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Media, Millennials, and Politics

Media, Millennials, and Politics: The Coming of Age of the Next Political Generation  by Alison N. Novak (Lexington Books, 2016)

This is an academic book written by a professor of communications at the university where I work, so most of you who follow my blog probably won’t have easy access to it. Nevertheless it was an interesting and well-written book that I learned a lot from. As the parent of two Millennials (adults under 35), I have been hearing lately about the concept of “millennial bashing” by the media. This book provides proof that it’s real. Dr. Novak collected and analyzed two datasets about media coverage of Millennials and politics: one included 50 randomly selected episodes of 6 cable tv news programs surrounding the 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections, and the other asked a cohort of actual Millennials to write journal entries after a weekly reading of the most popular articles on NewsWhip, an online news aggregator. Her analysis shows that despite turnout levels that likely swayed the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections, Millennials as a group were consistently ignored, denigrated, and even vilified by large segments of the media. I was appalled to learn that the conservative news media actually accused Millennials of voting for Obama solely because he promised them “gifts” like free contraception and better student loan policies. Not surprisingly, Millennials in return showed little trust of media (even online media) as a source of political information.

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All our wrong todays

All our wrong todays by Elan Mastai (Dutton Books, 2017)

So, this is another sci-fi book about time travel and all the ways it can go wrong. This is a slightly different take on it, where the main character comes from a 2016 in an alternate timeline which is a high-tech utopian version of today. It’s a lot like the future in the movie Tomorrowland – a future based on the 1964 World’s Fair. Of course, he screws things up and ends up in our world instead. Oddly he likes it better. Anyway, it’s an interesting (and fairly long) novel; if you like science fiction you’ll probably enjoy it.

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The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (The New Press, 2012)

I have been meaning to read this book for several years, and I’m glad I finally did. Michelle Alexander is an accomplished civil rights lawyer, and she makes a solid case for the idea that the mass incarceration of black men in the U.S. is the latest way for powerful forces in our country to keep many black men in a state of second class citizenship. It’s hard for me to believe that it could be deliberate, but according to her, the War on Drugs was always meant to target black men, and continues to do so. Instead of focusing on violent crimes, the criminal justice system is incentivized by federal funding to target minor drug violations, but only for people of color – the same minor drug violations by whites are ignored. Laws impose huge penalties for possession of small quantities of drugs, and police round-ups in poor neighborhoods often force innocent people to plead guilty to felony misdemeanors in order to avoid years in jail. Racial profiling similarly targets black men for minor traffic violations so that their cars can be searched for drugs. Even when these men serve their jail sentence and are released, their felony records make it very difficult for them to find jobs and housing, and they are not allowed to vote. All in all, it’s a very disturbing book. It would be interesting to know what Alexander makes of all the police killings of black men in the past couple of years.  

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

Click here to see the complete report.

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On hiatus

Hello fans of denisereviewsbooks,

As you can probably see I am taking a break from blogging. I will leave the blog up for a while, in case I decide to go back to it.

There are lots of book blogs out there, so thanks for reading mine!

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Christianity for the rest of us

Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith by Diana Butler Bass (HarperOne, 2006).

This is an excellent book for a small audience: members of traditional Protestant denominations in the United States – the Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Presbyterians. The fact that it is a small audience, and how to make it bigger, is the point of the book. In recent decades Christianity in the United States has become almost synonymous with the evangelical, fundamentalist brand of Christian that fills the center of the country and votes Republican. The traditional denominations, where people are more concerned with being welcoming than being born again, have suffered steep declines in membership. Christian historian Bass visited congregations all over the country which were growing, to find out what they were doing right. She found a number of common practices among them, which she calls the ten signposts of renewal: hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty.  These churches retained their welcoming attitude and appreciation of diversity, but distinguished themselves from secular liberal organizations by re-emphasizing the spiritual dimensions of Christianity.

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The Drunken Botanist

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013).

This book is full of fascinating historical tidbits and explanations of the plants and processes that create all sorts of alcoholic drinks, from wine and beer to flavored vodkas and types of whiskey. Stewart delves into all kinds of alcohol-related terminology and trade regulations that will help you understand the labels on bottles. She goes into so much detail that it is almost an encyclopedia in 355 pages. If you want to know the Latin names for the varieties of mint used in mint juleps, you’ll find it here. She also supplies illustrations of all the plants, warnings about plants that are toxic (either raw or after distilling), and cocktail recipes for even the most obscure drinks. Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware is mentioned several times because of their passion for recreating ancient drinks based on archeological evidence. I can imagine this book on the bookshelf of a bartender at a very expensive hotel, or the owners of a craft brewery, winery or distillery. The author was interviewed on an NPR’s The Splendid Table not long ago.

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