Thursday, December 31, 2020

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts of the Year: #1

Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of the's #1, a Q&A with Adam Dunn first posted on 6/22/20.


Adam Dunn is the editor, with Eric C. Anderson, of the story collection Fractus Europa. Dunn's other books include the novels Rivers of Gold and The Big Dogs, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle and Inc. 

Q: How did you and Eric C. Anderson end up editing this collection of stories, and how did you choose the authors and stories to include?

A: The anthology was Eric’s idea—a sort of graph of points charting societal collapse across a given region. And it made sense to me to let the denizens of that region do the storytelling. I still have my old dog-eared copy of The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans As Told By Themselves, edited by Hamilton Holt (Routledge, 1990). 

The final lineup of stories you see before you was the result of the editorial process, and Eric deserves most of the credit.  

Q: How did you decide on the order in which the stories would appear in the collection?

A: The main sequencing concern was to bookend the body of the text with the foreword and story by Peter Heather (The Fall of Rome), of King's College (London), and finish with Eric’s afterword. The rest just fell into place.  

Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: I originally chose Europa Fractus—Eric (the Ph.D.) set me straight on the usage. I wanted a Latin classification for something the Romans never provided—a name for the end of the world they’d created.  

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: A warning. They are seeing the crumbling of the EU happening in real time now, even if it seems so slow as to not actually be happening. But it is. 

A political union that was never a coherent fiscal one, a fractious trade bloc, riven with deep cultural and economic divisions from north to south, which is now (as in the fifth century) split and ill-equipped to cope with massive migration inflows that are already redrawing the post-9/11 map of the region…Europe needs a new processor, lest it be revert to its age-old pattern of dissolution and war.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: The next novel in my “More” series—The Unfathomable Deep. 

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Books are our friends. They nourish the mind, and never stop giving. Keep reading. Books will see us through. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts of the Year: #2

Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of the's #2, a Q&A with Mark A. Bradley first posted back on 5/16/14.

Photo by Sam Kittner

Mark A. Bradley is the author of the new book A Very Principled Boy: The Life of Duncan Lee, Red Spy and Cold Warrior. A former CIA officer, Bradley works as an attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Q: How did you come to write about Duncan Lee?

A: I was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s legislative assistant for foreign affairs and intelligence matters [in the 1990s]. He and I were having lunch one day.

He had been instrumental a few years earlier in [the release of documents relating to a U.S. counterintelligence program], Venona. It was started in 1943 against the Soviet Union; [the organizers] were afraid the Soviets would cut a separate deal with Hitler. About 350 Americans had spied for the Soviet Union in World War II. This was of great interest to Senator Moynihan; he had come of age when Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs [were in the news].

During lunch, he said, Have you heard of Duncan Lee? He reminds me a bit of you! He was a Rhodes Scholar at the same Oxford college, Christ Church; you were in the CIA and he was in the OSS. We were both from Virginia; I had gone to Washington and Lee. He said, You should look into it!

Q: You write of Lee, “He was a misguided idealist who chose his conscience over his country.” What motivated him to spy, and what impact did his espionage have?

A: I tried to explain in the book that he felt a great burden from his heritage and his parents. He was from a long line of people who dedicated themselves to causes greater than themselves. Duncan was a direct relation to Richard Henry Lee, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and stood up to Great Britain. He was descended collaterally from Robert E. Lee.

Also, he was from a missionary background. [His parents’ work as missionaries in China] was almost quixotic. His parents expected him to find something greater than himself to serve. The timing was perfect: In the 1930s, capitalism seemed to be collapsing, and Fascism was [on the rise].

About the impact: In World War II, the Soviet Union was critical to our being able to win the war. FDR understood that, and so did [OSS head Bill] Donovan. The discussions in the early 1940s could seem almost treasonous by the late 1940s!  There were many people, especially in the late 1940s, who believed that the Soviets were able to have Americans working in the government, to subvert it. He’s one more stepping stone on the road to McCarthyism. A lot of Americans were already accused.

Q: Although Lee was investigated for many years, nothing was proved against him. Why was that?

A: The key evidence we had against him was the codebreaking program. The Soviets were able to penetrate that... It was penetrated, but not all the way. We didn’t want the Soviets to know [anything more]. It couldn’t have been done in court.

Lee was so savvy. He never passed any documents to [his handler, Elizabeth] Bentley. He was able to say [when questioned], I am a Rhodes Scholar, a Lee of Virginia, a member of the OSS, and this woman [Bentley] is insane.

Q: So people believed him.

A: That’s right. Also, Lee was adept at getting close personal allies to circle the wagons [around him].

Q: You write, “Lee’s chameleon-like personality also saved him, allowing him to spy for the communists before 1945 and become a Cold War warrior immediately afterward.” How did that transformation happen?

A: He had his last meeting with his third Soviet handler in 1945. He was complaining about [possibly] getting caught, and that his conscience was not clean. He was never quite at ease with what he was doing. He wanted to atone for what he had done, and this was a useful way to insulate himself from what he had done.

Q: How believable was he as an anti-communist?

A: I write a bit in the book about what Tommy Corcoran, Claire Chennault [and others he worked with after the war] thought. These men believed in actions more than words. They saw no indication that he had any communist leanings at all. His work [with them in China] was very effective.

There were times when I was writing this book that I thought I was writing about different people. He was so able to wall off parts of his life that when [information about him] became public, no one believed that he’d done that.

Q: How was the book’s title chosen?

A: Basic Books asked me for five or six titles. I had a working title, “Torn Asunder,” but that sounds like a Harlequin romance! They asked, Can you come up with a quote?

In August 1948, Donovan was in Greece investigating the murder of reporter George Polk. He was met at the dock in New York harbor by reporters, who asked about [the accusations against] Lee. Donovan said, He would never have done that. He’s a very high-principled boy.

You feel sorry for Donovan. The Wall Street Journal [review of the book] was right: This is a dark, sober book. This is such a third rail in U.S. history. I was trying to write a book that neither the left nor the right would be particularly comfortable with. It is a very nuanced, complicated period of history.

Q: Does Lee’s story have any lessons for the current day?

A: He was an ideological spy. Most people you see in the modern era spy for money, for narcissism, ethnic loyalty, sex, but every now and then, somebody will spy for Cuba—they’re upset about the way we’ve treated that country.

Ideological spying is still around, but I can’t see many Americans in the intelligence community spying for al Qaeda.

The lessons are still there…you can’t have people with top secret clearances deciding on their own what to release. [It’s important to have] very thorough background checks, to make sure you have the right people with access to secrets. OSS had 22 people identified as Soviet agents, maybe as many as 32.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m a civil servant—I have a full-time job at the Department of Justice. My wife, Liza Mundy, is the real writer in the family. I did this because it was a compelling story. Lee’s children gave me access to his letters and private papers, and I decided it was important to get it written….It’s hard to do, working full-time and writing.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I was speaking at the National Archives, and there was a good question about how Lee’s children deal with this. He, for many reasons, could never admit what he had done. He was a lawyer with five kids to support, and it was easier [not to admit anything]. The book helped them come to terms with how their father was. It’s a hard thing—I think about how I would feel if my father was found to be a Russian spy. They’ve been extraordinary.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Q&A with Malcolm Mitchell


Malcolm Mitchell is the author of the new children's picture book My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World. A former professional football player with the New England Patriots, he is the founder of the Read with Malcolm initiative. He lives in Atlanta.


Q: You note that you based your character Henley on yourself. What inspired you to write this picture book for kids?


A: Growing up in a low-income environment presents several obstacles. One of those obstacles, for me, was grasping a firm understanding of the importance of reading.


Fortunately, through self-exploration I developed a love for literature, so much so that I wanted to write relevant content for children growing up without understanding the magical powers of reading. 


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: I hope from this story young readers understand that reading plays an important role in our overall development, that in order to succeed you must read.


I hope through My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World, young readers learn that there is a special book out there for everyone. Sometimes it can be hard to find, and sometimes the best stories are found within ourselves. 


Q: What do you think Michael Robertson's illustrations add to the book?


A: Michael is an extraordinary artist. His illustrations in this book shines a beautiful light on a heartbreaking reality for millions of kids around the world. We must never forget reading is not a natural phenomenon, but an acquired skill.


Michael’s illustrations are a breath of fresh air, taking readers on a visual journey that captures every feeling associated with being illiterate and the overwhelming belief that you can overcome that challenge it with a special book.


Q: As a professional athlete who has founded a literacy initiative called Read with Malcolm, what do you see as the right mix between sports and reading for kids today?


A: Inspiration, Excitement and Entertainment. In a world of technology-based learning, video games, social media, etc., basic reading skills have taken a back seat.


The attraction of short-term pleasures is a tough temptation to avoid. We all find ourselves distracted from more long-term goals by more enjoyable short-term activities. Why is it so hard to stay the course on our long-term projects, even when we are certain that the advantages of sticking to it will far outweigh the more immediate benefits of putting them off? 


We must not ignore the truths of immediate gratification when it comes to kids and reading. Reading is tough, reading can be boring, learning to read can be a long process, acquiring the tools afforded by reading proficiently takes time.


Reading takes an exorbitant amount of time when compared to the time it takes to learn the newest interphase of a recently released video game. No one is born with the innate ability to read.


Put those truths up against the immediate gratification or sports and we can quickly understand how reading never gets a fair chance, especially in low-income communities where 80 percent of preschool and after-school programs have no age-appropriate books for their children.


So, how can we fight this reality for millions of students and help kids understand the long-term benefits of being an active reader? How can we convince them that reading can be fun, reading can be cool, and most importantly reading will give you the tools necessary to live a productive life? I’m working on finding that answer.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Today I’m working on a picture book for new fathers to share with their children. By taking my experience as a fatherless child and passion for now being a father I hope to deliver a true and inspirational book for family read-alouds. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: While a student at the University of Georgia I learned the importance of reading. For most kids learning that lesson so late in their academic career ensures they will be dropouts, on welfare, or in jail.


A child’s 3rd grade literacy rate is the most accurate tool used to project their productivity in society. In 2017, according to NCES (National Center of Education Statistics) only 35 percent of public-school students were at or above proficiency in grade 4 reading.


If illiteracy was a medical condition, we would consider it a global epidemic. Individuals who cannot read are excluded from many opportunities that allow us to be fully functioning people with the ability to make choices. Illiteracy traps individuals in a cycle of poverty, limited choices and makes it difficult to achieve social mobility.


The point I’m trying to make is independent reading = independent thinking and independent thinking = freedom.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Edwin Hill


Photo by Thomas Bollinger

Edwin Hill is the author of the new mystery novel Watch Her, the third in his Hester Thursby series following Little Comfort and The Missing Ones. He lives in Roslindale, Massachusetts.


Q: This is the third in your Hester Thursby series--did you know from the start that you'd be writing more than one book about her?


A: Yes, I conceived the series from the beginning, and I have an idea of where it will go over the next few books, at least on an emotional level.


The stories all center on Hester Thursby, who is a research librarian; her long-time boyfriend, Morgan Maguire; and Morgan’s niece, Kate, who lives with them. I have a few trials and tribulations planned for Hester and her found family, but it’s figuring out the crimes that is the hard part!


Q: How do you think Hester has changed over the course of the series?


A: The first book in the series, Little Comfort, begins a few months after Kate has come to live with Hester and Morgan. Hester is in her late 30s and has opted out of having children, so she’s not that thrilled to have a 3-year-old child foisted on her.


As the series has evolved, Hester’s relationship with Kate has evolved too, and in Watch Her, Hester experiences some of the joys of parenting.


The biggest change in this book, though, is between Hester and Morgan. They have a very dysfunctional relationship that I always say is based in love, but not necessarily in honesty. And they never talk about their pasts with each other – no talk of family or exes or anything like that.


In this book, Morgan begins to break down these barriers. He proposes a game where they ask each other a single question each day, and they each have to answer, no matter how uncomfortable the question makes them.


Hester agrees to participate reluctantly, but as the novel progresses, she learns that she likes knowing more about Morgan, even if she hates sharing about herself.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: My approach to the ending has been so different with each of my novels. With Watch Her, I had no idea how it would end – or to be more precise, I had an idea, and it changed so much, that I can’t even remember what it was! I changed the murderer at least four times during the course of writing, but I’m really happy with the where I landed!


Q: The book is set in Boston--how important is setting to you in your writing?


A: Setting is critical to my novels! One thing I love about living in New England is that you have a varied landscape in a relatively small geographic area. You can go from urban to very remote in a short time. You can go from the ocean to the mountains in an equally short time. You also have the extreme weather of the Northeast to play with.


In each of my novels, I’ve explored a different part of New England and used the setting and landscape to tell the story.


Little Comfort takes place in Boston’s Beacon Hill and also in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire in the dead of winter. I wanted to use the remote landscape of New Hampshire to up the stakes when Hester is kidnapped by a serial killer.


My second novel, The Missing Ones, takes place in the fall, and most of the action unfolds on a tiny island off the coast of Maine. In that novel, I wanted to explore what it was like to live in a closed community in an isolated location.


In Watch Her, I wanted to keep the action situated in Boston, so I used a neighborhood called Jamaica Plain which is a mix of urban and residential, but also has a huge park running through it called the Emerald Necklace. This park was designed by Frederick Olmsted at the turn of the 20th century, and at the very center of it is Jamaica Pond.


I used to live a few blocks away from the pond and went running there most mornings, right by a ruined, burned-out mansion that sat behind an imposing chain-link fence, Pinebank Mansion.


The mansion was torn down a few years ago, but I bet I wasn’t the only morning jogger who imagined what it might be like to live in the beautiful house and to wake up each morning beside the pond, so I decided to resurrect Pinebank for this novel. It was fun to be able to use the power of fiction to change history!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Right now, I’m working on a stand-alone novel tentatively titled Happy Time. It’s about three siblings who are forced to confront their past when the woman convicted of murdering their father asks them to support her at an upcoming parole hearing.


One of the siblings, Natalie, works as a police detective and is simultaneously investigating the brutal murder of an unidentified man who might be her ex-boyfriend.


Her sister, Grace, pours all her drive into her two daughters and a thriving baking blog. When Natalie’s investigation begins to focus on Grace’s husband, the perfect fa├žade crumbles.


Meanwhile, their brother, Henry, works as a psychotherapist focusing on grief and shame. When a client confesses to an affair with Grace’s husband, Henry has to choose between loyalty to his sister and ethics.


Somehow, all these story lines are going to tie up in the end… I just have to figure out how!


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I love to hear from readers, so don’t be shy! You can reach me through my website: Thanks so much for having me on the site!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with Kristen Willeumier


Photo by Shawn M. Record

Kristen Willeumier is the author of the new book Biohack Your Brain: How to Boost Cognitive Health, Performance & Power. A neuroscientist, she is based in Los Angeles.


Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and what do you hope readers take away from it?


A: This is such a great question, thank you for asking, Deborah. There were three primary influences which compelled me to write Biohack Your Brain.


First, having the vantage point of visualizing thousands of functional and electrical brain images as the research director for the Amen Clinics, a nationally recognized health care clinic that specializes in the treatment of complex psychiatric disorders, I have firsthand knowledge of what dietary and lifestyle modifications result in effective and lasting changes in brain function.


While most people know that they should take care of their cognitive health as they age, they may not have the practical steps on what to do and why it works.


Second, in 2009 my colleagues and I led a groundbreaking clinical trial assessing the long-term damage incurred from playing professional football and, more importantly, demonstrated the ability to reverse some of the damage.


Why is this work important? We now know that those who play collision-based sports are at a higher risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), with NFL players having three times the risk of getting AD or ALS than the general population.


The only effective preventative strategies for Alzheimer’s and dementia are lifestyle modifications, which need to be practiced as early as possible, well before the onset of clinical symptoms.


The findings from our research in professional athletes were instrumental in guiding patient care, not just for those with traumatic brain injuries and neurological issues but also for those who came to see us who were perfectly healthy but wanted to optimize brain function.


Brain health strategies should not only be adopted by those who are struggling with neurological or psychiatric issues; they should be embraced by everyone, as early as possible. A healthier brain will have a positive impact on your emotional health and well-being, enabling you to lead a more joyful, vibrant, productive life.


More importantly, what you begin to realize is that the state of your mental health and psychological well-being rests on your daily choices.


Third, on a more personal note, my beloved father passed away at 78 with Parkinson’s disease. Prior to his passing, my father shared with me that his tremors first appeared in his mid-50s, but he was very adept at hiding them from the family.


I have such compassion for people who struggle with neurological issues, having to navigate their day-to-day lives with the symptoms associated with their condition. Biohack Your Brain is for everyone who is looking for ways to improve their quality of life no matter what they may be struggling with.


Having spent two decades in the field of neuroscience both in the laboratory and clinical setting, I have seen what is possible in terms of reversing brain aging, and it has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of those I have been so fortunate to work with.


When you harness the power of neuroimaging to show people that the consistent practicing of proper dietary and lifestyle habits can improve the function of their brain, it can be a life-changing experience. This is not just for the individual being treated, but for their entire family.

This book was written to share the wisdom I have gleaned through educating patients on how to live a brain-healthy lifestyle along with the neuroscience to support these practices.


In Biohack Your Brain, I share the stories of clients and NFL players whose lives have been transformed through embracing these practices, and it’s my hope that those who read the book are empowered to begin their brain health journey as well.


Q: You write, "The coronavirus crisis has also made taking care of your brain more imperative than ever before." What advice would you give people during these difficult times?


A: We have learned that SARS-CoV2 is not only a respiratory syndrome; it has systemic effects affecting all body organs resulting in a widespread immune response.


We now know the virus does impact the nervous system resulting in a wide variety of complications that can occur, including loss of smell, loss of taste, increased stroke risk, and encephalopathies, which can cause confusion and seizures.


Furthermore, it is estimated that 50 percent or more of people who have had SARS-CoV2 and were symptomatic but have since recovered (i.e., no detectable trace of Covid in their system) are struggling with lingering symptoms of fatigue, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, brain fog and a mild form of depression or malaise.


They are functional but not at full capacity, and given that we have no longitudinal data on this virus, we are unable to ascertain the long-term neurological and neuropsychological consequences of the pandemic.


I am heartened by the fact that now, more than ever, people are prioritizing their physical and mental health. With many of us working remotely and staying at home, more people are thinking about their diet and how it impacts their health, with 60 percent of people cooking their own meals and more people embracing a whole-food, plant-based diet.


As the general population is experiencing an unprecedented increase in psychological distress, we are seeing an increase in online therapy and the prioritization of self-care. Research shows that having positive coping skills and good social support is the most protective against psychological distress.


In addition, healthy dietary practices and exercise have been demonstrated to effectively ease depression and stress. The global pandemic is giving us a chance to go inward and reflect on our lifestyle choices and what we have the control to change.


Therefore, implementing protective measures to care for your health and well-being is the most empowering stance you can take at this time.


Q: What would you say are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about cognitive health?


A: This is a wonderful question as there are so many that come to mind. Let’s go with some of the common perceptions about cognitive health. Most people know that engaging in regular physical activity, consuming a healthy diet, participating in continuous learning, and staying socially connected will help protect their brain as they age, but they may not know the practical steps around which exercises and foods are the best at preserving long-term brain function.


When it comes to knowing which exercises that protect cognitive function, we can look to the neuroimaging studies.


For example, sustained aerobic exercise (i.e., running) is better for increasing brain volume in a region important to learning and memory, and improves cognition in those with mild cognitive impairment. It also increases connectivity in brain regions associated with executive function and motor control.


Resistance exercise (i.e., free weights, weight machines, medicine ball), on the other hand, is beneficial to increasing muscle mass, size, and strength but does not have the same impact on the preservation of brain volume. They both play a role in maintaining vascular health, which is why a combination of sustained aerobic exercise and resistance training is essential to optimal brain function.


When it comes to knowing what brain foods prevent dementia, we can look to the epidemiological dietary studies that show clear evidence on cognition.


For example, a 20-year dietary study from researchers at Harvard Medical School in 16,010 adults aged 70 and older found that those who ate blueberries and strawberries had the slowest rates of cognitive decline. They found that eating blueberries or strawberries three times per week lowered the rate of cognitive decline by 2.5 years.  


Being empowered with knowledge and knowing which steps to take that will positively affect brain function is what is most needed at this time.


I think people are also aware that their cognitive health is linked to their cardiovascular health. With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the U.S., the American Heart Association has been aggressively campaigning the importance of managing cardiovascular risk factors, which has a beneficial effect on the preservation of our cognitive health.


Cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, and high cholesterol damage the vasculature and results in excessive oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. These are the same pathways that are implicated in impaired cognition and dementia, so by prioritizing care of your heart health, you are also taking care of your brain health.


I discuss several common misperceptions about cognitive health in Biohack Your Brain, but here are a few people will enjoy learning:


Myth: The adult brain cannot grow new brain cells. The truth is that we can grow new brain cells from adolescence into adulthood in an area of the brain known as the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory. The exciting news is that there are dietary habits and lifestyle modifications that will help us to continue to grow cells into this region of the brain (as well as habits that prohibit growth) into our seventh, eighth, and ninth decade of life. 


The take-home message is that you can change your brain at any age!


Myth: We only use 10 percent of our brain. The truth is that we use all of our brain, and it is continually active when we are awake and while we are in our deepest stages of sleep. In fact, our brain is working just as hard when we are asleep as when we are awake, performing important housekeeping functions including the clearance of abnormally folded proteins that can lead to Alzheimer's, consolidating our short-term memories into long-term memories, and helping us regulate our emotions.  


Myth: Multitasking is a way for the brain to be more organized and efficient. Multitasking, or the simultaneous engagement of different processing pathways, is a division of our attention and is a cognitive demand that often comes with a cost. The truth is that the more we multitask, we are decreasing our brain's ability to maintain focus and sustain attention, reducing our cognitive proficiency and reaction time. This is readily seen when we try to drive and do a secondary task, such as turn the dial on the radio, talk, or text on our phone. Not only does our ability to sustain attention on the road go down, getting distracted puts us at greater risk of an accident. People underestimate their ability to simultaneously allocate their attention to multiple locations, and so it's recommended to focus on one task at a time.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The brilliant creative and marketing team at HarperCollins came up with the title. Given that Biohack Your Brain centers around dietary and lifestyle interventions that make measurable changes in the biological function of the brain as measured by neuroimaging, “biohack” was a fitting title.  


One of the most empowering messages that I share in this book is that people are unaware of the power that they have in their daily choices to protect their brain health. This includes adherence to a Mediterranean diet, proper hydration, foundational nutrient support, regular physical exercise, healthy emotional regulation, cognitive training, getting restorative sleep, and managing stress levels.


In this book, I share with the reader the objective data we have seen in the clinical setting that has been the most instrumental at making measurable and long-lasting changes in brain function in people of all ages.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am currently involved in a research project evaluating the effects of a type of protective equipment for football designed to attenuate shearing stress on the brain and spinal cord.


While most protective equipment cannot prevent subconcussive and concussive injuries, it can provide some safeguards, as reducing the shearing or rotational forces to the brain by even 10-15 percent can be beneficial to these athletes.


Those of us who have done research in professional athletes who play collision-based sports (i.e., football, soccer, hockey, rugby) have discovered that it’s not just the big hits that are causing the post-concussive symptoms and late-life brain issues. It’s the repetitive subconcussive impacts over time that are of concern.


With 30 million children in the U.S. participating in organized sports, and 3 million children between the ages of 5-18 exposed to repetitive impacts from football on an annual basis, there are many young, developing brains that are in need of protection.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: “Normal brain aging” is used to describe a process where we lose more neurons than we create, and many scientists who have studied volume changes in the aging brain report that the process begins in adults as early as their 20s.


Therefore, the time to be proactive is now if you want to prevent the loss of brain volume, the thinning of the brain’s cortex, the decrease in white-matter connectivity, and the diminishing neurotransmitter production that can occur with brain aging. The volume of the brain has been shown to decline by 5 percent per decade after age 40, with this decline increasing in those over the age of 70.


Remember, your brain is involved in everything you do, from regulating your thoughts and feelings to storing your precious memories and managing your mood. It governs your ability to intuit, ideate and create while driving your behaviors and coordinating your movements.


Taking care of your brain health is one of the best investments you can make in preserving your cognitive function for a lifetime, and the steps to do it are simple and accessible to all. Biohack Your Brain will walk you through these steps and empower you with effective, preventative, evidence-based strategies to protect your brain. The healthier your brain, the greater your chances of having a productive, joyful, and fulfilling life. 


Thank you so much for your time and your thoughtful questions.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts of the Year: #3


Counting down the top 10 most-viewed posts of the's #3, a Q&A with Oksana Zabuzhko about her story collection Your Ad Could Go Here, first posted on 4/29/20.
Oksana Zabuzhko is the author of the story collection Your Ad Could Go Here, now available in an English translation. Her many other books include the novels Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex and The Museum of Abandoned Secrets. She is based in Ukraine.

Q: Over how long a period did you write the stories in Your Ad Could Go Here?

A: The stories included in this book range from 1997 ("I, Milena") to 2017 ("No Entry to the Performance Hall After the Third Bell"). During these two decades I published over a dozen books, fiction and non-fiction, including two collections of stories.

Your Ad Could Go Here presents many of my recurring themes developed over that time. 

Q: How was the collection's title (also the title of one of the stories) chosen, and what does it signify for you?

A: The title emerged before the story was written.

This is not unusual in my work: I am sensitive to language. I like to eavesdrop, to listen to people talking on trains, to read billboards, to browse social networks, just to catch a sticky phrase here and there.

Sometimes a phrase rings the bell, promising a story coiled inside it. In my notes I have a whole collection of such “titles without stories,” with Your Ad Could Go Here off the list, now that it has finally “met” its story.

For this title – announcing the availability of space emptied by someone unknown who’s been here before you – has always sounded to my ear like a “memento mori” of the consumerist age. There’s a flavor of loss dissolved in it, something I wanted to preserve in my book.

Q: The Kirkus Review of the book describes it as "Evocative stories about the way national issues impact even the most personal aspects of life." What do you see as the relationship between the political and the personal in these stories?

A: My special object of fascination has always been to trace how history reveals itself in people’s lives on its most personal, “nuclear” level. In my debut, and still most-translated novel, Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, I used a frustrated woman’s body to map national traumas inherited from previous generations.

The family stories in Your Ad Could Go Here, can, at a certain level, be read as “political.” After all, let’s face it, Aristotle was right – we are political animals.

The human body is political, lovemaking is political, childbearing is political – everything about our lives that we’re taught to believe is private is permeated with authoritarian societal messages throughout.

Normally, we just fail to recognize how deep they reside under our skin. It took our civilization ages to develop a concept of privacy that is respected and guarded by social institutions.

We used to sigh in relief that we had won, and the age of totalitarian control over the personal was behind us. Now we find ourselves in a digital age that keeps destroying our privacy at pandemic speed.

So maybe it’s high time to have a closer look at how the private is shaped by the political, if we want to keep our sanity for post-COVID times.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

A: Oh, this won’t show until the quotations in reader reviews start repeating themselves.

For me, this unpredictability is the most exciting part of the pleasure of being translated (which I add to the two writer’s pleasures once singled out by Virginia Woolf: the pleasure of writing, and the pleasure of being read).

Readers’ reactions to the same book can be quite different in different cultures, you can never tell in advance what exactly a new audience will recognize in your book as “theirs, too”--every new publication is like diving into darkness. I can’t wait to hear from the first readers of Your Ad Could Go Here.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: My novel-in-process is entitled The Diary of Cassandra. It’s based on the story of the Trojan war, with a focus on the anatomy of women’s presence behind the war stage: a manipulative politician (Helen) versus a public servant (Cassandra).

I started writing it back in 2013, ironically, right before the current Russian-Ukrainian war began, having interrupted my work for a long while.

Now, seven years later, I know more about war, manipulation, and populism from my own experience than I could ever have expected from any research, and the question is how to incorporate this unplanned knowledge into the texture of my story without ruining it.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I guess all the rest is in the book; thank you.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb