One-Minute Book Reviews

September 11, 2022

Why Are Women Spending 2.6 Hours MORE in Labor Than Their Mothers Did? And Why Are So Many Developing PTSD After Childbirth?

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Maternity care in the U.S. is a scandal in danger of being eclipsed by other health crises: the Covid-19 pandemic, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, and the high cost of prescription drugs.

But growing number of bleak statistics show why the country shouldn’t ignore the problem, including that American women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than those in Canada and Britain. First-mothers also spend 2.6 hours more in labor than their own mothers did, and they are at risk of developing PTSD afterward.

I write about the grim realities in “7 Painful Truths About Childbirth in America” on Medium:

https://janiceharayda.medium.com/7-painful-truths-about-childbirth-in-america-d27ca30cc922

August 13, 2022

Salman Rushdie: Books ‘Make Us Who We Are’

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Salman Rushdie may be better known as a novelist, but he’s a wonderful literary critic, and I’m grateful for his many admirable reviews of other authors. Over at Medium, I’ve posted one of my favorite quotes from him on why books matter:

https://medium.com/everything-shortform/why-salman-rushdie-believes-the-books-we-love-make-us-who-we-are-c09ebc0bcac3

August 1, 2022

One of America’s Most Honored Journalists Reread the Hardy Boys Novels He Once Loved–And What He Found Startled Him

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Gene Weingarten, America’s only two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, calls the Hardy Boys mysteries the novels that “most influenced” his love of his craft

When he reread the books as an adult, he made a couple of startling discoveries: Contrary to his rosy memories, the writing was so bad, it was “some of the worst bilge ever published.” But there was much to admire in the often heartbreaking, Depression-era life of their author, Leslie McFarlane, who was required by the publishers of the Hardy Boys to write under the pen name of Franklin W. Dixon. Weingarten described what he learned about McFarlane and the Hardy Boys in an article I wrote about on Medium.

https://medium.com/crows-feet/what-happened-when-a-pulitzer-winner-reread-the-hardy-boys-books-66107b46c6

July 15, 2022

7 Deadly Sins of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’

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Stephen King’s On Writing is America’s second bestselling guide to the craft, according to Amazon rankings, and it draws rapturous praise from aspiring writers. But in my experience, more experienced writers take a dimmer of its advice.

Over at Medium, I challenge seven pieces of advice King gives in On Writing. Some of his precepts are outdated or inconsistent. Others oversimplify an issue that’s vastly more complex than King makes it. Here’s a brief excerpt from my post (dealing, in this case, with King’s views on adverbs) and a link to my responses to six others at the end of it:

‘The adverb is not your friend’

No, it’s not your friend — unless you’re Jane Austen and writing one of the most famous first lines in English: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Or you’re F. Scott Fitzgerald and writing one of the most famous last lines: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Or you’re Herman Melville ending Moby-Dick by quoting the Book of Job: “And I only am alone escaped to tell thee.” Take that, writers of the King James Version.

Yes, writers tend to overuse adverbs, especially in speech tags. But adverbs have a purpose, and the best writers don’t libel them but use them — as Austen and Fitzgerald and Melville did — to serve their purposes.

https://janiceharayda.medium.com/7-ways-stephen-kings-on-writing-loses-the-plot-2494b09dc64f

June 1, 2022

How Great Writing Helped Charlotte Curtis Blaze Trails At The New York Times

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The Ohio-born writer and editor Charlotte Curtis wasn’t just the first woman to appear on the masthead of the New York Times and to edit its op-ed page. She had earlier helped to transform its women’s section from a pink ghetto into one that welcomed diverse voices and was widely imitated by publications around the country.

How did Curtis scale the walls of the old boys’ club at a venerable newspaper? Here’s my appreciation of her work with a sidebar that gives 17 of her best leads for stories: https://medium.com/history-of-women/how-great-writing-helped-charlotte-blaze-trails-in-journalism-f36ba60eb76a

May 7, 2022

My Summer Reading List — 30 Beach-Ready Books From 30 Countries

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Has your reading become GU, or geographically undesirable? Do you read way too many Mom Coms about mothers in deep suburbia or first novels by young Brooklynites living on Ramen noodles?

Jump start your summer reading with my list of 30 beach- and hammock-ready books from 30 countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe, all alphabetically arranged by country name. My list includes new and classic books of fiction and nonfiction with a one- or two-line review of each and a link to more information, chosen with an eye toward providing something for every taste and travel destination.

If you’ve found a great book about a place you love, please feel free to add it in the comments here or on Medium, where I’ve posted the full list:

https://medium.com/lit-life/intriguing-books-from-30-countries-151377fe8cac

Thanks for reading, and if you’ll be taking a trip this summer, happy travels.

May 5, 2022

How a Drug Startup Scammed Patients, Doctors, and Insurers Until Its Founder Got Caught

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If you love to read good books about crooks, the American drug companies are the gift that keeps on giving. Last year’s hit was Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, a story of the misdeeds by the OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, which became finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and winner of other honors.

Now comes Evan Hughes’ The Hard Sell, a story of crime and punishment at Insys Therapeutics, the once high-flying drug startup that in some ways makes Purdue Pharma look a choir of angels. Founder John Kapoor is doing five-and-a-half years in a federal prison, and more than two dozen of his executives, sales reps, and doctors were convicted of crimes related to illegal promotions of the company’s signature drug, Subsys, a fast-acting opioid linked to more than 100 deaths, according to an investigation by Frontline for PBS.

Interesting in reading more? Here’s my take on the scandals on Medium:

https://janiceharayda.medium.com/how-a-drug-startup-screwed-patients-doctors-and-insurers-33d33aabda2b

December 4, 2021

How Much Trouble Can You Get Into by Stealing Another Writer’s Idea? An Author Finds Out the Hard Way in Jean Hanff Korelitz’s ‘The Plot’

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I liked the satire of creative writing programs in The Plot but had mixed views of other aspects of the story in a book likely to turn up on a lot of holiday wish lists: https://medium.com/p/e183cd41ac25

October 6, 2021

Little Golden Books Haven’t Lost Their Charm

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As a child, I loved those inexpensive Little Golden Books with patterned golden spines and nearly square shape. They’ve changed a lot and now include books on topics Dolly Parton, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Star Wars and Lion King franchises. But they’re still a great deal, and I explain why on Medium.

September 20, 2021

Too Many TV Ads Stereotype People Over 50

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Something is missing from all those commercials for the new fall smartphones–gray hair.

You’d never know from the TV ads that most Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 own a smartphone. Older Americans appear in only 15 percent of media images shown by popular brands or groups. And just 5 percent of the images show over-50s using technology, an AARP study found.

That’s far from the only injustice the TV advertisers do to Americans of a certain age.

Too many marketers see people over 50 as stuck in the era of Steely Dan and bell-bottoms, if not in that of the Dave Clark Five and go-go books. In her recent book In Our Prime: How Older Women Are Reinventing the Road Ahead, the media scholar Susan J. Douglas faults the many ways in which marketers stereotype boomers, older Gen-Xers, and, basically, anyone they see as “old.”

Douglas notes that advertisers roll out ageist stereotypes, in drug and other ads, in ways that especially hurt women. In commercials gray-haired men drive tractors, go kayaking, or play guitar in a rock band. Women shop, garden, or play with grandchildren.

Interested in learning more? I take on some of the most common stereotypes in my “Five Ways TV Commercials Insult People Over 50″ on Medium. Visitors to the site have been adding other stereotypes or injustices in a lively discussion in the comments section. I respond to all, so please drop by and add your own if this topic interests you. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews.

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