Three Nonfiction Book Reviews

Three Nonfiction Book Reviews

For a change of pace on this blog, how about some nonfiction book reviews? Yes, we have occasionally written about nonfiction books before. But there’s no denying most of the books we discuss on this blog – and all of the books we publish – are fiction. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t care about nonfiction. It’s a vital part of a balanced reading diet.

In my last post, I talked about book reviews that I have (and more importantly have not) written in 2023. At the end of that post I made a New Year’s resolution to write more reviews and share them here, on Amazon, and on Goodreads. Today is my first installment toward making good on that resolution.

This square image prominently features the cover of Ryan J. Reilly’s book “Sedition Hunters: How January 6th Broke the Justice System,” on a background that is a blend of the cover colors. The book’s cover is centers on a grayscale photo of a scene from the insurrection from the outside of the US Capitol, looking up past the mass of rioters and flags to the lone US flag flying from the Capitol’s dome. Along the left edge of the cover are irregular lines of dots and spaces in fuschia, little bits of yellow-orange or green, and a some turquoise.
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One of the Most Inspiring things I Read in 2023

When I wrote my last post, I had not yet followed up with a review of my most recent nonfiction read, Sedition Hunters: How January 6th Broke the Justice System, by Ryan J. Reilly. While it was demoralizing to read how broken the FBI’s online capabilities are, it was definitely fascinating to read about how ordinary citizens filled the gap. Here’s my review, posted January 2. Note I bought the book from my local bookseller, so it took till 1/7 or 8 for Amazon to (grudgingly?) post it.

This is a well-written book by a journalist who’s been working on this amazing true story for literally years. Like many of my fellow Americans, I watched the events of Jan. 6, 2021 unfold on my computer and TV in “next-best to realtime” on the day they happened. I watched with the same sense of horror and “this can’t be real” I had on 9/11. Unfortunately, it was.

Thus, it was with considerable glee that I read the stories of the “sedition hunters,” the ordinary people not unlike me, who knew or learned how to trace the digital “breadcrumbs” that would allow a confident identification for hundreds of the people who participated in that mob. I loved the nicknames that helped “many hands” (and sets of eyes) track the movements of seditionists such as #BullhornLady or #TaserPrick, then find them and turn them in to a hopelessly-overwhelmed and criminally digitally-hampered FBI.

This is an inside look at grassroots justice happening. It might be one of the most inspiring things I read in 2023.

This square image prominently features the cover of “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle” by Emily Nagoski, PhD and Amelia Nagoski DMA, on a background that is a blend of the cover colors. The book’s cover is black, with white and several shades of fuschia lettering. In addition to the title and the authors’ names the words say, “New York Times Bestseller, ‘This book is a gift! I’ve been practicing their strategies, and it’s a total game changer.’ – Brené Brown, PhD, author of the # New York Times bestseller ‘Dare to Lead.’ And it identifies Emily Nagoski as ‘New York Times bestselling author of ‘Come as You Are.’” Montage design by Jan S. Gephardt.
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An Essential Book on Stress

As noted in the review itself, this book was a gift from my sister, G. S. Norwood. Both of us live extremely busy lives doing work we love and believe in. I, however, got the better end of that deal. I get to choose what parts of the work I do and I have found the means to delegate the work that isn’t in my wheelhouse.

Not having that latter freedom has too often thrown G. into health problems, recently. Yet (I bey you’ve lived this story) when she would say to her doctors, “I think this is stress-related,” she often got ignored or dismissed. Turns out, of course, it was very much stress related, and she’s better now. Managing stress – and writing about people in high-stress jobs, managing stress – is definitely a part of my life, too. That’s why this post on nonfiction book reviews really needed to include Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by sisters Emily and Amelia Nagoski. So here it is:

Highly Recommended! If you don’t buy any other book this year, buy this one!

My sister gave me this book – then I bought copies for many of my girlfriends for Christmas (Amazon puts a limit on how many we can buy). This book is written for every woman who has survived the outrages of living in our society while female. It’s chock full of brilliant insights and sage advice, and I frankly think everyone – of whatever gender – will find it valuable.

This square image prominently features the cover of Catherine Davidson’s book “Why does my CAT do that? Answers to 50 Questions Cat Lovers Ask,” on a background that is a blend of the cover colors. The book’s cover is tan, lime green, black and white. In the lower third of the cover is a black silhouette of a cat playing with a ball of string. Montage design by Jan S. Gephardt.
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Filling in an Essential Knowledge Gap

From sedition to stress to . . . cats? Why not? Nonfiction books encompass a vast range of topics, so it follows that nonfiction book reviews should, too. In this case I was driven to read this book by dual needs. Boots and Sora, our household cats, are a part of daily life around our household, yet I’ve never felt completely in sync with them the way I am with dogs.

But I not only live with cats – I now need to write believably about one. My “brand” is built in part on writing about sapient dogs who are at their core dogs. To the best of my ability I seek to write about XK9s who are more authentic than a “human dressed up in a dog suit.” If I’m going to make myself out to be someone who’s conversant with dog psychology, then I’ve set a bar for myself. And when I write about Kali, Hildie Gallagher’s little calico, I had jolly well be up to speed with cat psychology, too.

So I started with Why Does My Cat Do That? by Catherine Davidson, but it’s far from my last “cat psychology” book. For now, however, I thought it might be a fun way to close out my blog post on nonfiction book reviews:

Do you speak “cat”? I sure didn’t, although I’ve lived more or less in proximity to cats for most of my life. I just wasn’t a “cat person,” I thought. But we currently have two cats in our household, and when I found this book I seized an opportunity to expand my grasp of feline behavior. My housemates also found this book interesting and informative. I’m still not a fluent speaker of “cat,” but I now feel I have a much better grounding in at least a “conversational level” of understanding.

This square montage shows photos of Gephardt household cats Sora (right) by Jan S. Gephardt and Boots (left) by Tyrell E. Gephardt, as well as fictional Kali (center). The painting “Kali with Herbs” © 2020-2023 by Lucy A. Synk shows Kali, a little calico cat, sitting next to a patch of lavender. Montage design by Jan S. Gephardt.
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About the Author

Author Jan. S. Gephardt reads nonfiction to broaden her understanding, for the pleasure of learning new things from an adept author, and of course for research. In 2024 she’s launched a new series of occasional posts featuring some of the more frequent book reviews her New Year’s resolution is supposed to see her writing. Watch for future posts when she keeps herself accountable with both fiction and nonfiction book reviews. Coming September 24, 2024: the third book in the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, Bone of Contention.


Many thanks to Amazon for the book cover images used in this post, Sedition Hunters, Burnout, and Why Does My Cat Do That?. The photo of Boots is by Tyrell E. Gephardt. The photo of Sora is by Jan S. Gephardt. Kali with Herbs is © 2020-2023 by Lucy A. Synk.

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