One-Minute Book Reviews

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.

August 25, 2021

The Best Business Book I Read This Year: ‘Empire of Pain’

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I loved Empire of Pain and, for my review, tried out a template for business books suggested by Medium:

What did I read?

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick RaddenKeefe

So who’s this Patrick Radden Keefe?

He’s a staff writer for The New Yorker, who builds in this book on his reporting on the Sacklers for that magazine. His honors include a National Book Critics Circle Award for his earlier Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.

Give me the 30-second sell.

Empire of Pain is the latest book about the ravages of America’s opioid crisis, from Barry Meier’s 2003 Pain Killer: A “Wonder” Drug’s Trail of Addiction and Death to Sam Quinones’ 2015 Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic and Chris McGreal’s 2018 American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts.

What sets Empire of Pain apart from those earlier books is that Keefe doesn’t focus on victims, their families, or others who’ve been extensively covered elsewhere. He zeroes in on the history and business practices of the secretive Sackler family, owners of the bankrupt Purdue Pharma, the privately held company that pleaded  to three federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, all related its blockbuster drug, OxyContin.

Keefe shows how three generations of the Sacklers — beginning with founding brothers Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer — acquired a $13 billion fortune and fueled a public health crisis by using sales, marketing, and other tactics that ranged from trailblazing to hardball to outright criminal. His basic message is simple: “Prior to the introduction of OxyContin, America did not have an opioid crisis. After the introduction of OxyContin, it did.”

You can read the rest of this review here.

July 22, 2021

What Sex Workers Want You To Know About Their Work

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I had no idea police could legally have sex with suspected hookers until Michigan became  the last state to outlaw the practice in 2017. The recent book We Too describes that and other abuses I mention on @Medium.

https://janiceharayda.medium.com/5-things-sex-workers-want-you-to-know-about-their-work-9a3e54258a87

July 12, 2021

How ‘The AP Stylebook’ Can Help You If You Don’t Work for a Daily Newspaper

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Some people call The Associated Press Stylebook “the journalist’s bible.” Others call it the journalist’s book of Job. Either way, if you’re a writer, it can help you fine-tune your work.

By whatever nickname, this newsroom stalwart gathers in one volume the AP’s rules for grammar, spelling, capitalization, and other writing-related matters.

The 640-page paperback edition has more than 3,000 brief, clear, and alphabetically arranged entries, many on topics not covered by Grammarly, Microsoft Editor, or similar tools. Why should you care about its rules when more than 2,000 newspapers have died since 2000? Isn’t that like feeding insects to pterodactyls? What if you hope to write not news stories but a memoir or Amish romances or blog posts that go viral?

If you’re interested, you may want to check out my essay “The Book Writers Love to Hate and Hate to Love” on Medium, in which offers some thoughts on the stylebook based on years of working with it.

July 4, 2021

The Case Against Reading on the Beach

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You might think that I (or any other critic) would be leading the cheers for reading the beach this summer.

But I’ve never been able to concentrate well amid all the distractions of a beach–the shrieks of the gulls, the crashing of the waves, the sounds of Drive-by Truckers coming from a boom box two blankets away. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that reading on the beach isn’t ideal. Research has found, for example, the background noise reduces reading comprehension.

Here’s my attempt to tie all of it together, “Why Reading on the Beach Is a Terrible Idea.”

July 2, 2021

‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ Is the Most Overrated Novel of the Decade

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With its racial stereotypes and romance-novel tropes, Where the Crawdads Sing is the most overrated novel of the decade. And now there’s a movie coming out from Reese Witherspoon. Why aren’t more critics calling out the obvious problems with the book? I dig into the issues the novel raises on Medium:

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