Nov/Dec 2019 ~ What non-fiction books are garnering . . .

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Nov/Dec 2019 ~ What non-fiction books are garnering . . .

Denna diskussion är för närvarande "vilande"—det sista inlägget är mer än 90 dagar gammalt. Du kan återstarta det genom att svara på inlägget.

Redigerat: okt 31, 2019, 5:56 am

. . . your interest these final two months?

okt 31, 2019, 11:48 pm

Just finished Consent by Donna Freitas. Harrowing, moving, enraging.

nov 1, 2019, 7:16 pm

House of Trump, House of Putin is holding my stunned attention at present.

I often think about what it must have been like in the midst of some historical crisis or major drama, such as a revolution or serious catastrophe, when the people didn't know how it was going to turn out. When we look back on it from here, it's so hard to remember that, to see it without the perspective of subsequent events.

We're in a similar in-the-midst-of-things place right now, and no one in the future will be able to see these unfolding current events as we do, although no doubt many books have yet to be written about them. For one thing, we know there are not just one but numerous views at present, and any future account will have to include them in order to be faithful to present experience.

Some of those views are represented and documented in this book.

nov 2, 2019, 2:17 am

I've not yet read any of these, the parcel only arrived this week. I saw posted on LT link to the Al Rodhan prize for books that encourage cultural understanding. It looked like an interesting shortlist, so I entered the competition & won! I never win anything. This week my books arrived in a very satisfyingly large parcel.
(see link:

So that's another set of books to add to the totteringly tall to-be-read tower!!

Redigerat: nov 2, 2019, 11:40 am

>4 Helenliz: Congratulations! Looks very interesting, especially (to me) the cross-cultural philosophy one. What did you have to do to win?

nov 2, 2019, 6:12 pm

>5 Meredy: it was one of those provide your e-mail address to enter type competitions. No skill involved on my part whatsoever!

nov 5, 2019, 3:11 pm

They Called Us Enemy
George Takei
4/5 stars
Wonderful graphic novel/biography about the trials of George Takei (Star Trek's Sulu) and his family when they were forced to leave their home after the Pearl Harbor attack and go into a internment camp simply because they were Japanese. Well written! I had read of his interment in one of his previous books but I feel this provided a little more information.

nov 5, 2019, 6:43 pm

I just started Everyday Saints and Other Stories by Tikhon Shevkunov, English translation by Julian Henry Lowenfeld. It is a Russian bestseller.

nov 9, 2019, 12:07 pm

Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail
Rusty Young
3.5/5 stars
This is the true story of Thomas MacFadden, who on a trip to South American got caught by the police with drugs at the airport in Bolivia. He is sentenced and sent to the San Pedro Jail in Peru. McFadden is confounded by the prison set-up. To get a room to live in, you have to buy a cell of your own. Families live with their relative who is a prisoner, in their prison cell and businesses are run by the prisoners in the jail. Drugs are prevalent in the prison and are a main source of revenue to buy items and bribe the guards and judges. I thought this was a fast and interesting read!

nov 12, 2019, 3:33 pm

Echo in the Canyon
Wonderful documentary about music and LA's Laurel Canyon that produced the California sound in 1965-1967. Bands, including The Byrds, the Beach Boys and others came together to produce a new sound as folk music declined. There is also a separate CD with the songs on it but I haven't listened to it yet but I really enjoyed this show on DVD.

nov 12, 2019, 7:05 pm

I’ve been immersed in two related books describing climbing adventure in the Alps.

In Fall of Heaven: Whymper’s Tragic Matterhorn Climb, Reinhold Messner looks back 150 years to the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865. With Messner, a prolific author and legendary mountaineer, we should be in good hands as he judges Englishman Edward Whymper severely for the calamitous accident occurring during the peak’s descent. After reading his book, though, I think Messner should be judged wanting. He makes a poor case.

For anyone reading Fall of Heaven, Whymper’s classic Scrambles Amongst the Alps is a fine companion volume. It covers a lot of climbs and other material that aren’t part of Messner’s book but has a substantial account of the Matterhorn climb too. While I didn’t fully trust Whymper’s version either, I liked his book much more.

Redigerat: nov 12, 2019, 11:08 pm

I just started A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. It's a big one! About 14th century Europe.

Redigerat: nov 14, 2019, 1:06 pm

>13 cmbohn:

That's my favorite history book of all time. I'm picking at Tuchman's The Proud Tower.

nov 14, 2019, 1:37 pm

Barbara Tuchman is one of my favourite non-fiction writers....although I did find A Distant Mirror a bit too long.

Redigerat: nov 20, 2019, 2:06 pm

OverDrive Kindle eBook ~

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World (5 stars)
by Rachel Ignotofsky

nov 15, 2019, 9:34 am

Just Finished The Missing Lynx by Ross Barnett, a fascinating look at the lives of some of the extinct megafauna of Ice-Age Britain and Europe - woolly mammmoth, cave hyena, aurochs and more - plus the possibilities of re-introduction, re-wilding, and even resurrection!
An absolutely delightful book, written with wit, passion, and a bit of geekery:)

nov 16, 2019, 7:12 am

I finished The Young Hitler I Knew. This is an account written by an exclusive friend and room mate of Hitler's from 16 to 20 giving an insight into his driven, volatile, egocentric, and imaginary world. It is the primary source for this period of Hitler's life used by all biographers of Hitler.

nov 16, 2019, 10:31 pm

< 18
Wow The Young Hitler I Knew sounds horrifically fascinating! I'm currently reading some more recent horrific history, Fiasco

nov 18, 2019, 12:06 pm

Dave Itzkoff
4.5/5 stars
This is the biography of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Itzhoff follows Robin from his very beginnings to the sad ending of his life. I thought this was a really well written biography and I just flew through it. If you are fan of his, this is a must read!

Redigerat: nov 21, 2019, 7:25 am

I will begin reading my iBook copy of
A Warning by Anonymous
early tomorrow morning!

1 a.m. Tuesday
Anonymous takes the reader on a pedal-to-the-metal ride. I've finished about 10% of the book in record time. It appears to me that the Electoral College has turned out to be a ticking timebomb that unfortunately exploded during this decade.

4+ stars

General observations ~

It is hard to imagine a more dysfunctional workplace than the Trump West Wing. It is a three-ring circus most days thanks to the extremely flawed executive who is in charge. Remembering that this particular workplace is command central for the leader of the free world is very alarming. I am grateful that people like Anonymous continue to inform the public about this malfunctioning administration. Placing country over party should be a no-brainer during a cautionary-tale era like this one.

nov 21, 2019, 1:59 pm

The State Boys Rebellion
By Michael D’Antonio
4/5 stars
This is the true story of a group of boys and girls from the 1940’s in Massachusetts who were imprisoned in asylums during the time of the rising theories of eugenics. Entry into these schools was not equal and some of these children should not even have been in there. These children were abused, made into laborers, poorly educated and experimented on until they rebelled. Unfortunately, after release some did not do well and had trouble adjusting to outside life but they felt fortunate to be free. The book also talked about the influence that Pearl Buck and Dale Rogers had on opening up the institutions. They kept their developmentally disabled children at home which influenced families of the disabled to do the same thing. This is a shocking book and though I was familiar with the time period, I never realized the extent of the abuse at these homes. Well written!

nov 23, 2019, 2:13 pm

The Essential Houdini
By William Pack
4/5 stars
Author, William Pack has written a captivating biography of the life of Houdini. The book is short (about a 130 pages) and covers the very interesting highlights of his life and career. I found out about this book when the author came to our library and did this wonderful program on Houdini. He even demonstrated Houdini's escape from a strait jacket. I definitely would like to read more about Houdini.

nov 27, 2019, 2:36 pm

I finished the essential, disturbing Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates' subject is the experience/reality of being black in America. The book is written in the form of a long letter to his teenage son. This form is brilliant, in that I'm sure it led Coates to put all his heart and soul into the book, but also because it allowed him to write in relatively basic concepts that facilitated a more effective connection with his white audience. To put it another way, if he had aimed his narrative at black adults, he would have had to take too much for granted, in terms of what his audience already knew, to make the book useful for informing his white audience of much of anything.

So, as a member of Coates' white audience, I can say that this book added in very important ways to my understanding of Coates' subject matter, but more importantly to my understanding of the enormity of my ignorance on these issues. Coates writes of the always fraught experience of walking down the street, any street, in America as a black person. He speaks not of "white people," but of "the people who think they are white" and calls us "Dreamers," people who are able through our own privilege to believe in a dream of an upwardly mobile and potentially color blind society, secure in the fantasy of our own innocence regarding racism. It all touched a nerve for me, having grown up in a liberal household with the mythology of an American Dream hypothetically accessible to all. Please believe me that I am barely scratching the surface of Coates' powerful material with this synopsis.

Five stars.

nov 27, 2019, 2:50 pm

>24 rocketjk: I agree with your assessment of Between the World and Me. I also found it to be a powerful eyeopener. We keep very very few books that we read but that one is in our bookcase. I should be required reading for all of us "who think we are white."

nov 28, 2019, 1:53 pm

Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks, son of one of the owners of Marks & Co. at 84 Charing Cross Road. Marks was a codemaker in WW II and at the end of his life wrote this memoir, critical of the SOE (at another famous address -- Baker Street), but full of humorous incidents.

While Marks wrote his memoir in 1980, it had to wait until 1998 before the British government finally cleared it for publication. Haven't started it yet, but anticipate it will be a lively account about codes and spies that tells the opposite side of the story from what went on at Bletchley Park.

nov 28, 2019, 2:59 pm

Finished the book Civilized to Death. It was an exploration of the many ways progress (agriculture, industry, money, technology etc) have perverted the way mankind eats, moves, works, interacts, and dies. Excellently researched and substantiated although his stabs at a way out are feeble (because there is no pleasant way out).

dec 2, 2019, 12:03 pm

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World
Abigail Tucker
3.5/5 stars
This is the fascinating history and evolution of the rise of cats and their dominance in the animal world. Tucker talks about their popularity as pets and the extremes humans will do to take care of them. Definitely for cat people but others who love animals will also enjoy this book.

dec 3, 2019, 4:15 am

Finished The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton, an absolutely delightful account of the life and times of the eponymous detective, featuring runaway heiresses, drug dens, stolen jewels, and family secrets! In a standard biography the author is usually in the background, but here, in keeping with the flamboyant sleuth's own methods, Stapleton presents the work in the style of a lively detective novel, detailing her searches and surprises along the way. Highly recommended.

dec 8, 2019, 12:45 pm

Yesterday I finished Kate Remembered, prize-winning biography A. Scott Berg's entertaining memoir of his longtime friendship with Katharine Hepburn, interwoven with more standard biographical passages about her life and career.

Redigerat: dec 8, 2019, 4:14 pm

Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World's Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created Her
Robin Gerber
4/5 stars
This is the story of Ruth Handler who was looking for an adult female doll for girls to play with. At the time there were only baby dolls or paper adult dolls for girls to play with. While traveling in Germany she saw a Bild Lilli adult doll which inspired the creation of the Barbie doll and which became a toy sensation. This was the beginning of the rise of Mattel but life for Ruth and her family would be a whirlwind of ups and downs. What an interesting read!

dec 11, 2019, 4:33 pm

I finished the LTER The Soul of Medicine. While I wholeheartedly embrace the author's premise that doctors need to work to become more "authentic", confront death, and listen to their patients, I found his supporting stories from memoir, dreams, and mythology disjointed and their connection to the point obscure. Despite my confusion, I'm not sorry I read it and will contemplate various scenes in the future.

dec 11, 2019, 7:43 pm

I’ve been experiencing the strangeness of Michael Finkel’s The Stranger in the Woods. The book says something about both human possibility and the voluntary confining of possibilities. Treated seriously, it becomes unsettling.

dec 12, 2019, 3:40 pm

Linda Ronstadt-The Sound of My Voice
4/5 stars
This is the amazing documentary about Linda Ronstadt, singer and music composer extraordinaire. It follows her love of all music, the barriers she broke as a female singer and the men and women she sang with. I loved it!

dec 16, 2019, 11:54 am

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
Mary Roach
4/5 stars
Mary Roach, one of my favorite non-fiction authors, loves to explore the most unusual subjects and she doesn’t fail in this book about the science behind the problems that crop up when soldiers are defending us. Topics include stink bombs, flies on the battlefield, how to make shark repellent and much more. Not for everyone but for those curious in unusual topics.

dec 16, 2019, 2:10 pm

I finished the LTER book Hill Women. This memoir starts out in a small valley of Appalachia and proceeds on to Yale, Harvard, and back to Louisville, KY. In telling her story and that of numerous relatives she gives a picture of rural Appalachia, admitting its problems but emphasizing its strengths.

dec 16, 2019, 2:10 pm

I finished Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townshend. This is a fascinating, detailed (to the extent possible) and well written history. Townshend does an admirable job of assembling the history of the rise of the fractured Irish separatist movement at the beginning of the 20th century. There was a strong party urging Home Rule for Ireland as a first step toward independence, and several groups urging for a more immediate and total independence from Great Britain, obtained through arms if need be. The history moves through the decision for a country-wide armed rising, the damaging confusion caused when a countermanding order was sent across the counties that caused a day-long delay and sent many potential insurrectionists home, never to re-engage. In the end, the fighting took place mostly, and certainly most famously, in Dublin itself, with the most important and memorable (and horrific) action centered around the Dublin General Post Office. He also discusses quite cogently the effects of the event on Irish history, both in the years immediately following and then in later decades. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the subject matter.

Redigerat: dec 21, 2019, 2:18 pm

Started already reading one of my Secret Santa Thing books, Two Years in the Forbidden City by Princess Der Ling. It's a memoir of a woman who, when young, was a lady-in-waiting to Cixi, the Dowager Empress of China.

While a child, she, her sister, and father spent most of their lives abroad on diplomatic missions to Japan and France. He saw to it that she and her sister received "Western" educations. As a result, they were multi-lingual, modern, and reform-minded. Der Ling viewed her function to be an advisor to the Dowager on liberalizing policies, her hopes for bringing China into the 20th C. at the same speed as the technologically advanced countries were entering the post-industrial age.

dec 18, 2019, 7:49 pm

I'm continuing my study of behavioral economics started by Michael Lewis's The Undoing Project I've worked my way to Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics by Richard H. Thaler. Before Tahler's book, I finished The Coming Fury, the first of Caton's Civil War centennial triology.

dec 20, 2019, 11:58 am

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks
Annie Spence
3.5/5 stars
Annie Spence, real life librarian, writes of her love of reading and the books she adores by writing quirky love letters to them. Of course she also writes about some of the duds that she has read and those get breakup notes. A very charming book but be warned this may increase your to be read book list!

dec 20, 2019, 12:31 pm

A Kindle deal today, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos by M Mitchell Waldrop. I loved Gleick's Chaos: Making a New Science. So, this should be a good book for me.

dec 20, 2019, 6:16 pm

dec 20, 2019, 8:45 pm

Well, I did finally finish A Distant Mirror and I agree that it is both a great book and a little bit too long. But I'm glad I pushed through. It helped that I read it in print and on audio, so I could switch back and forth. I'm taking a break from non-fiction right now, but I have so many on my shelves.

dec 21, 2019, 8:59 am

My local library has just got in 3 of the non-fiction books I've ordered.
Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. I heard her speak at a Sheffield Off the Shelf event in October - she was very funny, passionate and knowledgeable.
She-Wolves by Helen Castor. She was on a BBC history podcast talking about Joan of Arc - again, funny and knowledgeable.
On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder - lessons from the past to help us defend the future.

dec 21, 2019, 10:15 am

@43: cmbohn, I agree with you about A Distant Mirror -- it was highly informative, and well written, but a bit too long. I got the sense of the century long before the book was done.

dec 23, 2019, 5:49 pm

I finished In My Father's Court Isaac Bashevis Singer's memoir about his childhood in Poland in the years leading up to, and during, World War One. Singer’s father was a Hasidic rabbi and the court of the title was the Beth Din, the traditional court in the Singers' home to which community members came to have their divorces, lawsuits and other disputes arbitrated and their questions about Jewish holy books and law answered and illuminated.

The book is presented as a series of short vignettes, each from five to seven pages in length, told more or less in chronological order, with Singer’s narrative evolving as the small boy begins to grow and to question his surroundings. In the early remembrances, the perspective is kept very tightly on his father’s fierce devotion to God and to Jewish biblical and rabbinical law, custom and mysticism. The tales told are about the people who arrive in the Singers' home, what their problems are, and how his father deals with them.

Soon enough, however, the outside world begins gradually to intrude. The family moves from a small town to the crowded streets of a Jewish Warsaw slum. Next come rumors and then the realities of World War One, with its uncertainties and sharp deprivations. Singer’s older brother becomes more worldly, and young Isaac begins asking questions himself and longing for information about the outside world. Zionism and socialism begin to be discussed among the young, further eroding the hold of the old ways over the community as a whole.

dec 23, 2019, 8:30 pm

I'm reading Travel Light, Move Fast by one of my favourite memoirists, Alexandra Fuller

dec 24, 2019, 2:05 am

Princess Der Ling has been the guest of Dowager Empress Cixi at the theater and seen several plays performed. During intermission between the new secular play (which she enjoyed) and the old religious plays based on myths (which not so much), they retired to enjoy "snacks" that included candies, candied nuts, sweet dumplings, etc.

At the end of the entertainment, she continued on with the day as the Empress' guest at a sumptuous feast, a gigantic spread of many fine and exotic dishes served in exquisitely decorated sets of china. Empress Cixi dug in enthusiastically with her solid gold chopsticks. But Der Ling was dismayed. How could she acquit herself once more of all the edible bounty after having recently "snacked' on dessert first? It amazed her that Cixi had no problem and lustily partook.

If I spend Two Years in the Forbidden City with Princess Der ling, I shall explode from too much rich food!

dec 28, 2019, 3:13 pm

I finished When London Was Capital of America which was an interesting picture of London and it American expatriate population between about 1755 and 1780. Of particular interest was the story of the blacks who found themselves there.

dec 29, 2019, 3:02 am

I just listed my top picks of the year. The very best was The Gene: An Intimate History. Here's the full list:

dec 29, 2019, 9:54 am

>50 cmbohn: Thanks for the list. Four were added to my TBR list. I could have put all of them there but since my list is already way too long, I refrained.

dec 30, 2019, 12:06 am

Happy to help!

Redigerat: dec 31, 2019, 3:44 pm

I finished up my 2019 reading with Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen. This is a series of essays about women who have gained success, fame and/or notoriety in American culture and the ways in which they've had to go against mainstream cultural expectations about the ways women should behave (hence: unruly) in order to attain their goals.

The premise--that American popular society places restrictive boundaries on its expectations for how women should behave and the ways in which they are and aren't "allowed" to achieve success--is hardly a new one. Nevertheless, while I found some of Petersen's examples and explanations problematic, these are issues that, in my opinion, need to be addressed and brought to our society's (especially male society members such as myself) attention endlessly and in many different ways.

I thought that the best two essays were the first two: "Too Strong - Serena Williams" and "Too Fat - Melissa McCarthy." The "Too Strong" chapter explores the ways in which Serena Williams' physical strength and muscular body--and her unabashed pride in both--confounded the culture's expectations and caused pushback against her successes. Also particularly good was, "Too Pregnant - Kim Kardashian" which examines the ways in which women are and aren't allowed to be pregnant and famous in public.

I did not find all of the chapters to be as strong or as coherent, however. For example, in "Too Old - Madonna," Peterson seems as critical of Madonna for trying to maintain a youthful-looking body and overall appearance as she is of the culture for forcing her into such choices in order to retain relevance in the pop music world. In "Too Queer - Caitlyn Jenner," Peterson criticizes Jenner's attempts to be transnormative, to attain as closely as possible the appearance of a "normal" woman and follows Jenner's progressions and growth via the episodes of her reality television show. So, not until the very end, is Jenner unruly enough to gain Petersen's approval.