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READ MY MIND © Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD

Jan 08, 2019 08:48PM ● By Michael Harris


Book Reviews by Michael G. Harris, OD


Books You May Have Missed In 2018


Here are some books you may have missed last year.If you want to get a fictional insight into 1970s Oakland, read Tommy Orange’s There There. It’s the bittersweet story of Native Americans on their way to the big Oakland Powwow. Gut-wrenching at times, the characters’ stories illustrate “the plight of the urban Native American.”  It’s challenging but worthwhile.


By far, the most perceptive book written about the 2016 presidential election isBob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House.The opening salvo of the book, which I won’t give away, sets the stage for the rest of this fascinating story. Woodward quotes high-ranking White House officials as if he were a fly on the wall during every important conversation in the West Wing. It’s a must read for political junkies. 


Ronan Farrow’s War On Peace: The End of Democracy and the Decline of American Influenceexplains how the decline of our influence abroad is caused by dramatic shifts in foreign policy, including deep budget cuts in the institutions of democracy and the appointment of political cronies in place of veteran diplomats. Fortunately for readers, Farrow, a former State Department official and son of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, has his father’s brains and his mother’s good looks and not vice versa.


Sea Prayer, by The Kite Runnerauthor Khaled Hosseine, is a powerful little book about a father’s struggle to save his son from the horrors of the Syrian civil war. It’s written in verse, with intense illustrations showing their plight. While it might be designed as a children’s book, it needs a more mature audience to interpret it properly.


Jane Leavy’s The Big Fellais the story of  ”Babe Ruth and the world he created.” No one changed the face of baseball and America in the ‘20s the way the Babe did. He was larger-than-life, on the field and off. This highly entertaining biography is a “homerun.” 


Raymond Arsenault’s Arthur Ashe: A Lifeis a brilliant biography of the ”Jackie Robinson of men’s tennis.” Born and raised in “Jim Crow” Virginia, Ashe had to overcome many obstacles to play at the top level of tennis. As great as his tennis accomplishments were, including winning Wimbledon and serving as US Davis Cup Captain, it’s his off the court activities that separate him from other great athletes. He was an outspoken advocate for civil rights, sportsmanship, and the ending of apartheid. He died far too young from a tainted blood transfusion, but his legacy endures. This is a great book about a great American.


Margalit Fox’s Conan Doyle for the Defenseisthe true story of a sensational British murder, a quest for justice, and the world's most famous detective.”  This is the remarkable true crime tale of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the world’s most famous detective, Sherlock Holmes.”  Outraged at the conviction of a German Jew wrongly accused of murder, Conan Doyle “uses his unparalleled detective skills” to exonerate him. This is a fascinating look into one of the world’s most famous authors. 


Zora Neale Hurston’s Barraconis an eye opening and haunting story of the last slaves brought to America. In 1927, the author interviewed 86-year-old Cujdo Lewis, the last survivor of the last ship that brought slaves to America. This is his harrowing story of his childhood in Africa, capture and life in a barracon (slave barracks), journey across Atlantic, life as a slave, and finally, his life as a free black man in the early part of the 20-century.


Also, consider David Calypso’s Hippie,Gary Shteygart’s Lake Success, and Karin Slaughter’s Pieces of Her.