The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part I: Prizewinners (and Nominees!) in January
This topic was continued by The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part II: Science & Technology; Innovation & Innovators in February.
Join LibraryThing to post.
We're baaack!!! Yes, it's another year for the LT 75ers non-fiction "challenge"... I use the word challenge advisedly, because I prefer not to think of it as a competitive activity, but more of a forum where we can share ideas and reading experiences around monthly reading themes. So, the goal is less about figuring out who can read the largest number of books or whether or not the book you desperately want to read "qualifies" (remember, you can still read it!! and write about it on your thread and perhaps come back and tell us about it at a later time...) but about challenging ourselves to read more widely than perhaps we otherwise might, and to read (perhaps) at least one non-fiction tome a month. And also to discuss what we like and don't like about what it is that we read, so we can (ideally) get some lively debate going and start lobbing book bullets at each other (as well as warning each other what to avoid...)
So if you enjoy non-fiction, this is a fun place to hang out, even if you just want to pick up ideas about what you could read down the road. We're kicking off in January reading books that have won some kind of literary award or those that have been runners-up for this kind of honor -- whether it's a major prize like the Pulitzer or Baillie Gifford or something lesser known. (I think the beer brewing industry in the UK offers a prize, for instance?) Just remember -- it must be non-fiction. That's all. (It sounds simple, but there have been one or two slipups, so...)
While we'll move on to a new theme in February, and hopefully will have 150 posts here to make that transition seamless, I'd love it if the January discussion thread could stay alive as long as people are still reading these books and want to keep chatting about them. In other words, while each month will see the launch of a new thread, if we end up with 12 live threads buzzing with chat by December, I would be very content. There's no reason at all why someone should feel under pressure to wrap up their book by the end of January. Just keep reading, and keep chatting. Maybe someone else will pick up some of the new crop of nominees and join you, too...
If you have any questions, post them below, or shoot me a PM. (The latter is sometimes likely to get a faster response...)
And here's to a new year of happy reading!
The year to come:
Here are the treats in store for you for the rest of the year.
February: Science and Technology: Innovations and Innovators. Who's leading the breakthroughs in biotech and nanotech? What are the big issues that we're facing in cybersecurity? (I confess I timed this to coincide with the publication of "Zucked" by a friend of mine, Roger McNamee, an early backer of/investor in Facebook, turned critic.
March: True Crime, Misdemeanors and Justice, Past and Present Day: Wanna read about Nixon and Watergate? Or the poisons scandal of Louis XIV's court in 17th century France? The development of criminology? Books like The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher or David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon all count. Or a bio of Thurgood Marshall, or others who worked or still work to correct injustices.
April: Comfort Reads: Whatever topic makes you feel warm & fuzzy inside. Animals? Cooking? What brings you joy? Music? Long walks? This could cross a number of more traditional challenge categories, and maybe will give us insight into each other...
May: History. In this case, my cutoff date is 1950. A bit arbitrary, but after the end of World War II and after the Berlin Airlift, the birth of the Marshall Plan and the start of the Cold War.
June: The Pictures Have It! Any book that relies on pictures to tell the story, from an illustrated graphic text, to a book of photographs, to an art catalog.
July: Biography & First Person Yarns
*August: Raw Materials: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
So, read a book that starts with animals, vegetables or minerals at its heart. You could read about the human animal -- medical science, how we die. How farm animals are treated. You could read about how we eat and cook (animal & vegetable.) You could read about how the world's natural resources are being developed -- or exploited (the oil industry?) and their impact on the environment (mineral AND vegetable.)
*September: Books by Journalists
As suggested by a member of this group! On ANY topic -- just check to be sure that the author is a journalist -- employed by a paper, writing freelance, past or present.
*October: Other Worlds: From Spiritual to Fantastical
Want to read about heaven (Christian version, Muslim version, etc.) and how to get there? Or reincarnation, Buddhist style? Or simply fantastical other world? (There's a new book either just out or coming soon that is a history of the science fiction novelists who really helped pioneer the genre in the mid-20th century, for instance.) If you find a book that writes about how the future will look -- plagues, environmental catastrophe, the impact of robotics -- that would fit, too. Think "other worlds" that aren't like the one we inhabit and take for granted. I'd even accept dramatically different variants on reality, like living through the Holocaust, under Pol Pot in Cambodia, or in a war zone or as a refugee or illegal immigrant.
November: Creators and Creativity
We've done this one before. Anyone who creates stuff -- preferably arts, since there's an earlier category dedicated to scientific and technological innovation. Dance; music; writing; painting; photography, etc. etc. The act of creation; controversies that ensue; collectors of art, patrons of art, what does creativity mean? (I think Nicholas Delbanco has written on this), etc.
December: I’ve Always Been Curious About…
A wide open category, pretty much. Your favorite category isn't here? Well, find a way to squeeze a book about it into December. Bummed that there isn't a category about the great outdoors? Well, read a book, and say you've always been curious about hiking the Pacific Coast trail, for instance. Or sailing. As long as you can complete the sentence with the topic of the book, you're good to go.
*a new topic for this challenge.
Ideas: Titles and lists of prize winners and nominees.
(With some themes, I'll include lists of ideas for fiction that can be read alongside the month's non-fiction titles, but with a "go anywhere" kind of theme like this, I won't -- it could be utterly open-ended. If people reading a particular title want to note a novel related to their specific non-fiction book, eg Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel if they are reading a bio of Thomas Cromwell nominated for an award, then that's fine. But there won't be a master list, and I'd ask participants to respect this, as it's a non-fiction thread.)
U.S. National Book Awards
Baillie Gifford Prize, formerly Samuel Johnson Prize
An Odyssey: A Father, a Son and An Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn; The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre; Negroland by Margo Jefferson
Pulitzer Prizes -- general nonfiction
Random titles: An American Abroad in a Post-American World by Suzy Hansen; Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.
PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award
Wellcome Book Prize -- mixed fiction/nonfiction
The Orwell Prize -- 2017 longlist -- includes some fiction
Recent nominees include What You Did Not Tell by Mark Mazower and Islamic Enlightenment by Christophe de Bellaigue
Andrew Carnegie Medals of Excellence (this is the longlist for 2019)
Educated by Tara Westover; The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú, The Poisoned City by Anna Clark (about Flint, Mich.), The Feather Thief by Kirk Johnson Wallace, Dopesick by Beth Macy
Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards
(Where the Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt; the most recent winner was Border by Kapka Kassabova. The Epic City, about Calcutta, by Kushanava Choudhury.
Los Angeles Times book prizes -- any non-fiction category
The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan, Democracy in Chains by Nancy MacLean
Royal Society prize
Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine; Exactly by Simon Winchester
And there's a bio category for the Costa prize (used to be Whitbread).
In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott; H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald; Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore.
the Wainwright Prize
Books (with a focus on England) about nature, the outdoors, and English-focused travel.
The Seabird's Cry by Adam Nicolson
The J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project
The Nieman School at Harvard and the Columbia Journalism School award two book prizes each year to published works and one to works in progress.
The Frederick Douglass Prize
Awarded to books writing about the themes of slavery, abolition, resistance, etc.
The Phi Beta Kappa Society Awards
Rather academic in nature; includes books like Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder or Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan (winners of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, one of the categories). Siddhartha Mukherjee won their science award for his book on the gene; there's also an award for literary criticism.
The Chatauqua Prize
NOTE: The nominees include both fiction and non-fiction, so do your due diligence!! The prize goes to "a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts."
(examples, Why Read Moby Dick by Nathaniel Philbrick; In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King, It's What I Do by Lynsey Addorio.)
Hilary Weston Writers Trust Prize for Non-Fiction
Awarded to a top work of non-fiction by a Canadian author -- All Things Consoled by Elizabeth Hay, a memoir, by a great Canadian novelist. Nominees in recent past include Mad Enchantment by Ross King, about Monet and his water lily paintings, Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga, an indigenous writer, about racism; Pumpkinflowers by Matti Friedman, A Disappearance in Damascus by Deborah Campbell and a book about the Arctic by novelist Kathleen Winter, Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage.
The Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year
Formerly the Financial Times & Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year. Titles like Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg; McMafia by Misha Glenny, Dragnet Nation by Julia Angwin and More Money Than God by Sebastian Mallaby.
You might look at the Writers' Trust Awards in Canada for Non-Fiction or Political Writing.
I just finished Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh and see it was nominated for the National Book Award. It was an excellent read, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in explorations of economic inequality, rural poverty, or even just good family-oriented memoirs. She writes tenderly but very clear-eyed about her family, warts and all.
I plan to read Rain: Four Walks in English Weather for this challenge. It was nominated for the Thwaites Wainwright Prize.
>7 katiekrug: That will probably be a book that I end up finishing on New Year's Day or on the 2nd, since it's due back at the Athenaeum on the 2nd and cannot be renewed. Someone else wants to read it!! :-)
>10 SandDune: Excellent! Penguin randomly sent me an advance copy of it, and I have been eyeing it with interest...
I will get to posting the covers tomorrow, by which point I hope round #3 of the antibiotics will have dealt with the flare-up of the dental infection. ARGH.
I plan to read Plot 29: A Memoir by Allan Jenkins in January, which was longlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize.
>15 fuzzi: Is it award or a list? The answer will determine the fit... :-)
Just remembered that I have the audio of The Devil’s Highway so I will plan on listening to it in January.
Cheating in that I read it in December, but loved Bob Gilbert's Ghost Trees. An exploration of nature in the urban environment, and of the tree that gave the borough of Poplar, in London, it's name.
ETA: noticed I posted in the wrong thread, but I'll leave it, maybe it WILL become a prizewinner!
I'm going to read The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane. It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize (now the Baillie Gifford) in 2012.
>21 fuzzi: I'm sorry... If you don't want to read it anyway this month, and can bear to save it for another month, I can see it would fit for April or July (comfort reads being a wide-open category). Is there a chance it won some award as well as being added to this list?
>23 fuzzi: Timely, given all the buzz about Facebook. But can you tell us what award or prize it won or was nominated for? Thanks! (One of the myriad business/management award lists?)
Dreamers: When the Writers Took Power, Germany 1918 was the Spectator book of the year: does that count? Don't worry if not though.
i am hoping this thread will be the incentive I need to read more non-fiction in 2019. Educated, my choice for January is a memoir I have started yet need that little extra reason to continue. Hopefully, this will do the trick.
>24 Chatterbox: here you go:
Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award Shortlist (2013)
CMI Management Book of the Year Awards Nominee (The Commuter's Read, 2014)
>27 fuzzi: Brilliant, thanks! I will also add these to the list of prizes, since I had forgotten about both (shamefully, given my background...)
>26 Carmenere: Welcome to the challenge/thread, Lynda!
>25 charl08: I would say if it's a single book, then yes. If it's on a list of "top books of the year", then nope. I'll rule (arbitrarily...) that a paper or magazine that singles out an individual book (whether from a list or just identifies a single book) for an honor, then that is an award. If it comes up only with a list, whether of five, ten or fifty books that are the "best" published in a given year, it's simply a list, and not trying to winnow that list down to a single one that will win top honors.
I think I'm going to read The Devil's Highway. it's one that I added it to my TBR when someone read it for this category last year. (Pulitzer Prize finalist 2005)
>31 m.belljackson: Gulp. I was just talking to a source about that, and how idealistic I was about the possibility for Wall Street to undergo some kind of fundamental changes -- that there really was a window of opportunity. Yup. Idealistic. So much for THAT.
I’m on a “no buy” regimen for a while, so it’s going to be off my shelves or library selections. Fortunately I found this in a bookcase:
The Evangelicals: The Struggle to Shape America by Frances Fitzgerald, nominated for the National Book Award, 2017.
I read her Fire in the Lake in its year of publication, and have never forgotten it.
>28 Chatterbox: Despite the way the publisher has used it, it's just a list not a prize list, and whilst I suspect it might have won German ones, I don't have the language skills to find them.
>33 bohemima: Frances Fitzgerald is now married to a former colleague of mine, which means I own The Evangelicals as both a Kindle book AND an audiobook... *grin* I have not yet read it, though, although I fully intend to. I have read the first few chapters -- it's very authoritative but also requires a lot of time and attention, which I never seemed to have when I was in the mood to read something on this subject. I completely agree with you about her book on Vietnam, which also was a prizewinner when it was published and helped redefine the whole discussion about the war. I read it a bit later, I think -- in the mid-1980s, when I was in grad school and living in Asia.
I had 2 books picked out for this month but both fit categories of other months, ie, one is a memoir. and the other is true crime. Both are non fiction, though and prize winners. I can't find any other prize-winning NF on my shelves and I am determined (famous last words!) to read off my own shelves (and floor piles) this year. The 2 I am deciding between are Wild Swans or The Massey Murder. I will choose only one because I doubt I'd get through both. What do you say?
>38 Jackie_K: - Thanks, Jackie. Good to know. I had heard that from several people and that's why I decided to pick it up, finally! But it's a large and heavy book and since I am travelling on Thursday, I may wait until I get home instead of lugging a heavy book on the train and home again.
>40 raidergirl3: - Yes, both look good to me. And Charlotte Gray is a very good storyteller. Thanks for the input.
I’m in luck! I have The Line Becomes A River waiting for me at the library. Not only is it on the Longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal Of Excellence, it came to my attention when it appeared on the ‘Best of the Year’ picks from NPR and The Washington Post. Plus, it will be a very timely read. Win-win!
Thanks for hosting this group again, Suzanne. I am trying to work in more Nonfiction titles to my reading mix.
>2 Chatterbox: I took book bullets on four of those pictured! Fortunately I had read a couple of them already or the damage to the pocketbook might have been worse. I'm going to try to hold off an order until my Thingaversary though!
I looked through my book towers to find a book that had won an award- so I will read The Lost A Search for Six of the Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn- recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2006. I still will try to read ( but in small doses as it is over 900 pages long with notes) Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin- it won the Lincoln Prize from the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College and some others as well. I don't think that I will get through the Lincoln book this month- it will take a while.
Finished The Man Who COuldn't Stop: A Life Lost in Thought today. This fascinating look at a man with OCD and how he dealt with it, along with a history of Psychiatry with regard to understanding and treating OCD, was a Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist book.
I'll go with one that has been sitting on my shelf for several years: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which was a non-fiction Pulitzer finalist in 1995.
I had no idea what to read so I looked at the first link for the Baillie Gifford Prize and found Common People on my shelves. I didn't know that The Massey Murder was also a prize winner and it's on my shelves but then so is Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Hmm, not sure what I will read at this point but it will probably be one or two of those three.
I'm going to read a book that was a gift for my birthday:
Darwin in de Stad by Menno Schilthuizen
It's a book about nature and evolution in urban environments. It has received the Jan Wolkers prijs (https://vroegevogels.bnnvara.nl/pagina/jan-wolkers-prijs)
I will be reading Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly. This book won the American Bar Association's Silver Gavel award back in 1982.
I enjoyed the book I read for this category last year so much and it was the winner of this same award so I decided to look through the winner list for the Silver Gavel Award and pick a title from that list for this month and "Minnesota Rag" was the title that caught may eye. The award is given for the best work of nonfiction of the year about the law.
I think I read a novel about the case behind The Massey Murder long ago. And I read a lot of Charlotte Gray's stuff for Saturday Night and the Globe eons ago.
Will catch up with book covers shortly; work is about to catch up with me now that the holidays are over. EEK.
>51 benitastrnad: Fred Friendly -- wonderful!! I assume this is the same guy as the famous broadcaster?
Have nearly finished with Heartland by Sarah Smarsh, and it's compelling. Written in an unconventional form, in some ways, as if she is addressing her unborn daughter, whose spirit and voice sustained her in her own childhood and in a way broke the cycle -- preventing her from becoming a teenage mother like her own mother, grandmother and great-grandmother... It's a little tough to get accustomed to, but it's obviously deeply-felt and ultimately works.
I think I'll go for The Seabird's Cry (Adam Nicholson) as it is already on the shelf, and also fits another January Challenge (2for!)
>52 Chatterbox: - I also wasn't sure about the "device" of writing to her unborn daughter, but by the end, and how she wrapped it up, I found it very effective. Glad the book has been a winner for you, too.
There are so many good titles listed in this thread. Danger to the BlackHole!
Finished Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. There's a lot of buzz about this, and rightfully so. And a lot of comparisons to Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, which are interesting; both being about families existing in poverty and individuals struggling to emerge from these backgrounds. The latter, written by a man from a similarly hardscrabble background, ends up with radically different conclusions, however. Partly, I think, because it comes from a man -- it's impossible for this kind of narrative NOT to be gendered because the experience of poverty, as Smarsh eloquently discusses, is radically different for women, and for mothers, and no man can experience that viscerally. Then, too, Smarsh comes to the conclusion that the American dream simply is flawed -- a cheat. The stories -- of all the women in her extended family, who became mothers in their teens -- are heartbreaking but also bleak tales of women who have no choice but to be strong and keep putting one foot in front of the other and laugh in the face of disaster and death. They have been cheated by our world and don't know it. The one quirky feature of this book that kept me slightly off balance, as mentioned previously, was Smarsh's technique: she chose to write the book as if addressing her own unborn daughter: born to her in poverty, a small voice she argues spoke to her throughout her life and helped her focus on her other goals in life beyond repeating the family pattern. It's interesting, and clearly authentic, but quirky enough to also be slightly disconcerting when she says "you" referring to this spirit. 4.4 stars. Definitely recommended; a good start to the year!
>59 alcottacre: YES -- that would be so great, to compare and contrast with that degree of immediacy!! I wish I could send this to you, but it's from the Athenaeum's library, and I know they would be peeved, as someone else already is waiting for it...
After spending about an hour trying to find out if the broadcaster and the author are one and the same - they are.
Fred W. Friendly did write Minnesota Rag and about 3 other books having to do with media and the law.
That ABA web site is a mess. There is no way to get a list of the Silver Gavel Award winners on that web site. I think the most complete list is here on LT. Who would have thought it?
Omigod -- an hour that you will never get back again. I'm sorry I asked, now... He was extremely famous, however -- a contemporary of Ed Murrow.
Someone needs to break that news to the ABA. Perhaps not gently. They should know the value of good records.
>60 Chatterbox: My local library has a copy and I have put it on hold. Now, if the current possessor would only return it!
I like The Lost: A Search For Six of Six Million so much when my real life book discussion group read it that I purchased it for gifts that Christmas. It is really a good read and about so much more than the Holocaust. I want to read more by Mendlesohn. His latest book about his relationship with his father has had great reviews and I think Suz liked it.
Yes, I really liked Mendelsohn's book about the Odyssey and his father -- very moving. Plus, he came and talked to us at the Providence Athenaeum about it. You can find that here:
https://soundcloud.com/pvdath -- it says it was January 2017, but actually was January 2018. Right after the ones featuring Charles Mann, Pamela Paul and Gordon Wood. You'll have to scroll through the list to find it, but hey, you might find other stuff you want to listen to!
Book Riot published a column today on nonfiction, with several lists of 2018 books and some other news, if you are interested:
Rich in history, botany, biology, ecology, literature, and folklore, MEADOWLAND begins as a book you want to settle deeply into to make your own personal connections.
Mine was with a scythe.
Unfortunately, plummeting it from 5 to 2 stars, author Lewis-Stempel also chooses, for no apparent reason, to hunt many of the animals he otherwise has kindly observed and
described with care, and, at times, love and loyalty. He further pointlessly recounts in detail the deaths of many animals, like the newborn mare, the crushed frogs he could have driven around,
the cow that died in pain because he refused to call a vet in the winter...and so many more.
Stories of nature and seasons are sometimes fascinating; other times too precious.
The October 2018 category for this challenge was “First Person.” Suz suggested that books of letters and correspondence would be good for this category. On October 12, I started reading What There Is To Say We Have Said: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and William Maxwell edited by Suzanne Marrs. I finished it last night and I really liked it.
I have never read anything by either one of these authors and am not sure that I am likely to do so, but I have read their edited letter collection. At first it was letter after letter about roses and her mother’s eyesight, but gradually I got interested in the lives and friendship of these people, and I ended up sharing in their friendship by reading their letters.
My 2019 New Years Resolution is to write more letters. I got about a dozen Christmas cards and I sent out many many more than that because I wanted to communicate with my friends what has been going on in my life in the last year. The act of writing something personal is an act of friendship and I wish I had gotten more Christmas cards and letters from people.
Thanks Suzanne for having this category and suggesting books of correspondence. It was a good experience and I am glad I purservered and finished it.
I have finished Rain: Four Walks in English Weather. It takes much less time to read than it took Harrison to take the walks described in the book. Harrison's language approaches poetry as she describes her observations of the effects of rain on the natural world. I can see why it was nominated for a prize. I've spent time in all four counties where Harrison walked so it was easy for me to picture the landscape described in the book.
>73 benitastrnad: One of the benefits of the Internet era is the ability to connect instantly and (almost) without cost, and in very many ways -- video (Skype), Instagram, e-mail, inexpensive phone calls (I still remember paying $3 a minute to call my parents overseas when I was at university in Canada in the early 80s...) What do we lose? I think that's something we're only starting to ask. And yes, the reflectiveness that accompanies letters is part of that. My late ex-bf (he was an ex, who died three years ago) wrote me many letters, which I cherish, not just because of who wrote them, but because they were more about thoughts and emotions than e-mails tend to be. Something to ponder. Not that all letters were long or reflective (some were just, "sure, we'll be there for dinner on Saturday") but the form permitted that more than the Internet seems able to do, in the way we have used it to date.
The dreaded dental infection is back. Again. Third time. Good GRIEF.
Not sure what I'll read next. I'll return to the audio version of The Evangelicals, but I'm kind of torn between The Salt Path, Devil in the Grove and Dopesick.
>75 Chatterbox: good grief, indeed, sorry to hear it. I personally knew a woman who had undiagnosed health issues, which baffled her physicians, but after she had a root canal tooth removed her symptoms improved. It was suggested that bacteria continued to survive in what was left of her tooth, and was destroyed once the tooth was gone.
>73 benitastrnad: I've recently read several journals of pioneer women (USA), and loved hearing about day-to-day chores while traveling in the 1800's.
Spent 3 and a half hours at the walk-in clinic with my mum this morning and am nearly finished my current (fiction) book so will likely start my NF before this day is over. It is going to be The Massey Murder and I am looking forward to it because I know the author, Charlotte Gray, is a good writer. I have been a bit disappointed by my first 2 reads of the year.
I started The Age of Wonder, about British science and scientists in the Romantic era, yesterday. I'm not sure I'll finish it in January, but it if the rest of it's as good as the little I've read I'll enjoy the trip.
Finished The Lost A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn In this part memoir/history book the author searches for the true story of how his great uncle, aunt and cousins died in the Holocaust. Mendelsohn remembers his mother's father telling stories about his family-the Jaegers- in the town of Bolechow. (Part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, then Polish then Ukrainian.) His older brother, Shmiel had actually emigrated to the U.S. in 1913 but went back to his home town, prospered, married and had four daughters. Mendelsohn's grandfather had letters from Shmiel begging for help as late as 1939. The reader is introduced to the complex story of this family and the author's growing interest in finding out what really happened to them. Interspersed with telling of the trips to the Ukraine, Israel, Australia and Sweden with his brothers, sister and other friends, Mendelsohn writes about his study of the torah and the commentary of the scholar Rashi( 11th century French Rabbi) and recent scholar Rabbi Richard Friedman on several passages that seem to related to the search for the histories of the Jaeger family. The author meets many older people with stories about Shmiel and his family and the town-some true and some perhaps not true. Mendelsohn discovers that the stories of how the family lived is as important as how they died. Some of the people he interviewed have amazing stories of their own on survival.This book is about more than dead relatives. Mendelsohn discovers some heroes and heroines who helped his family. It is both historical and personal as the reader learns about one family and the different journeys they took to either life or death in the 20th century.
>76 fuzzi: I believe that this was a consistent issue. I'm trying to manage the infections as best I can, but...
>77 jessibud2: So sorry about your mother; long waits just add insult to injury in this kind of situation. And to have disappointing books on top of THAT? eek. I shall look forward to your thoughts on The Massey Murder. I think the novel I read about this case was something like "Master and Maid" by Frank G. Jones.
>79 antqueen: Loved that book....
>81 torontoc: Loved that book, too!!
>80 fuzzi: - Thanks. She had an earache and it turns out, thankfully, that it wasn't an infection that would require antibiotics, only way too much wax, that the doctor removed ! But almost 4 hours! What a system.
>81 torontoc: - Sounds like a good one, Cyrel. I enjoy stories like this, that explore and discover the larger picture and context.
>82 Chatterbox: - I have another book on my shelf by Charlotte Gray that I also want to read, about Alexander Graham Bell, called Reluctant Genius but since I am not at home at the moment, I can't look to see if it was an award winner. It might fit in another month, though! I know that The Massey Murder won several awards so I grabbed that one to take with me. I will be starting it tonight, after I watch The Golden Globe awards. Probably during my watching and possibly, even instead of watching, lol!
Can you get antibiotic refilled on Monday?
Sure hope so and that partial root canal can be completed soon!
I usually jump right down to the first unread box in the thread and today I decided to look at the top where Suzanne has posted all the covers of the books we are reading. There are some interesting covers there.
What struck me is how old-fashioned the cover of my selection for this month looks. The book Minnesota Rag was published in 1981. The cover makes it look like it.
Thanks Suz for taking the time to put those covers up there.
I finished reading my second book for this challenge today, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy. It's a very depressing book about opioid addiction, which, if you follow the news, doesn't really say all that much about the topic that is new, but does tie it all up in a particularly coherent package that is calculated to drive a reader nuts about all those who fail to understand what's at stake. If you've read a lot about the topic, don't expect to suddenly shriek "Eureka!" But if you haven't, and want your eyes opened -- well, this will do it. Macy focuses on the Appalachian region and on Virginia, which she knows best. Her narrative sometimes feels very repetitive, because she keeps circling back to the inevitably tragic tales of the individuals afflicted by addiction and their cycle of relapses. It's heartbreaking, but also frustrating. I kept wanting to read a bit more about some of the successful programs she refers to in passing in cities like Seattle but doesn't get into in detail. Still, 4.35 stars.
I think my next read for this challenge will be a short-listed book for the Bailie Gifford Prize last year, Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age by Stephen Platt. I've dipped into it and the writing is compelling. And the subject is fascinating and timely, since Chinese leaders continually point to the injustices done to China by these wars and the "treaties" that followed when asserting their leadership today.
OK, I'm reading "Imperial Twilight" and it's absolutely fascinating. On track to be the first five-star book of the year for me.
I’ve been lurking, but I saw something I thought would be of interest to the readers of Devil in the Grove - the Florida Clemency Board pardoned the Groveland Four this afternoon. Gilbert King was among those who testified.
I want to read Imperial Twilight, meaning I want to buy it. As I am finding very little reading time at the moment, I am probably going to start with Guns, Germs, and Steel of which I read the first chapter last January and apparently got distracted. I have dusted it off and put it where I can see it...
>92 Dejah_Thoris: I had not heard about that. Thanks for the information, Dejah!
I'm late to the party, but I'm reading The Warmth of Other Suns, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, the Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, and a bunch of other awards. I know other readers here have loved it, but I'm only liking it exactly ½-way through.
>94 nittnut: Jenn, read *G,G, &S* just as soon as you can! A magnificent book!!!!!
As a small surprise, today my brother gave me The Soul of an Octopus, a 2015 finalist for the National Book Award. I’m adding it to this month’s reading as it’s about a subject I’m fascinated by and a book I’ve longed to own and read.
I read The Fact of the Body which won a LAMBDA award when published.
It's an interesting one on the narrative non-fiction borderline between fiction / non-fiction. It's a memoir about the author's own experience training in law and a family secret. However it's equally the story of a paedophile found guilty of killing a six year old and sentenced to death. She references everything and in the footnotes states directly if something has been reconstructed, which I'd not seen before.
I found this a gripping read, reading in one sitting. It's a difficult subject, but the author's personal experience made it more accessible for me. She was particularly interested in questions of guilt and the whole person: having started off against the death penalty she found when faced with a child murderer her instinctive response was different to her intellectual one. The case she chose illustrated this perfectly: a young man who had repeatedly sought help without success.
I also started The Fact of a Body yesterday - am most of the way through it. It’s a gripping, but tough read.
>99 charl08: That sounds fascinating, in terms of approach -- identifying what has been "reconstructed". I like the transparency. And the challenge of one's emotional vs intellectual response to issues of any kind is always of interest to me. This would be particularly emotive, but heck, I'm even dealing with this in a family situation (the separation of my brother and sister-in-law) and trying to get my mother to THINK about how to deal with the latter rationally versus emotionally, which isn't helpful. Behavioral finance (which I look at a lot in what I do) is another element of this, although again, not nearly as gut-wrenching as abuse and the death penalty, of course.
So, I finished Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age by Stephen Platt last night.
This was every bit as good as I anticipated from reading the opening pages. The emphasis is less on the opium war itself (1839) than on the decades leading up to it from the initial significant British (and, to a lesser extent, other foreign) contacts with China, and examining the ways in which various factions on both sides read and misread each other (willfully or unconsciously) and how that produced a conflict that in turn created a century or more of misery and degradation for China, which in turn has profoundly shaped contemporary China's attitude to the West. Platt draws on both Chinese and Western sources, and what is intriguing to me, as someone who had read other accounts of later periods in Chinese history and earlier histories, is the extent to which Platt's book consciously attempts to highlight areas where misconceptions have occurred. For instance, neither side was monolithic in their views: the emperor struggled to find the right approach to address the growing problem of opium addiction, and the fact that this was also a Chinese problem (one that while the British met very eagerly, they didn't force on the Chinese to the extent that then-contemporary and current propaganda might suggest.) It's astonishing to read of one Chinese leader whose proposed solution to the issue was simply to give every addict a year to get clean and then to kill those who failed to comply - in light of the current opiate problem in the US, this attitude is, ahem, thought provoking. (The emperor opted to focus on dealers...) What astonished me is that right up to the last minute, it seems that there was no wish for any opium war, other than on the part of a handful of rogue elements on the English side (messers Jardine and Matheson, although they didn't want opium legalized, ironically; and an English consul whose job had, he admitted, affected his sanity) and perhaps one or two leaders on the Chinese side who wanted to return to a universe in which foreign goods didn't exist. Even Lord Palmerston -- who ended up fighting for his political life in order to pursue the first opium war -- had repeatedly sent a stream of instructions to the aforesaid consul to abide by Chinese laws, to do whatever it took to avoid conflict, etc. There is so much in this book that is of interest, even to someone who has read books about the second half of the 19th century, such as Julia Lovell's tome about the Opium Wars or Platt's own book about the later disintegration of the Qing empire, that it's an important one. It takes the reader from the true heyday of China, the mid-18th century and the reign of the Qianlong emperor, who could proudly and reasonably truthfully state that his empire had no real need for foreign trade, through the "Canton era", when that empire could dictate and shape the terms and conditions of trade (when one merchant snuck his wife into the British "factory", it caused a ruckus, as no women were allowed to leave Macao lest it be thought that foreigners were making permanent homes on Chinese territory). It's lively and thought-provoking, not just about the historical context or even China today, but about relations between nations in general. A must-read. 5 stars.
I'm currently reading 1606: Shakespeare and the Year of Lear. It won a James Tait Black Memorial Proze for Biography.
I'm about halfway through now and so far I really like it. Not surprising, since James Shapiro's Contested Will is one of my favourite books, and I love reading about Shakespeare and his time.
In this book, Shapiro concentrates on one single year, 1606. Most people see Shakespeare as an Elizabethan author, but he also wrote many plays under the reign of James I, and in 1606 he wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Anthony and Cleopatra, some of his greatest tragedies. And the year itself was also full of tragedy: The plage struck especially strongly, there was a lot of resistance to King James I's plan to unite England and Scotland into one kingsom, and at the tail-end of the previous year, the foiled Gunpowder Plot had come to light, so the investgations, tortures, and executions as well as the propaganda relating to that happened in 1606.
So that was a fascinating year in history, and Shapiro examines how that may have influenced Shakespeare's dramatic output that year. So far I've especially liked Shapiro's examination of why the Gunpowder Plot, along with the King James Bible and Shakespeare's Jacobean plays, is one of the very few cultural artifacts from James I's reign that still has cultural significance even now. Especially given the fact that the plot was discovered and nothing actually happened.
So I can only recommend this to others looking for some good non-fiction to read, and I will report back once I've finished it.
I finished The Devil in the Grove today. I can see why it won the Pulitzer Prize. I highly recommend it, especially if you have an interest in the Civil Rights movement or the NAACP.
>103 BerlinBibliophile: I've been eyeing that book for some time, along with what seems to be a kind of companion tome by the same author, about the year 1509 and some critical plays that Shakespeare wrote then (including the beginning of "Hamlet"). I am going to have to dig it out from somewhere...
I finished The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea over the weekend. I will absolutely be seeking out more by this author. The writing was simply beautiful. He can paint such an image (complete with soundtrack) with his words. The story itself was sad. In 2001, 26 men and teenage boys attempted to cross the border into Arizona. Their coyote (guide) took a wrong turn and they wandered lost in the mountains in temperatures well above 100º. Fourteen of them died before they were found.
Urrea's book is quite balanced in portraying both sides of the immigration fence in that area of the country. On both sides of the border there is both cruelty and humanity. The ebook edition I read included an afterward by the author written in 2014 (10 years after the initial publication) but before the rhetoric of the 2016 Presidential election started.
>107 SuziQoregon: I read some short stories by Urrea -- The Water Museum -- most of which I liked a great deal, if you are looking for more by this author. Not non-fiction, but recommended...
My next non-fiction books may not qualify for this month's challenge. I'm listening to a new book about Luther and Erasmus, Fatal Discord, and have picked up the massive tome by Jill Lepore about US history, These Truths. Did it get nominated for anything?? I think it may be a bit early? Anyway, I have to finish the latter by the end of the month, when it has to go back to the library. Sigh.
I may still get to The Salt Path.
The Massey Murder was an RBC Taylor Prize finalist. It says so right on the cover. The author really brought the era of Toronto in 1915 to life.
There was no doubt who did the killing. Charles Massey's maid shot him in front of witnesses but why she did it and the outcome of the trial were part and parcel of the culture of that time. It was really good, bringing not only the story of the murder and trial to life but also the city in that era.
>110 Familyhistorian: And it was and is such a prominent family. Vincent Massey, who I suppose would have been a little boy, went on to become (I think) the first Canadian-born Governor General of Canada (the Queen's representative and thus de facto and de jure head of state.) Jarvis Street still retains some of those mansions (although they have been repurposed... one as a chain restaurant. My mother went to high school at Jarvis Collegiate in the early/mid 50s, and lived in Rosedale, and there was a lot of gossip about the current Massey family and past scandals. I suppose, for Brits, it would be akin to Lord Lucan?
>110 Familyhistorian:, >111 Chatterbox: - I am about half way through this one but had to put it aside for a bit, when an onslaught of library holds all arrived at once. I am clearing some of those and hopefully will get back to the Masseys and finish it, if not before the month is over, then certainly shortly after.
Suz, let's not forget Vincent's brother, Raymond Massey, a fine actor and a name, in his own right. They were cousins to the murdered Massey. I didn't grow up in Toronto but moved here in 1980. I love learning about its rich history and Charlotte Gray does a fine job in this book.
>113 alcottacre: I'd love to read his fiction. Thanks for the recommendation.
>112 jessibud2: Yes, good reminder!!
And now there is Massey College at U of Toronto...
If anybody on this thread is going to be in Seattle, or lives in the northwest, please consider coming to the ALA winter conference. If anybody would like to meet Tim Spaulding, LT founder, and Loreanne, the Librarian who works for LT, we could meetup on Saturday night. So far I have not had any positive response for a meetup, but if somebody would be in town and wants to meet with other LT members I will be happy to plan something.
Just respond with a PM over on my LT page. Along with the offer for a meetup - LT is offering free passes to the exhibit hall where all kinds of swag will be available for readers - including free ARC's. Here is the URL for the free passes with instructions on how to fill out the form.
Thanks for reaching out and offering to set up a meetup! I'm happy to report that we do, indeed, have free, exhibit hall-only badges for ALA Midwinter.
Please direct anyone who'd like a badge here: https://www.compusystems.com/servlet/ar?evt_uid=313&oi=MuXZMs%2BGlqrHoIiGjo9....
That should automatically fill in the exhibitor invitation code. I just tested it out myself and was able to register successfully without any trouble.
If there's anything else I can do to help, please let me know. Definitely keep me posted as details get hammered out, so I can publicize the meetup in the State of the Thing this month!
Member Support & Social Media Librarian, LibraryThing
LibraryThing | Facebook | Twitter
>115 Chatterbox: - And of course, the famous (currently under renovation) Massey Hall, music venue. It was in Massey Hall, by the way, that, many years ago, the memorial service for Barbara Frum was held and was open to the public. I went and it was a wonderful tribute to her. I still have the programme of speakers, somewhere.
>105 alcottacre: I love the Olive edition cover of that book but I am too late to get hold of it, will just have to read the regular one. Sounds really good.
>106 Chatterbox: I haven't read 1599 yet, but I'm planning to. I did read James Shapiro's Contested Will, in my opinion the best book on the Shakespeare authorship question anyone ever wrote. I can only recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone interested in Shakespeare.
But here are my final thoughts about 1606:
This book focuses on Shakespeare's creative output during a single year, 1606, and on the historical events which influenced that creativity. As always, Shapiro strikes a great balance when writing about Shakespeare, between giving the reader the possible options at times when the historical record is unclear (which is most of the time) and still cautioning against speculation and transparently biographical readings of his plays.
He draws a convincing picture of a year in which crisis followed after crisis. 1606 saw the prosecutions and executions of the men behind the Hunpowder Plot of November 5 1605, as well as the propagandistic fight against equivocation, demonic possessions, James I's frustrated quest for Unity of his kingdoms, a state visit from the king of Denmark, and a terrible plague outbreak. No wonder that this time of a shifting status quo led to Shakespeare's plays of that year to include echoes of all these events.
James Shapiro is always great when it comes to Shakespeare, and in this case he writes a really good, readable account that draws together many confusing historical strands into a greater whole. This book left me feeling that I now knew more about these Shakespearean plays, which I had already studied in extensively, than I did before.
The Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley
As part of the non-fiction challenge, I read The Zanzibar Chest (Samuel Johnson nonfiction shortlist 2004). The books is two narratives woven, somewhat loosely, together. The more interesting thread, to me, was that of the author who spent much of his young adult life as a war correspondent in Africa. As a result, he ends up covering Somalia during the civil war, the US/UN intervention in that country through the withdrawal. From there, he finds himself in Rwanda during the genocide. It is a gripping, first person account of some of the worst atrocities in modern times. It is clear from the book that being witness to the conflicts left deep personal scars on the author.
The other thread is the investigation of a series of diaries that the author finds in his father's possession following his death. The diaries are those of his father's best friend who was killed while serving as a colonial officer in Yemen.
Both threads are used to tell the story of the author's family and much of the colonial history of Africa and parts of the Middle East. The perspective is a melancholy one - the retreat of empire and the collapse of social improvement projects. The author's father was involved in agricultural improvement projects and time after time successful projects are neglected and fall into ruin. This sense of failure and doom is my biggest criticism of the book. However, having experienced some of the very worst of Africa (and humanity) it is hard to imagine a book like this ending on an upbeat, happy note. I just worry that, read in isolation, the book falls into the trap of portraying Africa as permanently backward and devoid of hope.
Still, a very engaging book that is compelling for the events described even if the twin narratives don't always mesh as seamlessly as the author may have intended.
>114 SuziQoregon: I hope you enjoy it when you get a chance to read it, Juli!
>118 charl08: I found the book to be excellent. Sorry you missed out on the Olive edition.
>119 BerlinBibliophile: I am definitely going to have to try some of Shapiro's books!
>120 Oberon: Very interested in that one, Erik. Thanks for the review.
>111 Chatterbox: The Massey name in the title was the reason I bought the book. A prominent name like that was a definite hook.
And one more: And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts, nominated for the National Book Award.
That’s going to round out my January books.
I’d like to add that this thread, much as I love it, is having a near-fatal effect in my Wishlist. That’s one of the reasons I love the Nonfiction Challenge.
>123 cbl_tn: Ha, I had to go back and read it, Carrie. Unintentional on my part (I think).
Contested Will will have to go on my TBR list.... I'm mildly interested in the authorship question, but also intrigued by why so many are so passionate about it and so invested in their theories. At the end of the day, we have the plays themselves, by someone, which stand on their own merits. The authorship debate, it seems to me, is one of the biggest arguments AGAINST including an author's own biography/history in assessing their literary legacy. Incidentally, late last year I read a mildly funny play (I'm sure it would have been very funny indeed had I seen or listened to it) written by a Shakespearean (and other) actor, Mark Rylance: I Am Shakespeare. Worth seeking out, if not non-fiction!
>120 Oberon: My views on The Zanzibar Chest were pretty much in line with yours when I read it several years ago. I think I came away feeling that it had the potential to be even more compelling, but it kept slipping into rather well-worn grooves/tropes, wasting that opportunity/potential. I hadn't realized it had been on the list for the then-Samuel Johnson Prize. (now the Baillie Gifford).
Two of my three remaining non-fiction books this month are very, very hefty tomes that don't qualify for this challenge, but I still may get to The Salt Path. I certainly want to...
>119 BerlinBibliophile: >126 Chatterbox: I'm watching a very silly (by the author of Blackadder) BBC comedy, Upstart Crow, which makes Shakespeare's writing life into a comedy. I mention this because the writer uses the authorship question as a long running gag. It's no history but it is pretty funny.
After seeing Shakespeare in Love I read about Marlowe's life via The Reckoning: fascinating life. Amazing how these authors being together such fragile sources for the period, although I don't remember being as blown away by The Lodger, which would be more relevant to this discussion, sorry! Beyond the dogged determination of the historians who ploughed through hundreds of old legal records to find 'new' evidence of Shakespeare.
I've started Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. So far it's fairly light and frothy, but I've learned a few interesting bits of trivia. Savannah, Georgia is the westernmost city on the Eastern seaboard, directly south of Cleveland, Ohio. I had to pull up a US map to convince myself that it is indeed south of Cleveland. :)
>129 charl08: This is the first book by Alexievich that I have read, but it will not be the last if the first half of the book is any indication. Thanks for the recommendation of Chernobyl Prayer. I will have to see if I can get hold of a copy.
>130 streamsong: LOL, Janet. I do not blame you about having to pull up the map. I did the same thing because I did not believe it either!
>128 alcottacre: I'm currently reading Secondhand Time too (it's a group read in the Category Challenge group for next month, I'm glad I got a head start on it as I have an ebook copy and hadn't realised how big it was!). I'm enjoying it very much so far.
I'm also loving Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways, which I've also got on the go at the moment.
I'm about to finish First Family: Abigail and John Adams, by Joseph J. Ellis, which won the Massachusetts Book Award (Nonfiction, 2011). Excellent book! Does this award count for your challenge?
>133 countrylife: Yes, indeed it does! Thanks for adding another book award to our list of possibilities, too -- a reminder to keep an eye out for regional/local/small organization literary honors.
I have been listening to the audiobook of Fatal Discord by Michael Massing, about Luther, Erasmus and the way the "reformation" of the Catholic church unfolded, and how/why one of those ended up creating an alternative religious practice, while Erasmus, once one of the most celebrated literary lights in Europe, fell by the wayside. NOT a candidate for this month's challenge, but just noting it in passing because it's GOOD. Although some of the material overlaps with a biography of Luther I read last year, A World Ablaze by Craig Harline.
I finished Bad Blood by John Carreyrou today. It's the story of the biotech startup Theranos and how he investigated and exposed them. It was on the shortlist of Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year from 2018. The level of deceit was ridiculous, as was the amount of money flying around. Millions and millions of dollars for something that barely happened. Gen John Mattis and George Shultz, former Secretary of State show up in this one, falling for the charming CEO and her company. While the story of immoral CEO was frustrating, the book was great and I could barely put it down.
I am about half done with Minnesota Rag the Silver Gavel winner from back in the 1980’s. Much of what the author Fred W. Friendly has to say about the Supreme Court of 1930 could be said about the Supreme Court of today. He spent a great deal of space one chapter pointing out that the concept of Judical Review is not mentioned in the Constituttion. It only developed because of the strong presence of John Marshall and Justice Story. I was also surprised to lean that the office of Chief Justice is also not in the Constitution. Who would have thought that those early justices would be so activist in their interpretation of the Constitution?
The book is really about newspapers and the media and our First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, but the other information is fascinating.
I just finished The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, and it blew me away. I have a love/hate relationship with memoirs, many of which I find unreadable because the author is spending so much time staring at his or her navel. In this case, I was afraid that the starting point (the author and her husband embark on a long-distance walk of the Southwestern Coastal Path in England after losing their home in a court case -- a farm that is also their livelihood -- and after the husband gets a terminal illness diagnosis) would be too damn depressing. It was sad, but the tale of the way the duo tackle their challenges forthrightly, and how the physical hurdles give them strength and clarity of mind, was engrossing and captivating. It didn't hurt that a key point in this narrative is Pencarrow Head and Lantic Bay, just by Polruan in southern Cornwall. The first time I saw this particular stretch of land, I was walking across fields toward it on a footpath from inland toward the coastal path, and the shimmering sea, the path, the rocks, made a picture so beautiful that I remember standing there and bursting into tears. That corner of the world remains my favorite place -- yes, even though over the decades it has been transformed into a village full of holiday homes and resentful locals. When I die, I want my ashes scattered there. I don't know who will do this, but hopefully someone will. A pic I took of Lantic Bay remains my wallpaper on my desktop because just looking at it makes me happier. So I understand how this trip felt in a visceral way -- just as I remember how devastating some stretches of the pathway are, going up and do steep hikes (who on EARTH says you can Bude to Boscastle in a single day? They're insane). I've never done the whole pathway, but have managed perhaps a total of 100 miles of the 630-odd that these folks did. I'd love to think I could do more, but in the meantime -- there is this book. 5 stars. (Oh, and at times, Winn's husband is mistaken for Simon Armitage, which is kind of hilarious, as they don't realize who Armitage/Simon IS or what is going on...)
>136 raidergirl3: I was amazed at how a multi million dollar company was made on a premise and process that just didn't work. Bad Blood was a real eyeopener for me as well.
>139 Chatterbox: >140 SandDune: The Salt Path is definitely on my radar now after your reviews but it hasn't yet been picked up by any of the libraries in my area.
The Salt Path is on my TBR and I'm hoping to get to it this year (possibly for the 'comfort reads' category, as nature writing/memoir mixes are my go-to favourite reading place).
I've just finished The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert Macfarlane (shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2012). It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book, which sees the author travelling along the ancient paths of England and Scotland (plus walks in Palestine, Spain and Tibet), but once I was into it I was hooked. He just writes so beautifully.
>18 SandDune: >1 Chatterbox:
Because of the coincidence of ordering both a fiction and NF MEADOWLAND (reviewed above),
just letting you know that the fiction one rated 3 stars vs the 2 awarded to NF.
Thomas Holt's MEADOWLAND also earns 5 stars for the cover which may inspire repeat trips to Disney's
Viking Ship in Orlando.
In 1036, John Stetathus is joined in his march from Constantinople to Sicily by three Canterbury Tales soldiers.
As they guard his money chests, the three fill their days - and his nights - with stories of their ill-fated journeys
from Iceland to Leif Erikson's Meadowland.
History and humor intertwine in this imaginative scripting of the discovery of the island of North America.
Though ultimately too repetitive, the give and take of the plot was enjoyable until the recounting of the
savage and bizarre murder of the sleeping strangers and the "horse fight."
>142 Jackie_K: I really love Macfarlane's writing. His twitterfeed is full of interesting country words he's rediscovered.
I've just been on the UK Netgalley site and see that he has a new book coming out Underland- although I think I will wait for a hardcopy. Digital for that subject seems less than ideal for some reason.
This girl bit off more than she can chew. I will not finish Education this month. In fact, my book club has chosen it for it's November read. I'll probably wait to finish it till then.
>147 Carmenere: Oh well, it's not a challenge! Read what you feel like reading... at your own peace -- and have fun!
Finally finished The Evangelicals. Fitzgerald has written an exhaustive study of the efforts of white Christians to shape the U. S. and its policies. Stretching from Jonathan Edwards and the Great Awakening to the election of Donald Trump, the book is an examination of overlapping, and sometimes contradictory, branches of Christian belief and their chief supporters.
I’d say she’s fairly even-handed: nowhere did I see any accusations of insincerity, although she does point out how the message can change based on the audience.
This might have been better in two volumes; there are dozens of unfamiliar names to keep track of, and some complicated ideas to understand.
Overall this wasn’t exactly what I expected or wanted, but I think the author accomplished her aims.
>145 charl08: Yes, I follow him on twitter - he's just as good in 280 characters as he is in a full book!
I also read The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester. Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books shortlist (2018).
PS: Is it just me? Or is LT messing around with their picture links? I only see 2 of the book covers in post #2 above.
>151 countrylife: I'm seeing all the covers I posted.... You may need to refresh the page, or even reboot? I know sometimes I've had similar issues, albeit infrequently.
>149 bohemima: This has been lurking on my Kindle since its publication date (she's now married to a former colleague, so I gotta read it, plus I thought her Vietnam book was brilliant, as were one or two of her lesser-known books.) But I've been daunted by the in-depth look at the Great Awakenings, I confess, and keep stalling there.
>151 countrylife: There have been some weird ties with pictures this week mainly use to switching to https links. Word has it that logging out and back in again fixes it.
>154 countrylife: Yes, I know I'm behind on posting all the covers from later additions to the reading... That often happens, I'm afraid!
>155 Chatterbox:: Whoops! I wasn't trying to call you out! I was trying to figure out how things worked around here. Seems like I had read up-thread that you posted covers of completed books, and I thought that was cool. (AND participants didn't have to wiki things? Count me in!) I tried your challenge in a previous year and didn't do well. Since I can't do them all, this year I decided to abandon the authors to work on your nonfiction instead. Loving it so far!
>156 countrylife: No worries! I just tend to kinda give up on doing the covers after a certain point. It's a bit finicky and time consuming, so once folks have posted their initial choices, I just let them go at it... I am delighted you've decided to join in the fun again -- and it should be fun, not work -- again this year.
Meanwhile, I've decided to pick up a book that was on the longlist for the 2018 Wellcome Trust Book Prize (and I think possibly the shortlist as well?, With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix. I'm heading toward my late 50s; an ex-bf died suddenly nearly four years ago just before his 60th birthday; my parents are now both in poor health in their early 80s and it kinda feels like a book I should be reading. (I've already read Atul Gawande). I've also got a friend whose short-term health outlook is fairly poor. So... Shall report back. It's written by a specialist in palliative care. Two years ago, when my friend was hospitalized for four months, there was a period when his primary doc turned to us and said, well, it's time to bring in the palliative care team... Gulp. I'd like to be better prepared for that kind of scenario, as a health care proxy person.
Finished Darwin comes to Town by Menno Schilthuizen. Thought it very interesting. Although it is written in an easy, Light and funny style, it still is a thorough book on a scientific subject: how nature, animals and plants, are changing, adapting and evolving to make use of our human created City environments.
Schilthuizen, as a scientist working in this field, comes up with lots of interesting examples from all over the world. Like house sparrows in Mexico City collecting cigarette butts in their nests, in order to get rid of mites:-)
I liked the overall message I got from this book, we aren't separate from nature, even our cities are part of it. We are damaging nature in a big way, but nature can change and adapt with us.
>159 charl08: A copy of Barbara Ehrenreich's Natural Causes: Life, Death and the illusion of control finally turned up at the library recently, and I've finally picked it up. Her first chapter digs into the logic behind testing well people (especially older well people). There's a particularly devastating comment along the lines of the best way to avoid the risks that go along woth surgery is to avoid being in the hospital in the first place. I'm enjoying her frankness about death and preserving life. I've still not read Gawande, but want to.
>159 charl08: Oh, I'd really really recommend Gawande. I do have a copy of the Ehrenreich book around (I got an advance galley), but stalled early on. I will go back and try again though. I do enjoy her writing, although sometimes find her slightly too polemical.
While I'm not sure whether this won an award or not, I thought I'd just flag it to non-fiction readers in the US with Kindles: you can pick up a copy of A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson today for $1.99. It was one of my "gateway books" to serious and consistent non-fiction reading (it came out when I was 14, and I read my mother's copy a year or so later.) In a year when there seem to be a LOT of new books coming out about WW2 espionage and SOE activity, this was the one that really got the ball rolling, telling the tale about the Enigma machine, etc. A lot was revealed subsequently, so it may feel as if the story is incomplete, and Stevenson isn't the world's best prose stylist, but it's pretty compelling as these yarns go.
Finished With the End in Mind: Dying, Death and Wisdom in an Age of Denial by Kathryn Mannix, a nominee for the Wellcome Trust prize. It's disconcerting and yet strangely reassuring about the process of dying, and what that involves, incorporating the perspective of any number of individuals from teenagers up to the very old. That said, most of Mannix's involvement has been with people suffering cancer or other untreatable illnesses, so there is a bit of a limitation on it from that perspective. Her emphasis on death comes from the palliative care perspective: when death is anticipated and perhaps may be a surcease of pain or trauma. It doesn't really address, except in a few cases, sudden death or death that results simply from old age/dementia, because those aren't really her patients. She does mention some of the points raised by Atul Gawande -- notably, by prolonging life, what we really have done, is to extend the number of years we live in extreme old age, which is something we really want to consider thoughtfully -- and I'd strongly suggest reading the two books in tandem, since they take different approaches to roughly the same topic, end of life issues. She also raises what I think are some very important topics about euthanasia, via a patient who upped and moved to Britain after feeling that his Dutch doctors were urging him to opt for it because they couldn't treat him any more. They mentioned it as a possibility every single day, reminding him that this was open to him, and seem to have crossed a line to the point where he felt he couldn't trust not to "subtly" urge it on him. So, recommended, with one or two cautionary notes. Mannix is a bit repetitive in the points she makes (which is fine) and while her examples of patients are vivid, she has a kind of sweeping statement that she has pretty much distorted all the details (gender, age, diagnosis, etc.) to the point where I kept wondering whether I could trust what she was saying. I understand WHY she did this (privacy....) but it creates a weird kind of credibility gap, or did for me. So, 3.35 stars; it could have been higher.
I've had a good month of non-fiction reading: a total of 7 books so far (not all qualified for this challenge, although my two best reads for January so far were books I picked up because of the challenge...)
Adding that I may make a push and read Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil, which was a nominee for the National Book Award in 2016, and which won something called the SLA-NY PrivCo Spotlight Award, presented by the Special Libraries of New York and celebrating "website founders and bloggers, curators of distinctive collections, solo librarians, mentors and teachers, conference organizers, and librarians typically working outside the traditional scope of SLA-NY award consideration." That's one I had never heard of!
I will be posting the February challenge by the end of the day tomorrow -- isn't it nice that I haven't had to remind anyone that we need to get to 150 posts?? :-)
I will jog your memories that in February, we'll be reading books about science and technology, and innovations and innovators. Who's leading the breakthroughs in biotech and nanotech? What are the big issues that we're facing in cybersecurity? Yes, this can be failed innovations or busted deals, or about those who screw things up, or about the folks who try to police this area (i.e. those who try to ensure our cybersecurity...) It can also be about national policies in this area (or lack of same...)
>164 nittnut: Tee hee. Fulfilling my self-imposed mission of "book enabler..."
>163 Chatterbox: Does it have to be a current innovator or someone who was innovative in his/her own right in the past?
>166 alcottacre: Whenever. Thomas Edison. Gutenberg. The dude who hollered Eureka and hopped out of his bathtub.
>167 Chatterbox: the dude was Archimedes I think. The owl in The Sword in the Stone was named after him... ;)
>162 Chatterbox: I'm about half through this Suz, but set it aside for a bit, I knew it would be a difficult read as my dad died last April, and we are heading for the one year anniversary. But she has some interesting things to share. Maybe not quite as good as Being Mortal but certainly deserves to be on that shelf about how we need to improve our relationship with death and dying.
>169 Caroline_McElwee: My condolences... (belatedly). Yes, it is not an easy read, but then for those of us who don't approach this in the right way, things could be worse. I admire that ethos. I think she is trying to do something different from Gawande, who emphasizes care of the elderly and end of life medical interventions, but their ultimate goal is similar -- how to make terms with the inevitable, for ourselves and those we love. Which is what makes both books valuable and complementary. I still find my mind flashing back to it. I remember when my ex-bf died, I found myself imagining all sorts of stuff about him being on his own, in a hotel room, in a foreign country, which added to the pain. I'm able to at least hope that wasn't the case. (It was complications from Type 1 diabetes.)
I’ve realised that my second book of 2019 also counted for this challenge, as it one the Victoria Prize for Literature, one that I’d never heard of previously, but which seems to be quite valuable at $100,000 (I’m assuming that’s Australian dollars).
Anyway, here’s my review from earlier in the month:
Sandra Pankhurst is a trauma cleaner. For those who might not be sure what a trauma cleaner is her, business card tells it all:
*Hoarding and Pet Hoarding Clean up * Squalor / Trashed Properties * Preparing the Home for Home Help Agencies to Attend * Odor control * Homicide, Suicide and Death Scenes * Deceased Estates * Mold, Flood and Fire Remediation * Methamphetamine Lab Clean Up * Industrial Accidents * Cell Cleaning
There’s probably enough in that list to fill the book on its own, as Krasnostein focuses on Sandra’s indomitable energy and compassion in dealing with her clients, whether dead or alive. But Sandra’s life is much more complicated than that. Born male, in the Australia of the 1950s, Sandra went from an abusive childhood to being married and the father of two children in her early twenties. Abandoning her family, and transitioning to male in a society where being transsexual was totally unacceptable she experienced violence, discrimination and was able only to make a living by prostitution.
This was a fascinating look at a woman with an incredible zest for life who overcame the extreme disadvantages that she faced by sheer force of personality and hard work. If it has a downside, it is that Krasnostein is a little too enamoured of her subject - a little more objectivity would not have gone amiss. But a fascinating read nonetheless - but definitely not for the squeamish.
A bout of bronchitis has held up my reading, but I’m about a quarter of the way through And the Band Played On. The subject matter, for any who don’t know, is the beginning of the AIDS epidemic here in the US, and the reactions to it, with special reference and emphasis on how our government failed in a massive way. While no one could call this a happy book, it is fascinating and compelling.
I’ll be finishing it as I’m able, and surely reading my octopus book next month. I’ll report back here.
I finished Minnesota Rag by Fred W. Friendly. It was the Silver Gavel Award winner in 1982. The Silver Gavel Award is given every year by the American Bar Association for a work of nonfiction that best illuminates the legal system in some regard. This book was written by a proponent and protector of Freedom of the Press, about the 1931 Supreme Court case that defined (some say redefined) the meaning of Freedom of the Press. The case was interesting, but where this book really excelled was in the description of the Supreme Court at that point in time. Reading this book just proves that the controversies about the politicization of the Court have been going on for a long long time - probably from the beginning. It may be that I found that part the most fascinating because it was like reading about the Court of today and realizing that the same political fights about strict or liberal interpretation of the Constitution are still going on. At the time of this court case, Chief Justice William H. Taft (the former President) had just died and Charles Evans Hughes became the new Chief Justice. Hughes was a more liberal justice than Taft, which was a surprise to the Harding administration, and his influence allowed the decision to go as it did. This book was written to explain what the Doctrine of Prior Restraint was and how dangerous it is for democracy. It does that, and makes me want to go read more about the history of the Court.
I just squeaked in by finishing Gilbert King's Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America, the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction winner in 2013. It was excellent. I'd say more, but no time today!
>172 SandDune: That sounds amazing, but also kind of daunting...
>175 Dejah_Thoris: And THAT is definitely on my list...
Wow, a great month's reading!! I wrapped it up with another 5-star book Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil. Originally published in 2016, it was a finalist for the National Book Award, and a damning and downright terrifying indictment of the way math, in the form of algorithms, runs and can ruin our lives. You MUST READ THIS. Facebook's issues are the tip of a scary iceberg. She focuses on opaque models that are designed to reward the already-privileged and make the lives of the disadvantaged still more burdensome, leaving them with no way to push back.
>176 Chatterbox: you don’t forget that book, for sure. More than a catchy title. You are right, more people should read it.
>175 Dejah_Thoris: I completely agree about Devil being excellent, Dejah!
I read that book for our College of Education book discussion about a year after that one was published. It was the book that made me really think. I agree that more people should read it. I found the information in it about insurance and how unequal that is to be amazing. Just where you live determines how much your premiums are. The inequality that is built into so many of our systems is amazing and scary at the same time.
I finished The Massey Murder but forgot to add my mention of it here.
The Massey Murder by Charlotte Gray, is about a murder and trial that occurred here in Toronto in 1915. An 18-year-old British maid shot and killed her employer, because he had been sexually harassing her (though that language wasn't yet coined back then). Bert Massey was from a famous and wealthy Canadian family, and this should have and could have been an easy open-and-shut case. But it wasn't. It was a highly sensational trial and there were many sub-plots behind it. But almost as soon as it was over, Carrie Davies was quickly forgotten and faded into obscurity as the war took over the headlines. I thought it was very poignant that when a Toronto Star journalist, Frank Jones (I recognized his name!) went looking to speak to Carrie's daughter, in the 1980s, decades after Carrie's death, he was astounded to discover that she knew nothing of her mother's past. Carrie had never told her family about it.
In the preface, author Charlotte Gray wrote, referencing some of her previous books:
"I was able to understand my subjects from the inside, because he or she had left personal papers in which I could read what they thought and hear their voice. Yet after finishing each one of these books, I found myself wondering about forgotten lives, the long-dead individuals who left no record behind them. What happens to anonymous, powerless individuals who are swept up by events and currents completely beyond their control?"
Gray also listed the sources she used to reconstruct this story since Carrie herself left nothing, no letters, journals or diaries.
This book won the 2014 Toronto Book Awards and was an RBC Taylor finalist (presumably the same year; the insignia on the cover doesn't state the year for that one).
I will be late finishing my February read, also by Charlotte, Reluctant Genius, about Alexander Graham Bell. I really enjoy Gray's writing.
This topic was continued by The 2019 Nonfiction Challenge Part II: Science & Technology; Innovation & Innovators in February.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.