#BookReview: The End Of The World Is Just The Beginning by Peter Zeihan

A Realist Looks To The Future. I’ve read several books in the last few years covering the general real-world end of the world scenarios and/ or projections for the next few decades, and this text is refreshing in just how grounded and real Zeihan’s approach is. There may in fact be squabbles about a particular point here or there, or even Zeihan’s entire general premise, as the only other review on Goodreads at the time I write this points out, but for me the analysis was close enough to be at least one plausible scenario among many that *could* play out – unlike most others I’ve read in this field. Add in the fact that this isn’t a dry academic look, but instead a somewhat humorous and even crass at times real, straightforward analysis… and you’ve got my attention. Note: If you’re a reader that absolutely WILL NOT tolerate f-bombs, even the occasional one… eh, you’re probably gonna wanna skip this one. 😉 Instead, this reads more like you’re sitting at the bar with a few drinks with an absolute expert in his field, and he is going over a very detailed look at what he thinks is coming over the next 10 – 30 years. As a text, it is thus quite remarkable. The *singular* weakness I found in the text that was star deduction worthy was a complete absence of a bibliography, and the frequent use of footnotes without actually noting even when they were happening was a touch irritating, but not additional star deduction worthy. Very much recommended.

This review of The End Of The World Is Just The Beginning by Peter Zeihan was originally written on July 13, 2022.

#BookReview: Holding Together by John Shattuck, Sushma Raman, and Matthias Risse

Regurgitation Of Left-Of-Center Talking Points. I’ll sum this book up quickly: For any given problem it notes, it basically rehashes solidly leftist (though not extreme leftist) talking points before its policy recommendations come down to more National government spending and/ or action. Which perhaps is to be expected from a book dedicated to the memory of John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The problem is that it routinely ignores critical details – such as when it claims that recent election reforms in Georgia “left seven Counties with only a single polling place open on Election Day”. Georgia has 159 Counties, ranging in size from Clarke County (128K people) (home of the University of Georgia) at 121 sq miles to Ware County (36K people) (largely home of the Okefenokee Swamp) at 903 sq miles and ranging in population from Talaiferro County (population 1,558, area 195 sq miles) to Fulton County (the City of Atlanta, basically) (population 1.065 million, area 529 sq miles). In making a claim such as the one these authors made, population, County size, and where the population clusters are within the County relative to where the singular polling place is are all crucial factors – that the authors blatantly ignore and don’t even seem to account for at all in their analysis. Similar issues can be seen on every topic they discuss, from the need for Civics education (where they support the 1619 project despite its blatant racism) to the environment and gun control and every other issue covered here.

Now, I will admit that this text is fairly well documented at roughly 30% – but this just shows just how much cherrypicking of data and sources these authors did to be so well documented yet skip over so many critical facts.

Overall, this is one where if you agree with the leftist slant of the authors you’ll likely enjoy much of what you find here, and if you disagree with it, you won’t find as much here. Still, there are a few interesting points here and there, it is simply overall truly lacking in adding anything to the cultural conversations – which is sad, because based on its title and written description, it had much more promise than it ultimately contained. Not recommended.

This review of Holding Together by John Shattuck, Sushma Raman, and Matthias Risse was originally written on June 3, 2022.

#BookReview: Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr

Could Be An Entertaining – And Equally Informative – History or Discovery Documentary Series. I went into this book expecting something more along the lines of Nathan Gorenstein’s The Guns Of John Moses Browning or Jeff Guin’s War On The Border… and got a touch of an amalgamation of the two. Like the Gorenstein book, this book is focused on the lives of a select group of men that became icons of gun manufacturing in the US… and how they got there and what their legacies became. Like the Guin book, this book also tells the surrounding history and places these men’s live solidly within their historical context, mostly between the Mexican-American war in the front half of the 19 century and the US Civil War and Reconstruction in the back half of the same century. Unlike the Gorenstein text, you’re not going to find a lot of technical discussion of the exact details and features of the guns in question here – though you *will* find quite a bit about the various lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that helped some of these men and hindered others of them. Overall, a solid look at the men and the early days of their empires whose names last even into the new Millennium. Very much recommended.

This review of Gun Barons by John Bainbridge Jr was originally written on May 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Partial Truths by James C Zimring

Solid Exposition Of Its Premise. This book is pretty well exactly what its title says it is: an examination of cognitive biases, with fractions as the common access point to all of them. Thought of in this manner, the book is solid, though on its overall points – many political, including repeated attacks on the 45th President of the United States – your mileage will vary considerably. Indeed, on many of the issues Zimring examines, his overall consideration of the issue at hand is actually limited by his devotion to fraction-based thinking, at least within the confines of this text. Ultimately, this book is more a rare take on cognitive biases than anything truly mathematical, and the math here really is simplified such that pretty well anyone capable of reading the text itself can follow the math easily enough. The bibliography clocks in at around 20% of the overall text, which is close enough to the average of similar texts in my experience to be acceptable. Recommended.

This review of Partial Truths by James C Zimring was originally written on April 27, 2022.

#BookReview: Murder In The Neighborhood by Ellen J Green

Green Finds The Eggs, Butter, and Sugar. Yes, the title here references one particularly poignant line deep in the text – just 7% or so from the final words. Through this point and after, Green has managed to tell the story of what happened on River Road in Camden, New Jersey on September 6, 1949 through the eyes of nearly all of the people who survived the events there that day. A bit later, she’s even going to connect it to a more recent event that was in the news – and that the granddaughter of one of the survivors happened to be at. This is narrative nonfiction, and it has next to no documentation (and hence the star deduction), but it is structured and told much in the manner of a novel – which makes it infinitely more readable. But the most remarkable thing about this book is just how truly balanced it is. A horrible tragedy occurred that day, but rather than painting the perpetrator as some otherworldly monster as so much coverage of and conversation around more recent similar people does, Green builds the case that this man is just as human as the rest of us. There is no “other” here, simply a man – a man who had faults, but also a community that had faults too (and also had amazing things as well). Indeed, the entire reason I picked up this book was because I saw a Yankee author and British publisher working on a book about “the first” (not really) mass shooting in the US… and this defender of the US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment worried that it would be just ever more anti-gun drivel. For those who may be looking at this book with similar thoughts, know that there is little of that here. Yes, Green calls a “magazine” a “clip” repeatedly, particularly when discussing the actual actions that day. But even when she brings in Stoneman Douglas (Parkland), she never actually goes those directions at all really. (At least one person she chronicles does, but it is clear that this is that person’s position only and not an “official recommendation” from the book.) But even that speaks to just how well balanced the book overall is. Truly an excellent and admittedly unexpected work, and very much recommended.

This review of Murder In The Neighborhood by Ellen J Green was originally written on April 24, 2022.

#BookReview: Just Dope by Allison Margolin

Current (420 Day 2022) Description Inaccurate. Read As Memoir. If you go into this book expecting what the current description claims the book is – a take down of all drug laws by a lawyer who knows them well – ummm…. you’re going to be severely disappointed. As pretty well every review earlier than my own notes. If you go into this more as a memoir with some generalized points about why legalization of all drugs would make for a more just world – with scant documentation, accounting for only 10% of the ARC text -… you’ll be more satisfied with this book than had you believed the current description. The text here is truly more about Margolin and her parents – her dad being one of the more famous/ infamous drug criminal defense lawyers in the US – than any other central issue, though the drugs Margolin uses and she and her dad defend others using in court are never far away. Overall, this is more of a primer text for those who may not be familiar with many of the complete legalization arguments to see how they play out in the life and mind of one particular LA-based drug lawyer. If you’re looking for a more detailed examination of the arguments and their pros and cons… this isn’t that text. Still, for what it is this is a worthy read that can at least add a degree of nuance to the overall conversation, and for this it is recommended.

This review of Just Dope by Allison Margolin was originally written on April 20, 2022.

#BookReview: Free by Lauren Kessler

Interesting Yet Documentation Is Substandard. This is a work of narrative nonfiction where the author uses case studies of six people she has followed for some period of time as they fight to get released from prison and come back into the non-correctional life. As such, it is quite well done, though readers who struggle to follow multiple characters in a fiction book will likely struggle to follow along here, as the author herself is largely the only commonality among the six (though two of them knew each other on the inside, their stories are largely separate and told separately). Indeed, the only real negative is that the author makes a lot of claims… that the scant 10% bibliography (at least in the advance edition I read) fails to really document. And thus the star deduction. Still, a solid work and one worthy of consideration. Very much recommended.

This review of Free by Lauren Kessler was originally written on April 19, 2022.

#BookReview: Running With Purpose by James Weber

Cilantro Rub On A Perfectly Cooked Filet Mignon. Yes, the title of this review is an allusion to a particular meeting covered in this book, wherein Warren Buffett once invited James Weber to enjoy a steak with him in Omaha – and yet also describes this book to a T. Part memoir and part business leadership book, this is the story of James Weber pre-Brooks, and Brooks with James Weber at its head. And when the book is in either of these modes, it is truly tremendous. And I don’t just say this as a Millenial former runner (who needs to get back into that) who *loves* his Brooks Ravenna line shoes. I also note this as someone who has read and reviewed over 800 books in just the last 3 years alone across a wider range than most any other reader out there. Weber’s tale is remarkable, and his business insights and leadership principles are sound – and seem like they would be great guiding principles for those starting out or even those (like myself) in mid-career. The cilantro rub comes when Weber starts diving into political issues near the end of the text – though he *is* careful to come back to his own story and Brooks’ story after, in a classic sh*t sandwich layering approach. Why is there a cilantro rub on this great filet mignon? Well, like cilantro, the political discussion is going to be one you either love or you hate – there likely isn’t going to be any middle ground there, and there likely won’t be any convincing of those on the other side that they should change sides. So if you agree with the somewhere-left-of-center politics he describes… yay! You’re one of the ones that likes this cilantro! If not… read the book anyway. There really is a lot to be learned here. Very much recommended.

This review of Running With Purpose by James Weber was originally written on April 18, 2022.

#BookReview: Coal Cages Crisis by Judah Schept

Avowed Anti-Capitalist Screed Still Highlights All Too Real Issues. And these issues absolutely need to be more openly discussed. If you dismiss the blinders to anything other than the set premise and worldview the author comes to this research with and look at the points he raises instead, this is a solid examination of at least some of the ways the central Appalachia region of (primarily) Kentucky / (some) West Virginia / (some) Virginia has transformed from being driven by a coal economy to now being driven by a prison economy – largely on much of the exact same land. With a bibliography clocking in at 38% of the ARC I read *even with* the author conducting much of the research and interviews himself, the scholarship within his worldview is largely beyond contestation. This truly is one of the most well documented ARCs I’ve come across in nearly 800 books (across all genres, fiction and nonfiction). Ultimately the star deduction here was because the author never leaves his particular biases to even make strawmen of opposing views, much less actually examine whether they may explain the issues at hand better than his own views do. Still, for what it is, this truly is a remarkable text that covers a particular topic that few others do. Very much recommended.

This review of Coal Cages Crisis by Judah Schept was originally written on April 16, 2022.

#BookReview: Torn Apart by Dorothy Roberts

In The Vein Of Michelle Alexander’s A New Jim Crowe. This is one where ultimately your opinion of it will be largely based on whether you agree with Ms. Roberts’ Critical Race Theory based worldview. Honestly, had I known she was a CRT adherent, I personally would not have picked up this book to begin with – as I’ve avoided several others by known CRT adherents that otherwise sounded interesting. As with other CRT writers, Ms. Roberts begins with a set theory in mind and ignores any other possible explanations of the issues she examines, which is the overall Theory’s critical flaw. All of this noted, *within this frame*, Ms. Roberts actually does a pretty solid job of making her case, and the issues she speaks to even within this frame raise many points that need to be in the overall conversation of reform in America. She even gives lip service at times to the fact that many of these issues are more related to poverty and economic status than race, but even within these remarks she ultimately declares that white people always have it so much easier. Within the realm of CRT and social “science”, the scholarship here is pretty standard – nothing overly remarkable either way, good or bad. And even objectively, the bibliography clocks in at around 24%, which is fairly standard for most nonfiction tales and is actually quite good for works where the author bases much of their commentary on their own experiences and interviews they directly conducted. So read the book, whether you agree with CRT or not, because there *is* enough here to justify wading through that particular detritus. And if you *do* agree with CRT, you’re likely going to be shouting from the rooftops about how amazing this book is. Recommended.

This review of Torn Apart by Dorothy Roberts was originally written on March 16, 2022.