What We Are Reading Today: Life in a Cold Climate by Laura Thompson

Updated 06 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Life in a Cold Climate by Laura Thompson

In an enjoyable biography of an interesting woman, Laura Thompson effectively analyses Nancy Mitford’s work in the context of her life and loves.

Mitford “was obviously a much more complex character than many modern accounts paint her and this book certainly demonstrates this,” said a review in goodreads.com.

A stylish and well-informed writer, Thompson brings a snobbishness of her own to her sympathetic account of Mitford’s life.

Christopher Benfey said in a review for The New York Times: “The firmness of Mitford’s anti-fascist views was put to the test during World War II when she was approached by British intelligence to spy on General de Gaulle’s Free French officer corps in London. A mole was apparently passing information to the collaborationist Vichy regime. Thompson tells us frustratingly little about this episode. Instead, she trains her attention on Mitford’s love affair with one of the officers, Charles de Gaulle’s right-hand man and chief political adviser, Gaston Palewski, a heavyset man with a Hitler mustache and receding hair.”


What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

Updated 06 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Big Roads by Earl Swift

A man-made wonder, a connective network, an economic force, a bringer of blight and sprawl and the possibility of escape — the US interstate system changed the face of our country. 

Earl Swift’s The Big Roads charts the creation of these essential American highways. From the turn-of-the-century car racing entrepreneur who spurred the citizen-led “Good Roads” movement, to the handful of driven engineers who conceived of the interstates and how they would work to the protests that erupted across the nation when highways reached the cities and found people unwilling to be uprooted in the name of progress, Swift follows a winding, fascinating route through twentieth-century American life. 

How did we get from dirt tracks to expressways in less than a century? Through decades of politics, activism, and marvels of engineering, we recognize in our highways the wanderlust, grand scale, and conflicting notions of citizenship and progress that define America.


What We Are Reading Today: The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

Updated 05 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s The Bomber Mafia is an exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war.

Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?

In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, “Was it worth it?”

Things might have gone differently had LeMay’s predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the bombing of Tokyo. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.


What We Are Reading Today: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

Updated 03 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

Italo Calvino’s masterpiece combines a love story and a detective story into an exhilarating allegory of reading, in which the reader of the book becomes the book’s central character. He imagines a novel capable of endless mutations in this intricately crafted story about writing and readers.

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler turns out to be not one novel but ten, each with a different plot, style, ambience, and author, and each interrupted at a moment of suspense. Together they form a labyrinth of literatures through which two readers pursue both the story lines that intrigue them and one another.

In between chasing missing chapters of the book, the hapless readers tangle with an international conspiracy, a rogue translator, an elusive novelist, a disintegrating publishing house, and several oppressive governments. 

The result is a literary labyrinth of storylines that interrupt one another — an Arabian Nights of the postmodern age. 


What We Are Reading Today: The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth

Updated 02 May 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Invention of Miracles by Katie Booth

This is a revelatory revisionist biography of Alexander Graham Bell — renowned inventor of the telephone and hated enemy of the deaf community.

Bell has long been a polarizing figure, admired as the brilliant inventor of the telephone and other extraordinary devices, but also despised as the leading exponent of oralism, the movement that pressured deaf people to learn speech and, more important, not to learn sign language. 

The Invention of Miracles “tells the dual stories of Bell’s remarkable, world-changing invention and his dangerous ethnocide of deaf culture and language. It also charts the rise of deaf activism and tells the triumphant tale of a community reclaiming a once-forbidden language,” said a review on goodreads.com.

It also charts the rise of deaf activism and tells the triumphant tale of a community reclaiming a once-forbidden language.

“Inspired by her mixed hearing/Deaf family, author Katie Booth has researched this story for over a decade, poring over Bell’s papers, Library of Congress archives, and the records of deaf schools around America,” the review added.


What We Are Reading Today: Mom Genes by Abigail Tucker

Updated 30 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Mom Genes by Abigail Tucker

Mom Genes is an interesting mix of research and memoir with many fascinating facts for the reader.
“Part scientific odyssey, part memoir, Mom Genes weaves the latest research with Abigail Tucker’s personal experiences to create a delightful, surprising, and poignant portrait of motherhood,” said a review in Goodreads.com.
“It’s vital reading for anyone who has ever wondered what rocks the hand that rocks the cradle,” said the review.
It said the book “is amazing and interesting for Moms and anyone interested in genetics and motherhood.”
It added that the author “is herself a mother and uses the insight she has gained from motherhood to highlight and accent areas in this book.”
“The author does a wonderful job making the content relatable and interesting by using personal anecdote and humor,” said the review.
It said Tucker “explores countless studies that examine motherhood in the animal kingdom and the implications they have for our human parental experiences.
The research spans the globe and includes an intriguing variety of topics related to maternity.”