Posts filed under 'Non-Fiction'
I read a lot of nonfiction on a variety of topics. Some of these authors have caught my attention so much that I read nearly everything they write because I know that they create books that will interest and inform me and even as I’m learning, I’ll be captivated by the topic and the artful way it’s presented. My chosen writers include a variety of biographers, journalists, essayists, and historians. Here are some of the nonfiction authors I’ve found I can rely on:
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Have I missed your favorites? Which nonfiction writers do you rely on?
April 4th, 2011
Hillenbrand has written another impressive work of non-fiction (after Seabiscuit). Although the Unbroken was just published in November, 2010, Universal has already optioned the film rights.
Unbroken tells the story of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, beginning with his misspent youthful years of mischief and petty thievery in California. Louis had a big personality and a big way of doing everything he attempted. On the verge of being expelled from school, his older brother Pete championed Louis and convinced the principal to allow him to stay and participate in sports. Pete was a competitive runner and knew that Louis had even more talent than he. Pete, at only a few years older, was such a good mentor and coach that Louis became not only a hometown champion, but made his way onto the 1936 Olympic team, competing in Berlin.
The first part of Louis’ story is certainly book-worthy in itself, but it’s only the beginning. The real story begins as America enters the war and Louis enlists. The stories of Louis’ time while serving in the war are both chilling and gripping and include descriptions of raids during which his plane was shot no fewer than 500 times and still made it back to the airfield, his long time adrift on a raft after his plane was shot down, and his time of suffering in a variety of Japanese P.O.W. Camps. Then Hillenbrand takes us a step further into Louis’ life post-war when he finds himself struggling with his memories of war and unable to move forward until he is inspired to take on a task of redemption.
Hillenbrand brings an amazing story to light in her latest and it’s not to be missed by history or military buffs, sports fans, or anyone interested in reading about a truly inspirational life. There’s a reason this was dubbed “The Greatest Generation”.
Find Unbroken in our catalog.
January 22nd, 2011
If you’re a fan of the slew of ghost hunting shows out there in cable tv land, you’ll probably know about Ryan Buell. He started a paranormal investigation club at Penn State some years ago. At a conference, Ryan met a tv producer who was interested in doing a reality show based on the club’s experiences investigating haunted sites; giving birth to Paranormal State, a series on A&E.
Ryan takes us behind the scenes of several cases from the first season, telling us the things that didn’t make the cut, his developing insights into these cases, and a little more background on himself as well as other regular investigators on the team. If you’ve read Jason Hawe’s book Ghost Hunting, you’ll find Buell’s has a similar layout and feel. Recommended for fans.
You’ll find Paranormal State in our Browsing Horror collection.
December 15th, 2010
I’ve read many books on Custer beginning with Son of the Morning Star by Evan Connell (1984). Since then, there’s been a new book out every few years, and many of them break some fascinating new ground. A couple of years ago, Jim Donovan came out with A Terrible Glory and although it was apparent that Donovan did his research, his writing was so compelling that it read more like a novel than a history. This was a book that pulled a lot of pieces together and made forays into the lives and personalities of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Donovan’s book is a tough act to follow.
I admire Philbrick’s maritime books (In the Heart of the Sea, Sea of Glory) and learned extensively about the Mayflower in his 2006 book. Based on Philbrick’s previous books, I expected a lot from The Last Stand. In some ways, Philbrick delivered and in other ways, I was left wanting more. Philbrick does indeed do his homework and provides some little-known facts about Custer, Sitting Bull, and the battle, but it seems that any new ground Philbrick covers in his latest is rather trivial and while no one can dispute that Philbrick can write, I felt he sometimes got a little mired in all of the detail. Even so, fans of that historical era and of military strategy will find enjoyment in Philbrick’s latest.
Find The Last Stand in our catalog.
November 29th, 2010
This is a behind-the-scenes look at a zoo and the lives of the animals kept there. French discusses the conflict many zoo keepers feel and describes their efforts at conservation and enrichment activities even while feeling sorry for their charges, who ideally should be free. It’s the story of several animals in particular at Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. We learn the history of Herman the chimpanzee, Enshalla the Sumatran tiger, and the story of the elephants being brought to the zoo from Africa, amid a flurry of protests, to keep them from being euthanized.
French’s book is a clear-headed and balanced view of zoos and is recommended for those who enjoy nonfiction that reads like fiction and those interested in novels like Sara Gruen’s new Ape House.
Find Zoo Story in our catalog.
November 21st, 2010
If you’ve read Kitchen Confidential, you’ll have an idea of Bourdain’s subject matter. In his latest, Bourdain again speaks honestly about cooks and cooking, paying close attention to those considered the best in the field. This book is not another Kitchen Confidential though, Bourdain’s outlook and writing style have matured. This book shows us a humbler Bourdain who has come to understand what it takes to be truly great Chef even as he explains why he would not consider himself to be one. He takes on Top Chef, the politics of The Food Network, and explains how he metamorphosed from a chef to a cooking/travel show host who has come to have a great appreciation for the truly gifted chefs. Bourdain is funny, crass, honest, wonderfully descriptive, and has a few surprises up his sleeve for his readers. Recommended for his fans and for foodies.
Find My Bloody Valentine in our catalog.
August 29th, 2010
When author and artist Lucy Knisley was turning 22, she and her mother took a month-long vacation to Paris, living in a rented apartment, eating at cafes, shopping, and generally exploring the city and doing the things that Americans in Paris do. This graphic novel travelogue recounts the trip and Lucy’s feelings about her experience. A young woman at the time, she had a young woman’s concerns—college, boyfriend, future, evolving relationships with parents—but also an artist’s background, sensibilities, and eye for detail and layers of meaning. Her drawings from the trip range from simple and cartoonish to far more detailed and nuanced, and are interspersed with black and white photographs. A travel journal first and foremost, “French Milk” will surely make the reader long for croissants and café au lait in the city of lights.
Find French Milk in our catalog.
August 21st, 2010
When Roger and Ginny Rosenblatt’s daughter Amy died suddenly at the age of 38, they didn’t hesitate to move in with their son-in-law and three young grandchildren. They did this although they lived hours away, had careers hours away, had friends hours away, and lived in their dream house hours away. What the Rosenblatts knew was that their son-in-law was capable, successful, and a good parent. What they found out was that it would take the three of them to help fill the emptiness left by Amy’s death.
In this moving memoir told in a series of vignettes, Rosenblatt writes of their grief, their efforts to help raise the children as Amy would have done, their missteps, their small successes, and of the love they have for their family and friends who provided significant support and encouragement. This is a touching memoir that comes across not only as a tale of grief, but also as a story of love.
Find Making Toast in our catalog
May 31st, 2010
For years, there have been reports of explorers, who when alone and in dire straits, found the determination to continue on through the presence of an unknown, unseen person who has followed along, given guidance, or helped to alleviate the isolation. Ernest Shackleton reported such an encounter when forced on a grueling hike to save his crew, as did Frank Smythe, on his 1930’s attempt on Mt. Everest. T.S. Eliot mentioned the phenomenon in his poem “The Waste Land”, after reading Shackleton’s account. This is not just a historical phenomenon, though, since the last survivor to leave the World Trade Center on 9/11 reported something similar.
Geiger gathers these documented reports and explores the possibility that it is the result of psychological stress, hallucination, extreme physical deprivation, ghosts, or some sort of divine or angelic intervention. For those interested in stories of exploration, this adds an interesting dimension to the existing narratives. Regardless of what you believe to be the cause of the phenomenon, Geiger has written a book that’s difficult to put down.
Find The Third Man Factor in our catalog
May 29th, 2010
Small, an award-winning childrens book illustrator, here puts his artistic talents to use in this graphic novel depiction of the story of his own childhood. His father was an emotionally stilted radiologist who bombarded the sickly David with “healing” x-rays in his youth. His mother was a frigid, unhappy closeted lesbian who never showed her children any love. His grandmother was cranky, judgmental, and quite possibly crazy. Growing up in this deeply dysfunctional household, art was David’s only real refuge…especially after the operation at age 14 to remove a growth from David’s neck. The operation, supposedly routine, left David with only half of his vocal cords and functionally mute for years. Later, David discovered the reason: the “growth” on his neck was actually cancer caused by his father’s supposed “treatments” of radiation, but the cancer had been kept secret from him at the time. Bitter, angry, and depressed, it took a caring psychiatrist and a surprisingly simple truth to allow David to move on. The black-and-white artwork accompanying the story is evocative, perceptive, and, at times, almost hallucinatory as they depict the imagination of a young boy attempting to make sense of situations beyond his easy comprehension. Many segments are entirely wordless, with the images alone ably carrying the weight of the plot. Compelling, powerful, and, in the end, cathartic.
Find Stitches in our catalog.
February 24th, 2010
Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour is a most entertaining book by David Bianculli. When Tom and Dick Smothers were given their own variety show in 1967, no one expected the clean-cut folksinging satirists to rock the boat. But “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” was a radical departure from the conventional TV variety show. This was not your parents’ “The Ed Sullivan Show.” This was the Who smashing their instruments, Pete Singer courting censorship with an antiwar song, ensemble member Leigh French’s drug humor going one joke over the line, and a deadpan, hangdog comedian named Pat Paulson running a mock campaign for president.
It may all seem tame now, but baby boomers especially who tuned in and turned on to “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour will welcome this definitive history of this groundbreaking show that paved the way for “Saturday Night Live.” Bianculli interviewed all the principals in front of and behind the camera, as well as the network executives and censors who canceled the series in its prime. There are revelations and juicy insider scoop galore. Did you ever wonder why Red Skelton seemed to laugh at all his own jokes? Dick Smothers has a surprising answer!
Find Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in our catalog.
February 1st, 2010
Most of us would be happy to flee a childhood spent consuming “shame-based” food like borsht while clad in second-hand polyester. So it comes, at first, as a surprise that professor Rhoda Janzen decides to return to the Mennonite community in which she was raised. A string of personal disasters including a failed marriage and major car accident prompt Janzen’s journey home. Once there she begins to examine her childhood, Mennonite heritage, troubled recent past, and prospects for the future.
Sections of the book are laugh-out-loud funny as Janzen turns her keen observational skills, wit, and sharp ear for dialogue on her warm-hearted but eccentric family. Her debates with her mother on the relative merits of dating her first cousin (on the plus side he owns a tractor; then again, it’s illegal in most states) give way to more serious soul-searching about her relationship with her husband.
Janzen describes her troubled marriage and her bipolar husband’s volatile personality with unflinching honesty. She assesses the ways in which her religious upbringing predisposed her to tolerate bad behavior without protest and created a split life in which professional confidence and success coexisted with private weakness and indecisiveness. Ever able to embrace her own inner Geek, Janzen charms with her self-deprecating humor and ultimate-self-acceptance. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is poignant, readable memoir.
Find Mennonite in a Little Black Dress in our catalog.
January 8th, 2010