Nonfiction

Resources for Veterans, Military Members and Their Families

Once a warrior, always a warrior : navigating the transition from combat to home

For many of us Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.  Pools and amusement parks open to a regular schedule, children bring out their water toys, picnics are planned, and moms start dreading the increased loads of laundry.

Amidst all this excitement, we should always pause and take a few moments to honor the service members who have served and given their lives for this country. 

One way to honor these brave men and women is to provide resources that can assist their family members and also all the surviving veterans and military members.

Conquest of the Useless by Werner Herzog

Conquest of the Useless by Werner Herzog

"We have no dinosaur, it says on a hand-lettered sign outside a farm that puts on rattlesnake rodeos."

                                                                                                                                                                             --Werner Herzog

To find pleasure in  Conquest of the Useless, you must have at least a passing familiarity with the filmmaker Werner Herzog. Herzog has been writing and directing films for five decades, but only a few of his movies have broken into the American mainstream. The most well known here are the documentary Grizzly Man and the Vietnam War film Rescue Dawn (starring Christian Bale).

Each of Herzog's works oozes with a mood of effortless intensity, as if he has summoned the stress and obsessions of humanity like moths to a flame. Whether it's Timothy Treadwell (Grizzly Man's protagonist, who lived with and was inevitably eaten by bears) or Nosferatu (from Herzog's 1979 remake), the director is singular in his subjects' driven focus on their goals and desire, no matter how self-destructive they may be.

Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette

Debt-Free U book cover image

If there was one thing that people across the country could agree on right now, it would be the ridiculously high cost of today’s college education. Most parents assume that student loans are a fact of life, and most students assume that student loan debt is a necessary and even positive thing. If you want to get a good job, it’s commonly thought that going to a good college (chosen in part by U.S. News and World Report rankings) and getting a good name on your diploma simply costs money and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Enter Zac Bissonnette. Twenty-one, college student, and an art history major. So what knowledge does he have that the rest of us--and many other experts--do not? Well, as the subtitle of Debt-Free U suggests, Zac paid for his college education, “without loans, scholarships, or mooching off [his] parents.” And you can, too. Because, as it turns out, Zac might know what he’s talking about. He is a writer and editor with AOL Money & Finance, has written for the Boston Globe, appeared on CNN, and has the financial savvy and banking portfolio of someone several times his age.

Soul Searching

Soul Searching

Some people find faith in a blinding flash, like Saul/Paul on the road to Damascus.  For others, this can be a lifelong journey.  Share the various roads followed (and destinations found!) on the these spiritual journeys of finding and losing faith, returning to church, searching for meaning or experiencing profound spirituality outside of organized religion in the updated booklist "Soul Searching."

Neither Wolf Nor Dog: On Forgotten Roads with an Indian Elder by Kent Nerburn

Neither Wolf Nor Dog Cover

Sometimes a book tells a wonderfully enchanting story. Sometimes it is nonfiction and conveys information. There are a few books that are able to do both. Out of those few books that do both, there are a handful that can really cause you to question the reality that you have known as truth. Neither Wolf, Nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, is one of those special books. 

Nerburn’s book is a true story. When he was a young anthropologist who specialized in Native Americans, he was invited to meet with an Indian Elder in order to write down his thoughts and memories. After Nerburn accepts the challenge, he and Dan, the Lakota elder, begin to go across the Black Hills on a spiritual journey that is both mystical and enlightening.

If you like The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

The World Is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas L. Friedman is a wonderful look at the world. Here are a few titles, which you may enjoy, that deal with global business, the world, and its future.
 

Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” by Samuel P. Huntington
Huntington here extends the provocative thesis he laid out in a recent (and influential) Foreign Affairs essay: we should view the world not as bipolar, or as a collection of states, but as a set of seven or eight cultural "civilizations"?one in the West, several outside it?fated to link and conflict in terms of that civilizational identity. Thus, in sweeping but dry style, he makes several vital points: modernization does not mean Westernization; economic progress has come with a revival of religion; post-Cold War politics emphasize ethnic nationalism over ideology; the lack of leading "core states" hampers the growth of Latin America and the world of Islam. Most controversial will be Huntington's tough-minded view of Islam. Not only does he point out that Muslim countries are involved in far more intergroup violence than others, he argues that the West should worry not about Islamic fundamentalism but about Islam itself, "a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power. From Publisher’s Weekly
 

The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What it Means for All of Us” by Robyn Meredith
Meredith, a foreign correspondent, describes the global power shift occurring in India and in China as computers continue to change the way business is conducted. The U.S. and Europe have lost both low- and high-paying jobs to these countries, and there are other factors at play, such as the unquenchable global thirst for oil and massive environmental issues. ]his is a complicated story because as jobs are lost, cheap goods are being imported and sold at low prices to American consumers, and some retailers' stock prices are rising, to the benefit of workers' 401K accounts. The author notes, "In this decade, a dear pattern emerged: China became factory to the world, the United States became buyer to the world, and India began to become back office to the world." In this thought-provoking and well-researched book, the author advises that the U.S. must strengthen its education system, promote innovation, forget about protectionism or unfettered free markets, and focus on creating jobs. From Booklist
 

Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love by Larry Levin

Oogy, the Dog Only a Family Could Love

Sometimes you find a book that reflects your own life so much that you just have to get it and read it. That is the case with this book. Oogy was a 10-week-old puppy who was used as a bait dog in dog fighting and then left in an abandoned house to die. They think that approximately a week later police received a tip about recent dog fighting in the house and discovered Oogy lying inside. His ear was ripped off, part of his head was torn away and his jaw was broken. Instead of taking him to the county pound which would result in the puppy being euthanized, the police took him to the Ardmore Animal Hospital. There, a courageous woman who worked for the veterinarian fought to save him and inspired the whole staff of the animal hospital to keep Oogy alive.

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon

Chemistry appears to be the coldest, most sterile field of science, breaking down all the values that we as humans hold most dear. When we look close enough, these basic drives of ours, love, money, entertainment, courage, are just the combinations of different elements. Thanks chemistry, for sucking the fun out of the party.

But Sam Kean’s new book, The Disappearing Spoon, manages to take the history of the periodic table of elements, that impenetrable fortress from your high school chemistry class, and relate some of the most amazing, unbelievable, hilarious stories that have ever existed.

Almost episodic in nature, the crux of each story is often how a particular element was discovered, and then how humankind has chosen to put it to use. Sometimes it is for public welfare (copper is used on doorknobs and stair railings because most bacteria that land on it die with in a matter of hours), other times for warfare (high demand for the metals used to construct cell phones have contributed to five million deaths in war-torn central Africa since the mid-90’s).

I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil

I Slept With Joey Ramone

How’s that for a title that gets your attention? No, this isn’t one of those glamorous, tell-all, rock star groupie memoirs. In fact, I cannot imagine any of the members of the punk rock pioneers, the Ramones, even using the word “glamorous” in a sentence…except perhaps to describe a pizza.

I Slept with Joey Ramone is the affectionate account of lead singer Joey Ramone’s complicated relationship with his kid brother Mickey, who also wrote and played music, but lived in Joey’s shadow.

The sections relating the brothers’ childhood in Queens were especially informative, and had the same sense of deep camaraderie that I loved in Frank McCourt’s first memoir Angela’s Ashes, with just a couple of brothers looking out for each other in the big bad city. You learn about their fascination and burgeoning love of rock music, thanks to the Beatles and Phil Spector’s wall of sound.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Alternating from biography to science, Rebecca Skloot in writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks avoids sentimentality and making judgments.

Skloot, a science journalist, tells the story of Henrietta and her DNA.  The subject was born Loretta Pleasant—nobody knows how her name became Henrietta—Lacks, in a family known to marry their first cousins in the now-razed town of slave cabins and tobacco farms named Clover near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her first cousin, David ‘Day’ Lacks, moved to Baltimore to work in a plant riddled with asbestos.  Her husband's  unfaithfulness gave her both neurosyphilis and gonorrhea. Her environment, poverty and lack of education made her the tragic heroine of a great scientific experiment. Henrietta Lack's deadly cervical cancer cells—taken without her consent—were the first to be grown and then thrive in a lab. HeLa cells, still growing today sixty years after her death, would weigh in total more than 50 metric tons.