This is both a personal and a historical overview of anxiety, a mental illness that far too many Americans share. In the first decade of this century, the numbers grew to 16.2 million—in fact more Americans see a doctor for anxiety than for back pain and migraine combined. Stossel, who suffers terribly from panic attacks, fear of flying, a nervous stomach, and severe social anxiety, has been remarkably successful as both an author and the editor of The Atlantic.
My favorite section is the opening one titled “The Riddle of Anxiety.” Here he compares how philosophical and psychological greats described the disease. Plato believed that anxiety and other mental problems arose “not from physiological imbalances but from disharmony of the soul.” Hippocrates believed that “body juices” caused madness. He said, “You will find the brain humid, full of sweat and smelling badly.” This description came very close to the author at his wedding, except that it was his body that sweated profusely. He had such a panic attack at the altar that his best man was afraid he would faint. Read more about My Age of Anxiety
Oh my, what happens when a novel’s lead character dies on the fourth page? Alas, Dr. Fellowes never made it to Ursula’s birth (at least not this time around)—he was busy treating a man trampled by a bull.
This novel made many “best book” of the year lists. On a cold winter’s night in 1910, a baby girl was born to the Todd family, but alas poor Ursula was born blue. Then she is born again and the family cat, Queenie, smothers her (not necessarily on purpose.) She’s born again and drowns while swimming in the sea with her older sister Pamela.
But in between all the births and deaths, (her younger brother Teddy, has his own run-ins with nasty accidents and reincarnation), a lot happens to the Todd family. Hugh, the father, is a banker, and his wife Sylvie, a rather uninvolved mother. In a style and format all her own, Kate Atkinson has reimagined the historical novel. Read more about Life after Life
I’ve read other books by Joan Silber, and I think she is a writer who deserves a bigger audience. If you’re a fan of historical novels, you will enjoy this book. It’s less a novel than a collection of interrelated stories centered on friends of Dorothy Day (or were related to her inner circle). She was a famous Catholic worker who fought hard for the poor.
The first story revolves on a group of young 20-somethings in Day’s New York circle about the time she was getting serious about Catholicism. (She was an adult convert.) In the title story, a young vivacious woman named Vera, loves her life surrounded by smart, interesting people, one of whom she marries. Silber captures the feel of New York City during this time, the freedom young adults experienced living together, going to political meetings, working their day jobs but also doing creative things on the side.
Vera is a sign painter until her employer insults her and then eventually fires her without cause. Although in love with her husband, Joe, Vera is drawn to Day’s boyfriend, Forster, who is also the father of Day’s child. A chance meeting in a park brings Vera and Forster together when they discover the corpse of a poor man who froze to death on a bench. Read more about Dorothy Day's Circle of Friends
Physician, humanitarian, and international journalist Sheri Fink has written an amazing book about what happens to even dedicated professionals in a crises that lasts for days. When a hospital became a flooded, steamy place without electricity, and the media constantly harangued about dangerous people attempting to break in, normal procedures quickly disappeared.
Do you remember that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina much of New Orleans flooded and that the area covered included some hospitals and nursing homes? Do you also recall a heated trial at which one doctor was accused of mercy-killing elderly patients? This well-researched book investigates not only what happened during the five days that NOLA’s Memorial Hospital was flooded but also the people involved: doctors, nurses, the New Orleans city coroner, patients and their families.
If you are a fan of graphic novels or comic book histories, Joe Sacco’s incredibly detailed book about the battle of the Somme is a keeper. The accordion style of the book imparted a narrative push to this graphic history that has no text.
The folded-over 24 foot long drawing also gave Sacco a large expanse of space to record the planning for the war on the ramparts of Montreuil-sur-Mer, the gathering of horses, laden carts and howitzers before the battle, and the trenches, explosions and destruction of the battle itself.
The artist also vividly captured the digging of graves and the field of white crosses after the bloodshed ended. Sacco’s drawings are very accurate, expertly rendered, and they convey emotion. To get the full effect of this book, you should spread it out across a long table or even two tables.
The one-day battle had 60,000 British casualties—the largest of any battle Britain has been involved in before or since. Included in a separate booklet is Adam Hochschild’s narrative essay that places the art in context. Read more about The Great War
This is an interesting book detailing the rise of what the author terms the "Third Golden Age of Television". He provides in-depth details on the development, reaction, and impact of several critically acclaimed television shows (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Mad Men) and touches on others more peripherally (The Shield, Six Feet Under, Breaking Bad and various others). [Note: The Library may not, and probably will not, have the entirety of some of these shows, so check the catalog if you are inclined to (re-)watch any of them]. The author provides a context for how these new shows developed (going back to briefly recap the first two 'ages' on network television) and traces how this third Age was able to come about only on premium and basic cable stations. Read more about Difficult Men