Book Reviews

Alan's haunting novel of the AIDS epidemic, As If Death Summoned, was released on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2020, and has won the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards. Watch the book trailer here. Read the reviews here.

Colson Whitehead


The discovery of the bodies was an expensive complication for the real estate company awaiting the all clear from the environmental study, and for the state’s attorney, which had recently closed an investigation into the abuse stories. Now they had to start a new inquiry, establish the identities of the deceased and the manner of death, and there was no telling when the whole damned place could be razed, cleared, and neatly erased from history, which everyone agreed was long overdue.

                          from The Nickel Boys


Sonia Purnell

Penguin Books

Dubbed the “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” the Special Operations Executive “found the search for a new type of rule-breaking recruit capable of ‘absolute secrecy’ and ‘fanatical enthusiasm’ rough going. Dyed-in-the-wool military types, with their concern for what they termed ‘ethics’ had to be kept away, as indeed did most of His Majesty’s ministers. A Cabinet colleague excluded the devout Anglo-Catholic foreign secretary Lord Halifax from SOE meetings, for instance, because he did not have what it took to ‘make a gangster.’”

 from A Woman of No Importance


Jerry Thompson


“I live here. And every time I drive to the coast, I see towns that are not long from now going to be under water from the next tsunami…The Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake and the tsunami that’ll come with it will be virtually identical to the one in 2004 in Sumatra. It’ll dwarf 1906 (San Francisco). And Katrina. It’ll be many dozens of Katrinas all at once. Coastal towns from northern California to Canada will be virtually wiped out…It’s a little hard to go to the beach and just hang out there and enjoy it.”

Chris Goldfinger, marine geologist at Oregon State University, from Cascadia’s Fault


Erik Larson


The one universal balm for the trauma of war was tea. It was the thing that helped people cope. People made tea during air raids and after air raids, and on breaks between retrieving bodies from shattered buildings. Tea bolstered the network of thirty thousand observers who watched for German aircraft over England, operating from one thousand observation posts, all stocked with tea and kettles…Tea was comfort and history; above all, it was English. As long as there was tea, there was England.

      from The Splendid and the Vile


Brian Doyle

Little, Brown & Co

I am standing in the hospital watching babies emerge from my wife like a circus act. First out is a boy, dark-haired and calm, the size of an owl. He is immediately commandeered by a nurse who whisks him off for a bath and a stint in what appears to be a tiny tanning bed. Now, says the doctor, reaching around inside my wife while he talks, here’s the other one, and he hauls out another boy. This one is light-haired and not calm; he grabs for a nurse’s scissors and won’t let go and they have to pry his fingers off and the nurse looks accusingly at me for some reason and I want to say hey, I don’t even know the guy, but I don’t say anything, being overwhelmed with new roommates and tears and astonishment at people emerging from my wife one after another…

              from One Long River of Song



Karl Marlantes

Atlantic Monthly Press

    Louhi hesitated. “You must know my business by now.”
    “A boarding house.”
    Louhi laughed. Ilmari looked at her quizzically.
    “I finance whorehouses and saloons.”
    He blinked.
    Louhi could have been reading his mind. “(My daughter) has nothing to be ashamed of. I own the whorehouse. If you have trouble with it, now is the time to know.”
    “I am a strong Evangelical Lutheran.”
    “So are most of my customers.”

                from Deep River



Elaine Weiss


Anne (Dudley) had smashed the Anti’s trusty rationale—that women did not have the right to vote because they were not required to bear arms in warfare—with her poignant reply: “Yes, but women bear armies.” And even the bitterest Anti solon had to admire Anne’s sangfroid when that bomb was tossed through the window while she addressed a suffrage meeting in 1913. “Is that an anti-suffrage bomb?” she asked calmly, peering over the podium, pausing only a few beats. It didn’t explode, so she continued on with her speech.

                from The Woman’s Hour



Jim Ottaviani & Leland Myrick

First Second






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