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review 2017-01-22 14:40
Recent Non-Fiction Reads
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany - Norman Ohler
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson
So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson


A highly informative and gripping read about Nazi Germany and the significance of drugs during World War II. Drugs didn´t fit in the idealogy of the Nazis, but despite banning them, one substance with a highly addictive potential became the drug of the people: methamphetine. The sheer possibilities of a drug, which would keep the troops awake for days on end, were just to promising to pass up on and it didn´t stop with the troops: the methamphetin chocolate for the wifes at home really made me shook my head.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the chapter about Hitler and his personal physician Theo Morrell, who pumped the Führer full of various drugs. Everyone ,who ever wanted to know how much a human body can endure, should read this chapter, it´s unbelievable.

4,5 stars.


Just Mercy:

Bryan Stevenson is an inspiring personality. Being the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, an institution which provides helps for prisoners, who have been wrongly convicted of crimes or didn´t get a fair trail in the first place, he gives hope to the hopeless.

Stevenson tells of different people he has helped throughout his work with the initiative, the main narrative being about Walter McMillian, a black man who has been wrongly accused of murdering a white woman, eventhough it is clear from the beginning that Walter couldn´t have done it.

This book will make you feel angry and heartbroken. Angry because of the racial bias and the injustice that gets inflicted on these people. Heartbroken, because Stevenson describes his clients in a compassionate way so that you see them for what they are: Human beings with hopes, dreams, feelings and the ability to redeem themselves. A highly recommended read.

5 Stars 


So You´ve Been Publicly Shamed:

To be honest, I´m scared of social media. And this book didn´t help to overcome my anxieties. Jon Ronson takes a hard look at the phenomenon of public shaming. One false tweet on Twitter, a disrespectful post on facebook, making things up in a non-fiction book you are writing ... all these things could lead you to being publicly shamed.

Ronson has interviewed a variety of public shaming victims and some of these stories really made my stomach turn (I admit it, I cannot feel compassion for the dentist, who has butchered the lion). I missed, however, the perspective of a person, who participated in the actual public shaming of a person (for example Justine Sacco). Why does someone participate in an act of public shaming? Do they feel sorry for said person, when they are getting death threads? Do they feel responsible for destroying a life? Or are they perfectly okay with it because they feel safe behind the wall of anonymity in the internet? 

I sorely missed this perspective, but nonetheless I really enjoyed listening to this book (Ronson himself narrates it and he is excellent).

4 Stars

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text 2017-01-05 12:53
Reading progress update: I've read 20 out of 299 pages.
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

"My work with the poor and incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. Finally, I´ve come to believe that the true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the priviliged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned."


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review 2016-09-19 08:14
"Each of us is more than the worst thing we've done."
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy

by Bryan Stevenson


The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving. It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent—strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.

I need to come back and write a proper review for this, but in the meantime, I just wanted to say that this is without doubt the most powerful, emotional, heartbreaking, and uplifting book I've read this year.

Not only is the material as agonizing as it is inspiring, but Stevenson is also an extremely gifted writer, and the story he tells is captivating. The only reason I took so long to read it is that I had to keep putting it down whenever I started crying because I was in the gym and it was embarrassing. I could only make it through a chapter or two at a time.

If you live in the US, this is really a book worth reading. I'll leave you with an excerpt from one of my favourite moments in the book:

We are all broken by something. We have all hurt someone and have been hurt.
Being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.
We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.
We’ve allowed our victimization to justify the victimization of others. We’ve submitted to the harsh instinct to crush those among us whose brokenness is most visible. But simply punishing the broken—walking away from them or hiding them from sight—only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too. There is no wholeness outside of our reciprocal humanity.
I am more than broken. In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness create a need and a desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.

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review 2015-12-31 22:53
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson speaks to the US justice system as a whole but takes on three main issues – the death penalty, racial and social inequality, and the treatment of juvenile offenders. The book anchors facts with heartbreaking examples, one case at a time. The stories makes the book readable and the facts memorable. The book begins a conversation and highlights how change can occur.


Read my complete review at: Memories From Books - Just Mercy


Source: www.memoriesfrombooks.com/2015/12/just-mercy-story-of-justice-and.html
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review 2015-11-12 03:36
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson

This is the memoir of a lawyer who has spent 30+ years representing people on death row, and more generally, poor people whose treatment by the criminal justice system is egregious. It is a tough subject, but the book makes for compelling reading: the storytelling is strong, making you itch to know what will happen next (even as you may dread it, because Stevenson’s clients so often get the short end of the stick), and the writing is clear and concise. It does an excellent job of raising awareness, bringing readers into contact with a system most Americans never see. I didn’t find myself as bowled over as most readers evidently were, though; certainly Stevenson deserves accolades for his extraordinary dedication, passion and commitment, and certainly this is a good book, but the astronomical average rating would have you believe it is one of the best books ever written and I don’t believe that’s the case.

We follow one case throughout the book, of a man condemned to death on the flimsiest of evidence; one would think anyone could see Walter McMillian had nothing to do with the murder, given that his professed accomplice couldn’t identify him, that there was no physical evidence, no motive, and, oh, that he was at a fish fry surrounded by dozens of people at the time of the crime. Somehow, none of this stands in the way of Alabama law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and jurors determined to convict. It is unsurprising that McMillian is black and the victim white; in an ironic twist, this all happens in Harper Lee’s hometown, where the locals see no contradiction in cashing in on To Kill a Mockingbird even while participating in exactly the sort of injustice condemned in that book. Alternating chapters tell the story of McMillian’s experience and Stevenson’s efforts to free him. This makes for very strong writing, and the depth of Stevenson’s involvement means that it isn’t just a story of courtroom machinations, but about McMillian’s life and his family and community.

The other chapters highlight a number of other cases and issues the author has worked on, mostly involving people sentenced to death or children sentenced to life without parole. These stories are all sad and sometimes absurd. One woman is convicted of murdering her child, who never even existed; she made up a pregnancy to escape jail time on another offense, then was arrested on suspicion of killing the baby when it never materialized. Facing the death penalty, she pled guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Turns out she’d had her tubes tied several years before, so couldn’t even have conceived. This, of course, doesn’t happen to those with the means to defend themselves, and much of the book deals with the way the system fails the disadvantaged: the poor, people of color, the mentally ill, children. For all the injustice, though, this isn’t a relentlessly depressing book, as Stevenson and his organization have great – though belated – success in obtaining some measure of justice for their clients.

My reservation about the book is that it is, naturally, a piece of advocacy; this is much less the author’s reflection on his work than his argument in the court of public opinion. It is a brilliant public-relations effort, and accordingly, the author cherry-picks the most compelling cases, the most sympathetic clients. Either they’re innocent, or they were acting stupidly and dangerously but without the intent to kill anyone, or they are abused and neglected children, or they suffer from severe mental illness. Stevenson mentions representing everyone on death row whom he has the resources to help, so presumably he’s advocated for plenty of people who deliberately murdered another person and did so as adults, but there’s not a whisper of it here. That feels disingenuous to me, and makes the book seem incomplete.

So, do I think this book is worth reading? Yes – it will certainly make you think, and people need to be aware of injustices in the criminal justice system. It has its limitations; Stevenson chooses for mass consumption those cases that best illustrate his points, which are unlikely to be representative of the system as a whole. But these stories are still important and deserve to be told, and Stevenson tells them well.

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