November/December Non-fiction Reads

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November/December Non-fiction Reads

nov 2, 2021, 1:04 am

What are you reading?

nov 3, 2021, 2:49 am

Still reading the Master and his Emissary which is definitely my favorite book read this year (even when I'm probably not finishing before the year is over). It just keeps finding and articulating points that I somehow knew but I couldn't quite put my finger on until now.

Also reading Son Rise. I found Happiness is a Choice in a second hand shop and got that as it is required reading for part four of a course I'm doing this spring. I read a few chapters, then I decided I wanted to read Son Rise first, which is the required reading for part three of the course. I think I read a summary of it when it was still new, which was probably the first time I learned there was something like autism. Now I'm reading it to better help those in my family with autism.

nov 5, 2021, 11:12 am

The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
Malcolm Gladwell
4/5 stars
Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors and this book, though short, is a fascinating look at the "Bomber Mafia", strategists who during WWII debated precision bombing - targeting critical infrastructure instead of randomly bombing areas.

nov 8, 2021, 7:02 pm

Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave by Deanne Stillman

The location prompted my interest. One summer, in the late 1970s, I traveled to the Marine Corps base just north of Twentynine Palms, California, for a roofing job. Scorching place for that kind of work. We weren’t at the base long before an MP was letting us know we’d best have our heads on straight if we didn’t want to be arrested. A week or so earlier, we learned, thieves had entered the building through a hatch in the roof and made off with way too much loot. Those MPs must have been feeling pressured.

Stillman writes about lives afflicted by poverty, questionable decisions, and the violence done by men against women. It is a depressing, unsettling chronicle that captures grief and provokes distress.

nov 10, 2021, 2:29 pm

Ava Gardner: The Secret Conversations
Peter Evans
4/5 stars
Peter Evans interviews Ava Gardener about her life before Hollywood, her movie career and the famous men she loved including Frank Sinatra, Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Howard Hughes. Ava wasn't sure she wanted the book published and stopped the interviews but it was eventually published after her death.

nov 12, 2021, 10:50 am

I recently finished Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision by Barbara Ransby.

This is an excellent biography of a fascinating woman, Ella Baker, an essential and vastly underappreciated figure of the American Civil Rights Movement. (That is, "underappreciated" to Americans in general, not to scholars of the movement or to folks knowledgeable about African American history.) Baker began her work fighting for the equal rights for all in the Harlem of the 1930s. Over the next four decades, Baker worked both within the NAACP and in Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Baker was a moving force in the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) despite the fact that she was considerably older than the organization's other founders.

nov 15, 2021, 11:54 am

On Animals
Susan Orlean
4/5 stars
Susan Orlean is one of my favorite authors and this book containing interesting short non-fiction accounts about animals doesn't disappoint. One of the most interesting stories was about the orca whale Willy, who lived in a park in a very small tank while people rallied to have him freed but she also expounds on the real life stories involving coyotes, cats, pet tigers and other animals. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

nov 18, 2021, 1:05 pm

The Devil's Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler’s Limousine in America
Robert Klara
4/5 stars
This non-fiction book revolves around two of the cars that Mercedes-Benz built for Hitler and his staff and the mystery of what happened to the car that Hitler used. The story starts when an American soldier captures one of Hitler’s cars at the end of the war and finagles his way on to a ship back to the USA with the car. After that, things get murky, the soldier believes it was Hitler’s personal car and others thought it was Himmler’s and it took years before the mystery was solved. This was quite interesting!

nov 18, 2021, 1:30 pm

I finished the beautifully written book, Braiding Sweetgrass. It uses the metaphors of the stories of indigenous peoples, and the workings of nature to illustrate the error of viewing the earth as a resource rather than a gift to which we need to reciprocate. It tries to be hopeful and positive but upon reading it, it often feels too late and hopeless. By robbing the earth we've expanded the human population such that I fear returning to a caring approach to the earth can not sustain the population.

nov 18, 2021, 2:47 pm

I'm reading Because Internet and finding it a bit drier than I expected. I have enjoyed several contemporary books about linguistics, and I hope that this picks up.

nov 18, 2021, 5:17 pm

working thru Early History of the Spread of Buddhism & the Buddhist Schools

rly amazing attention to detail, esp on the gradual contextual development of the vinaya; the discussion dovetails excellently w/ the authors discussion of early sectarianism in the sangha. excellent read overall

also recently did Han Feizi and the Arthashastra; its amazing how much u can glean abt the fine details of social life from a discussion of law and policing

nov 21, 2021, 12:24 am

>10 snash: Love this book. I have yet to finish it because I read it in bits and pieces and need a long time to process how wonderful it is.

nov 21, 2021, 9:49 am

I finished the collection of essays, Sidewalks. The musings and thoughts provoked by travels and locations were thought provoking and delightful, more morose than joyous but always honest.

>13 eo206: I read it straight through but often thought as I did so that the slower approach might be advisable.

nov 21, 2021, 12:29 pm

Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy
Leslie Brody
3.5/5 stars
This is an in-depth look at the life and times of Louise Fitzhugh, author of Harriet The Spy. I remember reading her famous book as a child and enjoying it, never knowing any of her background until I read this book. Very interesting!

nov 25, 2021, 10:26 am

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Trevor Noah
4/5 stars
Trevor Noah talks about his life with his mother and family living in South
Africa as a child and the tribulation that living as a child of mixed parentage caused because it was crime at that time. I could not put this book down. Noah does a great job writing about his life.

nov 25, 2021, 11:27 am

Am stuck in Educated by Tara Westover. Stuck because her asshole brother just keeps beating the crap out of her and no one cares, including Tara. The sheer level of stupidity and willful blindness is staggering and so maddening that I don't know if I'll finish.

nov 26, 2021, 3:18 am

>17 Bookmarque: Continue! It is frustrating!

nov 26, 2021, 11:13 am

>17 Bookmarque: Keep going - it gets better!

nov 26, 2021, 11:35 am

>17 Bookmarque:. The frustration never completely resolved for me. I think that Tara Westover is an unreliable narrator. I have seen her interviewed on some Youtube videos, and despite her brilliance, her view still seems clouded by her patriarchal and religious upbringing.

nov 26, 2021, 10:28 pm

A Very Punchable Face
Colin Jost
4/5 stars
Colin Jost has been a member of Saturday Night Live since 2005 in which he has written skits, acted on the show and has been the Weekend Update co-anchor. He grew up on Staten Island and in this book, he goes over his life and career at SNL. If you are a fan of SNL, you will definitely enjoy this book!

nov 30, 2021, 10:41 pm

I have finished my read of Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World with considerable pleasure, and I've posted my review. Progressing incrementally on the line of history, I've now taken up Occult Paris: The Lost Magic of the Belle Époque.

dec 1, 2021, 7:13 pm

Easy Crafts for the Insane: A Mostly Funny Memoir of Mental Illness and Making Things
Kelly Williams Brown
3.5/5 stars
Brown talks about her life when everything is falling apart, her marriage breaks up and she is trying to move forward. One of things that helps her is crafting and you will find craft projects in-between the chapters about her life. The memoir was well written and interesting but as for the crafts projects, I just scanned them.

dec 4, 2021, 1:55 pm

I read L'Amore Dei Tre Re (The Love of Three Kings) In continuing with researching/reading/listening to some of the great operas, I stumbled upon a bilingual copy of this (English/Italian) at a Friends of the Library sale for just $1! It's dated 1950 and smells musty. It's going away now that I've read it. (have been keeping in bag away from other books). This opera was based on a poem by the same name written by Sem Benelli. If was first performed at La Scala in 1913. It is the story of the invasion of Altura by barbarians and those they loved or hated and visa versa. I listened to this on YouTube in English. The sound track was magnificent and tragic! The libretto was 68 pages in length.

dec 5, 2021, 12:16 am

I'm about halfway through Dara Horn's new book People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present. I am finding the essays interesting and in a lot of ways resonant with my own experience.

I have been discomfited and disturbed by many of the topics that Horn addresses in this book for a long time now, and Horn unpacks and articulates what is so disturbing about them in a way that I had not been able to.

I still have about half the book to go, but I can already say confidently that I would recommend this book unreservedly.

dec 6, 2021, 4:10 pm

dec 8, 2021, 1:22 am

I completed Camping with the Communists by Karen Gilden which is the story of her family's 1977 6 month trip through the USSR in a VW van. 224 pages good stuff!

dec 9, 2021, 12:22 pm

Fan Fiction: A Mem-Noir: Inspired by True Events
Brent Spiner
3.5/5 stars
This is a semi- non-fictional story about the time Brent Spiner who played Data on Star Trek: The Next Generation had a stalker. I enjoyed it and am a fan of Star Trek. I am not sure of those not familiar with the series would enjoy it.

dec 13, 2021, 12:00 pm

Almost Interesting
David Spade
4/5 stars
Actor David Spade talks about his life and career in Hollywood. He also talks about Saturday Night Live and the hoops that the actors go through to get to perform on the show. I thought this was a funny and interesting read.

dec 14, 2021, 5:25 pm

I finished Earth System History. I didn't have the most up to date version but surely lots of information that I didn't know. Read in small bits over 4 months. Did not assimilate all of it and won't remember much that I did, but I did gain a general idea of the earth and the life upon it and how they impact each other.

dec 18, 2021, 1:03 pm

A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries 2003-2020
David Sedaris
4.5/5 stars
This book contains excerpts from his diaries from 2003-2020. I really enjoy his humor and was sorry when I finished his book.

dec 19, 2021, 3:43 pm

Brat: An '80s Story
Andrew McCarthy
4/5 stars
Andrew McCarthy talks about his start in Hollywood and the roles he played in the 1980's. I enjoyed it.

dec 19, 2021, 4:02 pm

I finished In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu. Landrieu was finishing up his second term as Mayor of New Orleans when he published this memoir in 2018. Landrieu was the mayor who made the very fraught decision to remove four Jim Crow Era statues from public spaces in the city, an obelisk called the Liberty Place Monument commemorating an 1874 riot by White supremacists against the city government, and statues of Confederate figures Jefferson Davis, P.T. Beauregard and, most famously, Robert E. Lee. In this book's beginning and ending, Landrieu provides an account of the vociferous, increasingly nasty and sometimes violent fights around the decision, and Landrieu's reasons for taking the political risk to make that call. What we also get in the interim is a political and family memoir by Landrieu, and an account of his terms in the Louisiana legislature, as lieutenant governor of the state, and as mayor for two terms, all tied in with Landrieu's growing consciousness of the power and debilitating effects of systemic racism.

Redigerat: dec 24, 2021, 12:08 am

dec 24, 2021, 2:02 am

I recently completed a rewarding read of Occult Paris (and posted my review). Now I'm one essay into brief notes on the art and manner of arranging one's books.

dec 24, 2021, 3:47 pm

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story
Debbie Tung
4/5 stars
This is a graphic novel about Debbie, an introvert who has to navigate social scenes with intrepidation but she doesn't want to be the shy girl. I thought this was very well done. Semi-autobiographical.

dec 25, 2021, 11:46 am

>1 Tess_W: Thanks for recommending The Master and His Emissary. I just finished it and found it to be a very thought provoking view of the workings of the human brain. He uses neuroscience, philosophy, and art to ascribe differing ways of looking at the world to the two hemispheres of the brain and then to view the progression of Western thought from this perspective. His thesis is that modern Western society has been absconded by the left brain. My primary difficulty with the book was that in making his point he seemed to repeat himself many times.

dec 26, 2021, 10:53 am

The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Robert M. Edsel
4/5 stars
I had seen the film based on the book years ago and enjoyed it but the book is so much better and interesting than the film as the author follows the men and women as they search for the hidden treasures stolen by Hitler's men during and after the last months of WWII.

dec 27, 2021, 3:17 am

>37 snash: Good to hear you liked The Master and his Emissary.
I don't mind the repeating; it's like islands of rest in a sea of information that also gets navigated differently than I was used to. Places to take a deep breath and return to the bigger picture for a moment.

dec 27, 2021, 8:47 am

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. This was one of the best books that I read all year. It is an account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, centering on three or four Provisional IRA members and their possible involvement in the abduction and murder of the mother of 10. The author also exposes the ill conceived and executed oral history project about the Troubles at Boston College.

dec 28, 2021, 3:27 pm

I finished Now We Are Enemies: The Story of Bunker Hill by Thomas J. Fleming. First published in 1960, this history of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major battle of the American Revolution, was evidently hailed as a major success at the time, and I can see why. Fleming did a great job of laying out the contributing factors to the growing points of contention between England and the American colonies, both political and economic, as well as giving thumbnail sketches of the major players on both the English and American sides. The conditions the combatants fought under, the weapons they carried and their motivations for fighting are all clearly described as well, as are the tactics of the officers and the ways in which those tactics either worked or didn't. The battle itself is described in detail, with a flowing narrative style that puts the reader directly into the horrific, bloody action. At times Fleming took some liberties, creating conversations between the participants that are, he explains in his afterward, recreations from the many diaries and journals he consulted.

On the American side, most of the soldiers who actually took part fought bravely indeed, but many of those assembled, intimidated by the British artillery, actually stayed well away from the battle. Fleming gives a lot of credit, also, to the courage of the British soldiers, who three times charged the American emplacements in the face of point-blank musket fire. The British after that third charge, managed to get the Colonials out of their emplacements and off the hill (actually Breed's Hill, not Bunker Hill itself, as Fleming explains), but at a cost so high that they the British generals had to abandon their plans to try to break the American siege of Boston, the reason they attacked the stronghold in the first place. The British lost half their army, killed or wounded, on that day, and the question of whether American volunteer soldiers would stand and fight against the British regulars, an army considered at that time the best in the world, was settled emphatically.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the history of the American Revolution or of military history in general.

dec 30, 2021, 3:56 am

Three Tigers, One Mountain by Michael Booth is the history, conflicts, ethnography, travelogue, paleontology of China, Japan, and Korea, for the most part. This is a monumental task and imho overly ambitious. I was overwhelmed.