Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Subway Book Review


The Subway Book Review, which launched last December, is a blog in which Uli Beutter Cohen takes pictures of people reading books on the NYC subway and asks them for a short review of the book, which she publishes on Tumblr with their picture. What a fun way to share titles! In this interview she talks about her blog and her process for finding reviewers. Most of the reviewers are in their 20s and she said this is because some of the older people she approaches are less interested in having their photos taken and posted online.

I don’t see any debuts reviewed on the site yet, but she captures an array of titles and authors. And I actually recognized one of the reviewers. Watch out NYC readers, don’t be alarmed if someone asks you to talk about the book you are reading next time you are on the train.






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Invisible City, by Julia Dahl


Invisible City

By Julia Dahl

Minotaur Books, 2014

304 pages

Rebekah Roberts has recently moved from Florida to New York City to become a journalist. She’s in her early 20s and finds work at the New York Tribune, a tabloid that seems a lot like the Post, as a stringer where she is assigned a story about a dead woman found in a Brooklyn scrap yard. The dead woman turns out to be part of the Hasidic community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, the same neighborhood where Rebekah’s mother, who left Rebekah with her father when she was a baby, grew up. As Rebekah digs deeper into the story surrounding the dead woman, Rivka Mendelssohn, Rebekah’s  career and personal life are impacted in ways she could never expect.

This book provides a look into the world of a struggling young journalist who calls in stories to editors who type them up and get them into the paper. It is also a window into the Hasidic culture, as Rebekah becomes determined to find out what happened to Rivka and who killed her. There is a coincidence in the opening few chapters, which I won’t reveal, but that you have to accept for the story to work. I was willing to do so and the book really takes off as Rebekah gets more enmeshed in solving the story of Rivka’s death. Told in the first person, Rebekah is an open and sympathetic narrator, who struggles with anxiety and the wounds of losing contact with her mother at a young age. The story also provides an interesting look at Hasidic culture, and explores both why people make the choice to live an Orthodox life and also what the options are for those who doubt their faith. This is a unique crime/mystery novel.

Dahl is a crime reporter who lives in New York City.

I received an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.



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Nadine Gordimer’s Debut


Nadine Gordimer died on Sunday night at the age of 90. This Guardian article links to some nice quotes and photos of her. This quote about writing stood out for me:

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

Here is a review of her first novel, The Lying Days. Has anyone read it? I’m only familiar with the books she wrote from the 80s onward and didn’t even know that her debut came out in 1953. What an impressive writing career she had!

Thank you Ms. Gordimer for your ability to tell moving stories while also standing up for what you believed in.




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The Bicycle Diaries, by David Kroodsma


The Bicycle Diaries

By David Kroodsma

RFC Press, 2014

413 pages

In 2005 David Kroodsma set off on a bicycle journey from Palo Alto to Tierra del Fuego. Alone, with four panniers strapped to his bike, which he affectionately named Del Fuego, he embarked on this journey to raise awareness about climate change. He lived on a tight budget, regularly eating pasta cooked on his stove, camping in backyards and crashing with bomberos, firefighters, across Latin America who took him in. While most of his journey was spent on his bike, he regularly visited schools and talked to kids about his trip and climate change, and he did numerous television and newspaper interviews, and did his best to engage locals along his trail. The Bicycle Diaries captures his journey, mile by mile and country by country.

I enjoyed this book on many levels. Kroodsma, who was in his late 20s when he went on this adventure, captures the excitement of being young and free to explore and meet new people without a fixed schedule, job or family. In Mexico, he camped next to a family of shrimp fishers who struggled to make a living. In Venezuela he spent the night with engineers for an oil company. And in Argentina he visited a college friend who has made a life for himself in an artists’ community in Patagonia. I enjoyed the life stories of the people he encountered. He also explores how climate change might affect the regions he visited, including impacts on industries like fishing and shrimping. He also looks at the history of climate change in the region and recounts how drought was connected to the decline of the Mayan civilization.

This is a sizable book (413 pages) and when I first picked it up, I wondered how he would keep the narrative moving, given that biking across countries happens at a slow pace, but his story moves well, and I felt completely immersed in his journey. I have traveled to parts of Mexico and Central America he visited and felt he captured those cultures well. And it was fun to read the South American section and to learn more about places I was less familiar with, in particular, Colombia where I learned biking is popular and the major cities close their streets to cars on Sundays for bikes. If you’re looking to visit Latin America or to just learn more about the region, this book is worth picking up.

From the looks of Kroodsma’s website, he is now cycling across Asia!

The author gave me a copy of this book.





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