Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Nevermore: Shame, Lusitania, India, Oak Ridge, and More!

Reported by Ambrea

This week, Nevermore started out with a favorite author:  Jon Ronson.  After reading The Psychopath Test, our readers decided to explore some more of his reading with So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.  In his latest book, Ronson takes a look at public shaming as a social activity and “as a form of social control.”  He looks at what happens to famous “shamees” and shamers and bystanders impacted by these events—and what kind of an impact it has on society as a whole.  According to our reader, Ronson’s book was incredibly interesting.  She learned a great deal about public shaming and social media; however, she was most impressed with the knowledge that some companies are actually hired to get rid of bad press and even “hide” unflattering articles deeper in cyberspace.

Additionally, our Nevermore readers looked back at Dead Wake:  The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  On May 1, 1915, during the first year of World War I, the Lusitania set sail from New York—less than a week later, it sank in the Atlantic after being torpedoed by a German U-boat.  In Dead Wake, Larson examines all the factors that eventually brought tragedy to the Lusitania.  Our reader said it was an excellent book, very well-written and chock full of interesting information; however, she felt the story moved at a much slower pace since she already knew the fate of the Lusitania.  Our readers were especially interested to learn the fate of the captain of the Lusitania—Commander William Thomas Turner—and the “secret cargo” of munitions pieces being carried across the Atlantic.

The next book discussed was The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon.  Amy, Piper and Margot spent their childhood at the Tower Motel—until one summer when they uncovered a sinister secret that ruined their friendship forever.  Now, as adults, Margo and Piper are struggling to forget the discoveries of that fateful summer, but when Piper and Margo learn about a horrific crime involving their childhood friend, they must once more delve into the chilling history of the Tower Motel.  Our reader said she enjoyed a good portion of the novel; however, she eventually lost interest as the story flipped back and forth between different narratives (Piper’s and Margo’s stories in the present; Sylvie’s and Rose’s stories in the 1950s).  In the end, she didn’t finish McMahon’s novel, but she said, “If you can keep track [of all the different stories], I highly recommend it.”

Our readers also explored The Wheel of Surya by Jamila Gavin.  Set in the midst of India’s independence movement, The Wheel of Surya chronicles the lives of Jaspal and Marvinder who set out to find their father, a student in England.  Our Nevermore reader thought highly of Gavin’s novel, saying it was an exceptional book.  “It’s really good if you don’t know much about the India/Pakistan partition,” she said, “or the Indian Independence movement.”  Easily accessible, gripping, and emotionally touching, our reader thought The Wheel of Surya was an excellent novel and intends to recommend it to others.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan is set closer to home.  During World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, became home to over 75,000 residents and, according to the synopsis, “consumed more electricity than New York City,” but it didn’t appear on any maps for one simple reason:  Oak Ridge was home to one of the biggest secrets of the American war effort—the atomic bomb.  In The Girls of Atomic City, Kiernan looks deep inside life at Oak Ridge and looks at what workers, specifically women, experienced.  Our reader said Kiernan’s book was pretty good, being both interesting and informative; however, she also described it as a “pot boiler” because Kiernan takes a while to properly develop her book.

Last, our readers looked at a brand new book which won the National Book Award for 2015:  Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Written for his adolescent son, Between the World and Me is a poignant look at one black man’s experiences—and his hopes and dreams and fears for his son.  Our reader was very impressed by Coates’ book, saying he was most impressed by the author’s attempt to show everything, to show everyone of every race and color what it’s like to live as an African American man in modern-day America.  Although our reader said he found resentment in some of Coates’ narrative, he mostly noticed fear that Coates (and many, young black men) experienced in his daily life, such as fear of authority, fear of the streets, fear of the system as it stood.  Overall, our reader was very impressed by Between the World and Me, saying it was an excellent book, and recommended it highly for book lists in the new year.

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