Nov/Dec 2018 ~ What non-fiction books are we exploring?

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Nov/Dec 2018 ~ What non-fiction books are we exploring?

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Redigerat: okt 31, 2018, 7:33 am

The final two months of 2018 are upon us!

Looking forward to hearing

Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams

nov 1, 2018, 7:21 am

October was a busy month for me so didn't get through as much reading as I wanted. Anyway, now well into Pagan Britain by Ronald Hutton, a look at pre-christian monuments in Britain and the religious/magical meanings attibuted to them over the years based on the same archeological evidence, but coloured by the different mores and perceptions of the time. Very interesting. Makes me want to go back and re-visit some of these splendid sites.

nov 1, 2018, 10:50 am

I finished Desert Queen by Janet Wallach. The author managed to convey an amazingly complex subject in a clear and engaging manner even to someone with no prior knowledge of the subject. Both Gertrude Bell and the early history of Iraq were fascinatingly presented.

nov 4, 2018, 12:14 pm

I finished the very interesting The Grandma Stubblefield Rose: The Life of Susan Stubblefield, 1811-1895 by Edna Beth Tuttle and Dennie Burke Willis. Susan Stubblefield was born in upstate New York in 1811. She moved progressively west with first one husband, then another (both were drowned). Then, with her third husband and extended family, she went across the continent from Missouri to California in a covered wagon. The family settled eventually in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, CA, in 1858. I live in Anderson Valley now, and reading this book is part of my ongoing project of reading frequently about the history of the region. This is a self-published book, a fictionalized account drawn from diaries and written by two of Stubblefield's great-great grandchildren. The Stubblefield rose was a small rose bush given to Susan upon her first wedding day by her own mother. The plant had been brought from France two generations before that! Stubblefield brought the plant with her across the country until she eventually gave it two her own daughter. It is used here as a symbol of the continuity of family even withstanding the vast miles of distance that can open up as children travel away from parents.

nov 4, 2018, 8:59 pm

I am reading Niall Ferguson newest book, The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook. Certainly, Librarything functions more as a network than a hierarchy, and this is interesting to think about.
Ferguson shows a graph showing how connected a person like Henry Kissinger was. He is extending the work of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi who wrote Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else, which I read about 3 years ago.

nov 4, 2018, 9:56 pm

Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt by Jack Olsen.
My public library lists this book as biography, and it is, but there is much else to it. Geronimo Pratt was a decorated Vietnam vet who became a prominent member of the Black Panther party in L.A. He was arrested and convicted of a murder the FBI knew he could not have committed. Jack Olsen’s book recounts Pratt’s life, explores how he came to be behind bars, and details the long legal battle that Pratt’s attorneys voluntarily carried on. Certainly has my recommendation for readers interested in issues of race, law enforcement, and fair trials

nov 10, 2018, 2:19 pm

The Cliff Walk was a memoir describing the loss of an English professorship, two years of joblessness, and finally his transformation into a painter/carpenter. It was good but I found myself loosing patience with how long it took him to adjust his self image.

Redigerat: nov 16, 2018, 2:21 pm

While writing my memoir, I read The end of Eddy by Edouard Louis. I have just finished it and loved it. It's about a young boy growing up in a rural part of France.

nov 23, 2018, 7:38 am

I finished a LTET book, Why I Am a Hindu. Having no knowledge of Hinduism, this book was a revelation, understandable and clear in describing the core of the religion, a bit overwhelming in its particulars. The book also describes the Hindu fundamentalism now infiltrating Indian politics which sounds very much like the divisive politics presently in power in the US and other countries now. 3.5 stars

nov 28, 2018, 12:31 pm

I finished up the extremely interesting baseball autobiography Hank Greenberg: The Story of My Life by Greenberg with Ira Berkow. In addition to being one of the great power hitters of the 1930s and 1940s, Greenberg was the first major Jewish baseball star.

nov 29, 2018, 3:24 pm

The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington
Jennet Conant
4/5 stars
Conant discusses the life and times of Roald Dahl who served as a pilot in WWII for England. After his plane is shot down in Africa during a battle, Dahl is injured but is later is sent to Washington D.C. to work for the BSC (British Security Coordination). This was quite an interesting look at D.C. during wartime and all the machinations that were going on. Recommended!

nov 30, 2018, 4:45 pm

Just started Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle which is about what it says. Not only is it interesting, but the book itself is a beauty. Great cover art and graphics. Lots of illustrations inside, too.

dec 1, 2018, 12:38 pm

Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars
by Scotty Bowers
3/5 stars
Bowers relates his role and how it came about in the procuring of partners for the rich and famous in Hollywood and politics from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. This book was okay but I was more interested in Bowers. His life was very interesting. He does name a lot of names, but most of these actors and politicians had already been outed so there were no real surprises in the book.

dec 1, 2018, 1:39 pm

The Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii: Ancient Ritual, Modern Muse turns out to be a set of papers occasioned by an exhibit at the University of Michigan Museum of Art in the year 2000, centering on an artist's watercolor reproductions of the frescoes from Room V of the Villa of the Mysteries. So far, I've been most interested in a list of personnel with their ritual offices in the Dionysian cult, recovered from an inscription on a plinth.

Redigerat: dec 2, 2018, 3:14 am

Reading Art and Feminism edited by Helena Reckitt - an in-depth look at feminist art of the late 20th century.

dec 3, 2018, 8:01 am

Audio of The Hello Girls of WW1. Cobbs writes about much more than the stated subject, covering the suffragette movement and politics of the war as well. Perhaps there wasn't enough material for a full book otherwise.

dec 6, 2018, 12:30 pm

Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich
So far as formal schooling goes, Ivan Illich argues for a society where school is not just out for summer, it’s out completely. Yes, completely. It's a radical vision, articulated in 1971, which is echoed in today’s “unschooling” movement.

dec 6, 2018, 2:39 pm

I finished Groucho: the Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx by Stefan Kanfer. This a well-written and fascinating (if not always pleasant in subject matter) biography of an enormously influential figure in American (and world) comedy in particular and culture in general.

dec 7, 2018, 5:47 am

Breezed through The Rise of the Rocket Girls - the enlightening and uplifting story of the female computers and engineers of JPL who did so much for space exploration. Loved it!
Now starting Women in the Viking Age by Judith Jesch.

Redigerat: dec 7, 2018, 11:11 am

I picked up Annapurna again. It's not a long or difficult read, I should finish in no time.

dec 9, 2018, 10:11 am

Yesterday, I finished my LTER book We Are Here to Stay: Voices of Undocumented Young Adults by Susan Kuklin. I'm now reading Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter, which is Scott Adams' take on Donald Trump as a Master Persuader -- Mr. Adams is the person who brought us Dilbert.

dec 9, 2018, 2:28 pm

I finished Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion. This series of essays is well deserving of its enduring renown. The volume was first published in 1968, and Didion here evokes American culture of that time, the ways we were seeing ourselves and our recent history. The most famous essay here is the title work, Didion's decidedly unadoring report on her time spent in the Summer of Love Haight Asbury. I would say that the mood infusing the volume is one of melancholy. Highly recommended for anyone wishing to take a time travel back to the American world of that time, and to settle oneself into the joys of spare, wonderful writing.

dec 9, 2018, 2:35 pm

Nick Offerman is a wood worker when he's not in front of the camera. He writes about it in glowing terms in Good Clean Fun.

dec 14, 2018, 4:08 pm

I finished Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire which was a terrifying look at the number of fantasies prevalent now and a look at where they came from as far back as the first American settlements. Assuredly not the single factor explaining where we now are but a significant one.

dec 17, 2018, 5:04 am

Started Steve Brusatte's The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs. I saw him at an Off The Shelf event at Sheffield University earlier this year and was impressed by his dynamism and enthusiasm. So far the book lives up to his presentation.

Redigerat: dec 21, 2018, 12:05 pm

Hollywood Heyday: 75 Candid Interviews with Golden Age Legends
David Fantle
3/5 stars
Fantle and Johnson have interviewed stars, producers and directors for the last 40 years. This book recalls the interviews of the famous including Charlton Heston, Fred Astaire, Robert Wagner, Esther Williams, Ernest Borgnine and Tippi Hendren to name a few. This was an interesting look back on Hollywood at its peak and its descent through the eyes of the major players themselves.

dec 21, 2018, 2:13 pm

I am reading Why we get fat by Gary Taubes. It is pretty interesting so far the research that he has put into it.

dec 22, 2018, 12:08 pm

dec 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

This month I finished reading...

"Class Struggle in Egypt: 1945-1970" by an Egyptian Marxist Mahmoud Hussein. The author attempts to provide an analysis of the class struggle before, during, and after Nasser in Egypt. A very interesting read, although I disagree strongly with the author's analysis of the Soviet Union.

"The Battle of Beirut: Why Israel Invaded Lebanon" by Michael Jansen. The author explains the causes and consequences of Israel's brutal invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

"The Conditions of the Working-Class in England" by Frederich Engels. A landmark study in working-class conditions during the Industrial Revolution in England, which observations still very much relevant today!

Right now I am reading...

"Darfur: An Ambiguous Genocide" by Gerard Prunier.
"The Origins of the Civil War in Tajikistan" by Tim Epkenhans

dec 26, 2018, 11:35 am

Foot Steps in the Snow
by Charles Lachman
5/5 stars
Fascinating true life tale about Maria Ridulph, a 7 year old girl from Sycamore, Illinois who went missing and was later found murdered in 1957 and the trial of John Tessier (aka John McCullough) who was the last to have seen her. The trial took place 55 years after her death. Lachman does a wonderful job relating the case and the trial.

dec 26, 2018, 7:02 pm

I finished Anthony Warner's (The Angry Chef) book, The Truth about Fat. It was very interesting look at the problem of obesity from which I learned much: Diets don't work, shaming obese people is unfair and counterproductive, and many many factors other than food and exercise are at play. The obesity problem is complex, rather like the weather. We don't know how to make it rain and we don't know how to prevent or cure obesity in any simple way.

dec 27, 2018, 8:43 am

Redigerat: dec 27, 2018, 11:16 am

(hi lynn!) Read Never Caught. The story is really fascinating, covering much of the history of the times and place, and the text includes two articles of 'interviews' with Ona before she died. But its a short book and suspect the author needed to fill in with speculation and feelings painted onto the characters. Way too many “she must have felt” and “she would probably”. Just wish she'd focused on the story and background more and left out the filler. Glad I read it thought, certainly enlightening.

(ETA) Given the limited factual information, this would have made a very interesting historic fiction novel. The fact of the story is fascinating - now develop the character and fill in missing parts. In the hands of a good writer such as Barbara Hambly with tight editing, I could see it as a best seller.

jan 8, 2019, 8:47 am

I just finished The Fifth Risk, and highly recommend it for an insight into the important work of the US Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Commerce. Sounds like a snore, right?

Michael Lewis's premise in this book is that one of the biggest risks faced by the USA is program mismanagement. As it turns out, the federal government is not very good at promoting itself, and most citizens don't have any idea of what the government does to keep them safe. This short book will give the reader an idea of this important, below the radar work and the dangers posed by an incompetent administration.