The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama is a companion book to the PBS/BBC series of the same name. Both cover the history of the Jewish people from the beginning to 1492 with the opening up of the New World to Europeans. Schama is a well-regarded historian who has the knack of making history easily accessible to the non-historian. He blends history, culture, and art into his telling, and uses personalities to really bring the telling to life. Our reader is now in the section on the Middle Ages in Europe, which he says is “a bad time and a bad place to be a Jew.” One of the central questions dealt with in the book is what does it mean to be Jewish?
This led into the next book entitled The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally which asks some of the same questions. How much of our identity is DNA and how much is environment? The book has made the round of several Nevermore readers, with mixed reviews. Suffice it to say some chapters are more interesting than others.
A Dreadful Deceit: The Myth of Race from the Colonial Era to Obama’s America by Jacqueline Jones theorizes that race is a myth, a social construct that blinds society to the real cause of inequality, locale and economic status. She makes her argument by using the examples of six Americans of African descent who succeeded no matter the era and who defied stereotyping. Our reader was not quite convinced but found the individual stories intriguing.
Google: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt, Google’s former CEO, and Jonathan Rosenberg , former Senior Vice President of Product, is a look behind the scenes at the building of one of the world’s most fascinating companies. Much of the book is devoted to the management principles of Google – allowing worker creativity, hiring innovative thinkers, the importance of evidence and knowledge, etc. The book is accessible and entertaining as well as informative.
To quote the ever quotable Monty Python, “And now for something completely different.” Miss Felicity Prim enjoys her job working for dear Doctor Poe and enjoys life in New York City right up until the day she is mugged. She decides that the proper thing to do, after self-defense courses, is to move to a smaller town and embark on a new profession. She has one in mind: Criminal Outsmarter. She’s read any number of detective stories and is fully knowledgeable of the expected accouterments: faithful animal companion, steady sidekick who can serve as comic relief, local constables who are pleased at having a civilian helper, etc. She plans to start out small, with a missing person or perhaps a lost object and work her way up to more advanced crime solving, but her plans have to be changed when she discovers a dead body in a hidden basement of her new home. The Outsmarting of Criminals by Steven Rigolosi was a delightful book, according to Jeanne, full of lines that beg to be read aloud to someone but without ever becoming too precious.