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Beyond the Book Articles

Beyond the Book Articles

For every book we review, we also write a Beyond the Book article that focuses on a cultural, historical or contextual topic related to the book - a great tool for preparing for a book club discussion or for simply enhancing your reading experience. Search for topics of interest in our search bar, or browse the sample articles - companions to recently published books in both hardcover and paperback - below.

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Immunoassay: A Medical Diagnostic Test

Beyond the book article for Bad Blood
As reported in John Carreyrou's book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, Elizabeth Holmes's company Theranos produced a device that it claimed could run a medical diagnostic test called an immunoassay on a very small amount of blood.

An assay is a procedure for measuring the amount of, or presence of, a specific ...

The History of the Sunset Strip

Beyond the book article for Daisy Jones & The Six
Titular character Daisy Jones from Taylor Jenkins Reid's novel Daisy Jones & The Six comes of age in the 1970s, visiting rock clubs on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. This 1.6 mile stretch of music venues, nightclubs, restaurants and retail stores on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard has a long, fascinating history full of intrigue, and ...

Climate Change and Water Scarcity

Beyond the book article for The End of the Ocean
Alternating between two storylines set in the recent past and the very near future, Maja Lunde's The End of the Ocean is a chilling reminder of how alarmingly fast the effects of climate change can snowball out of control. In one storyline, set in 2017, Signe recounts the troubling signs already evident in her native Norway: The glaciers ...

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Beyond the book article for Children of the Land
In his memoir Children of the Land, author Marcelo Hernandez Castillo recounts applying for and receiving DACA. This is a temporary immigration status that alleviates some of his worst fears about being deported as an undocumented college student.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program administered by the United ...

A Brief History of Cienfuegos, Cuba

Beyond the book article for The Black Cathedral
The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala is set in a run-down neighborhood known as Punta Gotica in the real Cuban city of Cienfuegos, where an architecturally unique cathedral is planned for the Church of the Holy Sacrament. This may be all the more significant considering that Cienfuegos is known for its own particular brand of architecture ...

The Life and Accomplishments of Clementine Churchill

Beyond the book article for Lady Clementine
Clementine Churchill is best known as the wife of Winston Churchill, who held the office of British Prime minister during (1940-1945) and after (1951-1955) World War II. However, as is shown in Marie Benedict's novel Lady Clementine, while Clementine supported and assisted her husband in his governing endeavors, she held her own political...

The Five Confucian Virtues

Beyond the book article for The Night Tiger
In Yangsze Choo's The Night Tiger, the two main characters, Ji and Ren, are named for two of the five virtues that make up the ethical system of Confucianism. Confucianism is a spiritual/philosophical tradition born out of the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius (who is believed to have lived circa 551-479 BCE), and it has been ...

Student Debt

Beyond the book article for Sounds Like Titanic
In Sounds Like Titanic, author Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman recalls the extreme lengths she went to in order to fund her education, including selling her eggs and touring the country with a crooked classical music composer. The price of tuition for a 4-year private college in the United States was, on average, $34,740 for the 2017-2018 ...

The Power of Polaroid Photography

Beyond the book article for Lost Children Archive
Once upon a time, long before digital photography became commonplace, the only way to instantly see the results after taking a photo was by using a Polaroid instant camera. In Lost Children Archive, the narrator gives her stepson a Polaroid camera for his tenth birthday. He takes photos during their trip, and a series of Polaroid images ...

Young Adult Dystopian Novels

Beyond the book article for We Set the Dark on Fire
In Tehlor Kay Mejia's debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire, men marry two wives – one Primera, who is logical and controlled, and one Segunda, who is beautiful and passionate. However, when Dani, a young Primera, joins the resistance as a spy, she becomes determined to invert the whole system. Dystopian novels, while often set in ...

Women's Suffrage in Early 20th Century America

Beyond the book article for The Girls with No Names
Serena Burdick's The Girls with No Names is set amidst a quiet yet fierce swell of social unrest that builds as we move towards the book's climax. Though the official inception of the US suffrage movement is typically traced back to a women's rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, it reached a fever pitch in the early ...

Mythical Healers

Beyond the book article for Follow Me to Ground
The central characters in Follow Me To Ground are two human-like beings with mystical powers to heal all illnesses and even resurrect the dead. It seems we have forever been fascinated by the magic of healing and the ability to cheat our own mortality. Ancient mythologies from across the globe featured powerful healers that humans turned ...

Tree Law in the United States

Beyond the book article for A Good Neighborhood
In Therese Anne Fowler's A Good Neighborhood, a lawsuit over a tree precipitates a series of tragic events. It is not uncommon for a tree to be the basis of a dispute between neighbors. Fallen trees or branches often affect neighbors, but remain the responsibility of the person whose property contains the tree's trunk. If the trunk is on ...

Female Viking Warriors

Beyond the book article for When We Were Vikings
In Andrew David MacDonald's novel When We Were Vikings, the heroine becomes inspired to take charge of her life when presented with a magazine article about physical evidence of a female Viking warrior. The article refers to an archeological dig from the late 19th century in Birka, Sweden that unearthed the 10th century grave of a ...

Nonviolent Activism

Beyond the book article for Watch Us Rise
In Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan, high school juniors Chelsea and Jasmine learn that 'art is never just art,' so they decide to 'use art to make a statement, to create change.' The girls experiment with multiple forms of activism, sometimes with guidance, and even misguidance, from teachers, mentors, community leaders, ...

Recent Reinterpretations of Pride and Prejudice

Beyond the book article for Unmarriageable
Unmarriageable might be the first version of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, but it's hardly the only creative retelling of this classic novel. Fortunately for fans of Jane Austen, several other imaginative reworkings of her beloved novel have been published recently - perhaps a Jane Austen book club could tackle any or all of these ...

Black Women's Bravery During the Civil War

Beyond the book article for Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen
Historian Shelby Foote called the Civil War, 'the crossroads of our being.' It defined humanity and the principles that govern American morality. With freedom as the one virtue worth fighting for, it is no wonder that women of color chose to walk the tightrope of danger and secrecy and participate in the war. Cathy Williams – a real...

The Potential Dangers of Consumer DNA Testing

Beyond the book article for Inheritance
Early on in Inheritance Dani Shapiro agrees to order a DNA test through Ancestry.com along with her husband after he suddenly becomes interested in genealogy. The results of Shapiro's kit happened to be life changing, upending everything the memoirist thought she knew about her family history. Her experience is extraordinary, but there ...

Changes to Female Education Pioneered by Women in 19th Century America

Beyond the book article for The Illness Lesson
The plot of The Illness Lesson revolves around the establishment of a Massachusetts school for girls in 1871 by a man with ideas about female education that are progressive and experimental for this era. The protagonist's father Samuel Hood believes that his teenage students should be offered the same curriculum as their male peers, ...

The Tiananmen Square Massacre

Beyond the book article for Little Gods
One of the largest public squares in the world, Tiananmen Square lies in the heart of Beijing. It's named after a monumental gate built in the 1400s leading into the Forbidden City; Tiananmen means 'Gate of Heavenly Place.' Despite the serene undertones of the name, however, Tiananmen Square has long been a site of political unrest and ...

From Herodotus to Vietnam: A Brief History of PTSD and Combat

Beyond the book article for A Dredging in Swann
Post-traumatic stress disorder was first officially recognized in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) by the American Psychiatric Association.

However, the history of conflict-related PTSD is long and varied and can be traced back to the ancient world. One of the first-known...

The Disappearance of Agatha Christie

Beyond the book article for The Truants
In Kate Weinberg's The Truants, the main character, Jess Walker, suggests to her professor, Lorna Clay, that famed author Agatha Christie's 'hardest to crack' mystery may have emerged not in her writing, but in her life. Jess is referring to the time that Christie disappeared for 11 days, later claiming to have suffered memory loss, an ...

Arab Americans at a Glance

Beyond the book article for A Woman Is No Man
The term 'Arab' designates those who share a specific cultural, linguistic and in some cases political heritage. According to the Arab American Institute (AAI), the Arab world is comprised of the 22 countries that make up the Arab League, an organization formed in 1945 to represent the interests of Arabs worldwide. The nations (Algeria, ...

History of the First Lady

Beyond the book article for Courting Mr. Lincoln
Courting Mr. Lincoln by Louis Bayard describes the budding romance between future President Abraham Lincoln and the woman who would become his wife and First Lady, Mary Todd.

Although the role of the President of the United States is described in depth in the US Constitution, the 'job' of First Lady is one that has evolved over the ...

Property Ownership, Race and Upward Mobility

Beyond the book article for The World According to Fannie Davis
In The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers, Bridgett M. Davis explains how property ownership was the key determinant in creating opportunity and prosperity across generations of her family. However, historically, there have been hefty barriers to property ownership for people of color in the United ...

West Virginia's Mysterious Cold Cases

Beyond the book article for The Third Rainbow Girl
In The Third Rainbow Girl, Emma Copley Eisenberg examines an unsolved double murder that took place in West Virginia in 1980. Her focus is not so much on the murder itself but on the long term impact on the community as a whole. In the USA, an estimated 200,000 murder cases since the 1960s remain unsolved. Each one of these leaves a ...

Habitat for Humanity

Beyond the book article for How to Build a Heart
In Maria Padian's How to Build a Heart, the narrator and her family are offered the opportunity to own a brand-new home thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller while they were living on a communal farm in Americus, Georgia. They understood that decent housing is probably a ...

Jonathan Wild: The Thief-Taker General

Beyond the book article for The Hocus Girl
In The Hocus Girl, set in the Northern England city of Leeds in the early 19th century, the three protagonists are thief-takers. They're hired to reclaim stolen property in exchange for a reward from the person who had been robbed. They acted as intermediaries, using their connections and intimidation techniques to get justice for crime ...

Iranian Cuisine

Beyond the book article for The Stationery Shop
In Marjan Kamali's novel The Stationery Shop, Iranian food plays a central role, whether a simple melon smoothie drink, hot tea sweetened with rock sugar candy (nabat), or a more complicated feast for Persian New Year. Traditional cuisine from Iran, also known as Persia, is a mélange of many cultures partly due to a vibrant trading ...

The Shape-Shifting Monsters of African Lore

Beyond the book article for Black Leopard, Red Wolf
Stories of shapeshifters have permeated literature and art from the beginning of civilization. Therianthropy, or the changing of a human into an animal, is perhaps the most commonly known trope of the shapeshifting genre, with illustrations of such changes dating back all the way to 13,000 BC.

In his novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, ...

Collecting, Hoarding and Minimalism: America's Obsession with Stuff

Beyond the book article for Heart of Junk
Heart of Junk, the debut novel from Luke Geddes, is set in the fictional Heart of America antique mall in Kansas. The vendors in the mall hope to make some money selling off bits of their collections—Barbies, postcards, glassware, furniture and more. Geddes uses each collection to tell the reader something about its owner, as well ...

Auschwitz-Birkenau Today

Beyond the book article for The Volunteer
The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp (the setting of Jack Fairweather's riveting history The Volunteer) was liberated by the Soviet Army on January 27, 1945. In 1946, Poland's Ministry of Culture and Art recognized the need to preserve the site of so much horror for memorial and educational purposes, and set to work on a museum. ...

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Follow Me to Ground
    Follow Me to Ground
    by Sue Rainsford
    Ada and her father are human-like beings who age slowly and possess the power to heal all illness. ...
  • Book Jacket: Children of the Land
    Children of the Land
    by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
    In this exquisitely crafted memoir, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo describes coming of age as a young ...
  • Book Jacket: A Good Neighborhood
    A Good Neighborhood
    by Therese Anne Fowler
    After fictionalized biographies of Zelda Fitzgerald (Z, 2013) and Alva Vanderbilt (A Well-Behaved ...
  • Book Jacket: Little Gods
    Little Gods
    by Meng Jin
    Little Gods, Meng Jin's intricate, emotionally intelligent debut, opens with a scene in which ...

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American Dirt
by Jeanine Cummins

"American Dirt is a Grapes of Wrath for our times."
—Don Winslow

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