Jan/Feb 2019 ~ Which non-fiction books are you exploring?
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I'm also reading A Brief History of Japan: Samurai, Shogun and Zen: The Extraordinary Story of the Land of the Rising Sun (2017), by Jonathan Clements, this one in soft copy. Given the twelve centuries it covers, I suppose you'd have to call it brief, but it doesn't feel brief. I'm interested in the cultural background I'm gaining from it, even though I couldn't pass a quiz on any of it.
Indeed I did enjoy it! I am going to give it a 4 stars (Very good) and likely gift it to many. (Truthfully, I gifted it to my friend, I thought it might be a bit light for me... she gave it to me back to read and I'm so glad that she did!! It is ultimately all anecdotes, and do wander a bit, but they are very good. Over and over I found it very relate able (including the dismantling of the "mean girl" trope) ... either in my past or current situations.
Great to hear... I've read a few others of MacIntyre's (names escape me at the moment) and its always a decent ride. I know nothing of the Philby case so I'm interested to dive in.
By Mark Harris
This is the amazing true life story of some of the greatest Hollywood film directors who were asked to film events during WWII and produce training films for the soldiers while putting aside their careers. John Ford, George Steven, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra were the ones asked to give up their Hollywood jobs to work with the government. A few stayed to make instructional films to train soldiers; others accompanied troops to war torn regions putting their lives in danger while filming. This was a page turner for me from the beginning to the end!
His earlier Pictures at a Revolution -- a look at the dying days of the old studio system, and the birth of the "New Hollywood," through the prism of the 5 "Best Picture" nominees at the 1968 Academy Awards -- was also excellent . . .
Jell-O was invented prior to 1899 and Rowbottom’s great-great-great uncle bought the patent and manufactured it. The book details her family’s lives living in privilege and how the so called “Jell-O” curse affected their lives. The book also details the history of Jell-O over the years and touches on the story of a group of girls from LeRoy, New York, who came down with a Tourette-like syndrome which was blamed on the manufacture of the product in the area. Interesting!
I'm in the middle of The Boy Who Played with Fusion. It's fascinating. Taylor was trying to build a particle accelerator at age 11. The author adds a lot of material, some of it padding. I'd say half of the extra stuff is interesting. He dips into the hard physics and chemistry; as well as the psychology of giftedness.
The most interesting aside, thus far, is the observation that more than IQ, working memory capacity defines capability and attainments in child prodigies. And then, also, availability and utilization of practice time.
"High achievers are born, then made."
Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House
by Cliff Sims
(Trump fears obscurity above all else!)
This is the true story of Elizabeth Esther who grew up in a very physically and mentally punishing religious cult and the efforts she took to try and remove herself from their influence. Very compelling!
Kurlansky noted for his non-fiction writing doesn’t disappoint in this book on the history and science of milk. Never boring, he makes the topic of milk extremely interesting from its very beginnings up until today. The studies they did on homogenized milk before allowing the public to drink it were interesting and I learned that the yogurt I thought I was eating is actually a cheese product. There are recipes scattered throughout the book and the older ones are quite shocking, making me feel happy I was not born several centuries ago. Highly recommended!
On a similar note, the nf I have going now is What the Robin Knows by Jon Young - a book about how bird calls can clue you into what's happening around you in nature.
We went to see They Shall Not Grow Old this weekend. WWI film footage from Britain’s Imperial War Museum was not stored correctly and Peter Jackson of Lord of The Rings was asked to restore the film and make it into a movie before it was completely destroyed. There is also a 30 minute separate film after the movie which showed how the film was restored. Very interesting! https://variety.com/2018/film/reviews/they-shall-not-grow-old-review-peter-jacks...
This was a wonderful book on the early life of Homer Hickman, living in a coal town along with the stress of that, while he and his friends were being inspired by the space race and wanting to be a part of it. He did eventually become a NASA engineer but not without the help of his friends and the town that supported him.
OMG 'Busy, what a downer of a great book! Regarding The Soul of America I'm almost done, so here are some of my ramblings. Initially, subjective, flowery essay style takes some getting used to, but it turns out this is actually a fascinating history of the USA in a long string of very organized, readable quotations of all the key players. Initial thesis appears to be that we go through crazy times and always come out of it. It seems though that we Americans are weak and quick to go to unpatriotic racism and proto-Fascism, in the name of patriotism. It's happened again and again. I get the vibe that other countries suffer a heck of a lot more, before they choose extremism, fear and hate. There sure is a long string of ass-hats: Andrew Johnson, Woodrow Wilson, Joe McCarthy, George Wallace. Be Patriots, uphold the Constitution, follow reasonable leaders, be nice people, act like Americans.
(And as a result of this book, I've been listening to Murrow and Eisenhower speeches as inspiration.)
Watching interviews of people who write books featuring the long view of our history ~ Jon Meacham and Michael Beschloss ~ brings me hope in this crazy era.
This is a very interesting look at the reclusive Huguette Clark, a wealthy heiress, introvert and hoarder who secluded herself in a hospital room for over 20 years relying on some people who did not always have her best interests in mind and cut off from her relatives whom she did not want to see or contact. On her death, she left a huge estate and a huge problem for the lawyers and the courts to sort out pitting her family against the friends and staff she had given money to.