The San Francisco Chronicle – Review of Facing the Torturer by Francois Bizot

Near the end of Bob Dylan‘s antiwar ballad “John Brown,” which tells the story of a young man ruined by battle, a traumatized soldier’s brokenhearted mother asks him what the hell happened out there. He mentions the usual – the anguish of killing, the constant fear of death – then says, “But the thing that scared me most was when my enemy came close/ And I saw that his face looked just like mine.”

That idea – the haunting disorientation of finding the familiar where you least expect, or want, to find it – lies at the very heart of French ethnologist François Bizot’s grave, contemplative new book, “Facing the Torturer.”

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The Washington Post – Review of Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky

For the uninitiated, staying at a luxury hotel can be a little intimidating. On top of the exotic amenities and premium services, you encounter shiny people at every turn, like extra utensils at a fancy place setting, ready to do things for you that — no, really — you’d much rather do yourself. Do you tip the doorman? Can you keep the Swiss lotion? What, exactly, is “turndown service,” and why on Earth would anyone ever need it?

Front desk raconteur Jacob Tomsky is here to help. His sharp-witted, candid new book, “Heads in Beds,” demystifies the world of high-end hospitality so effectively that you’ll start looking up rates at the Ritz. (Of course, at those prices, the fantasy might die there.)

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Bookforum – Review of Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Near the end of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, Esther Greenwood recalls how her mother, mortified by Esther’s recent stay at an asylum, recommended they simply carry on as if nothing—the fits, the hallucinations, the suicide attempt—had ever happened. “Maybe forgetfulness, like a kind of snow, should numb and cover them,” Esther thinks. “But they were part of me. They were my landscape.”

Unlike Esther, New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan says she remembers almost nothing of her terrifying brush with madness, but she’s no less haunted by it. Using evidence gathered from interviews, medical records, journals, and hospital video cameras, she delivers an intense, mesmerizing account of survival in her new book, Brain on Fire.

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