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: 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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Book Review: The Desert World by Pierre Jean Jouve

The dust jacket The Desert World by Pierre Jean Jouve suggests it’s a "potent exploration of the destructive power of sexuality and he interrelationships between love and death." Perhaps. I found it to be a dark, lyrical exploration of two deeply flawed characters and one who was slightly less flawed.

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Book Review: Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods by E. Fuller Torrey

Evolving Brains, Emerging Gods by E. Fuller Torrey is a fun, thoughtful and illuminating read built on a convincing thesis. However, I’m predisposed to be easily convinced about a biological explanation for religion fueled by cognitive evolution. That may be too big of leap for some but, if this book has it right, perhaps evolution will surprise future generations with some new brain adaptions that make the concept more palatable, or useful to our continued survival.

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Book Review: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

I am wildly interested in novelists who courageously play with structure, who see the potential in moving beyond the mythical hero’s journey tale, who jettison the constraining traditional three-act form, who use dialogue inventively, who believe storytelling has the potential to be reinvented to reflect the realities of life all on its own, and not just as a prelude to a three-act screenplay. Thus, I was excited to see the critical praise along these lines when Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday was released, anticipating a rewarding reading experience. 

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Book Review: So Much Blue by Percival Everett

So Much Blue by Percival Everett tells Kevin Pace’s story, an artist of some renown, living in a semi-rural area, with a wife and two children. Kevin’s story has three arcs: one in the present, one in Paris a decade or so ago, and one in Nicaragua, about thirty years in the past. 

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