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The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

I first saw this book in the library over a year ago. The title caught my eye. The synopsis, though, made me scoff and put it back on the shelf. Even a former defense attorney and all around cynic like myself found it too much. So what is the thesis? That today’s criminal justice system serves the same role as Jim Crow.

Sure, I thought, the vast majority of people in prison are black. But whose fault is that? Does she really expect me to believe there is some kind of system wide conspiracy to imprison blacks? Isn’t the simpler answer that they commit more crimes?

That certainly is the simpler answer. Wrong, too. In fact, black people commit crimes at about the same rate as other races. Sometimes less, as with marijuana. They are, however. Much, much, much more likely to be arrested for those crimes. That difference, both the reasons for it and the results of it, is the crux of the book.

Powerful, passionate, infuriating, well reasoned: All adjectives that come close to describing The New Jim Crow. Anyone who has the slightest concerns for liberty, equality and the lives of anyone other than themselves needs to read this book.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Nonfiction

 

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

I recently read the Last Werewolf and enjoyed it enough to read this one. Contrary to what appears to be the majority opinion, I liked the Last Werewolf better.

Instead of being about, well, what it’s like to be the last werewolf, this one follows Satan for a month as he inhabits the body of a writer – Declan Gunn – who was in the midst of committing suicide when God decides to give Lucifer a chance at redemption by letting him animate Gunn for a month. It sounds original and interesting, but it never grabbed me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it had too many Britishisms. Or maybe it was Lucifer’s annoying habit of speaking in at least one parenthetical aside in almost every paragraph. It could also be the ridiculousness of the whole premise. But then, I don’t believe werewolves exist, either. It was worth reading, it just didn’t work like I thought it would.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2012 in Fiction

 

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

I enjoyed this not-about-baseball baseball book. It centers around an outstanding young shortstop – Henry Skrimshander – at a fictional mid-western university. The descriptions of the training and games are great. It got me even more excited than I already was about opening day, and inspired me to spend more time tossing pitches and hitting ground balls to my son. Even so, the book’s real story, revolves around the relationships between Henry, two teammates, the university president, and the president’s daughter. The book bordered on the ridiculous at times, especially the ending, but it’s one I will remember for a long time.

As an aside, I’ve recently and unintentionally read a lot of books set in or about – in a phrase from one of them – the mid f’ng west. That’s from Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic. There’s also been The Corrections and Freedom (I liked the former better) from Jonathan Franzen. Now this. Throw in recently watched movies Fargo, Cedar Rapids, and Presumed Innocent and I feel like I ought to be a Big Ten fan.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Fiction

 

The Litigators by John Grisham

A lawyer disenchanted with big firm life┬ádecides to see how the other half lives. Yeah, it’s the same book he’s written a hundred times, but it’s a reliably entertaining chance to turn off the brain for a few hours.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Fiction, Uncategorized

 

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Another zombie tale. Set in the post-apocalypse just as the humans begin re-establishing themselves, the story follows one man – nicknamed Mark Spitz – as he works with a team clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining (supposedly) zombies. Spitz provides the back story in bits and pieces through his own recollections as he carries out his job over the three-day period covered by the book. True to the genre, there’s plenty of gore. But the real story revolves around Spitz’s inner struggle to survive. Enjoyable and haunting. Loved it.

Also, I just ordered this shirt:

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Fiction

 

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta

The “rapture” occurs but indiscriminately takes all kinds of believers, even the non. Left behind (haha) with no real idea why, the rest of the world continues pretty much as before, but with a bit more conscious uncertainty about the whole point of life.

More of an exploration of suburban emotional wastelands than post-apocalyptic wastelands, but still, I enjoyed it.

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’m not much of a Stephen King fan, nor do I think JFK was anything special. So when I heard about this book, in which the main character returns to the mid twentieth century to prevent the assassination, I shrugged. But I read enough good reviews that I decided to read it myself.

Not bad. And my fears of JFK worship were unfounded.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Fiction