"Her fear was that a mass suicide would not be appreciated as a sincere and historic statement: 'I know we can't worry about how [what we do] will be
"Her fear was that a mass suicide would not be appreciated as a sincere and historic statement: 'I know we can't worry about how [what we do] will be interpreted... maybe in some 50 years someone will understand and perhaps be motivated. I don't have much illusion about all that. I just hate to see it all go for naught.' - Carolyn Layton, Peoples Temple member, and mother of one of Jim Jones' children
Jeff Guinn lays everything out in The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple - he retraces the earliest days, Jones' childhood in rural Indiana, and catapults towards the last day in November 1978. The story is riveting - perhaps because we all know the ending and we are so curious how something could go so wayward and catastrophically wrong - and part because Guinn's research is so in-depth. He uses a multitude of sources: interviews with survivors and defectors, extensive records of the "church" (I hesitate to even call it that), and Jones' own rambling words - he recorded many sermons/diatribes and didn't hold anything back.
I knew the basics of the END of the story - but this book pays special attention to show the lives and the work of the Peoples Temple well before it turned into Jones' own megalomaniac playground (disputed when this actually started...)
A few things that I had no idea about, and now I know, thanks to this book:
- Peoples Temple helped hundreds, maybe thousands, of people with their social programs. Elder care, substance abuse rehab, lowering recidivism in urban areas, paying college tuition, alleviating hunger, providing housing/clothing to whomever asked... even digging a well and fixing septic tanks. These things are undeniable... however things really started to go south when Jones later demanded that members cash out their pensions, their retirements, and give all of their Social Security/disability checks and 100% of their savings to the Temple. Forget tithing - this was hundredthing.
- Not a surprise, but Jones was doped up for about a decade of his life. His signature dark sunglasses protected his incredibly bloodshot and sensitive eyes, although he claimed he needed to wear them to save other people from his laser vision.
- He was a charlatan and huckster from an early age. He continued this racket for years, claiming he could heal and bring people back from the dead. A favorite and often-used trick: chicken offal as "passed" cancerous tumors, produced by his planted members during healing services. Blech.
- As I mentioned before, I knew the end of the story, but I didn't know all of the things that lead up to the final event, specifically the involvement of Congressman Ryan and the media entorage. We get a play-by-play, and while Guinn is respectful in his writing, it is hard to read the details of those last few hours at Jonestown.
Guinn includes a sum up chapter with several updates and check-ins with people he has introduced over the book. I was surprised, however, that he didn't include a followup of Congresswoman Jackie Speier. As a survivor of the massacre (but not a member of the Peoples Temple), she has a very unique story to tell - and she shares some of it in this article, Congresswoman Left for Dead at Jonestown Recalls the Massacre, 37 Years Later but Guinn does not list her among the interviews, or provide any update on this elected official from the state of California. Curious that there wouldn't be a quote or even an interview in this book from an incumbent member of the US House of Representatives who has shared her story in other sources. Why not here in this new authoritative text?
One of the last sentences of the book struck me, shared by Jim Jones Jr., one of the surviving sons of Jim and Marceline Jones:
'Kool-Aid rather than equality is what the rest of the world remembers. The survivors are left to console themselves...' Jim Jones Jr. sighs, smiles, and concludes, 'What I'd say about Peoples Temple is, we failed, but damn, we tried.'
That quote stood out, in contrast to the first I shared, at the beginning of the post - "it all go for naught" to "Kool-Aid".
Highly recommended. Allow some time, as you'll have a hard time putting this one down....more
Guptill Manning's When Books Went to War traces the various campaigns led by citizen groups, librarians, and the publishing industry during World WarGuptill Manning's When Books Went to War traces the various campaigns led by citizen groups, librarians, and the publishing industry during World War II to provide American service members with books for entertainment and education. In an effort to ease anxiety and loneliness/homesickness for service members, the facilitators of the Victory Book Campaign, and later the Council on Books in Wartime brought millions of books in the form of Armed Service Edition (ASEs). Over 1200 titles were published between 1943 and 1946 for distribution.
Authors whose books were selected as ASEs were rewarded with a loyal readership of millions of men. Words spread quickly about the titles that were perennial favorites, even reaching the homefront. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which was written in 1925, was considered a failure during Fitzgerald's lifetime. But when this book was printed as an ASE in October 1945, it won the hearts of an army of men. Their praise reverberated back home, and The Great Gatsby was rescued from obscurity, and has since become an American literary classic.
The ASEs were cherished and shared, with many stories of the book distribution lines at the camps/bases being longer than the food lines. In more remote outposts (specifically on the Pacific front on small islands) the books were the community builder: with only one or two books for the whole unit, the men would gather and read aloud to each other, or cut the books apart and round-robin the pages to read.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one of the top 5 most popular ASEs
The program was a resounding success, and the ASEs proved to be so popular that many service members credited their later interest in education (with the GI Bill post-war) to the love of reading ASEs. The program also paved the way for the now-ubiquitous paperback editions of the publishing industry.
The book begins and ends with important notes about fighting censorship: citing the massive book burnings in Nazi Germany and later desctruction of archives and libraries. The motto of the Council for Books in Wartime rings true today just as it did in the 1940s:
"Books are weapons in the war of ideas."
-- Book Riot 2017 Read Harder Challenge: "Book About Books"...more
A beautiful collection of new US national park posters by the Anderson Design Group. The posters take the mid-century modern design aesthetic of the nA beautiful collection of new US national park posters by the Anderson Design Group. The posters take the mid-century modern design aesthetic of the now "vintage" NPS promotionals, and update them with different viewpoints, scenes, and highlights. Some of the "biggies" (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion, Grand Canyon) have a few separate designs, so there is more original art than expected.
The book is primarily about the art - and the art is exceptional! - including how the posters were designed, with models of each layer. Each of the 59 parks has a section, and about 1-2 pages of text with basic history about that park, and a side column with wildlife notes, "must-see" spots, etc.
I bought this book at Zion National Park, and it is now living happily on my coffee table. It's already attracted the attention of friends and family who have stopped by my house!...more
More than a history of the atomic bomb, Trinity is also a primer on the physics and history behind nuclear fission, and simultaneously a social historMore than a history of the atomic bomb, Trinity is also a primer on the physics and history behind nuclear fission, and simultaneously a social history of the Manhattan Project. Fetter-Vorm is a storyteller and an educator, seamlessly weaving the story of Oppenheimer and General Groves' collaborative project in the desert of New Mexico (not too far from where I grew up...) with the history of science.
The above panel likens the work of the Manhattan Project with the Greek myth of Prometheus (stated many times before this book... one of Oppenheimer's biographies is called American Prometheus). You can see Fetter-Vonn's attention to detail and natural ease of storytelling.
One of the standout sections of the book for me was the countdown to the test explosion in Los Alamos, interspersed with Oppenheimer quoting from the Bhagavad Gita. The book states that the conversations and situations within really happened, so Oppenheimer, a scholar of Sanskrit and ancient Indian Literature, truly did quote Krishna's words to Arjuna. Fascinating.
The end of the book was very difficult to read, knowing the history and the end results of this "creation".
Trinity is a very important addition to the growing number of graphic histories. I hope to see more work by Fetter-Vorm. ...more
On August 14, 1937... the Appalachian Trail was a reality, a continuously marked footpath from Georgia to Maine. This feat is made all the more remarkOn August 14, 1937... the Appalachian Trail was a reality, a continuously marked footpath from Georgia to Maine. This feat is made all the more remarkable when it is remembered that nearly every bit of effort expended was done so by volunteers whose real motivation was a love of the outdoors....
This book tells the story through archival photos, and detailed captions of the building and maintenance of the Appalachian Trail in the mid-Atlantic states: West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. Each state is featured and many historical photos show notable landmarks, hikers, and sights through the decades. The book is a tribute to all of the volunteer clubs who maintain the trail - rerouting trails for safety, cleanup after storms, etc.
I have hiked portions of the trail in these states (and in Virginia) and I really hope to have the opportunity to do more one day. It's neat to see books like this that shows hikers from 80+ years ago who did the same thing.
Books like this make my wanderlust flair up. I grew up in the shadow of Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Harper's Ferry and Antietam in WV/MDBooks like this make my wanderlust flair up. I grew up in the shadow of Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Harper's Ferry and Antietam in WV/MD, and then Carlsbad and White Sands in New Mexico... yet I still have this insatiable desire to go to every single park in the whole system.
My parents have just taken up getting the National Park Pass for us the past few years for Christmas. Thank goodness. We hit at least 3 national parks, monuments, seashores, historic parks a year - both local and destinations - and this book made me even more excited about our roadtrip around Utah later this year (hoping to hit as many Parks and monuments as possible in a state chocked full of them!). Of course, it was great for memories of past road trips through California, Washington, Virginia, Tennessee...
The book is National Geographic's tribute to the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, and it is a stunning portrait of all of the sites, wildlife, and history of these amazing places.
The author did a lot of research for this book - but that research wasn't specifically on Mount St. Helens itself.
The book spent an inordinate amountThe author did a lot of research for this book - but that research wasn't specifically on Mount St. Helens itself.
The book spent an inordinate amount of time and ink on the Weyerhauser logging company, which has an interesting history that does intersect with the history of southwestern Washington... but that wasn't exactly the "Untold Story of Mount St. Helens" that I was expecting from the title.
Even still, there was a lot to take away... and next time I am in Washington, I want to make the trip to see the caldera....more
I've seen television interviews and roundtables with Hari, and when I found out that he had written a book about drug policy and the science and socioI've seen television interviews and roundtables with Hari, and when I found out that he had written a book about drug policy and the science and sociology of addiction, I immediately added the book to my library list.
The book was not what I was expecting - but this is not because I was disappointed with it in any way. What struck me is how very personal this book was for Hari. His first chapter explains the history of drug addiction in his family, and how it has also affected him personally. This first-person narrative continues throughout the book as he interviews people all over the world, recounting detailed history of the beginnings of the drug war - how "Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup" (laced with morphine) was a bestselling tonic in Victorian times... and a few decades later, these opiates were suddenly vilified and rebelled against.
The historical opening chapters were an eye-opening narrative of a famous singer and the law enforcement officer who obsessively worked to bring her down - and expose her addiction to the world, thereby going on to change drug laws not only in the US, but all over the world, and the first drug- dealing gangster of NYC and his manical and deadly rule over the boroughs. Incredible detail and strong writing - great introduction to the book, and Hari refers back to this "groundwork" many times throughout the book.
Hari travels to the US, to Mexico, to Uruguay, to Canada, to Portugal, to Switzerland, and his own UK to learn about the global ramifications of this war on drugs. In the US and Latin America, the stories of powerful and horrific narco gangs are the true stories that have inspired popular films and television series (Sin Nombre, Narcos, Sicario, Breaking Bad) in recent years. In the US and Canada, and Europe, we learn of the addicts, and the deep stigmas and vilification of this population, and how some places - like Vancouver, BC - have worked extremely hard to change these stigmas.
The addiction conversation continues as Hari works with scientists and sociologists who turn the tables on how society can help addicts. All of these pieces fit together for the final case for decriminalization and legalization of these drugs. All drugs? Certain drugs? The debate rages on, and Hari describes this in detail.
The final chapter takes a close look at the two US states (at the time of writing in 2015) who have legalized marijuana for recreational use: Colorado and Washington. Hari interviews the advocates that worked in both states to legalize the substance, and how their philosophies and reasoning was vastly different. One of the final quotes in the book gave me a laugh, but also a pause - how much things have changed in a relatively short amount of time - and what we can expect in the future.
Spoken by one of the Colorado attorneys who played a key role in the Colorado campaign: "For years, the only discussion was: 'How long should we be locking people up for possessing marijuana?' Now we're discussing what the font should be on the label of the pot brownies."
4.5 /5 - rounded up because I learned so much from this book....more
A must-read... or even a must-listen. I enjoyed Mr. Coates reading his own words in the audiobook version. The only downside to the audiobook? when thA must-read... or even a must-listen. I enjoyed Mr. Coates reading his own words in the audiobook version. The only downside to the audiobook? when there was a quote I wanted to savor, I had to stop, rewind and play a few times so I could jot down the words. This happened more than once.
Eloquently written, hard-hitting... there is fear and anger here (justified, completely) and also some very harsh words. I will be thinking about this one for a long time. ...more
An engaging and informative history of fitness and fitness culture in the US. Spanning from the nineteenth-century circus strongmen to the presen-dayAn engaging and informative history of fitness and fitness culture in the US. Spanning from the nineteenth-century circus strongmen to the presen-day fitness trends, the author hones in on some of the key figures and inventions that changed the fitness landscape. I really enjoyed the 1930s-1950s era of Muscle Beach, California, and then back stories of some of the ubiquitous equipment found in every gym, like the elliptical, the cable machines, etc. ...more