Mar/Apr 2020 ~ Which non-fiction books are you probing?

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Mar/Apr 2020 ~ Which non-fiction books are you probing?

Fev 28, 2020, 6:24 am

Numerous non-fiction adventures await us!

Editado: Mar 7, 2020, 8:29 am

Starting this OverDrive Kindle eBook Alexa can read to me ~

The Watergate Girl: My Fight for Truth and Justice Against a Criminal President (4 stars)
by Jill Wine-Banks (now an MSNBC legal analyst/the blonde lady who wears the interesting, large pins)

Fev 28, 2020, 8:01 am

Just sneaking into February, I finished She-merchants, buccaneers and gentlewomen : the lives and times of British women in India 1600-1900. A wide ranging study of the British female experience in India. Good read.

Editado: Mar 1, 2020, 10:43 pm

I'm listening to Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow and it's making me so mad! I really hope people at NBC got fired over this cover up. Either commit to supporting good journalism or get out of the news business. 😠

Mar 3, 2020, 4:06 am

Reading The Spy Who Changed the World about Klaus Fuchs. There's masses of detail and it's a compelling read.

Mar 4, 2020, 12:07 pm

In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown
Amy Gary
4/5 stars
This is the very interesting biography of the author Margaret Wise Brown. Brown’s life was a whirlwind between writing books, travel and her multiple relationships with men and women. Unfortunately, at the age of 42 she died from a blood clot after having surgery but she has left behind her works which still are being published and loved by readers today.

Mar 4, 2020, 1:39 pm

I just started Lincoln's Sword about Lincoln's writing. The author was a professor of mine (many years ago) who morphed into an impressive Lincoln scholar.

Mar 5, 2020, 7:27 am

Has anyone read Spillover?

Mar 5, 2020, 11:11 am

Mar 5, 2020, 11:53 am

I'm reading Watching the Tree, I am finding the author to be particularly annoying.

Editado: Mar 6, 2020, 12:09 pm

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom
Sławomir Rawicz
3.5/5 stars
During WWII, Polish solider Slavomir Rawicz is captured by the Russians and sent to a labor camp in Siberia. Conditions are horrible and Rawicz conspires with six other prisoners to escape to British India. The trek is a long one and several die on the way but when things go bad, they encounter people along the way who help them out even though their lives are also troubled. There have been sources that say that the book is a falsehood but I thought it was a very interesting read. This was also made into a film but unfortunately I have not been able to find a copy of it yet.

Mar 11, 2020, 7:38 am

I finished Dark Age Ahead. The book suggests 5 ways in which our (North American) culture is failing, hurling us toward a Dark Age. It was written 15 years ago and it's clear that these parameters have gotten significantly worse rather than better in that time. None of her suggestions as to how the downward spiral could be arrested have been adopted. As such it's a rather depressing book.

Mar 16, 2020, 2:25 pm

I finished Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War by Ronald C. Finucane. This is a clearly written and (to me, anyway) interesting book about the crusades. Finucane's purpose was not to provide a chronological narrative of the the several crusades that took place over several centuries during the Middle Ages, but instead to provide, to the extent possible from this far remove, a look into what it was like to take part in the events, looking, as the title suggests, from the perspectives of both European Christians and the Moslems they went to do battle with. Finucane began with an overview chapter laying out relatively briefly the timeline, goals and results of the various crusades to provide a context. But then he presents a series of explications of the different factors of the events, showing the patterns that held true throughout the centuries and differentiating between the various eras when appropriate. So we get insights into "Enlisting for the Crusades," "The Journey," "God's Armies," "Fighting and Dying," "Searching for God: Christian Enthusiasm, Moslem Beliefs," "Christian-Moslem Interactions," "Minorities at Risk: Women and Jews" and, finally, "Decline of an Ideal." Finucane didn't romanticize or admire any of this, but instead tried to present a clear-eyed view of it all. His writing was not particularly graceful, but was, as I mentioned up top, clear and straightforward enough to allow for a relatively unfettered reading experience.

Mar 17, 2020, 4:09 pm

Just started reading "The Case Against Reality : why evolution hid the truth from our eyes" by Donald Hoffman. A very accessible read from a cognitive scientist.

Mar 18, 2020, 5:53 am

Finished a couple that are worthy of note.

Letters of Note: Love was a collection of letters about love. They were all sorts of love, between different people at different times. Some of them expressed the inexpressible in moving and beautiful ways. I listened to this and it was lovely.

Remarkable: Five Women who Dared to Make a Difference this was originally a radio series, where Lyse Doucet explored the life stories of 5 women (2 heads of state, 1 ambassador & 2 activists) in the political sphere. At half an hour long, each left you wanting to know more, but was sufficiently long to admire each of them in their own way.

Mar 18, 2020, 12:52 pm

Listening to a library copy of I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara. Interesting addition to the true-crime genre as it gives equal time to the crime-obsessed amateur detective as to the crimes. Unfortunately, the last disk of the audio book does not play so I am stuck without the ending until whenever the library system reopens and another copy becomes available.

Mar 19, 2020, 1:47 pm

>18 LynnB: Good one. So good, I started a thread a while back and added additional materials:

Mar 19, 2020, 6:02 pm

>18 LynnB: I read that awhile ago-I found it very interesting.

Mar 26, 2020, 5:31 pm

I also found When Books Went to War very interesting and have recommended it to members of my book clubs.

I'm reading It Could Be Worse, You Could be Me by Ariel Leve

Mar 27, 2020, 9:11 am

Check out free books at the National Emergency Library of the Internet Archive. That free offer is good, starting in March 2020, thru the duration of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Link:

Mar 29, 2020, 5:19 pm

I finished Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs (edited by Greil Marcus). Lester Bangs was a prominent rock critic from the late 60s through the early 80s, when he died suddenly. He was one of a trio of rock writers, along with Nick Tosches (see above) and Richard Meltzer who were known as the "Noise Boys" for their irreverent self-referential style of writing. Gonzo journalism, in other words. This book is a collection of Bangs' writing, some pieces relatively well known/notorious and other culled by editor Greil Marcus (a rock writer of high quality himself and a friend of Bangs') from notes and unpublished writing Bangs left behind.

Bangs was a breathtaking writer, and his reviews could start out as relatively standard record or concert reviews but quickly morph into fascinating (if you like Bangs' style) diatribes into the state of music, or American culture or human nature or all three, composed in a runaway train of stream of consciousness and, sometimes, vitriol.

Mar 30, 2020, 8:11 am

>23 JulieLill:. I've put that one one my wish list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Editado: Mar 30, 2020, 12:59 pm

>24 rocketjk:
“Carburetor Dung.” Hah, reminds me of a jet on the right side of the carb in my VW back in the air-cooled rear-engine days. It developed a habit of mimicking a clogged toilet with similarly vexing inconvenience (i.e. putting a stop to things). Initial experience was at night on a freeway. Not fun, but educational.

I might pick up his book just because of the title. Automotive and musical nostalgia.

Mar 30, 2020, 1:52 pm

I finished Laugh with Leacock by Stephen Leacock. Leacock was a Canadian humorist whose work was widely syndicated in both Canada and the U.S. In fact, his Wikipedia page includes the statement, "Also, between the years 1915 and 1925, Leacock was the most popular humourist in the English-speaking world." They include four sources for that statement, so I think it's safe to say that if it isn't strictly speaking true, it is at least not an unreasonable claim to make about Leacock's popularity at that time. When I was a kid in the early 1960s it did seem to me that every house we went to had a copy of Laugh with Leacock sitting around, often in the same Cardinal Giant paperback version my parents had.

Anyway, as you would guess (if you didn't already know), Laugh with Leacock is a collection of Leacock's most favored columns. The book was originally published in 1913. My hardcover copy is a nineteenth printing, dated 1945, which will give you an idea of Leacock's staying power. Some of these stories/columns now seem dated, but most of them still supply at least a chuckle, and some even had me laughing out loud. Just for an example, here is the opening of "How My Wife and I Built Our Home for $4.90:"

I was leaning up against the mantelpiece in a lounge suit which I had made out of old ice bags, and Beryl, my wife, was seated at my feet on a low Louis Quinze tabouret which she had made out of a Finnan Haddie fishbox, when the idea of a bungalow came to both of us at the same time. . . ."

Not a knee-slapper, but an introduction that promises a column of gentle, effective humor, a take down of "Do It Yourself For Less," which then goes on to deliver on that promise. Once the bungalow idea has been put in motion and a suitable site found and purchased (for $1.50) . . .

Owing perhaps to my inexperience, it took me the whole of the morning to dig out a cellar forty feet long and twenty feet wide. Beryl, who had meantime cleaned up the lot, stacked the lumber, lifted away the stones and planted fifty yards of hedge, was inclined to be a little impatient. But I reminded her that a contractor working with a gang of man and two or three teams of horses would have taken a while week to do what I did in one morning. I admitted that my work was not equal to the best records as related in the weekly home journals, where I have often computed that they move 100,000 cubic feet of earth in one paragraph, but at least I was doing my best."

Well, anyway, if these excerpts seem amusing and/or charming to you, then you will understand my enjoyment of this collection. I can see, though, where this sort of thing wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea. I would say that the book is about a 50-50 split between a little obvious and dated on the one hand and still providing a happy chuckle, at least, on the other.

Mar 30, 2020, 1:55 pm

>26 dypaloh: "Automotive and musical nostalgia."

Two great things that go great together!

Mar 31, 2020, 5:37 pm

I finished Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History by Steven J. Zipperstein just in time to sneak it onto the March thread. This is a fascinating and clearly written book about the Kishinev pogrom. This tragic event took place, obviously, in the town of Kishinev, which is in Moldavia, relatively close to the seaport of Odessa, 1903. Somewhere around 50 of the towns Jews were killed in the riots, many women were raped, and of course many more people were injured. Businesses were destroyed, as well. There were many, many first-hand, written accounts of the violence, which spread over two days, and in particular two journalists who spent weeks in the town afterwards taking down survivor and witness testimony. Zipperstein makes the point that the fact that Kishinev is on the very westernmost area of the Russian Empire made it easier for news and information about the event to get out into the rest of the world than pogroms that took place deeper inside of Russia.

Zipperstein does a very good job of placing the Kishinev pogrom in historical context. In fact, although his description of the violence is detailed, graphic and horrifying, it takes up a relatively small portion of the book's 208 pages. The first several chapters describe conditions in the town of Kishinev, describing the town, the people who live there and relations between the various nationalities and between Christians and Jews. Zipperstein also deals with the several widely believed falsehoods about the pogrom, including the belief that the event was planned at the highest levels of the Russian government, and that the Jewish men of the town uniformly acted in a shame-inducing cowardly fashion, and discusses the repercussions that this belief has had for over a century.

Finally, Zipperman shows how the strong reaction against the pogrom throughout the U.S. became linked to the nascent Civil Rights movement, as some, both black and white, came to see the hypocricy of condemning the anti-Semitic violence in Russia while remaining silent about, or even defending, lynchings and anti-black riots in America.

So, all in all, this is a very interesting history of a dramatic, tragic event placed within the flow of both the events that led up to it and the events and concepts that emanated in its wake.

Abr 5, 2020, 11:21 am

I finished Napoleon's Buttons. It is a collection of stories about various groups of molecules that have impacted history, from spices, to foods, to medicines, to refrigerants, etc. presented without shirking away from the chemistry involved. It was engaging and interesting even to an organic chemist. One would not have to be an chemist to understand and enjoy the book.

Abr 5, 2020, 5:11 pm

The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History by Nathalia Holt
4.5/5 stars
This is the amazing true story of the women animators that worked at the Disney studios and who influenced and participated in the filmmaking process of the animated films. They came from all backgrounds and did jobs that the men got paid more for doing but they persevered and were able to make an impact on the films they worked on. Interesting fact -I never knew that the book Bambi: A Life in the Woods was banned in Germany because it dealt with German antisemitism and it was written by a Jewish author. Highly recommended!

Abr 5, 2020, 6:00 pm

I'm reading, well listening to The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements.

Phew. It's a little dry, but not terrible.

Abr 9, 2020, 5:09 am

Negative Gravity: A Life of Beatrice Shilling. She studied engineering in 1929 - an unusual choice for a woman at the time - rebuilt her own motor-cycle, became a specialist in aircraft engineering, during the Secong World War solved the problem of fighter planes losing power when diving, and continued working in aeronautics until 1969.

Abr 11, 2020, 11:10 am

Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, but being the Twentieth Anniversary edition that makes me only about 20 years behind. I am taking it in small chunks of one chapter each day, and so far it is quite interesting. At this rate though I will still be at it in May. We shall see which comes first: the end of the book, or the end of coronavirus. Interspersed with that, for lighter reading, I am working on 507 Mechanical Movements.

Abr 12, 2020, 7:36 pm

I just finished The Classic Slum and it was surprisingly good. Prior to that, it was The Demon in the Freezer. I think there's a bit of a theme here, very appropriate for these times.

Abr 14, 2020, 4:08 am

Started The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington by Joanna Moorhead, a chatty and affectionate biography of the fascinating surrealist artist.

Abr 16, 2020, 11:23 am

>38 LynnB: Good one. Ice cream churns were a female invention, as I recall.

Abr 19, 2020, 2:36 pm

yes, they were, 2WonderY. I enjoyed the book very much....some history, a little science and lots about culture and attitudes.

Now, I'm reading a memoir, The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley.

Abr 19, 2020, 5:37 pm

>38 LynnB: Adding this one to my reading list!

Abr 19, 2020, 5:45 pm

I thought it was about time that I read William Shirer's 1250-page tome The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), so I started it in February. Now about 1/3 of the way through. Chilling work to read in this strange time.

Abr 21, 2020, 11:48 am

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
A bodacious book for Bryson fans. I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

Abr 21, 2020, 3:08 pm

>43 dypaloh: I do love to read Bryson. Is it new?

Abr 21, 2020, 5:26 pm

>44 JulieLill: Yes, it is. Copyright 2019. I bought it with a Christmas gift card (yay, gift cards!).

Abr 24, 2020, 1:29 pm

oh I want to read that!

Abr 28, 2020, 8:42 pm

Just finished the very short but also very dense and intellectually meaty, River out of Eden.