Book Reviews

Jill Lepore

W.W. Norton and Company

By 1915, (a Congressional) committee had drafted a bill providing for universal medical coverage. “No other social movement in modern economic development is so pregnant with benefit to the public,” wrote the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. “At present the United States has the unenviable distinction of being the only great industrial nation without compulsory health insurance,” the Yale economist Irving Fisher pointed out in 1916. It would maintain that unenviable distinction for a century.

                                  from These Truths



Charles King


If you really wanted to understand what was happening in a Kwakiutl village or an Inuit camp, you had to try as hard as possible to divest yourself of the opinions common to the environment in which you were born. You had to struggle to follow new trains of thought and new logic, to grab on to new emotions…Otherwise you couldn’t claim to understand anything at all. You were simply staring at your own biases, reflected back at you in the mirror of someone else’s culture.

                from Gods of the Upper Air



James Mustich

Workman Publishing

The question of what to read next is the best prelude to even more important ones, like who to be, and how to live…A good book is the opposite of a selfie; the right book at the right time can expand our lives in the way love does, making us more thoughtful, more generous, more brave, more alert to the world’s wonders and more pained by its inequities, more wise, more kind.

 from 1000 Books to Read Before You Die



Ted Chiang

Alfred A. Knopf

People are made of stories. Our memories are not the impartial accumulation of every second we’ve lived; they’re like the narrative that we assembled out of selected moments. Which is why, even when we’ve experienced the same events as other individuals, we never constructed identical narratives…Each of us noticed the details that caught our attention and remembered what was important to us, and the narratives we built shaped our personalities in turn.

                          from Exhalation



Benjamin Dreyer

Random House

Ben Dreyer English

Go light on the exclamation points. When overused, they’re bossy, hectoring, and, ultimately, wearying. Some writers recommend that you should use no more than a dozen exclamation points per book; others insist that you should use no more than a dozen exclamation points in a lifetime.

                          from Dreyer's English



Rebecca Makkai


No one wanted to do much in the weeks after Nico’s memorial. Whoever you called was busy taking food to Terrence’s place, or you yourself were taking food to Terrence. Or people were sick, just regular sick, with coughs brought on by the drop in temperature. Guys with families flew home for Thanksgiving to play straight for nieces and nephews, to assure their grandparents they were dating, no one special, a few nice girls. To assure their fathers, who had cornered them in various garages and hallways, that no, they weren’t going to catch this new disease.

                          from The Great Believers



Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

Flatiron Books


Washington may be one of the most seasoned military veterans in the colonies, but that isn’t saying much. Colonial officers like Washington were given inferior positions compared to their British counterparts. As a colonel, Washington was a midlevel officer who had never led more than a hundred men in actual battle…(His) enduring reputation as a great military leader is not based on his technical skill as a tactician. He would win a few impressive battles, but overall he lost more than he won. What made him great—at least in the particular circumstances of the Revolutionary War—was his sheer staying power, his total devotion to his army, his relentless sense of duty, and a stubborn refusal to ever give up.

                  from The First Conspiracy


Marlon James

Riverhead Books

The day before (Sangoma) told the Leopard to take me out and teach me archery. All I learned was that I should try something else. Now I throw the hatchet…
“During my my ithwasa, my master told me that I would see far. Too far,” the Sangoma said.
“Close your eyes, then.”
“You need to respect your elders.”
“I will, when I meet elders I can respect.”

                  from Black Leopard, Red Wolf


Tommy Orange

Alfred A. Knopf

Getting us to cities was supposed to be the final, necessary step in our assimilation, absorption, erasure, the completion of a five-hundred-year-old genocidal campaign…We were not Urban Indians then. This was part of the Indian Relocation Act, which was part of the Indian Termination Policy, which was and is exactly what it sounds like. Make them look and act like us. Become us. And so disappear.

                          from There, There



Hans Rosling

Flatiron Books

Educating girls has proven to be one of the world’s best-ever ideas. When women are educated, all kinds of wonderful things happen in societies. The workforce becomes diversified and able to make better decisions and solve more problems. Educated mothers decide to have fewer children and more children survive. More energy and time is invested in each child’s education. It’s a virtuous cycle of change.

                               from Factfulness