Pumpjack Book Reviews

When not writing, we are usually reading. And sharing our perspective on those books. Check out our About page to find out how to suggest a book for review consideration or to provide one of your own. #bookreview

Book Review: Insane: America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth

Insane: America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth is a deep, disturbing examination of how people with mental health issues fare in our criminal justice system. Spoiler alert: not well. Roth is a journalist, with strong writing, interviewing and investigative skills, and she uses these skills to their fullest bringing the complex issue to tragic life.

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Book Review: Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

In the book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, author Jaron Lanier, a futurist with roots in Silicon Valley, lays out ten strong reasons for getting off of social media and getting Facebook, Twitter and Google — companies he calls by the acronym BUMMER, Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent — out of our lives. This is a powerful little book that should be required reading for anyone who is on social media, so, basically, everyone.

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Book Review: Forty Rooms by Olga Grushkin

In Forty Rooms, the author brutally chronicles the gradual disintegration of a bright child’s dream of a poetic life as she capitulates with one small decision (or non-decision) after another to the demands of domesticity, materialism, babies and laundry and the accompanying increasingly twisted rationalizations and mind tricks necessary to maintain sanity.

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Book Review: Seven Types of Atheism by John Gray

Two things struck me while reading this book. First, I am awed anew by John Gray’s grasp of philosophy and philosophers, and his analysis of the historical context underlying their thought. Second, I found his focus on the “myth of progress” oddly comforting in these tumultuous times.

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Book Review: Give People Money by Annie Lowrey

What would happen if a $1,000 check showed up in each and every American’s bank account every month for the rest of their lives? Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work and Remake the World by Annie Lowrey is a well-researched, thoughtful, timely and deeply discouraging book.

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Book Review: The Debatable Land by Graham Robb

The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England by Graham Robb is a detailed and fascinating look at a little known border territory between Scotland and England, contested for centuries, and the site of all sorts of warfare, banditry and political scheming.

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Book Review: Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy by Robert Frank

The problem is simple: people who succeed, at anything really, attribute their success solely to hard work and perseverance, negating the ever-present role of luck. And those who don’t succeed are often seen as simply not trying hard enough, or lacking the skill and expertise to succeed, as if somehow deserving of their poor fortune, rather than considering their lack of good luck.

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Book Review: Ballad of the Anarchist Bandits by John Merriman

Ballad of the Anarchist Bandits: The Crime Spree That Gripped Belle Epoque Paris by John Merriman is a fascinating, rigorously researched and exquisitely detailed book about the Bonnot gang, a group of professed anarchists who — enraged by the poverty and mistreatment of the working class in Paris — went on a headline-grabbing rampage. It’s a story, sadly, that is as relevant today as it was a century ago.

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Book Review: Replay by Ken Grimwood

Replay by Ken Grimwood was gifted to me some years back and on a trip to the Sawtooth wilderness, I finally got around to reading it. The book has a great set up — the main protagonist, Jeff, is having a midlife crisis and filled with ennui and regret, dies in mid-conversation with his wife. He wakes up in his 18-year-old body in 1963, his head full of memories of his old life, and realizes he has a chance to start over again.

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