Monday, March 11, 2019

Book and Podcast Life Lately

After taking a bit of a break from reading for fun for a few months (I read a few books that were emotionally intense, in a really good way, but I needed some time and space afterwards to reflect on them), I'm easing back into the habit. I've read a few things recently that I greatly enjoyed, and that I wanted to share. First up is Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know, a memoir about the author's childhood as a transracial adoptee and the process of reconnecting with her birth family once she was an adult. It's a really wonderful book, she writes with a remarkable sensitivity, and she has a deft and clear-eyed way of describing the highly emotionally complex things she has experienced. She has a somewhat restrained and understated writing style that nonetheless packs a huge emotional punch. It's a very powerful book, and I think you'll be swept away into her story. 

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While the focus is largely on the emotional and other implications of adoption and transracial adoption, and on her family, All You Can Ever Know also has some very sharp, very real things to say about race in America in general, and the experience of living in this country as a person of color. I can't recommend this book enough. 

I've also been reading a lot of much lighter fare. In particular, I recently rediscovered the work of Mira Grant, whose Newsflesh series I read years ago and found quite clever and fun. (Mira Grant is a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, but I've only personally read her work as Mira Grant.) I found her Parasitology series a bit of a dud, unfortunately. It was a cool premise, but the pacing was really off and it would have been much better off as two books instead of three. The first volume of her new series, Into the Drowning Deep, is fantastic however, a fast-paced adventure with a great sense of humor (and a fair bit of horror movie-type violence and gore, I should warn, in case you're sensitive to that). It's so much fun to read and quite original. 

As to podcasts, thank you again to everyone who recommended some in January! It'll take me a long time to get to all of them, but I've already started listening to some, and they're pretty great. In particular, I wanted to second the recommendations for The Dream. It started off as a slow burn for me because I find some pyramid schemes or multi-level marketing schemes ("MLMs") more interesting to learn about than others, and a lot of the ones they mentioned at the start were ones I'd never heard of. But once I gave the series some time, it really grabbed me. They've done a lot of research, and they did a great job weaving together a lot of seemingly very different, fragmented stories that all fall under the same central theme of pyramid schemes and the way they sell that "dream". The episodes about the history of (ultimately mostly failed) attempts to regulate and take legal action against MLMs were particularly interesting to me. 

Another podcast I wanted to recommend, though this is just part of a single episode rather than a full series, is the second half of the February 28, 2019 episode of Stay Tuned with Preet*, which features an in-depth interview with Bryan Stephenson, the author of Just Mercy, one of those two books that had such an emotional impact on me late last year. Mr. Stephenson is extraordinary, and what he has accomplished through his work at the Equal Justice Initiative is so important, even though the nature of such work is that there is always, always more to be done. 

I can also recommend a few other somewhat new and recent podcasts, both in the "true crime" genre. First is The Dropout, which is about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. The podcast doesn't necessarily tread much new substantive ground that wasn't already covered in the excellent and incredibly comprehensive Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, one of my favorite books from last year, but it is interesting to hear the voices of the people in the story, including the whistleblowers and Ms. Holmes herself. Second is a less well-known story, Over My Dead Body, about a murder case in Florida that may be tried later this year. Attorneys or law students who frequently read Above the Law, our main online news source for law school and biglaw industry gossip, may already be familiar with the underlying events, as one of the writers feels a personal connection to the story (he's interviewed in the podcast as well).

Have you read any great books so far this year? Discovered any new podcasts? 

*The whole podcast is very high-quality, but it's just not quite my cup of tea. I spend so much time thinking about legal topics at work that I don't necessarily want to listen to a lengthy podcast episode about it every week!

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