Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design is a manifesto and a handbook on how to improve the design of objects, games, housing, and more so they can serve a wider variety of users. What I liked especially about the book was the author’s encouraging approach of gradually including more users and more diverse users in the design process rather than mandating an unlikely big-bad solution. “Solve for one, extend to many”.
The hero of A Philosophy of Ruin has a dead mother, a father who is deeply in debt, and he discovers that a one-night stand is not only a student of his, but also a drug dealer. From a meek philosophy professor, he turns into a drug runner to solve of his problems at once. It will not end well–and the adventure is mostly fun, if improbable.
When Islam Is Not a Religion: Inside America’s Fight for Religious Freedom could use a good editor that would corral the many horror stories of anti-Muslim discrimination into a more compact account, avoid egregious mistakes like repeating entire sentences, and help present legal cases in a more accessible manner to non-lawyers. It’s too bad because the author’s position, that Muslims are often treated in unconstitutional ways (not to mention rudely and often threateningly), both by bigots (quoted as nauseam in the book) and also well-intended allies, is sadly correct and needs remedying. She is not optimistic.
The Altruists follows a family of academics whose grown-up children seem lost after unexpectedly inheriting a fortune from their mother. The father is lost too, losing his teaching job and about to lose his house, with a tenuous relationship with a much younger woman. They try to figure things out, with the story flashing back from the present to their parents’ courtship. The most remarkable part of the story may be the youth of his author. I did not think that the characters, with the exception of the mother, who is dead and cannot contribute too much, were particularly appealing.
The hero of Big Sky, a retired police detective turned private investigator, is struggling with his teenage son, his son’s mother, and a mysterious contract with a woman whose past is coming back to destroy the apparently perfect life and family she has acquired. There’s a very dark child trafficking ring that needs dismantling, and he will do it.
Mostly Dead Things takes place in a taxidermy shop, but it’s really the story of a complicated family, including a most bizarre love triangle involving the heroine and her brother. The ghoulish workings of the shop are really tame compared to the personal struggles. The story tries to be lively and funny but it’s really quite depressing. I’m not sure I would agree that it’s as funny as critics would like us to believe.
Life in the Garden is a meditation on gardening and literature, with the author visiting various gardens, mostly but not exclusively in the UK, where she lives, and reading fiction with an eye on the flora. She thinks Carol Shields is a gardener based on her accurate descriptions flowers, and she feels guilty that her own garden has more pink than the gardening gurus advise. She ponders about a gorgeous garden that employs 17 full-time gardeners, and books that suggest hiring hermits to liven things up. It’s a delightful romp, but probably only for fellow gardeners, and gardeners who have read widely, to boot.