Book Review: The Twelve

The Twelve by Justin Cronin

The Twelve: A Novel by Justin Cronin (New York: Ballantine Books, 2012. 608 pp) Justin Cronin is the author of The Passage, The Twelve, Mary and O’Neil, and The Summer Guest. His work has earned him a PEN/Hemingway Award, a Stephen Crane Prize, Whiting Writer’s Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Houston, Texas with his family. *Spoiler Alert for the Previous Books* Let’s Talk Plot and Structure Even though narratives can take many forms and stylistic flourishes, I tend to enjoy the prologue. This excerpt at the beginning of a story allows the author to set the stage and make statements about the overarching themes to come. When I think of the… Read More →

Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, translated by Ilse Lasch (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992, and 2006. 184 pp) Viktor Frankl is an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. Frankl’s memoir of his time in the Nazi concentration camps became a foundational element of his psychological and existential philosophy. Frankl died in 1997. The Holocaust Museum In high school, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for a youth leadership conference. The event included high schoolers nominated from their respective schools across the United States. The principal aim of the conference was to educate the future leaders of America on the minutiae of D.C. politics. We created a pseudo-government and tried to lobby for… Read More →

Book Review: Confident Pluralism

Confident Pluralism by John Inazu

Confident Pluralism: Surviving and Thriving through Deep Difference by John D. Inazu (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2016. 176 pp) John D. Inazu is the Sally D. Danforth Distinguished Professor of Law and Religion at Washington University in St. Louis. He earned a B.S.E. in civil engineering from Duke University, a J.D. from Duke University School of Law, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of North Carolina. We’re All Talking Politics, Even If We Aren’t on the Same Page 2016. What a year. There’s a meme making circles on the internet highlighting how people felt at the beginning of the year compared to now. Often connected to a series of images, the early 2016… Read More →

Book Review: Homegoing

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi (New York: Knopf, 2016. 320 pp) Yaa Gyasi was born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BA in English from Stanford University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she held a Dean’s Graduate Research Fellowship. She lives in Berkley, California. Ancestry There’s a scene from the year’s best new television series that sticks with me. Atlanta is amazing. Take my word for it. Anyway, Earn (Donald Glover), the protagonist—if we can accurately label such a character in this series—visits a party in a well-to-do neighborhood. The husband and wife operate in the elite stratosphere of Atlanta culture. The white husband considers himself a connoisseur of African culture,… Read More →

Book Review: Here I Am

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. 592 pp) Born in Washington, D.C., Jonathan Safran Foer attended Princeton University earning a degree in philosophy. While at Princeton, Foer developed a senior thesis around the life of his Holocaust surviving grandfather. Eventually, this thesis became Foer’s first published book titled, Everything Is Illuminated. The book received critical acclaim winning the National Jewish Book Award and a Guardian First Book Award. Eventually, the novel was adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood. Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel garnered both praise and derision for its use of 9/11 as a narrative tool and its use of visual writing. Foer… Read More →

Book Review: The Price of Salt

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith (New York: Dover Publications, 2015; originally published in 1952. 256 pp) Patricia Highsmith was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1921. She studied English composition, playwriting, and short story at Barnard College. Highsmith wrote 22 novels during her career, including Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. She died in 1995. Who Are You? Identity is a tricky thing. When I was younger, I worried consistently about goodness. Did I possess good qualities inherently? Did I need to work for them? What did it take to be good? With a constant focus on these identity questions, I never felt whole. I had nothing obviously hindering me from living a decent life,… Read More →

Book Review: The Art of War

The Art of War by Sun-tzu

The Art of War by Sun-tzu; translated by Ralph D. Sawyer (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994. 375 pp) Sun-tzu was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in the Spring and Autumn period of ancient China, traditionally believed to have lived from 544 BC to 496 BC. It’s Not All About Warfare Even though I must admit I was the typical teenager playing the standard first-person shooter games, the older I get, the less inspired I become with the war metaphor. While Tom Clancy can scratch that puerile itch for action and black-and-white narratives, the world’s complexity makes it difficult to sit within the us-versus-them mindset. From a business perspective, the warfare metaphor runs deep. We… Read More →

Book Review: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead (New York: Doubleday, 2016. 320 pp) Colson Whitehead was born in 1969 and raised in Manhattan. He attended Harvard College and afterward he began working as a reviewer for The Village Voice. Out of the gate, Whitehead’s fiction gained acclaim when his first novel, The Intuitionist, won the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award. His work has earned him the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the PEN/Oakland Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. Also, Whitehead has received a MacArthur Fellowship and a fellowship at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Victors Write History History: Written by the Victors. We discuss such a phrase most often around our… Read More →

Book Review: LaRose

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRose: A Novel by Louise Erdrich (New York: Harper, 2016. 384 pp) Louise Erdrich lives with her family in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore. She is also the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels for adults, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves and the National Book Award finalist The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is also the author of the picture book Grandmother’s Pigeon, illustrated by Jim LaMarche. Woke Context plays an important role in the consumption of art. Outside of one-off art installations or performances, a reaction to any specific art form may transform over the years. NeverEnding Story played differently in my childhood… Read More →

Book Review: The Big Picture

The Big Picture by Sean Carroll

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll (New York: Dutton, 2016. 480 pp) Sean Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He has been awarded prizes and fellowships by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the American Physical Society, the American Institute of Physics, and the Royal Society of London. His most recent award was a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2015. He is the author of From Eternity to Here and The Particle at the End of the Universe. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jennifer Ouellette. On Ontology We all have a reason for being…. Read More →