Book Review: Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban by Jere Van Dyk

“I’m alive.”

As much incantation as statement of fact, that simple phrase had plenty of meaning for American journalist Jere Van Dyk when he was taken captive by the Taliban in February 2008 and held for 45 days. In Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban, it represents affirmation, a touch of surprise […]

Book Review: Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian

Given recent history, it would seem the term “ethnic cleansing” is of late 20th Century origin. Armenian Golgotha, Grigoris Balakian’s firsthand account of the Armenian genocide during World War I, disabuses any such notion. Balakian, an Armenian priest, notes several times that the Ottoman Empire embarked on an intentional campaign to “cleanse” itself of Armenians.


Book Review: Me, the Mob, and the Music by Tommy James

For whatever reason, celebrity memoirs seem to sell better when they are tell-all tales. In fact, it seems the more salacious, the better. If that’s what intrigues you about such works, Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James & The Shondells won’t fit the bill. If, though, you’re interested in […]

The year in books — by the numbers

The numbers will finish off the end of the year book-related posts. I’ve been keeping a book diary since the beginning of 1976. This year I reached a record number of books read, 111. That figure is tempered by the reverse of what affected last year’s numbers. Just as my 2008 reading included a few […]

Book Review: In Search of My Homeland by Er Tai Gao

Given our history, Americans tend to think of political prisoners as those who actively oppose the political policies or government of their country. Yet in totalitarian societies even aesthetics are political so whether a person is a dissident is in the eye of the beholder. That’s what artist Er Tai Gao learned when he published […]

Book Review: The Sixties by Jenny Diski

Every time period has its trappings. And while it may be impacted by its recency, it’s hard to imagine a historical period that carries more baggage than the 1960s. In her reflective quasi-memoir The Sixties, British author Jenny Diski sifts through some of the baggage but ultimately comes away dismayed and discouraged.

At the outset, […]