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Harvey Freedenberg

Biography

Harvey Freedenberg


Harvey Freedenberg practiced intellectual property law and litigation with a large Harrisburg, Pennsylvania firm before he retired in 2017. He has been working as a freelance reviewer since 2005 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. In addition to the more than 300 reviews he has written for Bookreporter.com since 2006, he writes for BookPageShelf Awareness and Kirkus Reviews. He also has published reviews and essays on a variety of other websites and literary blogs.

In 2000, Harvey took a six-month sabbatical from his law practice and studied creative writing at his alma mater, Dickinson College. Three of his short stories have won prizes, and he has written an as-yet-unpublished novel.

Harvey enjoys literary fiction and a wide range of nonfiction. His favorite authors are too numerous to mention, but include Richard Ford, Tim O’Brien, John Updike, Charles Baxter, John Cheever, Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. To read all of Harvey's reviews, along with his comments on the book world and assorted topics, follow him on Twitter (@HarvF) or friend him on Facebook.

Harvey Freedenberg

Reviews by Harvey Freedenberg

by Eric Weiner - Biography, History, Nonfiction, Travel

Ben Franklin lingers in our lives and in our imaginations. One of only two non-presidents to appear on US currency, Franklin was a founder, statesman, scientist, inventor, diplomat, publisher, humorist and philosopher. He believed in the American experiment, but Ben Franklin’s greatest experiment was…Ben Franklin. In that spirit of betterment, Eric Weiner embarks on an ambitious quest to live the way Ben lived. Not a conventional biography, BEN & ME is a guide to living and thinking well, as Ben Franklin did. It is also about curiosity, diligence and, most of all, the elusive goal of self-improvement. As Weiner follows Franklin from Philadelphia to Paris, Boston to London, he attempts to uncover Ben’s life lessons, large and small.

by Claire Messud - Fiction, Historical Fiction

Over seven decades, from 1940 to 2010, the pieds-noirs Cassars live in an itinerant state --- separated in the chaos of World War II, running from a complicated colonial homeland, and, after Algerian independence, without a homeland at all. THIS STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY is above all a family story: of patriarch Gaston and his wife, Lucienne, whose myth of perfect love sustains them and stifles their children; of François and Denise, devoted siblings connected by their family’s strangeness; of François’ union with Barbara, a woman so culturally different they can barely comprehend one another; and of Chloe, the result of that union, who believes that telling these buried stories will bring them all peace.

by Lydia Millet - Essays, Nature, Nonfiction

Emerging from Lydia Millet’s quarter-century of wildlife and climate advocacy, WE LOVED IT ALL marries scenes from her life with moments of nearness to “the others”--- the animals and plants with whom we share the earth. Accounts of fears and failures, jobs and friendships, childhood and motherhood are interspersed with accounts of nonhumans and meditations on the power of story to shape the future. Seeking to understand why we immerse ourselves in the domestic and immediate, turning away from more sweeping views, she examines how grand cultural myths can deny our longing for the company of nature and deprive us of its charisma and inspiration. The fear and grief of extinction and climate change, Millet suggests, are forms of love that might be turned to resistance.

by Adam Gopnik - Nonfiction, Personal Growth, Self-Help

Our society is obsessed with achievement. Young people are pushed toward the next test or the “best” grammar school, high school or college they can get into. Adults push themselves toward the highest-paying, most prestigious jobs, seeking promotions and public recognition. As Adam Gopnik points out, the result is not so much a rat race as a rat maze, with no way out. Except one: to choose accomplishment over achievement. Achievement, Gopnik argues, is the completion of the task imposed from outside. Accomplishment, by contrast, is the end point of an engulfing activity one engages in for its own sake. In ALL THAT HAPPINESS IS, Gopnik demonstrates that while self-directed passions sometimes do lead to a career, the contentment that flows from accomplishment is available to each of us.

by Leif Enger - Adventure, Dystopian, Fiction

Set in a not-too-distant America, I CHEERFULLY REFUSE is the tale of a bereaved and pursued musician embarking under sail on a sentient Lake Superior in search of his departed, deeply beloved bookselling wife. Rainy, an endearing bear of an Orphean narrator, seeks refuge in the harbors, fogs and remote islands of the inland sea. Encountering lunatic storms and rising corpses from the warming depths, Rainy finds on land an increasingly desperate and illiterate people, a malignant billionaire ruling class, crumbled infrastructure and a lawless society. As his innate guileless nature begins to make an inadvertent rebel of him, Rainy’s private quest for the love of his life grows into something wider and wilder, sweeping up friends and foes alike in his strengthening wake.

by Russell Banks - Fiction

A husband sells property to a mysterious, temperamental stranger and is hounded on social media when he publicly questions the man’s character. A couple grows concerned when an enigmatic family moves next door, and the children start sneaking over to beg for help. Two dangerous criminals kidnap an elderly couple and begin blackmailing their grandson, demanding that he pay back what he owes. AMERICAN SPIRITS explores the hostile undercurrents of our communities and American politics at large, as well as the ways local tragedies can be both devastating and, somehow, everyday.

by Adelle Waldman - Fiction

Every day at 3:55 a.m., members of Team Movement clock in for their shift at big-box store Town Square in a small upstate New York town. Under the eyes of a self-absorbed and barely competent boss, they empty the day’s truck of merchandise, stock the shelves, and scatter before the store opens and customers arrive. Their lives follow a familiar if grueling routine, but their real problem is that Town Square doesn’t schedule them for enough hours --- most of them are barely getting by, even while working second or third jobs. When store manager Big Will announces he is leaving, the members of Movement spot an opportunity. If they play their cards right, one of them just might land a management job, with all the stability and possibility for advancement that that implies.

by Tommy Orange - Fiction

Colorado, 1864. Star, a young survivor of the Sand Creek Massacre, is brought to the Fort Marion prison castle, where he is forced to learn English and practice Christianity by Richard Henry Pratt, an evangelical prison guard who will go on to found the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, an institution dedicated to the eradication of Native history, culture and identity. A generation later, Star’s son, Charles, is sent to the school, where he is brutalized by the man who was once his father’s jailer. Under Pratt’s harsh treatment, Charles clings to moments he shares with a young fellow student, Opal Viola, as the two envision a future away from the institutional violence that follows their bloodlines.

by Leslie Jamison - Memoir, Nonfiction

Leslie Jamison has become one of our most beloved contemporary voices, a scribe of the real, the true, the complex. In her first memoir, Jamison turns her unrivaled powers of perception on some of the most intimate relationships of her life: her consuming love for her young daughter, a ruptured marriage once swollen with hope, and the shaping legacy of her own parents’ complicated bond. In examining what it means for a woman to be many things at once --- a mother, an artist, a teacher, a lover --- Jamison places the magical and the mundane side by side in surprising ways. The result is a work of nonfiction like no other, an almost impossibly deep reckoning with the muchness of life and art, and a book that grieves the departure of one love even as it celebrates the arrival of another.

by Maggie O'Farrell - Fiction, Women's Fiction

On a cold February afternoon, Stella catches sight of a man she hasn't seen for many years but instantly recognizes. Or thinks she does. At the same moment on the other side of the globe, in the middle of a crowd of Chinese New Year revellers, Jake realizes that things are becoming dangerous. They know nothing of one another's existence, but both Stella and Jake flee their lives: Jake in search of a place so remote it doesn't appear on any map, and Stella for a destination in Scotland, the significance of which only her sister, Nina, will understand.