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: Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict by Ara Norenzayan

Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict by Ara Norenzayan is likely to offend anyone who has fairly deeply held religious beliefs because it suggests religions, all religions, can be reduced to adaptive evolutionary behaviors unconsciously amplified by the arguably most effective socially cooperative animal on the planet. This is a great book that I highly recommend, although it is somewhat disheartening.

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Book Review: Behave by Robert Sapolsky

Behave: The Biology of Humans At Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky, explains — within the limits of current scientific knowledge — why we do the things we do, good and (especially) bad. It’s a long, thoughtful and fascinating journey.

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Book Review: The Blood Berries by Erin Cole

I’m a fan of the Kate Waters mysteries by Erin Cole, and was intrigued to dip into Cole's newest work, The Blood Berries. The short novel does not disappoint. It’s the quiet ones that scare us the most and Cole’s style is oh-so-quiet and her prose oh-so-terrifingly clean. I highly recommend The Blood Berries.

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Book Review: Outline by Rachel Cusk

Outline by Rachel Cusk is about a woman—Faye—traveling to Athens during an oppressively hot summer for a weeklong stay to teach a writing seminar. She has left her husband and son behind in London. Simple enough, but it’s the  structure of the story that sets it apart; it’s told in ten conversations.

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Book Review: Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance by Mariana Gosnell

Some time ago, I became interested in how ice was harvested, transported and stored in the years before the advent of electricity. I couldn’t find much on the topic and so filed it away unresolved. Recently, I stumbled upon Ice: The Nature, the History, and the Uses of an Astonishing Substance, by Mariana Gosnell and wondered if it would answer my questions. It did, and so much more.  This is, hands down, one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read.

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Book Review: World Without Mind by Franklin Foer

Never write mad. Franklin Foer, author of World without Mind, does not like Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon. He’s not alone — many people, me included, are nervous about the pervasive influence of these tech giants. But he has a special gripe, losing his editor job at The New Republic courtesy of the digital revolution that reshaped consumer expectations toward “free” content, gradually, insidiously transforming journalism into clickbait writing designed to get views and feed the marketing beast. It’s not a bad book and Foer is a very talented writer tackling an important topic, but it never quite rises above his personal sense of outrage that he was so easily displaced by a society that doesn’t care about his expertise.

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Book Review: Two works by Arthur Machen

The Great God Pan is focused on an occult world existing in the shadows of this world, hidden and mysterious but also some how more real. 

The story opens with a young woman willingly participating in questionable medical experiment performed by a surgeon intent on helping humankind experience the mystical realm directly. He has, apparently, found the structure in the brain that prevents easy access to the spiritual realm (what he calls, “seeing the god Pan”), though curiously, he offers no insights as to why nature may have seen fit to prevent the veil from being lifted. 

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