# Book Review



Book review: The Land Remains

Larry Stone reviews Neil Hamilton’s new book The Land Remains: A Midwestern Perspective on our Past and Future.

Many of us baby boomer farm kids recall growing up in the 1950s and 60s walkin’ beans, baling hay, quail in the fencerows, and “the back 40.” But you don’t need a time machine to recapture that era, or to ponder the future of Iowa agriculture. Just read The Land Remains, by Neil D. Hamilton.

Raised on an Adams County farm, Hamilton earned forestry and law degrees before becoming director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines. He recently retired after 36 years. His memoir traces his growing awareness of how our agricultural policies have shaped not only the land but also the very fabric of our society.

Continue Reading...

Book review: Grab the Moment, a well-woven memoir

Herb Strentz reviews a memoir by the French photojournalist Fabrice Moussus.

Suppose you are reading someone’s memoir or autobiography, and the author declares early on, “I have been able to pack more in my one life than several lives put together.”

That may strike you as pompous, or at best, immodest.

Those words come near the end of Grab the Moment, Fabrice Moussus’ account of how he spent the better part of three decades filming and reporting warfare and mayhem in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

Continue Reading...

Book Review: The Hidden History of Big Brother in America

Paul Deaton is a lifelong Democrat living in Johnson County whose first political work was for the Lyndon Johnson presidential campaign.

In The Hidden History of Big Brother in America: How the Death of Privacy and the Rise of Surveillance Threaten Us and Our Democracy, author Thom Hartmann focuses on Big Data and its consequences for all aspects of our lives. In the framework of surveillance and social control, Hartmann traces the history of surveillance and the threat of violence to control behavior, thought, and belief by our political and social masters.

Referencing George Orwell’s book 1984, Hartmann wrote, “Orwell was only slightly off the mark. Big Brother types of government, and Thought Police types of social control, are now widespread in the world and incompatible with democracy.”

Continue Reading...

Book review: Orwell's Roses by Rebecca Solnit

Herb Strentz: For those acquainted with Orwell, reading some of the essays is like meeting a close friend whom you have not seen for decades. And yet the two of you converse as though you had just spent some time together yesterday or the day before.

Here’s the irony: To appreciate and consider the gifts of Orwell’s Roses, you must reflect on what the author does not deal with. Like a lot of good literature, the book comes with some assembly required — by the writer and by the reader. Happily, while it may be difficult to summarize what Orwell’s Roses is about, the author does that for us.

She says her book is not an addition to biographies of George Orwell (1903-1950), but is “instead a series of forays” or essays and insights into Orwell and his essays, books and gardening. Those “forays” resulted in 27 essays in the book’s seven chapters.

Continue Reading...

Book review: Birds in the Morning, Frogs at Night

Paul Deaton: The author creates a sense of place that is hers alone and explains its risks and rewards. We see life along her road with all its wonder and tragedy.

I met Maureen McCue, who just published a memoir Birds in the Morning, Frogs at Night: Sharing Life Along the Road, when we were both on the Johnson County Board of Health in 2006.

As soon as McCue arrived to become the board’s physician, she drove us to become quite busy both with required tasks like replacing the director, and voluntary initiatives like educating other county boards of health on the effects of coal-fired power plants on human health. Given our shared history, I didn’t know what to expect when her memoir was released earlier this year.

Continue Reading...

Iowa wildflower Wednesday: What is that plant, flower, or fruit?

Lora Conrad reviews nine useful resources for plant identification in Iowa.

Whether you are new to learning about Iowa wildflowers and native shrubs and trees or have been studying them as a hobby for some years, you are sure to see a plant or flower that you just can’t identify. Before posting a question for the experts on your local wildflower or flora Facebook page, you might want to see what you can learn about the plant and determine yourself.

Three types of resources are widely available: plant identification applications for a smart phone, public web pages from authoritative sources, and books. Each source can be useful but not always sufficient.

The purpose of this article is to compare the reference books that have helped me most in identifying plants in the woodlands, prairies, waysides, river banks, and roadsides of Iowa, as well as in my untamed yard. These are recommendations from a determined wildflower enthusiast—not from a botanist. So with that caveat, please read on.

Continue Reading...
View More...