Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Nevermore: Audacity, Leon, Hag-Seed, Cancer, Balkans, Wall Street

Reported by Kristin

Nevermore began with a discussion of Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy that Will Prevail by Jonathan Chait.  A New York Times bestseller, this volume documents the historic policy challenges faced by the Obama administration.  Our reader believes that Chait writes fairly objectively and presents a true picture of a president who enabled positive movement toward civil equality.

Turning to fiction, next up was My Name is Leon by Kit DeWaal.  Leon loves his baby brother Jake.  Leon loves helping his mother with Jake, even as his mother spirals downward and is unable to care for her little family.  As the two boys enter the foster care system, Leon discovers that his mixed race heritage and ‘advanced’ age of almost nine make him a more difficult placement, while blonde baby Jake is the perfect candidate for adoption.  Not just a book about the foster system, My Name is Leon has been described as being about a boy trying to make sense of the world.  Our reader greatly enjoyed this debut novel.

Continuing with a modern retelling of a classic, our next reader presented Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood.  Felix is well respected as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival, until events unfold that force him into a solitary life.  Years later, Felix has the opportunity to teach a theatre course at a nearby prison.  With the inmates producing William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Felix may have a chance for redemption.  Our reader said that the story might have been better understood by someone who knows the play, but at least now he can use Shakespearian curses.

Returning to non-fiction, another reader discussed The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.  Looking from a historical perspective, the author (a cancer physician and researcher) examines cancer as described thousands of years ago as well as the modern quest to eradicate the disease.  Our reader claimed that this was difficult but important reading with so much detail.

Balkan Ghosts by Robert Kaplan is an older book, published in 1993, but does much to explain the history of and the difficult relationships between the Balkan countries.  The political and economic situation seems in constant turmoil, and Kaplan presents a view which makes the history of that part of the world much more understandable.  Our reader said there is a very good map in the beginning to help maintain a sense of place, as well as interesting pictures to connect the reader with the material.

Our next reader reported on James J. Cramer’s Confessions of a Street Addict.   Cramer grew up in a firmly middle class family in Philadelphia but ended up on Wall Street with a brash, loud, and possibly irreverent view of financial matters.  As he became a daring investor in the market, Cramer continued his frenetic pace.  Calling his wife, Karen, the “Trading Goddess,” Cramer describes his journey through the world of investing where fortunes are frequently gained or lost.  Our reader claimed that it was “amazing that he (Cramer) sat down long enough to write his own life story.”

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