June 2016

Dead Wake by. Erik Larson

I can’t add much to the positive reviews already posted. What I found fascinating was Mr. Larson’s description of the German U boats: their construction, operation, life on board, and action in battle. Using a dual narrative, following both the sailing of the Lusitania and the sea voyage of U-20 helped increase the tension of what you know is coming. I believe some reviewers felt Mr. Larson didn’t give as much detail on 3rd class passengers, or even 2nd class passengers. True, he wrote most completely about the 1st class voyagers but, in fairness, in those days 3rd class passengers were not worthy of notice by anyone and it may have been hard to get any information about them. I felt there was a fair mix of the 2nd class people. The story of Room 40 was also very interesting and has stoked my interest to find out more. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was hard pressed to put it down when my real life intruded from time to time !!

UnFair – Adam Benfirado

This book is such an excellent book about so many of the things that are wrong with the current American justice system. It touches on just about every aspect of the system, from police officers to juries and the biases that everyone has. If anyone could read this book and not admit that there are so many things that need to be fixed, then I would be amazed.

What I really love about the book is that everything in it is based in psychology and neuroscience and real facts. At the same time, the book is also powerful because of the real stories you get of difference injustices that have come out of our justice system. You get to hear about studies that discovered judges’ decisions can be predicted based only on what time of the day they’re making the decision, and you get to hear about people who are wrongly accused because jurors (and other people in the justice system) can’t recognize their own biases that everyone possesses. The book looks at solitary confinement, something used frequently yet has been shown to do so much psychological damage that it really is torture. There’s also the evidence that people do a really poor job of identifying people who aren’t of their race, which presents a huge problem when you rely on eye witnesses to identify suspects (and that’s only one of a multitude of ways that eye witnesses can get things wrong).

And that’s such a small selection of topics that this book explores. There’s so much in here, and all of it is incredibly important to understanding how messed up our justice system currently is.

But this book isn’t just condemning the system. It provides a number of ways to improve it and create a system that is much fairer by educating people and using what we know about psychology and neuroscience to actually work out these problems.

This is a book that I feel like everyone should read. It’s such an important topic and one that really won’t get better until more people are aware of the information that’s in this book. It’s something that we really can’t afford as a society to keep ignoring.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

The full catasrophe

This is an outstanding book which provides the reader with great insight into the troubles of Greece and why these difficulties have an intractability to reform that is daunting. When you have this book as background, the difficulties of the current Greek political crisis become clearer.

In particular, I liked the way Angelos made each chapter a human interest story that illuminated the larger public policy challenge.

And his chapter and other references to migrants brings out one’s deepest sympathies for the unfortunate people trying to find a better life for themselves and their families–and the often tragic outcomes on this modern Greek odyssey.

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