Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Books of the Year (Part IV)

Books of the Year 10-6

10. Blood in the Water, Heather Ann Thompson. Ms. Thompson’s exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) history of the 1971 Attica riot and its aftermath is an absolute page turner. She not only delves into the causes of the riot, but gives a blow-by-blow of the four day siege, the negotiations, the “what ifs” (primarily ones related to why the government officials in charge did not continue negotiating when a deal seemed imminent), the retaking of the prison by force and the decades-long effort to get to the truth of what happened during those panicked few hours. I hate to say Thompson is “pro-inmate,” more accurately, she is “anti cover-up” which is mostly what happened but I felt as though in her zeal to (rightly) point the finger at those in power who tried to sweep the devastation under the rug, she was a bit too willing to give a free pass to the inmates who incited the riot. 

9. The Time Traveler’s Handbook: 18 Experiences From the Eruption of Vesuvius to Woodstock, James Wyllie, Johnny Acton, and David Goldblatt. As the title suggests, this smart and engaging book takes readers back to certain times in history, offering an experiential description of what it might be like if you were cruising Hamburg, Germany when The Beatles first performed there, hanging out in Xanadu with Marco Polo, or observing the First Battle of Bull Run. The book is meticulously researched down to the types of food you might have eaten or clothes you would have worn during each of these times in history. The publisher also printed this book on heavy bond paper with many illustrations, adding to the reader’s overall enjoyment.

8. Dreamland, Sam Quinones. If you’re interested in understanding the economics of the drug trade in America, dig into this excellent book about how heroin and its lagging indicator, opiate painkillers, have decimated entire communities in our country. My full review

7. Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City, Matthew Desmond. After you have learned how the drug trade has basically destroyed huge swaths of Ohio, West Virginia, and other parts of the country, boogie on up to Milwaukee to find out how rapacious landlords take advantage of poor people while suckling at the government teat. 

6. American Heiress, Jeffrey Toobin. The Patty Hearst kidnapping is now relegated to distant 70s lore, somewhere near pet rocks and the 8-track cassette deck in our collective memory, but Toobin brings the story back to life, placing it in the context of the low-level domestic terrorism that would seem disturbing today, and wraps it all up in a convincing argument that Hearst’s privilege and willingness to shade the truth ultimately allowed her to (mostly) escape justice while her comrades in arms spent years, if not decades in prison. My full review

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