can't even remember the other one, it was so benign. 

Tur's writing style is easy to read and comprehend but I do wish she'd have kept the political stuff in chronological order instead of jumping back and forth to election night.  That jumping back and forth seemed more like a writing gimmick than a necessity for the sake of the narrative.

I was able to recognize most of the public situations covered in the book because I've basically been an NBC/MSNBC junkie for the past year and a half or so.  I'm one of those people who - if I ever run into Katy Tur, I would expect her to know who I am - as if she could see me through the television watching all of her (and her colleagues) coverage.

If you follow MSNBC or NBC news outlets and/or followed Katy Tur's reporting during the campaign, you'll probably enjoy this memoir of such a short time ago.  If you've never heard of Katy Tur (where have you been??) but like politics and current events, I recommend this book.  For me, it was a windup for "What Happened" by Hillary Clinton.

Buy it here:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


I'd seen Ron Fournier on a few different news shows that weren't promotional spots for him but they did mention this book so I was curious.  I'm glad I followed through.  LOVE THAT BOY is a thought provoking family story whereby the autistic son teaches the father.  It is a joy to read - honestly whether you're a parent or not.  I think ANY parent should read this book and most non-parents should as well.  It's a book about humanity and growth.  You'll want to read it again.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Protest picket line in Tuscaloosa where Senator Richard Shelby's office is located.

February 24, 2017.  The second of weekly protests until Alabama's Senator Shelby holds a town hall meeting for his constituents instead of only meeting with his business friend donors.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Understanding Exposure - A Review

I started taking photographs 40 years ago and while I am not a professional photographer, I did sell a few shots and I had a month-long exhibit at one point. I didn't make the transition to digital photography so I quit shooting for over a decade. When I finally began shooting digital photography last year, I decided to actually re-learn what I was doing. I took a comprehensive photography course for the first time in my life. It was my good fortune to get a review copy of Bryan Peterson's book during the time I was learning about photography in the classroom setting. Being able to read his book during that time truly enhanced my photography education.

Bryan Peterson's conversational writing style invites the reader to learn without struggling. This is the fourth edition of this volume and with this edition comes all new photographs. Peterson has also added a section on flash photography, adding even more value to the book. Each section has suggestions for exercises to do so you get experience with the concepts Peterson is illuminating. Even though I was taking a photography course at the time, I found the exercises in this book to be quite helpful in reinforcing what I was learning through the text as well as in class.

I like this book so much that when I was taking notes, either for writing reviews or for my own personal education, instead of underlining or highlighting on the pages, I actually took photographs of the passages I wanted to highlight. I didn't want to mark up the book at all. I highly recommend this volume for any photographer who is learning or re-learning your art, and I thank the author and publisher for the free review copy.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

He Wanted the Moon – A Review

He Wanted the Moon – The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird and His Daughter's Quest to Know Him

by Mimi Baird with Eve Claxton

In this unforgettable book, Mimi Baird finds her father through personal and professional writings, and later a few key interviews, and shares him with us. This book is part biography and part autobiography. It is an intimate look at a life of manic and depressive swings in a brilliant physician living in an age of arcane mental health practices.

This book is disturbing, heartbreaking, and educational. It is important. It is about a woman looking for a connection with her estranged father and finally finding it through his handwritten manuscript for a book about mental illness and treatment.

The first half of He Wanted the Moon is dedicated to the manuscript of Dr. Baird, himself (with some prudent editing by Mimi Baird and Eve Claxton as noted in the author's note at the beginning). It is a fascinating look at manic depressive psychosis (now called bipolar disease) through the eyes of the patient, who also happens to be a world-renown physician who was on the cusp of a medical breakthrough for his own disease. We learn a great deal from Dr. Baird's narrative – how he felt, what he was thinking, how he was treated by friends and family, and the common treatments for mental illness at the time.

In 1944, there were no pharmaceutical treatments available to treat manic depressive psychosis. And during the manic stages of the disease, barbaric treatments such as straight jackets, insulin-induced comas, among other means, were the norm for controlling the patients until they became more stable. Dr. Baird described one such barbaric treatment, the cold pack, in such vivid detail that I could feel my own anxiety level rise as I imagined being trapped in the pack. My calf muscles twitched in protest on behalf of Dr. Baird.

In the late 1940's, 55% of all hospital beds were occupied by psychiatric patients. With patients, families, and doctors desperate for hope, the lobotomy was introduced as the cure. Over the years, roughly 50,000 Americans had the brain surgery that in most cases left the patient brain damaged and unable to care for themselves. Dr. Baird had his emotions-severing lobotomy in 1949.

The other half of the book deals with Mimi Baird's decision to find out what happened to her father when she was just a young girl and her attempts to learn about the man who mysteriously vanished from her young life and essentially never came back.

Her mother, who divorced her father in 1944 and quickly remarried, was unwilling to discuss the matter of Mimi Baird's father with her so there was a decades-long void in her life. Years later, it was a serendipitous conversation with an aging physician who had known Dr. Baird that opened the door for Mimi Baird to begin peeking into his life in earnest.

Anyone interested in history, medical history, mental health history, or virtually any subject in the realm of social sciences, should definitely read this book. I would also recommend it to anyone with a friend or family member with mental illness. Whether we realize it or not, we probably all know someone with bipolar disorder (manic depressive psychosis).

At the risk of sounding cliche, I was going to say this book needs to be adapted for the screen. And then I remembered that I'd read there is a film in the making. I look forward to being that person who says, “the book was so much better than the movie.”

I wish to thank the author and publisher for the advance reader's copy of He Wanted the Moon.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Rooftop Growing Guide - A Review

The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof into a Vegetable Garden or Farm

As co-founder and head farmer of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn, Annie Novak knows what she's talking about in The Rooftop Growing Guide. If you have a usable rooftop, you can turn it into a garden.

The best thing about The Rooftop Growing Guide (RGG) is that it's not just for people who are growing on the roof. This book is packed with information with illustrative photographs and narrative examples. I've been gardening for 15 years and yet, there is always more to learn. This book is my newest favorite “tool” for my gardens.

Many of the principles set forth in RGG are suitable for ground gardening, raised bed gardening, container gardening, or balcony gardening as well. Novak discusses such universal general gardening topics as soil, lighting, seeds and seedlings, irrigation, compost, tools, pests, fertilizers, and greenhouses. But she gets into details that many gardening books lack. One such example is using a camera to determine the amount of light your potential garden area gets.

Of course, this is a rooftop garden guide, so there are also topics specific to rooftop endeavors, such as assessing the location, planning, legal issues, structural issues, and the micro-climate. Throughout the book, Novak features several real life rooftop gardens to show the reader what they are aspiring to achieve.

Although Annie Novak is a professional farmer, she presents the RGG in such a way as to not alienate the novice gardener. But the ideal candidate for this book would be someone who has at least some basic knowledge about gardening simply due to the volume of information presented. Counting the index, this book is 245 pages. The amount of useful information contained therein is incredible – there is not a wasted word, photograph, diagram, or sidebar. This is a how-to book that is not filled with words for the sake of words.

I highly recommend this book to any and all who tend gardens or small farms. And I recommend the book in physical form, as opposed to electronic form. The physical book itself is a joy to hold and peruse. It's a hefty over-sized paperback with colorful glossy pages. This is the kind of book that you want a physical copy. The electronic copy will suffice, but the physical copy will delight. I'm glad I have both.

I wish to thank the author and Ten Speed Press for the free advance reader copy.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Fold, by Peter Clines - A Review

The Fold

   by Peter Clines

Peter Clines' TheFold will grab you from the start and not let go until the finish. I was really looking forward to reading this book but once I had it in hand, I didn't have time to get to it for two weeks. Once I IDID get to it, everything else be damned! This book is an exceptional science-fiction thriller.

Mike Erikson teaches high school kids but he was built to do more. He was recruited by an old friend to take on a fascinating summer job. His job as a DARPA consultant was to check out the “Albuquerque Door,” a portal of sorts that will transport a person from point A to point B almost instantly.  His assessment would help his friend justify budgeting the necessary funds to continue the project.

The people who staff the project are less than forthcoming about what it does and how it works. And after the last DARPA consultant returned, he apparently went mad. But Mike is uniquely qualified to figure things out using his high IQ and eidetic memory.

This book grabs you quickly and then moves so far, so fast without you really even noticing until you're faced with monsters!  Let it take you along through the mind-bending twists and turns and see where you land.

This is really fun science fiction.  It's the kind of story that will have you saying, "oh my god" and "oh wow," out loud as you're reading.  Take this trip.  It's totally safe.  

I highly recommend this book.  It was great fun!

Many thanks to the publisher and author for the advance reader copy.