What We Are Reading Today: The Chief by David Nasaw

What We Are Reading Today: The Chief by David Nasaw
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Updated 02 March 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Chief by David Nasaw

What We Are Reading Today: The Chief by David Nasaw

David Nasaw’s magnificent, definitive biography of William Randolph Hearst is based on newly released private and business papers and interviews. 

For the first time, documentation of Hearst’s interactions with Hitler, Mussolini, Churchill, and every American president from Grover Cleveland to Franklin Roosevelt, as well as with movie giants Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and Irving Thalberg, completes the picture of this colossal American. 

Hearst, known to his staff as the Chief, was a man of prodigious appetites. By the 1930s, he controlled the largest publishing empire in the country, including twenty-eight newspapers, the Cosmopolitan Picture Studio, radio stations, and thirteen magazines.  In Nasaw’s portrait, questions about Hearst’s relationships are addressed, including those about his mistress in his Harvard days, his legal wife, Millicent, ; and Marion Davies, his companion until death. 

Recently discovered correspondence with the architect of Hearst’s world-famous estate, San Simeon, is augmented by taped interviews with the people who worked there shed light on the private life of a very public man.


What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
Updated 19 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

What We Are Reading Today: Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Minor Feelings is a thought-provoking, insightful, smart collection of essays that delve into Asian American history, identity and psychology. 

“By blending history and cultural criticism with stories from her own past, this book highlights the complexities of being Asian in America,” said a review published in goodreads.com.

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. 

The book “traces her relationship to the English language, to shame and depression, to poetry and art-making, and to family and female friendship in a search to both uncover and speak the truth,” said the review.

Park Hong “wrote this book with courage and all her heart — exposing her feelings with honesty and wit. Her writing is incredible and this is a true masterpiece,” the review added. 

“She reckons with her identity as an Asian American while exploring larger themes of unity, art, friendship, mental health and much more. Her poeticism comes through in the beautiful writing.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan
Updated 17 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan

What We Are Reading Today: The Free World by Louis Menan

The Free World from Louis Menand is a sweeping survey that looks at how and why perceptions about the United States, both domestically and internationally, changed so completely during these years.

In his followup to the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Metaphysical Club, Menand offers a new intellectual and cultural history of the postwar years.

In his 2001 book, The Metaphysical Club, Menand offered an intellectual history of America after the Civil War by looking at a group of men whose ideas and discussions helped shape American thought. 

“Now, he focuses on the years after World War II through the Vietnam War, when American culture was exported more broadly to the world,” said a review published in The New York Times.

“If you asked me when I was growing up what the most important good in life was, I would have said ‘freedom,’” he writes. 

“As I got older, I started to wonder just what freedom is, or what it can realistically mean. I wrote this book to help myself, and maybe help you, figure that out.”


What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine

What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine
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Updated 17 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine

What We Are Reading Today: Everything is Fine
  • The review added: “Yes, there will be tears reading this story and what is so special about the sharing of this grief is the poignancy, hope, keen insightfulness and awareness that reminds us of what remains of our humanity”

Author: Vince Granata

Vince Granata’s memoir Everything is Fine charts a tragedy in his family that touches on mental illnesses, grief and resilience.
The book covers an important and often overlooked topic: Mental health.
“In this extraordinarily moving memoir about grief, mental illness, and the bonds of family, the writer delves into the tragedy of his mother’s violent death at the hands of his brother who struggled with schizophrenia,” said a review in goodeads.com.
“Written in stark, precise, and beautiful prose, Everything Is Fine is a powerful and reaffirming portrait of loss and forgiveness,” said the review.
It said the book “is heartbreaking, horrifying, and very important. Granata tells his story well. His brother’s descent into schizophrenia is fascinating and scary. Its importance is great in today’s world of misunderstood mental illness.”
The review added: “Yes, there will be tears reading this story and what is so special about the sharing of this grief is the poignancy, hope, keen insightfulness and awareness that reminds us of what remains of our humanity.”

 


What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott
Updated 16 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

What We Are Reading Today: The Third Pole by Mark Synnott

Mark Synnott’s The Third Pole transport readers to Mount Everest during the 2019 climbing season as he searches for the remains of Sandy Irvine that may help prove the British summited Everest in the 1920s.

This was an interesting look into Synnott’s quest to find the body of Irvine who was lost on Everest in 1924.

A mountaineer and rock climber himself, Synnott skillfully describes early 20th century exploration, then dives into a story about Everest that merges mystery, adventure and history into a single tragic bundle.

Synnott writes a compelling story that combines the 2019 season on Everest, historical attempts to climb Mt. Everest, and mountaineering culture as a whole.

He “describes horror stories about frostbite and strokes (blood clots are more likely at high altitudes) and oxygen tanks that hit empty at the worst possible moment,” Edward Dolnick said in a review for The New York Times.

Synnott “knows how to keep readers turning the pages, and they will speed their way to his mystery’s resolution. But any Everest story today has an unavoidable dark side.” said Dolnick.


What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson
Updated 15 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

What We Are Reading Today: The Age of Em by Robin Hanson

Robin Hanson in the “The Age of Em” thinks that robots may one day rule the world.

Many think the first truly smart robots will be brain emulations or “ems.” 

Scan a human brain, then run a model with the same connections on a fast computer, and you have a robot brain, but recognizably human.

Train an em to do some job and copy it a million times: An army of workers is at your disposal. When they can be made cheaply, within perhaps a century, ems will displace humans in most jobs. 

Applying decades of expertise in physics, computer science, and economics, Hanson uses standard theories to paint a detailed picture of a world dominated by ems.

Ems make us question common assumptions of moral progress, because they reject many of the values we hold dear.

This book shows you just how strange your descendants may be, though ems are no stranger than we would appear.  To most ems, it seems good to be an em.