Man’s Search for Meaning – by Viktor E. Frankl

How do you review a non-fiction classic that generations of students and scholars have read, reread, studied and critiqued? Perhaps by looking at what it still says to us in times of individual and societal crises. Writing in 1946 following his liberation, Frankl begins with a personal account of his struggle to survive a series of Nazi concentration camps. Throughout his imprisonment he sought to understand why some prisoners survived horrific physical and emotional deprivations while others perished. In doing so, he drew on his earlier experience as a renowned therapist and protégé of Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. His conclusion was that our ability to find a purpose in life and envision our future is what keeps us going. For Frankl, that purpose included the publication of a book he’d begun writing prior to his arrest and his dream of reuniting with his family. Sadly, he lost the original…

Barrayar – by Lois McMaster Bujold

Winner of four Hugo awards for best novel, Lois McMaster Bujold never disappoints. Having read Cryoburn, the most recent of her fourteen-book Vorkosigan saga, I decided to go back to the beginning. When I found the second installment, Barrayar, I read it immediately. Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan finds herself, to borrow from Robert Heinlein, a stranger in a strange land. Having helped her husband Aral overcome murderous mutineers in the earlier novel, she has now relocated to his home planet of Barrayar. Compared to her native Beta Colony, Barrayar is a wild and untamed planet reminiscent of tsarist Russia, as Bujold’s choices of names, such as Piotr and Gregor, makes quite clear. Following the death of his only son, Barrayar’s dying Emperor Ezar Vorbarra has appointed Aral regent to his infant grandson and heir to the throne. Cordelia finds herself fighting to protect both Aral and their unborn child from a…

Works in Progress

In Last Gleaming – Love and Death in the Time of Pandemic, William Wakefield, whom Parker’s readers will remember from Pronounced Ponce, is now a college freshman. He meets and falls in love with Misty Sax, whom we met in Fly Away. William is pursuing his dreams of becoming a journalist. With help from his grandfather, Tom Williams, William is already penning features about the new life-altering technologies generated by Atlanta area universities. Misty’s plans to transfer to the University of Georgia, however, threaten to toss a wet blanket on their budding relationship. Detective Beth Long, recently returned to the Atlanta Police Department from maternity leave, investigates a grisly murder scene in West Midtown, one that lays bare a child prostitution operation that threatens a U.S. senate candidate’s career. Set against a backdrop of industrial espionage and international intrigue, William and Misty’s progress seems doomed… Then COVID-19 hits.

Talking to Strangers – Malcolm Gladwell

Published in 2019, Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers couldn’t be timelier. Gladwell opens with the case of Sandra Bland, a young African American woman pulled over by a white police officer in a small Texas town in July 2015. Supposedly, she fails to signal a lane change. What begins as a routine traffic stop quickly escalates into an argument, with Officer Brian Encinia dragging Bland from her car and arresting her. Three days later Bland commits suicide in her cell. What differentiates Gladwell’s account of this all too familiar event is his exploration of the mindsets of Bland and Encinia as examples of the ways we misunderstand each other based on assumptions about race and policing. In his typically methodical fashion, the author systematically takes apart common beliefs about how we communicate. Gladwell cites results of surveys indicating fundamental differences in what college-aged men and women see as sexual consent….