Nonfiction

05/04/2011 - 2:29pm
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."

04/06/2011 - 3:31am
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.

03/18/2011 - 9:16am
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
 

07/06/2011 - 10:33am
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.

03/08/2011 - 3:31am
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).

02/09/2011 - 3:30am
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.

01/18/2011 - 9:29am
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.

12/20/2010 - 1:58pm

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson is about: "Isaac Cline was one of the era's new men, a scientist who believed he knew all there was to know about the motion of clouds and the behavior of storms. The idea that a hurricane could damage the city of Galveston, Texas, where he was based was to him preposterous. It is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets nature's last uncontrollable force, based on Cline's own letters, telegrams, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the hows and whys of great storms."

If you liked "Isaac's Storm" by Erik Larson, you may enjoy these books:

The Great Hurricane: 1938
by Cherie Burns
"On the night of September 21, 1938, news on the radio was full of the invasion of Czechoslovakia. There was no mention of severe weather. By the time oceanfront residents noticed an ominous yellow color in the sky, it was too late. In a matter of hours, a massive hurricane of unprecedented force ripped its way from Long Island to Providence, obliterating coastal communities, destroying whole commercial fishing fleets from Montauk to Narragansett Bay, and killing seven hundred people. Early that morning, old-salt fishermen heading out on calm seas noticed a sudden drop in the barometer, which made some turn back.
          Hurling toward them at a record speed was a powerful hurricane--the big cat stalking the coast was ready to strike. It struck Long Island with the tide at an all-time high under a full, equinox moon. The sea rose out of its shores like a demon, with catastrophic waves surging over fifty feet. Winds whipped up to 186 miles per hour, trashing boats and smashing homes from Long Island to Connecticut and Rhode Island. Most victims never knew what hit them. Flowing through "The Great Hurricane: 1938 are personal stories of those like the Moore family who were sucked to sea clinging to a raft formerly their attic floor. Like "The Perfect Storm, Burns's masterful storytelling follows the storm's punishing path in a seamless and suspenseful narrative, preserving for posterity the legendary story of the Great Hurricane."--catalog summary

In the Land of White Death: an Epic Story of Survival in the Siberian Arctic by Valerian Albanov
"...this is "one helluva read" ("Newsweek") and a chilling first-person account of extreme survival in the Siberian Arctic, rediscovered by Jon Krakauer and David Roberts. "Vivid . . . [a work of] terrifying beauty."--"The Boston Globe.""--catalog summary

12/15/2010 - 10:49am

 “This I Believe offers a simple, if difficult invitation: write a few hundred words expressing the core principles that guide your life - your personal credo. We issue that invitation to politicians, nurses, artists, construction workers, athletes, parents, students, the famous, and the unknown, everyone. All the essayists in this book accepted invitations.” –Jay Allison

From 1951-1955, The CBS Radio Network aired This I Believe, a five-minute program in which people from all walks of life, the famous and not-so-famous, read their responses to the question “What do you believe?”. From 2005-2009, NPR revived the idea with a similar broadcast, and subsequently published two volumes of "This I Believe" essays. In August of this year, my professor for English 307: The Writing Process gave us an assignment to write a This I Believe essay. We were given copies of the book’s Appendix B: “How to write your own This I Believe essay” and sample essays to read and give us an idea of the format, tone and length. It was a mind-opening assignment, let me tell you. 

11/09/2010 - 3:31am

The subtitle of A Brave Vessel by Hobson Woodward says it all: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. The voyage of the Sea Venture, May to July, 1609, featured an encounter with a perfect storm that flung the little boat ashore on the island of Bermuda instead of its intended destination, the fledgling colony at Jamestown.

The author is a credible historian (the text is fleshed out with ample notes and an extensive bibliography) with a novelist's skill at telling a story enlived with fleshed out characters, dramatic  tension, and pacing that make it a true page turner. One of the Sea Venture's passengers was William Strachey, a writer whose extensive chronicle of the castaways' experiences of the desert island was widely circulated on his successful return to England and clearly was familiar to Shakespeare who apparently wrote his play while the news was still fresh.

Who were these people?  How did they survive?  How did they hand build a boat capable of getting them up to Jamestown and what did they find when they arrived?  What elements did Shakespeare incorporate into his play?  Fascinating reading, with an amazing finish.

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