May/June 2020 ~ What non-fiction books are capturing your attention . . .

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May/June 2020 ~ What non-fiction books are capturing your attention . . .

Redigerat: apr 30, 2020, 7:20 am

. . . at this juncture in the year?

apr 30, 2020, 7:52 am

I'm listening to The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson's new book on Winston Churchill. He emphasizes that even the scenes that might appear fictionalized are based on first person documents and impressions.

apr 30, 2020, 5:07 pm

>2 2wonderY: I ordered that book - still waiting for it to come in.

maj 1, 2020, 7:51 am

About to start Red Ellen by Laura Beers, a biography of fiery socialist, feminist and all-round "working-class hero" of the early 20th century Ellen Wilkinson.

Redigerat: maj 18, 2020, 12:41 pm

Starting this OverDrive Kindle eBook ~

Why Did I Come into This Room?: A Candid Conversation about Aging by Joan Lunden
(amusing/JL was a host on 'Good Morning America' for two decades)


4.5 stars

Lighthearted and very informative!

Some chapter headings included in the book ~
I'm Not Old; I'm 45 Plus Shipping and Handling
Keep Moving! It's Harder for the Undertaker to Catch Up with You
Sometimes I Laugh So Hard, Tears Run Down My Leg
Did You Know Chocolate Makes Your Clothes Shrink?

maj 8, 2020, 2:22 pm

by Roger Ebert
3/5 stars
This was an unusual book. It is not a linear biography of Scorsese, in fact it is not a true biography at all but a look at his life amid his film work. There are 6 discussions/chapters in this non-fiction work - 1) Beginning, 2) Achieving, 3) Establishing, 4) Reflecting,(which is an interview with Ebert) 5) Venturing and 6) Masterpieces. I think the book is interesting and I learned a lot about Scorsese’s filmmaking but the problem I have with the book was that there was a lot of repetition in the book and a rehashing of the movie plots that have been gone over in previous chapters. However, if you are a big film fan or Scorsese fan, I will think you will like this book.

maj 8, 2020, 2:51 pm

Finishing up The Secret History of the Mongol Queens - it's good, but depressing because just when women are included in society for being more than just sex slaves or baby machines, the men freak out and drive them back down again.

maj 11, 2020, 4:20 pm

To the Lighthouse
Virginia Woolf
3.5/5 stars
This is a semiautobiographical book of the author and her family set in three time periods. Woolf relates the feelings, events and emotions of her childhood when they stayed at their summer home near the lighthouse. The second section relates the events of WWI and what happened to the family during that time period and the last section is ten years later and recalls the memories of returning to their summer home and their trip to the lighthouse. I have never read Woolf but enjoyed this book and her writing.

maj 17, 2020, 3:35 pm

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
by Alexis Coe
3.5/5 stars
This is a very interesting short biography of Washington geared to those who don’t want to read some of the tomes on him. The author writes about his childhood, marriage to Martha, his war service and his time as president and afterwards. The author intersperses the book with odd facts and topics which include the diseases he survived, the lies told about him, the animals he raised and much more. I really enjoyed this book!

Redigerat: maj 18, 2020, 1:06 pm

Starting this OverDrive Kindle eBook ~

All the Presidents' Gardens: Madison's Cabbages to Kennedy's Roses_How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by Marta McDowell (Washington thru Obama presidencies)

maj 20, 2020, 4:49 pm

Is it good? My copy of Clash arrived a few days ago and I look forward to starting that soon. I would love to find a good biography of Wilkinson.

maj 21, 2020, 3:50 am

>12 BrokenTune: I'm assuming you're replying to my comment @ >4 SChant: . It's easier if you tag the comment you're replying to using a right arrow > and the number of the comment. Anyway, if not, sorry.

The Wilkinson bio is meticulously detailed about the socialist, feminist, and internationalist community in Britain in the early years of C20th and Ellen's tireless involvement in all sorts of campaigns. I'm enjoying it immensely but it's a slow read because of all this detail.

maj 21, 2020, 5:15 am

>13 SChant: Hi. Thanks for the hint re replying. I'm still finding my feet with how LT works, and how some of the features are different form other platforms.

Re the Wilkinson bio, I am really glad to hear you're enjoying it and that it seems to be well-researched (as indicated by the level of detail). I'll put it on my wish list for now.

maj 23, 2020, 1:11 pm

I finished the LTER Little Wonder: The Fabulous Story of Lottie Dod, an entertaining biography of an amazing woman. Admittedly, the author was hampered by numerous gaps in information which he compensated for by detailed descriptions of people and places as well as guesses as to the reasons for certain actions. Those descriptions did, however, help provide a picture of the times.

maj 28, 2020, 4:11 pm

Live From New York: The Complete, Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told by Its Stars, Writers, and Guests
By Tom Shales
3.5/5 stars
This book is definitely for fans of the show and goes over each season (up till 2014) and includes all the members, writers, producers and Loren Michaels talking about their roles on the phenomenon of SNL and how it affected them.
This book was the updated version for their 40th Season in 2014 (originally published in 2004). I am not sure if it has been updated since then but it would be interesting to read about the changes to the program due to the coronavirus. I enjoyed this so much but be warned it is over 700 pages.

maj 30, 2020, 1:38 pm

West of Eden: An American Place
Jean Stein
3/5 stars
Jean Stein’s book covers five unusual true stories of Los Angeles, particularly focusing on Hollywood by using the interviews of the actual relatives and players of Hollywood that have shaped Los Angeles history for good or for bad. Stein covers the stories of the Dohenys, the Warner Brothers family, real estate heiress Jane Garland, actress Jennifer Jones, and her own family. I am mixed about this book, some of it I raced through and then others parts seemed to drag on forever. I knew that Hollywood was a free for all but never knew, especially in its early history, that everything was up for grabs in terms of morality.
Sad note- I was looking up the author on the internet and discovered that she had committed suicide a couple of years ago.

maj 31, 2020, 1:42 pm

I finished The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence, 1918-1923 by Charles Townshend. I read this as a follow up to Townshend's Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion. The two books were recommended to me, along with Tom Barry's Guerilla Days in Ireland, by a bookseller in a great store in Cork City when my wife and I were there on vacation a few years back. I had asked him about the best books to read to learn about the events of those years.

The Republic is very detailed and so is not particularly a fast read. Interestingly, during the course of the narrative, Townshend often compares earlier published histories to demonstrate how knowledge and perspectives about particular events have evolved as attitudes have changed and new information has been uncovered or new interviews given. Townshend also does his best to unravel fact from legend. Probably the toughest job for anyone, like myself, who did not grow up learning this history, is keeping straight all of the factions in the struggle and all of the chief figures. Given all that, my opinion, like that of many others evidently, is that Townshend has done an admirable job of it. In particular he shows the glories and the bravery of the revolutionaries, but also their frequent viciousness and incompetence. Also, the ways in which the English frequently and tragically misjudged one situation after another. In the end, it seems it was more global opinion, and British political exhaustion, than military achievements that got the British to the bargaining table and led to the treaty that created the Irish Home State, less than the full independence the fighters wanted, but perhaps as much as they might have expected given the totality of the Irish ability to carry on armed conflict and the British belief that control of Ireland was critical to their own self-defense.

This is a very good resource for anyone looking for a comprehensive and readable, if not always flowing, account of these fascinating but tragic times. Perhaps at least a bit of foreknowledge about the subject matter might be recommended, though, to keep the details from becoming too confusing. Anyway, four stars from me.

jun 2, 2020, 11:36 am

Finished The Gene: An Intimate History which was a history of the science of heredity and the gene presented in a mostly understandable and engaging manner. From Aristotle to 2014.

jun 2, 2020, 10:00 pm

The Gene was my top nonfiction read last year.

On reading The March of Folly by Barbara Tuchman which is really insightful so far and Out of the Flames by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone about a rare book of theology from the 16th century.

Redigerat: jun 2, 2020, 11:45 pm

both of those are marvelous!!! Nancy Goldstone also wrote the four queens about four sisters who ruled Europe in the 13th century Well worth reading!

jun 3, 2020, 8:41 am

Reading How To Clone A Mammoth by Beth Shapiro. Subtitled “The Science of De-extinction” it covers the science, ecology and ethics of cloning and re-introduction of extinct species. It’s a few years old now, but very interesting.

Also, Some Assembly Required by Neil Shubin, looking at life from an evolutionary biology perspective, covering paleontology, genomics, and the history of anatomical studies. Wide ranging but very readable.

jun 3, 2020, 8:53 am

>19 LynnB: - how is it going with that one? I read Cahalan's first book about her weird brain condition, but heard this one was more disjointed and rambling. Repetitive.

jun 3, 2020, 9:01 am

24 Bookmarque: I'm enjoying it so far....about 100 pages in. Stay tuned.

jun 9, 2020, 1:31 pm

I finished The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller. In 2015, Lindbergh and Miller, a pair of sportswriters, bloggers and podcast hosts got the owners of an 4-team independent baseball league* to agree to allow them to apply the relatively new ideas about baseball that are generally housed under the broad term, "sabermatrics." Sabermatrics is the philosophy/practice of developing rosters and considering in-game strategy that is based on deep dives into performance stats and probabilities rather than going by old-school, we've always done it that way attitudes.

* Independent leagues are the lowest level of professional baseball. The leagues are "independent" because they have no affiliation with major league teams.

The book is, basically, a co-memoir. The two men take turns writing chapters. Together, they describe their progress through the season with their team, the Sonoma Stompers. While they don't get to create the team's entire 22-man roster, they are able to add several players of their own choosing for which they study databases of players who had remained undrafted by major league organizations and whose stats indicate potential success based upon the "new" theories. The writers describe the coming together of the team, their struggles to gain the respect of the players and coaching staff for their roles in the team's performance, their growing understanding of the dynamics of clubhouse culture and the specific problems of players performing at such a low level of organized ball. As the season progresses, the two writers, together, weave together a very engaging story and they don't stint in self-examination, either. There's a lot of learning done.

Lindbergh and Miller are both quite good writers, so the book flows very nicely and remains interesting throughout. It's a study of baseball, certainly, and as such is more or less of interest to baseball fans only. But this is also an interesting and acute study of human nature.

Anyway, I highly recommend this book, though for baseball fans only.

jun 9, 2020, 9:31 pm

>20 snash: I just finished reading The Gene. What a fantastic and interesting read! I'm so glad I stuck with it; am not usually one for such lengthy tomes!

jun 10, 2020, 2:20 pm

I'm listening to How the South Won the Civil War. I became familiar with Boston College Professor of American History, Heather Cox Richardson from her blog, as well as her popular Facebook Live videos (which you can now find on Youtube as well.) This is not the history that I learned in high school, or in college, for that matter. Professor Richardson's primary thesis is that the symbolism and narrative of what it means to be an American is intertwined with what she calls the "American Paradox" that equality in the USA depends on the inequality of certain other people. Fascinating.

jun 10, 2020, 5:24 pm

Just started the audio version of The Royal Art of Poison by Eleanor Herman. It's subtitled Filthy Palaces, Fatal Cosmetics, Deadly Medicine and Murder Most Foul, so you get the idea!

jun 10, 2020, 10:47 pm

I finally finished Blake: Prophet Against Empire and published my review. Now I'm wrapping up Hume's Natural History of Religion, which gradually gains in hilarity throughout its fifteen short chapters.

jun 13, 2020, 12:55 pm

>29 Bookmarque: This looks interesting!

I just received Million Dollar Mermaid today, the Esther Williams autobiography, and I can't wait to get started!

Redigerat: jun 13, 2020, 3:21 pm

>24 Bookmarque: Bookmarque: I enjoyed The Great Pretender in spite of, like you. wondering for a while where the author was going with her story. I liked the descriptions of historic treatments, and the questioning of what being sane actually means.

jun 13, 2020, 4:36 pm

>31 genesisdiem: I would read the Williams bio-let us know how it is!

jun 13, 2020, 5:00 pm

I'm reading a memoir, Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

Redigerat: jun 18, 2020, 12:21 pm

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
by Vashti Harrison

(OverDrive Kindle eBook/middle-grade lit)

jun 18, 2020, 1:41 pm

>31 genesisdiem: Just finished the poison book. Gross, but fascinating and made me VERY glad to be born in the latter 20th century!

>32 LynnB: Good to know. I might just pick it up one of these days.

jun 18, 2020, 4:38 pm

I have been slowly but surely working my way through Fear Trump in the White House.

Having read Fire and Fury, Becoming and What Happened I may slowly read Comey's book A Higher Loyalty next. Has anybody here read it, was it worthwhile?

jun 22, 2020, 2:11 pm

jun 22, 2020, 6:10 pm

I’m 2/3 of the way through Jeffrey Toobin’s American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst. I remember it happening, but there was a whole bunch I missed as a kid at the time.

jun 24, 2020, 5:13 pm

I finished Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein. This is a well researched and extremely readable book about life in Janesville, Wisconsin, from 2008 through 2013, in the years following the closure of what had been the longest-running GM plant in the country. Literally generations of Janesville residents had made their livings from the plant and the many manufacturing companies that existed to supply parts to the cars built there. Interestingly, Janesville is also the hometown of Paul Ryan, Republican champion of governmental austerity and former Speaker of the House, a somewhat ironic fact given how solidly Democratic and pro-union the town has always been.

In the wake of the plant closing, the town's economy and lifestyle were devastated. Amy Goldstein skillfully and compassionately details the rising and pervasive unemployment, the lowering of standards of living of previously solidly middle-class families, to near the poverty line. School systems begin struggling, with students often going hungry and short on basic supplies, parents working two jobs just to try to get half of the income their union jobs had paid or driving four hours each way--generally staying away from home from Monday through Friday--to take jobs in still running plants. Goldstein also chronicles the efforts of local agencies to provide help in the form of job training and pro-active economic boosterism that tried to bring new corporations to town. In the midst of this came the election of Scott Walker-an avowed enemy of unions and government subsidies alike--as the state's governor. Soon the teachers' union was under attack from above, as well.

Goldstein's reporting method was, in addition to providing a comprehensive overview of events, to tell the town's story through the eyes of several families, people she clearly got to know well. In so doing, Goldstein was able to paint detailed portraits of the day to day lives and struggles of the people of Janesville during these extremely difficult years. She also chronicles, although not in great detail, the ways in which these events gradually created "two Janesvilles," as the interests of the still thriving upper class and the increasingly desperate middle and lower classes began to diverge more and more dramatically.

I feel strongly that this book is an extremely valuable resource for understanding the economic and cultural issues besetting so much of American society today.

Redigerat: jun 26, 2020, 12:03 am

I'm trying to get through The Panda's Thumb by Stephen Jay Gould. It's tough because of the style, but also because I know much of the info is out of date.

Redigerat: jun 26, 2020, 2:56 am

Working my way through After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC which is more entertaining than the title would make you think (and yes, as with any prehistory book, flakes, points and arrow heads are everywhere. :) )

jun 26, 2020, 8:29 am

>31 genesisdiem: I loved her movies.

jun 26, 2020, 9:26 am

>43 mnleona: I've been re-watching the TCM dvd collection. The book has a great photo section and so far reads like most Hollywood memoirs, in that not-so-great childhood, treated poorly by directors, hit on by older co-stars... but she seems well-adjusted regardless. Only halfway through.

The only thing I really learned was just how much she really just took over from Kellerman instead of being an original. But EW was supposed to have been the better actress. She also seems business smart to want to branch out so she had a safety net when the screen time career was over. I'm interested enough to finish.

It's an easy, fluffy read.

jun 26, 2020, 2:15 pm

Surviving Autocracy, by Masha Gessen (2020).
White Fragility, by Robin Di Angelo (2018).
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William L. Shirer (1960).
Yes, concurrently.

I think I need a nice cozy mystery.

jun 27, 2020, 2:39 pm

Your Movie Sucks
Roger Ebert
3.5/5 stars
Ebert reviews some of his most hated films with humor and disdain. I laughed through a majority of the remarks and it made me miss him and his reviews. Not for everyone but if you are a film buff you might enjoy it!