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Tuesday, March 6th, 2018
Book Reviews

Recommended Reading - Networks, Power, Cultural Deep-Diving

Niall Ferguson

The Square and the Tower

Penguin Press

I’ve long been a fan of Niall Ferguson—even if you don’t agree with him, he will make you think, often in a completely different way. The Square and the Tower is an historical survey of networks and power, “from the Freemasons to Facebook.” Ferguson’s specialty is economics, which can be difficult reading. Though he pays you the compliment of assuming you know what he’s talking about, I didn’t always, so have your online dictionary handy. His chronicle of human associations and their relative effects on the march toward (and away from) a better world is both disturbing and reassuring.

- Bruce Collier

Monica Hesse

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

Liverlight Publishing Corporation

American Fire is part mystery, part character study, part cultural deep-dive, and totally engrossing. The book jacket reveals that a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde have set Accomack County, Virginia, aflame in an incredible string of 67 arsons. In this well-written and true crime story, the author describes the tireless work of the volunteer firefighters and gives insight into law enforcement and Accomack citizens’ efforts to find and convict the criminals.

Rather than trying to figure out who set the fires, the reader follows the love story of the culprits and tries to figure out the motive. More than anything, American Fire takes a deep dive into the history and culture of a community that was once the richest county in the nation, but has become a place, not unlike many areas of rural America, where opportunities are limited and people feel left behind. It’s engaging from start to finish—an excellent nonfiction read that will appeal to fans of cultural studies, true crime or mystery tales, and/or dysfunctional love stories.

- Marilu Morgan