Reviews: e-book and audiobook non-fiction: on Anders Breivik, drugs, dogs
By the time Mireya Navarro discovers, with the help of a pet psychologist, that her husband’s dog can be won over with food, many years of torment have passed. The mutt, adopted by the author’s then boyfriend, Jim, had been a misfit taken in, and supposed “junkyard dog” pees in front of the bedroom door. Navarro and Jim, both journalists, eventually wed and she takes on not only the dog but also two children from his first marriage. Unfortunately neither party is ready for blended family life. On top of everything, she wants to retrain the dog not to sit on furniture or sleep in their bedroom; he thinks it’s a waste of time. Eddie, meanwhile, continues to dote on his master and dump on Navarro. Stepdog is an enjoyable read because of the humour, honesty, insights and the fact Navarro has avoided mushiness.
Stepdog by Mireya Navarro (Putnam) e-book
Asne Seierstad had not intended to write a book on Norway's most infamous murderer. But when she went home, on assignment for Newsweek, which wanted a story on Anders Breivik, she was knocked sideways, as readers will be by her remarkable book. One of Us relies on the details she heard in court, Breivik's manifesto, interviews with members of his family and, among others, those with the families of victims plus the survivors of the massacres in Oslo and the island of Utoya. The extremist killed 77 people in 2011 to stop, he said, the Muslim invasion of Europe. At a summer camp there sponsored by the Labour Party, Breivik, dressed in police uniform, carried out summary executions. Seierstad plumbs her subject's past, to show the beginnings of his anti-Marxist stance and far-right opposition to immigration and feminism: one target of his hatred - and someone he planned to decapitate - was former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. Breivik showed violent tendencies as a child. Seierstad's story is shocking.
One of Us by Asne Seierstad (Virago) e-book
About the scourge of opiates in the US, Dreamland is a dark, desperate exposé of how drugs have come to be as efficiently distributed as pizza delivery to homes in heartland cities. Portsmouth and Columbus, Ohio, are two destinations for black tar, a semi-processed heroin from Mexico's Pacific coast, where opium poppies grow. Former Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones writes at a fast and furious pace, so urgent is its message of the fine-tuned machine that drives the drug trade. What may jar, however, is his digressive style: he jumps from China's opium wars to the overprescription of painkillers, to tragic shape-shifters who become liars and thieves because of their addictions, or died from an overdose. There's also Arthur Sackler, who transformed drug marketing in the 1950s and was behind a campaign to sell Valium to women. Dreamland's narrator, Neil Hellegers, explains the power of the morphine molecule and tells how war caused its spread, and about Dr Alexander Wood, inventor of the hypodermic needle, who believed that injecting opiates would render them unappetising. He was wrong.
Dreamland by Sam Quinones (read by Neil Hellegers) Audible Studios for Bloomsbury