Book Review: Angela Davis’ autobiography a lesson in injustices

Book Review: Angela Davis’ autobiography a lesson in injustices

When I was growing up, and I’m guessing this is true for many people, I thought anything in the past was ancient history and had little relevance to me. I graduated high school and college in the 1980s, so anything that occurred in the 1970s or earlier was practically the Dark Ages.

That’s the fallacy about history—it does matter. Assuming it had little or no bearing on my life now means there is so much more still to learn.

And, so, yet another book opened my eyes to racial and political injustices in the United States. This time it was Angela Davis—An Autobiography (Haymarket Books, 1974). The first edition was edited by Toni Morrison.

The book is captivating. While I knew something of Davis, the book put many of the pieces together. While this is an autobiography, it’s only a small—though extremely significant—chunk of her life.

She lost her job teaching at UCLA because she was a member of the Communist Party. She was on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List. She was a force to be reckoned with.

While there will be plenty of people who won’t read this book, I ask you to ask yourself: “Why won’t you?” It provides plenty of examples of racism, social injustice, prison injustice, and a society that is so full of hatred.

I feel like I am more knowledgeable for having read the book. That is a good thing. Sometimes it’s good to be uncomfortable.

The audio version of the book was released in 2022, with Davis doing the reading. Today, she is 79 years old and still active in racial justice issues.

Book Review: Starting to read books that others want to ban

Book Review: Starting to read books that others want to ban

It amazes me that people have banned a book about book banning. Such is the case with Fahrenheit 451 (Simon & Schuster, 1951) by Ray Bradbury.

This was my first time to read it. I wasn’t even sure what it was about until I opened it. The title comes from the fact that 451 degrees F is when book paper catches fire and burns.

While this is a work of fiction, the premise is alarming. The fact it was published 72 years ago, well, it’s almost like the author was clairvoyant.

To me, this is must reading. It paints a horrific picture of what happens to people when there aren’t books, when there isn’t free thought, when the powers that be control us in more ways than a free, democratic society should ever allow.

If you don’t think the United States is on a scary path, you aren’t paying attention.

There are so many categories of books that I want to read, with banned books a recent edition. I’ve now read six of the books mentioned below. Clearly, I have more work to do, especially since this is only a partial list of banned books.

The following is from Barnes & Noble:

“Top banned and challenged books you should probably read immediately:

  • Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • They Both Die at The End by Adam Silvera
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
  • New Kid Jerry Craft
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Book Review: Learning about the people of Todos Santos

Book Review: Learning about the people of Todos Santos

When you don’t speak the native language, you miss out on a lot. One of those big things is getting to know the locals. Such was the case with my three extended stays in Todos Santos, Mexico. That, I regret.

It was just this spring that I learned about the book Treasures of Todos Santos (Mill City Press, 2007) by Jane Bellamy Hagus. After printing and shipping costs, the author intended proceeds to go to children in Todos Santos with special needs.

Undoubtedly, this book is going to have limited appeal. Still, I recommend it to a broader audience who wants to know a bit about this wonderful town in Baja California Sur before it became a tourist magnet. I would have loved to have heard their stories firsthand, to have even been the one asking the questions.

It’s a fast read, with each chapter written in English and Spanish. While the beginning gives some history about this town, most of the book is about the people—oral histories put into print.

My biggest complaint—and it’s a biggie—is the lack of depth about the people. Clearly, the author is not a journalist with skills at extracting a vast amount of detail from people. It’s like it’s a first draft with a lot of holes.

A good editor could have tightened up some of the writing, maybe even made it jump off the pages a bit more.

Still, I was left with a better appreciation for the people and the life they lived. Many were asked about what life was like prior to and after 1974 when the road was paved between Todos Santos and La Paz, as well as what paving the road in 1984 between Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas meant.

I only know those paved roads. But there are plenty of dirt roads in Todos Santos—I lived on them.

For people with a connection to Todos Santos, I recommend the book. You are bound to get something out of it.

Book Review: ‘An Immense World’ delves into the senses of animals

Book Review: ‘An Immense World’ delves into the senses of animals

I know what and how I see, hear, feel, smell and taste, but what about all the other living creatures I share the world with?

Until listening to An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us (Random House, 2022) I had not given much thought to how animals navigate the world. Sure, I know a bit about the power of a dog’s sense of smell, but my knowledge about other species had been pretty thin.

Author Ed Young delves into the animal kingdom in a way I had not even given any thought to before.

I had never thought about there being other senses beyond what humans have. Sure, I understand animals can have better senses than us. Many can see at night or hear things we don’t. But some use whiskers and other body parts as sense mechanisms.

Snakes use infrared radiation, bats echolocation, octopuses polarized vision, and bees tap into the Earth’s magnetic field.

I was fascinated and bored by this book at the same time. Such are the hazards of science not being one of my favorite subjects. While Young delivers the information in a manner that is easy to understand, at times it was a bit too much. I could only take in so much at a time so it took me a while to get through the book.

The last chapters were about how humans are changing life for all animals—what with our desire to light up the night sky, create noise on land and in the water, and build barriers to their normal migration in the name of what we call progress. This was illuminating in a negative way. Even music being played outside is changing what’s “normal” to every other living being that can hear it.

It really made me realize how most humans (it can’t be just me!) are clueless about the impacts their daily lives have on the animal world.

Meet Tahoe area authors at South Lake Tahoe Library

Meet Tahoe area authors at South Lake Tahoe Library


It’s not often a group of Tahoe area authors gathers in the same place.

The South Lake Tahoe Friends of the Library is hosting an event on the library’s lawn (1000 Rufus Allen Blvd.) on June 27 from 4-7pm.

This will be a great place to find the perfect book for the beach this summer as well as to stock up on gifts. A signed book is a pretty cool thing to have on your book shelf or to give to someone.

Joining me at the event will be Bruce Rettig, Lori Ault, Robert Max, Ben Rogers, Lori Ault, Kristine Russell, Gantt Miller, Kathy Fellure and Tanja Hester.

We will all be selling our books. For me that includes Sleeping with Strangers: An Airbnb Host’s Life in Lake Tahoe and Mexico ($20), Lake Tahoe Trails For All Seasons: Must-Do Hiking and Snowshoe Treks ($20), The Dirt Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Hikes ($15), and Snowshoeing Around Lake Tahoe: Must-Do Scenic Treks ($10). I accept cash and Venmo.

Some of the authors will be reading from their published works.

The event is free to attend.

Authors dealing with Amazon raising its printing costs

Authors dealing with Amazon raising its printing costs

All three outdoor books will be a smidge more expensive later this month when purchased on Amazon.

Starting June 20 it’s likely most books on Amazon will cost more money.

While technically this is up to the author, it is because Amazon is increasing its printing costs.

Authors like myself received an email from Amazon a few weeks ago saying it was going to raise its printing costs through its KDP platform. Authors have until June 19 to decide if they want to raise the list price to retain the same compensation or leave the price and make less money. The latter essentially means absorbing Amazon’s increase.

Sleeping With Strangers Book

Authors are dealing with Amazon raising its printing costs.

No matter what, Amazon will be making more money. The behemoth contends the increase is to cover increasing printing costs. Paper and ink cost money. I get it. It’s hard to know if the increase will only cover the company’s cost of doing business or if there is profit factored in.

While Amazon has been the great disruptor in the publishing world, it is the devil most authors dance with. It’s a great way to get your words before the masses.

The price increase varies based on number of pages, size of book, hard cover, color v. black and white.

While per book it’s not a substantial increase, like anything, it adds up. Consumers are likely to barely notice. It’s the authors who will feel the cumulative pinch if they don’t increase their price.

I have to commend Amazon for giving authors a choice. When IngramSpark, the distributor I use to get my books into stores, changed its financial model it did so to the compensation component. This meant I had no choice but to make less money per book sold.

While I prefer people buy books through local bookshops instead of Amazon, I actually make more on Amazon. This is assuming I have not sold my books directly to the retailer.

Of course if you buy directly from the author, that’s how they make the most money.

*Note: Mark June 27 on your calendars. I’ll be at the South Lake Tahoe Library from 4-6:30pm selling and signing all of my books alongside a handful of other authors.

Book Review: Mixed feelings about ‘Girl, Woman, Other’

Book Review: Mixed feelings about ‘Girl, Woman, Other’

Few books leave me wondering if I would recommend it. But such is the case with Girl, Woman, Other (Black Cat, 2019) by Bernardine Evaristo.

I liked this book. The storytelling was great. I was captured by each person. So, yes, it was good.

The book delves into the lives of multiple people, with the main characters Black British women. At times their ties to Africa were relevant. Diversity is a central concept in the book—from sexuality to age to work to socio-economic status.

My problem was with there being 12 distinct characters it was hard to understand who was connected to whom. It’s almost like I needed an org chart to fall back on to remember who was who.

It didn’t help that out of the gate it was disarming to have it written without traditional punctuation. Once I got over that minor hurdle, all was good. The writing/layout style actually added to the book’s uniqueness.

One thing I realized while reading this book is that I don’t read enough from non-U.S. authors or books based outside the U.S. that aren’t travel oriented.

Book Review: Learning about John Bidwell and California

Book Review: Learning about John Bidwell and California

Some books are difficult to get through, but are important to finish.

In this case, I wanted to know more about John Bidwell, the white man credited with founding Chico. After all, there were plenty of Indians calling this swath of California home before he arrived by wagon train so it’s hard to say he discovered the area. It was also part of Mexico when he first came west.

What might make this book appealing to those who have no connection to Chico is all of the California history. Bidwell’s contribution to the state’s agricultural industry is well documented here and elsewhere.

John Bidwell & California: The Life & Writings of a Pioneer 1841-1900 (Arthur H. Clark Company, 2004) by Michael J. Gillis and Michael F. Magliari in some ways is like two books in one.

Each chapter starts with the authors telling something about Bidwell like his life in politics (he was in Congress), his interactions with Indians and the Chinese, the Gold Rush and so much more. The second half of the chapter is Bidwell’s writings on the chapter subject.

I would recommend skipping the first chapter. If you have read anything about wagon trains crossing into California, this will just bore you and might have you putting down the book for good.

Another way to approach the book might be just to read what the authors wrote or just Bidwell’s writing. Together there is a lot of repetition. While this is clearly not an overwhelming recommendation of the book, for anyone interested in learning about Bidwell or California, this is a very informative book.

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