7 Most Favorable Reviews in August 2022

  • September 2, 2022

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

7 Most Favorable Reviews in August 2022

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos (Catapult). Reviewed by Antoaneta Tileva. “Melissa Febos’ latest essay collection, Body Work, is ‘not a craft book in the traditional sense,’ she states. Nor is it a flowery ode to the writer’s life. Instead, it’s a practical, clear-eyed take on the intimate (and intricate) connection between our bodies and our bodies of work. Throughout, Febos beautifully narrates the ways in which writing is ‘integrated into the fundamental movements of life,’ asking readers to go beyond writing about their lives to writing their lives.”

Reward System: Stories by Jem Calder (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Mariko Hewer. “As Calder writes, ‘For the first time in human history, no person has to think their own thoughts if they don’t want to. Technology has opened new slots in the world through which instant, substanceless, distractive relief is accessible to the consumer at any moment.’ This feels particularly apt as we move into the third year of a global pandemic which has changed the ways we interact with technology — a subject addressed in the last story, ‘The Foreseeable,’ which takes place during those first disorienting months of covid-19. It’s fascinating to watch Calder’s characters enter the pandemic just as we did so many months ago, and his portrayal feels apt. His whole collection, in fact, is a worthwhile read for anyone looking for thoughtful commentary on human relationships and technology’s impact on them.”

The School that Escaped the Nazis: The True Story of the Schoolteacher Who Defied Hitler by Deborah Cadbury (PublicAffairs). Reviewed by Stephen Maitland-Lewis. “There is no shortage of books on the Holocaust and the overall inferno of the Hitler years. Reading anything from the vast published material on this subject is bound to evoke the obvious disgust and horror. Still, the question remains: How, in the 20th century, could such carnage have unfolded in a country hitherto considered among the foremost cultured and civilized of all nations? In The School that Escaped the Nazis, Deborah Cadbury skillfully evokes another, more heartwarming emotion surrounding those years, and her book confirms that amid the bloodshed of that era, there were indeed instances of profound goodness and human decency.”

Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire & Revolution in the Borderlands by Kelly Lytle Hernández (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Elizabeth J. Moore. “It may seem a truism that the histories of the U.S. and Mexico are intertwined (after all, much of this country once belonged to Mexico), yet most Americans are ignorant of this integral part of our past. In her eye-opening Bad Mexicans, Kelly Lytle Hernández seeks to raise awareness of this connection through her account of the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. There was, in fact, a considerable U.S. component to the revolution: U.S. officials and capitalists were complicit in driving Mexican discontent, while the revolution was planned in large part by Mexican exiles here (the term ‘Bad Mexicans’ was coined by then Mexican president Porfirio Díaz to describe these exiles).”

Dark Voyage: An American Privateer’s War on Britain’s African Slave Trade by Christian McBurney (Westholme). Reviewed by Mark G. Spencer. “This, McBurney’s sixth book on the American Revolution, is a wide-ranging account that sets its microhistory case study in wider historical contexts. The story is told effectively, and the writing is accessible, with helpful explanations of terms and events for the uninitiated. The author’s account is underpinned by significant research in archives and other primary sources — such as period newspapers — and incorporates much relevant historiography. There are also several useful maps and a gallery of black-and-white illustrations, among them Edward Greene Malbone’s portrait of John Brown.”

The Godmother: Murder, Vengeance, and the Bloody Struggle of Mafia Women by Barbie Latza Nadeau (Penguin Books). Reviewed by Eric Dezenhall. “The advancement of women gangsters, however, is not derived from a #MeToo-style reckoning on sexism but because of sexism. Mafiosi viewed women as weak, inept at business, and overly emotional, so they initially delegated token responsibility to them in the mistaken belief that the authorities and their enemies would underestimate and overlook them. It turned out that these godmothers were terrifyingly competent and none too eager to liberalize their rule or give power back to the men who gave it to them. Oops.”

Voices in the Dead House: A Novel by Norman Lock (Bellevue Literary Press). Reviewed by M.K. Tod. “Time and place come alive in Voices in the Dead House as the author weaves in just the right amount of historical detail. Dialogue, attitudes, fashion, medical practices, battles, power structures, and streetscapes all keep the reader anchored in the past. Through his characters’ struggles, Lock ably portrays the concerns of that day — prejudice, the strength of the Union, and America’s position in the world — which still exist in this one.”

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