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:

May 25, 2021

A Hidden Theme in the Harry Potter Novels

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Harry Potter was the literary influencer-in-chief for millennials. But did he shape their lives, or did they shape his? Journalist Charlotte Alter teases apart the issues in her new book about millennials, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For. I write about Alter’s view, and why it isn’t incompatible with J.K. Rowling’s comment that the Potter novels are about death, or coming to terms with mortality, in my Lit Life feed on Medium.

May 7, 2021

A Fresh Look at Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things” Are

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A while back I wrote a post about one of my favorite children’s books, Where the Wild Things Are, that I’ve recently updated and posted on Medium. Please check it out if you’re interested. Thanks for visiting One-Minute Book Reviews. Jan

March 13, 2016

What Made ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ So Influential? Quote of the Day / James McPherson

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Uncle Tom’s Cabin was, as James McPherson notes in Battle Cry of Freedom, “the most influential indictment of slavery of all time.” But today it’s more widely known than read. What made it so influential? McPherson writes:

“Written in the sentimental style made popular by best-selling women novelists, Uncle Tom’s Cabin homed in on the breakup of families as the theme most likely to pluck the heartstrings of middle-class readers who cherished children and spouses of their own. Eliza fleeing across the ice-choked Ohio River to save her son from the slave-trader and Tom weeping for children left behind in Kentucky when he was sold South are among the most unforgettable scenes in American letters.”

McPherson added:

“Even the heart of an occasional law-and-order man could be melted by the vision of a runaway manacled for return to bondage. Among evangelical Protestants who had been swept into the antislavery movement by the Second Great Awakening, such a vision generated outrage and activism. This was what gave Uncle Tom’s Cabin such astounding success. As the daughter, sister, and wife of Congregational clergymen, Harriet Beecher Stowe had breathed the doctrinal air of sin, guilt, atonement, and salvation since childhood. She could clothe these themes in prose that throbbed with pathos as well as bathos.”

Jan is an award-winning journalist who has been the book critic for Glamour magazine and for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland. Please follow her on Twitter at @janiceharayda.

June 15, 2015

Celebrating the Joys of a Decade of Beach Walks

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Meditations on the everyday appeal of a favorite beach

A Decade of Beach Walks. By George Thatcher. Quail Ridge Press, 239 pages, $12.

By Janice Harayda

Anyone who has seen too many used condoms and empty Red Bull cans on American beaches will find a gentle antidote in A Decade of Beach Walks. In this book George Thatcher collects more than 200 of the popular Scenes from the Beach columns that he has written since 2007 for the Sun Herald in Biloxi. Each entry consists of a brief, illustrated meditation on an inspiring sight he has seen during one of his daily walks along Mississippi Sound, such as a blue heron, a scallop shell, or a cluster of acorn barnacles. Thatcher focuses on the enduring charms of the beach, not on the damage that careless visitors do, but when piercing winds blow, he reminds us that Emily Dickinson was right: “Nature, like us, is sometimes caught / Without her diadem.”

Please follow Jan on Twitter at @janiceharayda.

May 1, 2015

After ‘Under the Tuscan Sun,’ Frances Mayes Goes Home — Southern Reading

Filed under: Book Reviews,Memoirs,Nonfiction — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 2:07 pm
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The first in a series of occasional reviews of books about the American South 

Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir. By Frances Mayes. Broadway, 352 pp., $15, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Frances Mayes grew up in the one-mile-square town of Fitzgerald, Georgia, where one woman kept a coffin in her living room and another was a kleptomaniac “whose husband was billed quietly” for items she pilfered. This memoir describes her childhood and her move back to the South after the Italian sojourn that inspired her Under the Tuscan Sun. Mayes deals bluntly with the pre-civil-rights era injustices she observed, such as a tradition at her university that Chi Omegas “didn’t date the Jewish boys.” And if her writing about the food, weather and landscape of the region is overheated — when the sun rises over the ocean, “the wobbling golden orb hoists out of the water” — it is rich in detail. However stifled she felt as a child, Mayes conveys a deep affection for the aspects of the South that she still loves now that she lives in North Carolina — “the mellow southern winter, the humane pace, and the sweet green beauty of the land.”

(c) 2015 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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