What We Are Reading Today: When the War Was Over

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Updated 16 July 2023
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What We Are Reading Today: When the War Was Over

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Author: Elizabeth Becker

“When the War Was Over” is Elizabeth Becker’s masterful account of the Cambodian nightmare. The award-winning journalist started covering Cambodia in 1973 for The Washington Post, when the country was perceived as little more than a footnote to the Vietnam War. Then, with the rise of the Khmer Rouge in 1975 came the closing of the border and a systematic reorganization of Cambodian society.
Everyone was sent from the towns and cities to the countryside, where they were forced to labor endlessly in the fields.  Encompassing the era of French colonialism and the revival of Cambodian nationalism, this is a book of epic vision and staggering power, according to a review on goodreads.com.
“When the War Was” Over illuminates the darkness of Cambodia with the intensity of a bolt of lightning.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Love in the Time of Self-Publishing’

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Updated 18 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Love in the Time of Self-Publishing’

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Author: CHRISTINE M. LARSON

As writers, musicians, online content creators, and other independent workers fight for better labor terms, romance authors offer a powerful example—and a cautionary tale—about self-organization and mutual aid in the digital economy.

In “Love in the Time of Self-Publishing,” Christine Larson traces the 40-year history of Romancelandia, a sprawling network of romance authors, readers, editors, and others, who formed a unique community based on openness and collective support.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Africa’s Struggle for Its Art’ by Benedicte Savoy

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Africa’s Struggle for Its Art’ by Benedicte Savoy
Updated 17 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Africa’s Struggle for Its Art’ by Benedicte Savoy

What We Are Reading Today: ‘Africa’s Struggle for Its Art’ by Benedicte Savoy

For decades, African nations have fought for the return of countless works of art stolen during the colonial era and placed in Western museums. In “Africa’s Struggle for Its Art,” Benedicte Savoy brings to light this largely unknown but deeply important history. One of the world’s foremost experts on restitution and cultural heritage, Savoy investigates extensive, previously unpublished sources to reveal that the roots of the struggle.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Browsings’

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Updated 17 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Browsings’

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Author: Michael Dirda

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Dirda compiled a year’s worth of literary essays in his 2015 book about books, aptly titled, “Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books.”

Written on Fridays between February 2012 and February 2013, the essays started out as 600-word columns in The American Scholar that combined the literary and personal. Soon, Dirda found that the word counts naturally ballooned, sometimes doubling and even tripling due to what he referred to as his “natural garrulousness.”

In the intro, he writes: “These are … very much personal pieces, the meandering reflections of a literary sybarite. The essays themselves vary widely in subject matter, and rarely stick closely to their stated titles.”

A longtime book columnist for The Washington Post, Dirda also writes regularly for many literary sections in publications such as the New York Review of Books. The Washingtonian Magazine once listed him as one of the 25 smartest people in the nation’s capital.

This collection of essays serves as a true celebration of American literature. Dirda explores his serendipitous discoveries and the joy of reading for its own sake. His passion goes beyond bibliophilism; the compilation is his love letter to all the books he has encountered along his journey.

The writer’s quick wit is demonstrated clearly on the page, and he comes across as that bookworm friend who can talk endlessly about books with enough passion to make you fall in love with reading again.

“I hope ‘Browsings’ as a whole will communicate some sense of a year in the life of an especially bookish literary journalist. I also hope that it will encourage readers to seek out some of the many titles I mention or discuss,” Dirda writes.

The books he examines are diverse, and he provides readers with insights that jump off the page. The essays are short enough, but he requests that one read only a few at a time.

“Allow me to make two small recommendations: First, don’t read more than two or three of the pieces at one sitting. Space them out. That way ‘Browsings’ will take longer to get through and you’ll enjoy each essay more. Trust me on this.

“Second, consider reading the columns in the order they appear. Each is meant to stand on its own, but I did aim for a pleasing variety in my choice of topics, as well as a seasonal arc to the series as a whole.”

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’

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Updated 16 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Good Vibes, Good Life’

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Author: Vex King

“Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness” by Vex King is a self-help book on cultivating a positive mindset and emotional well-being. The author shares his own personal journey of overcoming adversity and tells how he developed practical strategies to improve his outlook on life.

It has an approachable and conversational tone. King writes in a personable manner, sharing his personal experiences and lessons acquired, making it relatable and relevant for readers.

The book covers a wide range of themes, including how to manage negative thoughts, practice appreciation, set boundaries, and discover your purpose.

King presents a variety of real exercises and tactics that readers may use right away to transform their mentality and improve their mental health.

The chapter on self-love is particularly impactful. King emphasizes the importance of being compassionate and accepting toward oneself, which he argues is the foundation for developing healthy relationships and achieving personal growth.

However, I felt that “Good Vibes, Good Life” sometimes tried to simplify complex emotional and mental health issues. While I appreciate the author’s goal of providing easy-to-understand self-help advice, there were times where the messaging felt too simplistic.

Another thing that gave me pause was that the author often did not use scientific research to support ideas. As someone who likes to see evidence-based information, I would have preferred if the author had included more references to psychological studies and expert opinions to back up his recommendations.

Instead, the book mostly relies on the author’s own personal stories and experiences. While those personal anecdotes can be compelling, I don’t think that automatically makes the strategies universally applicable to everyone.

Finally, I had mixed feelings about the work’s broad scope. On the one hand, I appreciated the wide range of topics covered; but on the other, I felt that certain areas could have benefited from a more in-depth, nuanced exploration, rather than a relatively surface-level treatment.

Overall, “Good Vibes, Good Life” is an uplifting and practical guide that can help readers develop a more positive and fulfilling outlook on life. The author’s personal anecdotes and straightforward advice make it an easy and engaging read.

It is a good option for those seeking to cultivate more joy, peace, and emotional well-being in their life.

 


What We Are Reading: ‘A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of South America’ 

What We Are Reading: ‘A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of South America’ 
Updated 17 June 2024
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What We Are Reading: ‘A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of South America’ 

What We Are Reading: ‘A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of South America’ 

Authors: Richard Webb & Jeff Blincow 

South America’s wide range of habitats support a tremendous diversity of plants and animals, including more than 400 species of larger mammals— those the size of a guinea pig or bigger. 

Many are truly iconic: jaguar, puma, ocelot and numerous other beautiful cats; the fantastic maned wolf; the incomparable giant Anteater; and an incredible variety of extraordinary primates.