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America's Prophet: A Review of Fredrick Douglass by David Blight

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Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The 19th century in American history is filled with amazing historical figures, but few stand out as much as Fredrick Douglass. In this wonderful biography, Mr. Blight dives to deep into the life of the preeminent American of the 19th century and, by doing so, holds up a mirror to an America once again having to reckon with its dark racial past.

The life of Fredrick Douglass is one that many Americans already know as he wrote three different and highly praised autobiographies at various times in his life. Born into slavery, Douglass taught himself how to read, escaped from slavery, and became one of the greatest abolitionists of the period. He would go on to use his voice and his pen to denounce slavery in the South and racism in the North, recruit black soldiers for the Union effort during the Civil War, and hold the country accountable to the promises it made to former slaves during Reconstruction and l…

Tragedy Upon Tragedy: A Review of Assad or We Burn the Country

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Assad or We Burn the Country: How One Family's Lust for Power Destroyed Syria by Sam Dagher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the tragic events that became known collectively as the Arab Spring, the Syrian Civil War is perhaps the most tragic, the most well known, and the least understood. For one brief, shining moment, it appeared that a new Middle East was possible free of dictatorships and terror. Syria seemed on the brink of change only for its ruthless dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to deem survival worth any cost, event the lives of thousands of his own people, millions of refugees, and a resurgence of Islamic extremist terror groups across the region and the world. In this detailed account, Mr. Dagher takes his reader into the inner sanctum of the Assad regime, the protest movement, the international community, and the rebellion to give one of the most complete accounts of the Syrian regime, its origins, and the series of events that led to such a brutal civil war.

To fully underst…

Everything is Better: A Review of Factfulness

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Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World--and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The news seems to always be filled with bad news. Even without the threat of COVID-19, the news is littered with stories of violence, illness, and death. While this may be a more dramatic story, it unfortunately hides the major story of the last 50+ years: that on nearly every indicator (health, education, the economy, etc.) the world has made an extraordinary amount of progress. Enter Hans Rosling and this wonderful book to correct the misperceptions of the affluent "West".

This book could've easily fallen into a trap of pure humanistic triumphalism, but Mr. Rosling has done more than just list a series of good news items that are routinely missed. He also challenges our preconceived notions about why things are terrible in the world and addresses why we think that way too. At the same time, each chapter is filled with strategies abou…

Echoes of the Civil Rights Era: A Review of Blues for Mister Charlie

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Blues for Mister Charlie: A Play by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I recently read James Baldwin's first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain and loved it. So when I learned that Mr. Baldwin had written a play during the middle of the Civil Rights era, I jumped at the chance to dive into this essential American author once again. And while the play is very much a product of its time, echoes of this play's themes can still be heard today.
Loosely based on the murder of Emmett Till, this play follow the aftermath and trial of young black man who was murdered by a white man in an unnamed Southern town. Through flashbacks and a shared stage setting, the audience sees the present and past events woven together as well as the events happening on both sides of this segregated town. I would imagine this play to be a visually striking one, though I don't know if there will be a revitalization of this play on Broadway any time soon.
One aspect of this play that felt a little off…

Disaster!: A Review of Midnight at Chernobyl

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Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the history of man-made disasters, none stick out so much in the popular imagination as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, especially after the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries. This book, critically acclaimed in its own right, may be the definitive account one can read about the disaster today.

After more than a decade of research and interviews, Mr. Higginbotham expands the story beyond just the disaster itself. Instead, he starts with the building of Chernobyl back in the 1970s. Starting from this point, one sees the shoddy construction and corruption that went into the building of the reactor that made it the ticking time bomb that it was. He also presents a much more sympathetic picture of those at the heart of the disaster, particularly Dyatlov, Fomin, and Brukhanov. And he even includes as much of the Soviet scientific community as possible…

April 2020 24-Hour Readathon Live Blog

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April 25, 9:23 a.m.: Just over four hours have passed since we started this readathon.  I've finished just over 127 pages of Midnight in Chernobyl, but Monique has already finished reading her book, The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande.  Looks like I have a lot fo watching up to do.

April 25, 2020 4:58 a.m.: It't time for another 24 hour readtathon!  This time, I am taking part in the classic Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon and I am not alone as my fiancé, Monique, will be joining me.  We are even having a friendly competition going on of seeing who can read the most.  This is where I will be live blogging for the day, so come check out our progress often.  I've got my tea ready and I am going to get started with the book, Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham.  Wish us luck!

"King Vampire": A Review of Dracula

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Dracula by Bram Stoker My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Though vampires, the legendary blood-sucking monsters, have been around in our stories and mythology for a long time. However, Dracula by Bram Stoker is where vampires truly entered the human imagination and have never really left, though zombie stories have recently been gaining greater popularity. Though I read and adored The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is heavily influenced by Dracula, I had never gotten around to reading it until now and I was not disappointed at all.

Dracula is still a great novel to read. The pace, the tension, the mystery, and the eye brow-raising sexual undertones are worthy of any current thriller or horror novel. I was also surprised at how violent this book was. I guess I should not have been surprised considering the main villain is a monster that sucks the blood of its victims, but given the time it was published, I guess I was expecting something a bit more clean in its presentations of violence. In…