Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Best New Books of 2014: Emil S’s Picks

December 2, 2014

When a book calls my name, I will not turn it down. Somehow, the books know how to find me.

No Place to Hide No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald
“Cincinnatus” was the alias Edward Snowden used when he contacted Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian and a former constitutional lawyer. Cincinnatus referred to a real life hero, a farmer who in ancient times defended Rome against foreign forces, and then voluntarily gave up absolute power and returned to life on the farm. Edward Snowden was a former National Security Agency contractor, and the revelations brought about by him altered the course of history. This book – a curious blend of real life thriller, lecture, moral-ethic discussion, and petition – shows how invasive U.S. surveillance capabilities have become, and what it means in a world in which people increasingly find and display their inner lives online.  See my full review.

War of the WorldsWar of the Whales by Joshua Horwitz
Whales and other marine mammals are under severe threat from a number of human activities, not the least mankind’s insistence on waging war and preparing for war. The navy use of sonar creates noise storms that again and again cause atypical mass strandings and deaths of whales. The U.S. government regulators have become captives “to the interests they’re supposed to police,” and it is up to individuals and private organizations to help protect life in the oceans. War of the Whales is the true story of how environmental law attorney Joel Reynolds (of NRDC), marine biologist Ken Balcomb, and many others did everything in their power in order to reduce deadly, man made noise pollution and save some of the magnificent creatures that humankind share this planet with.  See my full review.

Everything Leads to YouEverything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Emi’s goal is to become a set designer in Hollywood, and as an intern on a movie set, she visits the estate sale of a legendary Hollywood actor. When Emi and her best friend Charlotte find a letter hidden in the jacket of an LP, the two of them – without knowing the content of the letter – begin searching for the intended recipient. The mysterious letter leads her to the alluring Ava, and life begins to take on film-like qualities.  See my full review.

Cycle of LiesCycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur
If the mountains of Le Tour de France are the dragons of that particular classic, then the riders are the knights. And when Lance Armstrong started slaying and devouring these opponents he seemed to be living a real life heroic poem of epic proportions. Armstrong had bravely defeated a monstrous cancer, made a mind-boggling comeback, and then developed into one of the most revered and remarkable athletes in the world. However, the tale took a nightmarish turn as evidence of highly advanced and organized doping mounted. Here is the story of Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall as understood by New York Times journalist Juliet MacurSee my full review.

Little FailureLittle Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart
American author Gary Shteyngart was born as Igor Shteyngart in Leningrad (now [again] St. Petersburg) in the Russian empire that went under the name of Soviet Union. When he was seven years old, Gary and his family moved to the United States as part of a Jews-for-grains swap between the two superpowers. The Shteyngarts ended up in Queens, New York, and life in the land of the free was not easy for a “Socialist” boy with a weird accent. This memoir investigates a troubled family’s adventures and misadventures in two cultures, and it is moving, poignant, and at times outrageously comical.  See my full review.

Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong by Juliet Macur

September 30, 2014

Road bicycle racing was the first sport to ignite my imagination. The dynamics of the peloton (the main group of racers), the nature of the teams in the competitions, the individual contributions to the group effort, the silent sacrifices by the domestique, the physics of the sport, the incomprehensible physical effort, and the epic quality of the races – it was all endlessly fascinating. Later in life, when I heard French philosopher Roland Barthes refer to le Tour de France as a heroic poem – the substance of legend – I concurred.

Many years after the first encounter, I reconnoitered an upcoming Tour de France stage in the French Alps. When I left the car, the gradient was so extreme that I almost toppled over, and when I walked up the mountain road, the altitude offered only exhaustingly thin air. It was easy to appreciate just how extreme these athletes were. But by now I knew that the riders were not just exceptional human beings. With the help of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, cortisone, and human growth hormone, many of them were, in a very real sense, superhuman.

Cheating has been part of le Tour de France since the very beginning. During the late 1990s and the early 2000s, cheating reached an unprecedented level of sophistication, and ringleader Lance Armstrong – who won Tour de France seven times in a row! – became the face of the deception.

Cycle of Lies is in part a journey through a sport that had become deeply corrupt, but the book also exposes the dangers of weak journalism. When Lance Armstrong began to dominate the Tour de France, American journalists who knew little or nothing of cycling flew over to Europe to write about the superhero. As Armstrong and the Postal Service team crushed the competition, newly arrived journalists saw heroic efforts; veteran journalists who had covered le Tour for years saw something else. What Armstrong and his teammates were doing simply wasn’t possible. Headlines in French media read, “Armstrong, the Extraterrestrial of the Tour,” “On Another Planet,” and “Hallucinating Armstrong.” In the U.S., the mainstream media stood behind Armstrong, and Washington Post reported that the French were jealous: “France’s motto: If you can’t beat them, investigate them.”

The message of Juliet Macur‘s book is clear: Don’t find your heroes in the images produced by media.

When the accusations finally started to find traction in the U.S., writer Malcolm Gladwell defended the actions of Lance Armstrong, but then he went on to say, “When you write about sports, you’re allowed to engage in mischief. Nothing is at stake. It’s a bicycle race!”

He’s wrong, of course. The physical and mental well-being of human beings is at stake here. People’s livelihood is at stake. Their ethical and moral interactions with the world are at stake.

If that doesn’t matter, what does?

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald

July 3, 2014

No Place to HideHere’s a reading suggestion: The United States Bill of Rights (ratified in 1791).

Let’s focus on Amendment IV. It states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The amendment has its roots in English law, and it was crucial in the establishment of the United States. In pre-Revolutionary America, British officials had the right to “ransack at will any home they wished,” and opposition to government invasion of privacy took hold in what was to become the USA.

“It was intended,” Glenn Greenwald writes in No Place to Hide, “to abolish forever in America the power of the government to subject its citizens to generalized, suspicionless surveillance.” However, throughout US history, American government agencies have spied on US citizens, and today the “surveillance abuse” has reached unprecedented levels.

In December, 2012, Glenn Greenwald, a columnist for The Guardian and a former constitutional lawyer, was contacted by someone who used the alias “Cincinnatus” – a reference to the Roman farmer who defended Rome against foreign aggression, and then voluntarily gave up (absolute) political power and returned to life on the farm.

Cincinnatus turned out to be Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. The documents he eventually shared with Greenwald and the world showed that the NSA can monitor and collect information from hundreds of millions of people around the globe, that it – without “probable cause” – has US telecommunications companies turn in “all phone records for all of its American customers,” that it can break into the communications links of crucial data centers across the world, that it can crack encryption that protects sensitive data on the Internet, and that, “according to its own records, it has broken privacy laws or exceeded its authority thousands of times a year.”

The turning point for Snowden came while working as an NSA contractor in Japan. “I watched NSA tracking people’s Internet activities as they typed. I became aware of just how invasive US surveillance capabilities had become. I realized the true breadth of this system. And almost nobody knew it was happening.”

Greenwald was startled when Snowden said that he wanted to identify himself as the person behind the disclosures. Snowden said that he was at peace with the potential consequences of outing himself. His only fear was “that people will see these documents and shrug, that they’ll say, ‘we assumed that this was happening and don’t care.’”

If you believe that the rights of Amendment IV are your rights, No Place to Hide may be for you.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.


The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

November 12, 2013

otherwomanHank Phillippi Ryan is an award winning television investigative reporter. Hank Phillippi Ryan is an Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award winning mystery author. Whatever Hank Phillippi Ryan does, she does very well. Most recently this includes her first suspense thriller novel, The Other Woman. A first rate suspense thriller that is a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Mary Higgins Clark Award.

Jane Ryland’s life is in disarray. She has refused to reveal her source in a high profile prostitution case, resulting in a million dollar judgment against her. Jane has been sent packing from her high profile job as a Boston TV investigative reporter and is now reduced to writing puff pieces for a newspaper. Needless to say, things aren’t working out well for Jane right now.

Trying to rebuild her professional life and overcome the stigma of being “Wrong Guy Ryland”, Jane is researching an article about the wife of Massachusetts Senate candidate Owen Lassiter. She notices the frequent appearance of a very attractive young woman at many campaign events. Is she the candidate’s other woman?

Worlds collide when Ryland begins to investigate the candidate’s possible affair and Detective Jake Brogan attempts to solve a series of murders terrorizing Boston. Is there a possible connection?

After reading The Other Woman you will certainly want more of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s books. Don’t overlook her traditional mystery series Prime Time, Face Time, Air Time and Drive Time featuring Charlotte McNally. You won’t be disappointed as these have earned Hank Phillippi Ryan many awards.

If you like Lisa Scottoline, Hallie Ephron and Mary Jane Clark then The Other Woman is for you.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks

May 31, 2013

Brad Parks is visiting our libraries today and tomorrow, along with Mystery authors Deborah Coonts and Nancy Martin.

Faces of the GoneFour people were shot dead execution style in a vacant lot in Newark, NJ and Carter Ross, an investigative reporter with the Newark Eagle-Examiner, wants to know why. The local police say it’s a revenge killing for robbery gone wrong at the bar across the street. Carter’s sources are telling him that the police have got it all wrong, but who will believe a homeless guy or a go-go dancer? There has to be some other connection between the four victims, but what is it?

Wanda was a single mom with four kids who worked as also worked as a go-go dancer to pay the bills. Tyrone Scott, AKA ‘Hundred Year’, had recently been released from prison and may or may not have been in a gang. Shareef Thomas was the alleged robber of the tavern and the “reason” in the minds of the cops for the murders. Devin Whitehead, AKA Dee-Dub, was a young man also believed to be in a gang, but the Brick City Brown gang, who operated on the other side of town from the murder site. What could tie these four individuals together? Carter is determined to discover the truth about these four brutal murders, no matter what the cost.

Faces of the Gone is a fast paced mystery that reads like a thriller. The rapid fire story takes place both in the gritty streets of Newark as well the newsroom of the Newark Eagle-Examiner. It is the first in the Carter Ross mystery series – followed by Eyes of the Innocent – and is a perfect read for a lazy day at the beach or the pool.

Brad Parks will be appearing along with Deborah Coonts and Nancy Martin today: Friday May 31, 2013 at 2 p.m. at the North Regional Library in Raleigh, and Saturday June 1, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. at the West Regional Library in Cary.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey

May 9, 2013

One morning, when Michael Hainey was six years old, he learned that his father, Robert Hainey, an assistant copy desk chief of the Chicago Sun-Times, sometime during the night had died from a heart attack. For some reason, Michael felt that the story about how his father had died did not add up, and during work on a high school term paper – when he had to visit the main library in downtown Chicago – he looked up his father’s obituaries.
And behold: they did not add up.

Chicago Today claimed that the newspaperman had died “as he walked” in the 3900 block of North Pine Grove after he had “just left the home of a friend.” But in the Chicago Daily News it was reported that Robert Hainey had died “while visiting friends.” Furthermore, Michael learned that his father had not died from a heart attack but from a stroke, and that he had been taken to a hospital on the city’s North Side, “Not exactly the closest hospital for two cops to take a man they find lying on the streets downtown.” The time of death was also curious: 5.07 a.m. Which meant that Michael’s uncle, a newspaperman also, was at the Hainey house less than two hours after his younger brother’s death. And why was it his uncle who broke the news anyway? So what was going on here?

After Visiting Friends is “a son’s story” about the shadow cast by the father’s last night and death. But the book is larger than that. It is an investigation of a family and of times gone by, and it is a report on journalism then and now.
Like so many trades, journalism has its own code of honor, and this code turns out to be a major obstacle when Michael Hainey tries to understand what happened that April night in 1970. Journalists, who claim to constantly strive to reveal the truth, conceal it with the words, I don’t know anything about that night.

But the information is still out there and others want to help, and one of them tells the writer: “you will defeat your enemy with the one weapon that you have inside you that he cannot touch and that he trembles before – truth.”
Does this sound mysterious? If so, it’s not surprising. For After Visiting Friends is – in addition to everything else it is – a real life mystery.”

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Chango’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes by William Kennedy

March 22, 2013

Robert Kennedy has been shot in Los Angeles, California, and Albany, New York, is about to enter a long night of arson, mayhem, and violence.

In the midst of this is the journalist Daniel Quinn who before the night is over will have filed news stories that will provoke and irritate his employer. Quinn has become a newspaper man as he wants to be a witness, and he “has a strong impulse to salvage history, which is so fragile, so prismatic, so easily twisted, so often lost and forgotten.”

Throughout the eventful and dangerous night Quinn encounters a long row of charismatic Albany citizens: alcoholics, criminals, bums, hacks, and activists who are so well portrayed that they could all be heroes of the tale. And William Kennedy makes this possible by not being judgmental and by not insisting that everyone has to be in a certain way – he shows humans in all their contradictory glory – and nobody, not even the hero, knows who will play the role of the hero before there is a need for one.

Roughly ten years before these events of 1968, Quinn has been in Cuba and witnessed another kind of violent turmoil as Fidel Castro and his soldiers revolt against the bloody oppression of the Batista regime. Like so many citizens of Albany, numerous Cubans yearn for change, but change may not always come in the desired shape. Castro will indeed grasp power in Cuba, but then the new government will feel the need to protect the revolution and before soon the country will – again – be governed by the few. Great upheavals of historic significance come and go. What William Kennedy does so exceptionally well is to show how humans respond and adjust to situations that may not be their choice.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

Tabloid City by Pete Hamill

July 9, 2012

It’s Pete Hamill at his best … no one captures the sights and sounds of New York, the city that never sleeps, as well as Hamill. It will take a little patience to tie together all the threads of this story. He introduces you to so many characters that it will take you a little time to start to see how the characters will all play a role in this evolving tale. But in a short time, I promise you, it will all come together. Basically it is a murder mystery with a large cast of personalities that will all play a role in the story.

Some of the main characters are Sam Briscoe, editor of the World newspaper, fighting to save his beloved paper from the digital age.

There is socialite Cynthia Harding, fundraising for her beloved NY libraries. There is Mary Lou Watson, Cynthia’s secretary, who is married to Ali Watson, NYPD and attached to the Anti-Terrorist Unit.  And there is Malik Watson … Ali and Mary Lou’s son who has deserted the family to become a radical Muslim.  And these are only some of the characters you will meet and start to care for.  There is also Bobby Fonseca, who is just making his ‘bones’ as a reporter for the World. There are no chapters … the story is divided into day and night and the action swings back and forth from character to character.  After you have a feel for the characters, you will see how their paths cross once the bodies of Cynthia Harding and her secretary, Mary Lou Watson are discovered. Hamill’s story may well prove to you that in this world we live in, there really is only 6 degrees of separation.

One thing I can promise is that once you are caught up in this tale of intrigue and yet, the normalcy of everyday existence, you won’t put it down until you have finished it.  Pete Hamill does it again.

Find and reserve this book in our catalog.

So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman

May 4, 2012

I have read more books than I would like centered on the disappearance of a woman. Several recent titles that leap to mind are The Fates Will Find Their Way, In Search of the Rose Notes, The False Friend, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. The missing women in these books are almost certainly dead, but we don’t always find out.

So Much Pretty is also about a missing woman, although in this case we do find out what happened and it is not pretty. The woman in question is 19 year-old Wendy White. Born and raised in the rural town of Haeden, New York, where people know their neighbors and believe themselves safe from violence, Wendy is a cheerful, pretty girl who works at the neighborhood tavern.

Her disappearance and ultimate fate galvanizes two local women, reporter Stacy Flynn and high school student Alice Piper into action. They are both disturbed by Wendy’s fate, and even more disturbed by the town’s denial that someone from Haeden could be responsible; locals insist a stranger must have done this–even if the evidence says otherwise.

For me, what sets this book apart from the others is the underlying emotion of the story. It is not grief, or fear, or even anger. It is absolute fury. The kind of fury that reminds you the word was inspired by the avenging deities in Greek mythology who torment criminals. Avenging deities usually portrayed as female.

Cara Hoffman’s ability to harness that fury and not let it overwhelm the story bowled me over. Her writing is controlled and pointed and utterly merciless. For me, this was a tough and at times a painful read. Nevertheless, I haven’t stopped thinking about this book and I will remember it long past the time books usually fade in my memory.

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

February 6, 2012

At one time, the travelers on the road to the Suhar International Airport in Mumbai could look out their car windows and see a tall, shiny, aluminum fence.  Ads for a company that sold floor tiles ran its length.  “Beautiful Forever” read the corporate slogan.

Behind that wall promising eternally beautiful floors lay what airport management didn’t want customers to see:  Annawadi, a slum first settled in 1991 by workers brought in from southern India to repair an airport runway.  Seventeen years later, when Katherine Boo did the research that led to this book, three thousand people still lived and worked there.

Boo introduces us to several Annawadi residents and gives us intimate glimpses into their lives.  There is Abdul, the young entrepreneur striving to improve the fortune of his family through recycling garbage.  We meet Asha, a rising star in the political life of the settlement.  We watch Abdul’s neighbor, Fatima, make a fateful choice that changes lives forever.

This is a gorgeously written book, but not an easy story to read.  Abdul, Asha and Fatima are people with few resources struggling to succeed in a corrupt system that does not seem very fair, especially to the poor.  Boo shows how precarious their lives are, and how quickly hardworking people can find their lives turned upside down by circumstance.

Boo, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and current staffer at The New Yorker, has spent two decades writing about poverty.  She hopes this book will “show American readers that the distance between themselves and, say, a teenaged boy in Mumbai who finds an entrepreneurial niche in other people’s garbage, is not nearly as great as they might think.”

She succeeded with this American reader.  I quickly grew to care about the people Boo portrays so vividly, especially Abdul.  The three years Boo spent in Annawadi researching this story were evident.  She made me see the dwellings and the faces of the people she met, and experience their daily struggles.

I would recommend this book to readers who like nonfiction that reads like fiction, people interested in India, readers with an interest in economic issues, nonfiction book clubs looking for a title with themes that easily lend themselves to discussion, and last, but not least, to devotees of beautiful writing.

Find and reserve this book in our online catalog.

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