Book Review: NPR host Ari Shapiro becomes the subject

Book Review: NPR host Ari Shapiro becomes the subject

While I have NPR as a preset button, I’m not a regular listener. I can’t list the popular hosts. Nor can I tell you how Ari Shapiro’s debut book ended up on my list of books to read. But I’m glad it did.

Even better is that I listened to The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening (HarperOne, 2023) because Shapiro read it. What a voice. But I’m guessing some of you already know his voice since he is one of the hosts of NPR’s All Things Considered.

This is more than another journalist’s memoir. It’s about the people and issues Shapiro has covered as a radio broadcaster. It’s about taking a unique path to his occupation. It’s about being gay. It’s about being a performer. It’s about life.

One of the things I really liked about the book is that is sounded so honest. Shapiro allows himself to be vulnerable. He admits insecurities. He admits mistakes.

It’s not everyone who can cover hard news and features.

With all journalists, the best skill is to be able to listen, and then let the story evolve no matter what the original idea was. Shapiro even talks about these concepts.

It’s hard to imagine someone who would not thoroughly enjoy this book. Well, those who thought the massacre at the Pulse nightclub was OK, they probably aren’t going to want to read this book. Shapiro’s account of this tragedy is gripping.

He is definitely a great storyteller, and his story was worth telling.

Book Review: Author says to do these things in Reno before you die

Book Review: Author says to do these things in Reno before you die

Anyone who says you must do or see something before you die is setting herself to be second-guessed at the minimum, probably ridiculed and chastised, even slandered and libeled the way people are so vicious these days.

Mikalee Byerman is so confident in her recommendations that she recently released the second edition of 100 Things to Do in Reno Before You Die (Reedy Press, 2023).

I’m no expert on Reno, so I’m not going to judge whether she should have excluded one thing or included something else. I’m not sure even if I were a self-proclaimed expert on Reno, that it would matter. Books like this are subjective. Titles like this are attention grabbers.

That’s not to say the contents aren’t worth reading. They are. In fact, this would be an excellent resource for anyone in the Reno area. It ought to be in guest rooms.

I had fun reading it. I learned about places I had never heard of, and it had me shaking my head in agreement about some places that I would say are definitely worthy of seeing or doing.

The book’s chapters are: Food and Drink, Music and Entertainment, Sports and Recreation, Culture and History, Shopping and Fashion. She even has a segment on Activities by Season, and Suggested Itineraries.

While the bulk of the book focuses on Reno, Byerman also recommends a few things in Sparks, Carson City, Virginia City and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Climate scientist speaking in Tahoe challenges everyone to do more

Climate scientist speaking in Tahoe challenges everyone to do more

“We are on the path of the sixth great extinction, which will be us. That is my book is called Saving Us.”

Those are the words of Katharine Hayhoe—a climate scientist who is the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy.

I finished listening to her book Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World (One Signal Publishers, 2021) days before I heard her speak at Lake Tahoe Community College on Jan. 23.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe speaks Jan. 23 in South Lake Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

She was in Tahoe giving talks on the North and South shores to the general public. What brought her to Tahoe was Operation Sierra Storm, the annual meteorologists’ conference.

“Climate change is taking old problems and amplifying them,” Hayhoe said at her talk. “The extremes are changing.”

That’s why 500-year floods are happening every three years. Weather disasters are on steroids.

It’s Hayhoe’s ability to tell a story verbally and in writing that captivates the non-scientist. Sure, she has plenty of data to share, but her message to lay people is more about conveying the importance of talking about climate change and the need to find common ground.

She said the No. 1 predictor about whether someone believes in climate change isn’t their education, it’s where they fall on the political spectrum. That worries her and others because the issue is not political, it’s real, and it’s affecting everyone no matter their political beliefs.

Even so, Hayhoe said it’s possible to find common ground with someone across the political aisle—it could be talking about the algae in Lake Tahoe, declining snowpack, installing solar, eating less meat, or over a slew of other issues.

It’s about finding common values with others, then becoming a collective force for the better.

One slide in her presentation said we need to bond “over concerns and values that we genuinely share” and we need to connect “the dots between those values and how climate change affects us and things we already care about.” She said from those discussions we will inspire “each other with positive, practical solutions we can engage in that are compatible with our values.”

She was quick to share: “There is no perfect solution and there is no one solution.” But doing nothing is definitely not the answer.

When scientists talk about the earth warming 2 degrees it can seem like an insignificant amount. Hayhoe pointed out how when our body temperature is 2 degrees higher than normal we are sick. That’s what is happening to the planet—it’s getting sicker as it warms.

“Nature doesn’t need us, we need it,” Hayhoe said. She added, the planet will orbit with or without us.

We need the planet to provide us with our water, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the materials we need to make things. However, the course we are on will make this planet uninhabitable.

That’s why her book is called Saving Us. If climate change is not slowed, halted and reversed, it’s humans (and other plant and animal life) that will disappear, not the planet itself.


Book Review: Memoir by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

Book Review: Memoir by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

I can’t imagine any journalist not devouring Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom (Henry Holt and Company, 2022) by Carl Bernstein.

With that said, this book isn’t just for journalists. History buffs will for certain be enthralled, as will those who want a better understanding of the newspaper business—or at least what it was like.

It’s interesting to learn about how the coverage of major news events were handled—like President John F. Kennedy’s murder, Russias’ space advances, politics, and more mundane stories.

In many ways it’s a look behind the headlines. It shows the effort it takes to get a story to the people.

This memoir isn’t about what Bernstein might be best known for—his coverage of Watergate with Bob Woodward at the Washington Post that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Read All the Presidents’ Men to learn about that saga.

Chasing History ends before Watergate begins. It’s about Bernstein’s early years, growing up, and how at 16 he became a copyboy for the afternoon paper, the Evening Star. Beginnings like that don’t happen anymore.


Book Review: Sobering, important read about climate change

Book Review: Sobering, important read about climate change

Consumption. It’s one of the words that has stuck with me after listening to The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions (Penguin Press, 2023).

Climate change can be an overwhelming topic. It’s easy to throw up your arms in defeat or cross your fingers hoping the powers that be figure it out without personally being bothered. But that defeatist attitude is not going to solve the problem. It’s going to take all of us to make a difference.

A capitalist country, such as the United States, is not sustainable. We should be chanting the mantra “less, less, less” instead of “more, more, more.”

We are a throw-away society—whether it’s electronics, clothes, food or plastic bottles. Too few of us reuse, repair, or repurpose things. Buying less, buying second-hand items, repairing instead of replacing—all of those behaviors will help slow the rate of climate change.

Consumption also matters when it comes to where things are made, what it takes to get to the store we buy it from, and how it gets to our homes. What it’s packaged in is also huge.

Individuals can make a difference, but it’s also going to take policy changes at the local, state, federal and international levels to change the trajectory we are on when it comes to climate change. Individuals have the power to influence policy change. As we lobby for change, we also must ensure what is done is equitable.

The book underlined how not all of our emissions are included in statistics. Imports, exports, aviation, military—they aren’t always part of the equation even though they are large contributors to the problem.

This book was alarming. It was hard to listen to. It was exhausting.

It was also educational, inspirational, enlightening and hopeful.

It’s not something, at least for me, that could be digested easily. I had to think about what I was hearing. Let it sit before consuming more.

What was enjoyable about listening to the book is several people read it, which helped so it was not one voice. While plenty of people won’t pick this book up because Greta Thunberg is the author, in many ways she is a tiny part of the book. The words are mainly those of others.

The book is really the words of a multitude of geophysicists, oceanographers, meteorologists, engineers, economists, mathematicians, historians, philosophers and Indigenous leaders. That is also why at times the book has some repetition because most chapters are like individual essays. To me this reinforced important information.

These experts explain how climate change is impacting the ocean, the land, the air, people, animals, food supply and so much more.

It is one of those must-read (or listen to) books because the topic affects us all. Climate change really is a moral issue.

Book Review: ‘Circles of Care’ a resource for caregivers

Book Review: ‘Circles of Care’ a resource for caregivers

Few people survive “old age” on their own.

Those who have a plan or people around them who are thinking a couple steps ahead are more apt to have a more pleasant or least tolerable experience in their final years.

The book Circles of Care: How to Set Up Quality Home Care for Our Elders (Shambhala Publications, 2001) by Ann Cason is a good initial resource for people. The book is much more than the title indicates.

This is a good read for anyone with a loved one in their periphery who is aging—a spouse, parent, friend, grandparent, etc. Using real life case studies makes the book easy to read and relate to.

It gives insight into how people react to things as they age, their behavior, and ideas for coping with people as they age. It touches on the physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual journeys people are on.

My friend, Sally, loaned me the book thinking parts of it might resonate with me. She was spot on.


Book Review: ‘Wallet Activism’ offers lessons for all consumers

Book Review: ‘Wallet Activism’ offers lessons for all consumers

What we do with our money has more consequences than we might realize. What we buy, how we invest and/or bank, and the organizations we support tell a story we might not know is being written.

The book Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn and Save as a Force for Change (BanBella Books, 2021) by Truckee resident Tanja Hester lays out a strong case that we all ought to be paying better attention to where our cash is going.

What we spend money on makes a powerful statement—whether we consciously acknowledge it or not. That’s part of the problem; we are not paying attention. Hester makes is clear why we all ought to be aware of what we are spending money on, that we need to understand the true cost of something—what is it made out of, who made it, what did it take to get to a store and then to your home.

We have choices. And those choices matter. What we do with our money can be more consequential than how we vote because it’s something we are doing almost on a daily basis.

As she wrote, “Companies spend billions of dollars on advertising and marketing to attempt to persuade us in  our decision-making, but ultimately it’s up to us in our role as consumers—not as voters—to determine where society and the planet are headed.”

It’s about having our spending choices match our values. That could mean not buying whatever is cheapest. It could mean buying less. It could mean just not buying whatever it is.

This book was thought-provoking. I’m not sure what changes I will make in my life. But there will be some.

I’m going to guess most people will be better off reading Wallet Activism.

Book Review: ‘After the Flood’ a novel that could be prophetic

Book Review: ‘After the Flood’ a novel that could be prophetic

With headlines continually saying the sea is rising and now a super El Nino is coming this winter, it made the premise of After the Flood: Courage is a Force of Nature (HarperCollins, 2019) even more plausible.

Author Kassandra Montag takes readers on a journey of what life could be like after flood waters cover most of the world as we know it. What’s left of land is what used to be mountain tops.

As with most disasters, it brings out the good and bad in people.

This book is about how people learn to adapt after the floods. Myra, the main character, is a single mom literally navigating the waters in order to stay alive and make a life for the two of them.

While it’s no secret I’m not a huge fan of fiction, what I liked most about this story was it got me thinking about what life might be like if the land were inundated with water.

The characters are believable. The story interesting.

I’m sure there will be plenty of people who love the book. I’ll say it was interesting. It’s good for escaping into a different realm.

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