Review: Winslow’s The Border


The Border

Don Winslow

The final book in Don Winslow’s trilogy about the drug war completing the story of a troubled American agent and his series of drug king pin nemesis. While not as stark as Power of the Dog, and (thankfully) not as violent as The Cartel, this was still top-notch crime writing. I am a sucker for a Winslow book — the pacing, the dialogue, the characters are all right up my alley. You’d be right to criticize the white savior aspect of some of this book, but the plot is so propulsive, and the research into the way drug cartels actually operate so fascinating I couldn’t put it down.

Though not as violent as some of his other books, it is still much more violent than your average novel, so be warned. Great crime writing here, but of a particularly bloody sort.

Recommended.

Review: Keefe’s Say Nothing

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland
Patrick Radden Keefe

Where to even start with this book? This is the story of the tragic murder of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was taken from her home in the middle of the night. It’s also the story of the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, and the lives of those who fought in them. It’s the story of what happened to the soldiers (primarily on the Republican side) in the years that followed the Good Friday Agreement, how the troubles changed them, and in many cases, ruined them. It’s about a civil war that was fought, street by street, in a small city in the North of Ireland. It’s about journalists who promises they could never keep and about a families seeking closure after years of mystery.

At base, it’s a book about trauma and as someone who grew up surrounded by stories of Bobby Sands and the Easter Martyrs it was deeply affecting. Though not without its problems, this is probably the best book I’ve ever read on the Troubles, and trust me, I’ve read more than a few.

Recommended.

Review: Wilkinson’s American Spy

 
American Spy
Lauren Wilkinson

Spy novel written by serious novelist that deals with race, gender, and anti-colonial struggles in Africa? SIGN ME UP. Wilkinson walks the line between literary and page turner here, incorporating very specific and nuanced discussions of African American / Afro-Caribbean Brooklyn, race and policing, and modern African history. To this she add a gripping who done it and a believable, tragic, love story. Worth the time even if spy novels aren’t usually your thing.

Recommended

Review: Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman

Death and the Kings Horseman
Wole Soyinka

I’m a bit embarrassed I never read this classic before, but glad I rectified that this month. This short play is a story of colonialism, western chauvinism and profound cultural divides. It’s about what happens when ancient cultural traditions get disrespected by a new, allegedly more progressive force, and what happens to those caught between the world’s of their father and the world to come. It’s also an almost perfectly executed Greek style tragedy.

I thought a bit of the first two acts was overdone, but by the third act, I was riveted and finished this in one sitting.

Very glad I finally picked this one up.

Recommended.

Review: Jame’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf


Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Marlon James

Booker award winning novelist Marlon James jumps into the epic fantasy game and produces a book that is gorgeous on the sentence level, well constructed on the paragraph level, but hugely challenging as a book.

Perhaps I’m not smart enough, or my attention isn’t focused enough, but I found this one to be tough sledding. James’s use of language is stunning, and I often found myself awed by his phrasing, but I also found it difficult to follow the narrative (such as it is) and never came to care much about the characters. People I respect love this book and say it haunts them months after they finished it, but it never landed with me. I kept feeling like I was just a couple of pages from having the whole thing click together, but it never happened. Despite the beauty of some of the language, I can’t recommend this. Your mileage may vary.

Not Recommended.

Review: Sack’s On The Move


On the Move: A Life
Oliver Sacks

I’ve always been interested in Sacks as a person, even if I’ve never been particularly interested in his work as a neurologist. His intelligence, eccentricity and playfulness are on full display in this memoir. From motorcycling across the country and breaking weightlifting records, to discovering his calling as a sort of popularizer of neurology, this book does not disappoint. The man is endlessly fascinating, and his life long curiosity is an inspiration to a live long learner like myself. No, I’m never going to memorize the periodic table or collect rare metals, but yeah, I might just move to City Island one day and take up long distance swimming.

There’s real criticism to level against Sacks and his use of his patients stories, but there’s also much to be inspired by in the life story of this man of apparently huge curiosity and kindness.

Recommended.

Review: Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

21 Lessons for the 21st Century
Yuval Noah Harari

The third in Harari’s trilogy of books and by far his most accessible. If you know Harari through youtube videos and magazine articles, a lot of this will be familiar. Brilliant insights here into how A.I. will change work, how the stories will tell ourselves today may seem barbaric to our grandchildren, and the importance of clarity and insight in leading a fulfilling life. Perhaps not as mind-bendingly brilliant as Sapiens, or as forward thinking as Homo Deus, but still well worth the time and maybe even the best place to start. If 21 Lessons intrigues you, you’ll love his other works.

Recommended.