Book Review: ‘How to be an Antiracist’ worth reading

No one said life is easy. But it should be fair—at least most of the time. Being born any color other than white makes life so much more difficult and less fair from Day 1.

In his book “How to be an Antiracist” (Random House, 2019) Ibram X. Kendi takes readers on a journey from his childhood to the time the book was published. His path included the realization that he was being prejudice against other Black people. But we all know the real racism is whites toward others; in his case Blacks.

“The United States is a racist nation because its policymakers and polices have been racist from the beginning,” Kendi writes. He further states, “Americans have long been trained to see the deficiencies of people rather than policy.”

Instances where this statement are proven true are strewn throughout the book. While there is plenty of personal aspects to the book, Kendi weaves in a multitude of scenarios and facts to prove his beliefs.

Kendi is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, as well as professor of history and international relations, author, and columnist for The Atlantic.

All but one of the 18 chapters is one word. They are: Definitions, Dueling Consciousness, Power, Biology, Ethnicity, Body, Culture, Behavior, Color, White, Black, Class, Space, Gender, Sexuality, Failure, Success, and Survival. I mention them because Kendi dissects each topic in a captivating, probing manner that got me to think. I appreciated his perspective on the entire topic and each chapter.

This book was read by my Wine, Women and Wisdom book club. Our discussions are often thought-provoking, bringing out the larger subject matter as opposed to worrying about whether the book has literary merit or you would recommend the book. (Those were criteria in my last book club.)

Some of our comments:

  • We are either a multicultural nation or not; it needs to be reflected in school curriculum.
  • Black and brown people are not able to socially distance because of their jobs.
  • Boston declared racism a public health crisis.
  • When talking about racism ask a person to define racism.
  • So many people don’t know their ideas are racist.
  • Advocating for change isn’t supposed to be easy.
  • Are you really an ally if it’s only convenient for you?

Not profound per se, but a simple statement that led to further discussion by the group that helped us probe deeper, and understand ourselves and the world a little more.

Book Review: ‘Bushwhacked’ a blistering tale about George W. Bush

Even though “Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America” (Vintage Books, 2003) came out during his presidency, it is relevant today because of the history lesson it provides.

The late Molly Ivins wrote this bestseller with Lou Dubose. She uses her clever way with words to capture some of the more underhanded tactics of Bush when he was governor of Texas as well as president of the United States. Ivins, as a journalist with roots in Texas, had a front row seat to much of Bush’s political career. She was a well-respected writer with the New York Times, a syndicated columnist, and was twice nominated for a Pulitzer.

These days people talk about how it would be nice to have someone like Bush back in the White House instead of the current occupant. Reading this book will jolt sense back into people to remember how life wasn’t so good then either.

The corruption is mind blowing. The ineptness despicable. The cavalier attitude toward those less fortunate criminal. The lack of regard for the environment shameful. I could keep going.

What is great about “Bushwhacked” is that Ivins weaves such serious topics in an entertaining, captivating manner. Her writing is superb. By telling the story of real people she shows how policies impact people. She shows how greed corrupts.

For some this will be a refresher about the Bush years, for others it will be a history lesson. Topics include Enron, food processing legislation, education policy, Saddam Hussein and Iraq, cronyism, consequences of tax cuts, superfund sites, and the politicization of the judicial system. This should be a must a read before the November election.

Tahoe hiking book featured in El Dorado County magazine

The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes is highlighted in a multi-page spread in Serrano Magazine.

Jolaine and Rob Collins hiked with author Kathryn Reed last fall to Twin Lakes, which happens to be the cover photo on the guidebook. Read the story and look at the great pictures here.

The book, which was first published in 2019, was updated in 2020. Also published this year were Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks, and Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks. The latter is a combination of the first two books. The hiking book is $15, snowshoe is $10, and combo is $20. They maybe ordered through your local bookstore, other retail outlets (click on the book title for locations), Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. For signed copies, email kr@kathrynreed.com.

All books are written in narrative form, making each excursion a story. All hikes/snowshoes are rated on scenic quality and difficulty.

Book Review: Compilation of travel essays a journey worth taking

Travel is such a wonderful way to escape, to learn, to test one-self. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to live vicariously through others. That’s what I did by reading “Chicken Soup for the Traveler’s Soul: Stories of Adventure, Inspiration and Insight to Celebrate the Spirit of Travel” (Health Communications, 2002).

This is a compilation of stories by a slew of writers. It was the perfect thing to read in April while I was mostly staying at home because of the coronavirus. It seemed like my attention span wasn’t great then; all the more reason this was good reading. Normally, a book of short stories or essays is not my preferred reading. This time it worked.

Some of the writers are household names like Maya Angelou and Charles Kuralt, while most are not. Details about the contributors are included in the back of the book.

What made the book interesting is these missives were non-traditional travel stories. That captured my attention even more. Some were sad—like the child killed in a random shooting. But the story is so touching in how his organs were donated. The family was traveling in Italy when this occurred. Another was about a woman traveling to Nicaragua. She took a picture of a woman and brought it to her after it was the developed. The woman wasn’t sure who she was in the picture. She’d never seen herself before—no previous photographs, no mirrors in her world.

In many ways these are slice of life stories. The writers often shared what we might take for granted as actually being a huge deal in someone else’s life. It’s about pausing to appreciate the nuances of life, of travel, and most of all the personal interactions with others.

Book Review: ‘Borderland’ a murder mystery with intrigue

Drug lords, murder, a U.S. presidential campaign, love, family intrigue – “Borderland” (Wildblue Press, 2017) has it all and then some.

Author Peter Eichstaedt weaves a tale in this novel that while at times is formulaic, at other times offers unexpected plot twists. It is a fast read about life on the border. But it’s so much more than that. The main character is drawn back to the U.S.-Mexico border where he grew up after his father is killed. His newspaper editor in Washington, D.C., allows him the freedom to pursue this personal story.

While Eichstaedt has the credentials as a journalist to write such a story to make it believable, the book could have used better editing.

It was hard to read this after having read his book “Dangerous Divide,” which I so enjoyed. It was a true story looking at U.S.-Mexico border issues. Then again, I prefer nonfiction over fiction. For those who like murder mysteries, “Borderland” is sure to please.

Free shipping on Tahoe outdoor books; sign up for presentation

The novel coronavirus forced the cancellation of all of my spring book signings. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get a signed copy of any of my books. Even better, I am waving the postage through July 2020.

For those who would like a signed copy, email me at kr@kathrynreed.com with “want a book” in the subject line. The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes is $15, Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks is $10 and Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks is $20. The latter is a combination of the hiking and snowshoe books. All books are available at local bookstores and other retail outlets. If it’s not in stock, bookstores can order them.

To find out more about my books, join in the remote presentation on June 24 at 5pm sponsored by the Truckee Library. Register online in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the presentation. The talk will be about hiking and snowshoeing in the greater Lake Tahoe area.

Book Review: ‘The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto’ hits a chord

“The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto” took me on an unexpected journey. Perhaps it touched me more as I keep hearing of stories of how music is helping bring people together during the pandemic.

This book by Mitch Albom (HarperCollins Publishers, 2016) is told from the perspective of music. Music is a talent who chooses certain people at birth, at least according to the author. It’s up to the person to develop the talent and do as they wish with it.

The main character, Frankie Presto, is an orphan in Spain. His life intersects with those of many famous musicians—Elvis, Darlene Love, Duke Ellington, Kiss, Tony Bennett and so many others.

Albom proves everyone will join a band. “As life goes on, you will join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage, or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you will play a distinct part, and it will affect you as much as you affect it. And, as is usually the fate with bands, most of them will break up—through distance, differences, divorce, or death.”

While this is a work of fiction, it is believable in how the power of music could take hold of those have been touched by this talent whether they possess it or are listeners who appreciate it. The book is multidimensional with the story of the boy who becomes a man, his families, the world at that time and human behavior.

Join the virtual outdoor book presentation set for June 24

It would be hard to find anyone who would say getting outdoors is bad for you. I have three books that will help you explore the greater Lake Tahoe area.

On June 24 at 5pm the Truckee Library is hosting a remote presentation via Zoom about these books. Register online in advance. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the presentation. The talk will include information about The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes, Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks, and the combo of the two — Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks.

The books are available at local bookstores and other retail outlets. If it’s not in stock, bookstores can order them. For those who would like a signed copy, email me at kr@kathrynreed.com with “want a book” in the subject line. The hiking book is $15, snowshoe is $10 and the combo is $20.

Book Review: ‘Unquenchable’ a lesson about water crisis in U.S.

Sobering and alarming are two of the words that came to mind as I kept reading “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It” (Island Press, 2009).

While I don’t know what all has happened in the world of water in the intervening 11 years, I do know it is still a crisis. While the book is about what is going on in the United States, this is a global issue. Water is a limited resource that so many people take for granted.

Author Robert Glennon delves into nearly every facet of water, not just the obvious farming and municipal water uses. Still, he says, “Our existing water law tolerates both wasteful irrigation and mind-numbing sprawl.”

Almost every region of the country is part of the book, exposing just how widespread the concerns are.

Glennon doesn’t hold back when writing about the link between water and energy, how ethanol is a boondoggle, and that wastewater management needs to be overhauled. He talks about how much water is needed for technology. All of the facts and figures are mind-numbing.

This isn’t a quick read. There is so much information in here. That, though, is what makes it a must-read. This is important stuff. The details in the book are things we all need to know and need to be thinking about. It’s time to rethink our relationship water; reading this book is a good first-step to doing so.

Book Review: ‘American Dirt’ a disturbing page-Turner about migrating to U.S.

Migrant is the last word Lydia ever thought she would use to describe herself. She owned a bookshop in Acapulco, Mexico, while her husband was a respected journalist. Together they were raising their 8-year-old son in a middle class home.

An article about a cartel boss was met with a barrage of bullets that ended that tranquility and forever changed their lives.

“American Dirt” is a novel by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron Books, 2019) that tells the story of several people migrating from Central America and Mexico to the United States. While it’s a work of fiction, there are enough truths to be disturbing.

I was invited to make a guest appearance at my old book club in Tahoe last month. They are doing them by Zoom instead of in-person for the time being. Each participant rates the book for enjoyability, if they would recommend it, and literary merit. Of the 12 there that night each category averaged 7.8. My scores were 8 for enjoyability, 8 to recommend and 7 for literary merit.

Comments from the group were:

  • It’s a page-turner.
  • I learned a lot.
  • I was so afraid the whole time even though you know it is fiction.
  • I thought it was very informational.
  • I didn’t enjoy it; it was miserable, sad and devastating. I’ll read the news for this kind of information, not a novel.
  • I think it’s an important novel to know what is going on.
  • I didn’t realize it was fiction until I finished it.
  • I would rather read about someone who actually experienced it.
  • I’ve already passed it on to four other friends because I can’t return it to the library.
  • This book was very difficult for me to pick up every night because of all the angst in the world.
  • You should feel uncomfortable after reading it.

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