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March 2015

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 30 March 2015

New Nonfiction Titles: Week of March 30, 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is commentary.

Auchmutey, Jim- The Class of '65: A Student, a Divided Town, and the Long Road to Forgiveness [First, I saw this and thought, oh brother, another Baby Boomer book I don't need to have anything to do with, but it actually looks like it might be an interesting longer-timeframe look at civil rights issues.]

Barker, Travis and Gavin Edwards - Can I Say: Living Large, Cheating Death, and Drums, Drums, Drums [A memoir by the drummer of Blink-182.]

Britton, Sarah - My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season

Butler, Shay - Fat Dad, Fat Kid ["A father-son weight loss memoir."]

Cohen, Alice Eve - The Year My Mother Came Back [Elle calls this one "a wry, magical memoir about the transcendent power of mother-daughter love." Yeah, that just doesn't do anything for me.]

Crawford, Matthew B. - The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction [This guy made a big splash with his earlier title Shop Class as Soulcraft, which I never got around to reading. Did anyone? How was it?]

Gates, Melinda - The Mother and Child Project [I am tired of the Gateses. I just am.]

Klink, Joanna - Excerpts From A Secret Prophecy

LaMarche, Una - Unabrow: Misadventures of a Late Bloomer [Yeah, I'm a sucker for humor, I'll try it.]

McCurley, Lt. Col. T. Mark with Kevin Maurer - Hunter Killer

Pasricha, Neil - How To Be Truly Rich: Unlocking the 9 Secrets to Happiness

Peyser, Marc - Hissing Cousins: The Untold Story of Eleanor Roosevelt and Alice Roosevelt Longworth

Richards, Carl - One-Page Financial Plan

Ronson, Jon - So You'Ve Been Publicly Shamed [Pretty super excited about this one, actually. I am in love with Jon Ronson.]

Segersten, Alissa & Tom Malterre - The Elimination Diet: Discover the Foods That Are Making You Sick and Tired—and Feel Better Fast

Simon, Scott - Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime [They must be planning for this to be a big title; looks like it's got a 100,000 first print run, which is a big number.]

Snyder, Kimberly - The Beauty Detox Power: Nourish Your Mind and Body for Weight Loss and Discover True Joy

Sullivan, Rosemary - Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva [Go look at the cover of this one; I've got to read it.]

Szwed, John - Billie Holiday

The Editors of O The Oprah Magazine - O's Little Book of Happiness [I'll tell you what would make me happy. To make the Editors of O personally apologize for this one, which is obviously blatant profit-mongering on the Oprah name.]

Vitagliano, Christina - Gene Simmons Is A Powerful And Attractive Man

So what do you think? Anything look good there?

I will never give up my bookshelves.

Every so often I think about books I've collected and think, what was the point, really?

For a while, as I moved through life, I collected books like picture frames collect dust. Naturally, easily, and really, really, quickly. Everywhere I went there seemed to be a used book sale going on. I often went along with my mother, who enjoyed antique shopping and auction-going, and there was always at least one moldering old box of books to browse or buy. When I was in college, I had to buy a ton of books for course reading lists. And then, I stopped fooling around and got serious: I worked at a used bookstore. Bull? Meet china shop. Only with, you know, books, and I didn't so much break them as just hoover them up.

So then the problem became, where to keep them? Before I married and moved into my own place, I had to be a bit careful about accumulating too much furniture, but once I did, I started finding bookshelves as easily as I continued to find books. And, up to a certain size, bookshelves are wonderful pieces of furniture, especially if you're a not-very-strong woman with a not-very-big car. Mattresses, couches, chairs, appliances, even futons, to a certain extent, are hard to haul around by yourself. Bookshelves? Especially smallish to mid-size ones? Not so much. Put your hands, palm side up, underneath the top section on the bookshelf, lift, and go. Cram into your trunk and tie it down, or shift your front seats as far forward as they'll go and shove the bookcase into your backseat on the floor.

For a long time, then, I experienced a blissful state of balance. I brought home books, I had places to stash them, I even, wonder of wonders, had time to read them. I also had lovely, hopeful, optimistic dreams (and I hardly have any of those, so I really, really cherished those) that someday I could provide kind of a mock library for kids that I would have. Oversize books! Lives of the saints (a favorite from my youth, not only because that was the type of books I found on my parents' shelves, but also because saint stories are full of plot points that would make most R-rated movies blush). Books on art! Books on history! Books of lists! Photography books! I even organized my books into sections: religion, history, reference, New York City (it warrants its own section, you know it does), classics, and of course, "Books People Have Given to Me" (embarrassingly, very few of which I have read, but none of which I will give away.)

And then I had kids.

And of course, you know how that story ends. Having kids is lovely. Beyond lovely. By far the most surprisingly enjoyable thing I have ever done. Also very trying, which is not very surprising, because I kind of expected it to be trying, but never trying in the ways in which you thought it would be and prepared yourself for. And primarily trying because all of a sudden I had a lot less time for reading. I mean, a lot less. Like, I mean, I literally never used to do anything with my time except read. (I begrudgingly went to work and cooked some meals, but I certainly didn't bother cleaning the house, socializing, or gardening, or anything else.) Let's put it this way: I read one hundred books last year, and that was the result of me reading only in snatched minutes here and there throughout the day. To me, reading a total of one hundred books in a year represented me being STARVED of books.

This is not a post blaming two lovely little CRjrs for my lack of reading productivity. It is a post about learning what reading, and specifically what reading books, means to me. And I only shared the above paragraph to illustrate to you that for me, reading a book roughly every three days is not nearly as ideal a situation as would be reading three books every one day.

So yeah, I like reading.

And yeah, I like books. It's not the cool thing to admit anymore. You're supposed to have your smartphone, on which you mainly follow Twitter, or Facebook, or apps, or whatever it is people actually do on their smartphones.* And you're supposed to have your Kindle, or your Nook, because ebooks are so handy, and you can download them anytime, and then you don't have to carry all those books around, and if you're a blogger or librarian type you can even get all sorts of advance copies of books in ebook form, and isn't that exciting?

Maybe it is, if you're in a place where you can get through more than 100 books a year. Or if the Kindle really IS a lot easier for you to hold and read, for any number of physical reasons. Or if you are a librarian, and have to look at a TON of books to know what to order for your library, not to mention so you can learn about books you might want to help other readers find. I get it, I get it, I get it; and, of course, one must move with the times. As Albert Brooks said in the classic movie "Broadcast News"**, "I grant you everything."

But give me this: articles divulging the fact that your e-reader is reading YOU are creepy as hell. Last year ebook retailer Kobo released some (keep in mind: "some" is always the operative word in these stories) of its data about the books most readers didn't finish, as well as the ones they did. And this is not an isolated story; a quick search and run around the Internet will net you any number of freaky-ass stories about how the people you are buying ebooks from can see what you're reading, when you stop reading it, what you highlight, how long it takes you to read pages, and all sorts of other information about what else is on your device and how you use it. There's also all sorts of really charming stories about how your various accounts can be hacked via ebooks.

Now, I can certainly understand if you don't want to follow those links. The stories are depressing as hell and I'm pretty sure the only way most of us keep using computers and devices is to delude ourselves, every day, about how secure our devices (and therefore our lives) really are. So let me nutshell the stories for you.

Ebook vendors can see (and do see, and SAVE information about) every little thing about your reading habits, way beyond just knowing WHAT you're reading, which is creepy enough. And who is very interested in that information? Well, for one, publishers. Marketing departments. Authors. And why? Everyone wants to know what you're reading so that, of course, they can sell you more of what you want. I have read stories now that talk about how authors are already tailoring characters and storylines based on reading data about where in the text people stop reading, or where they speed up. I have one word for this:


Why do you read? There's about a million reasons why I read, but one of the tippy-top reasons is that I love that moment of identification, of communion, with one other person--the author. As an introvert I am programmed to love any deeper interaction with just one other person, and reading provides that for me. Furthermore, reading--communing with an author--allows me to feel connected to the human race, and to experience. It does not matter that the author and I really don't have a way to converse back and forth. They put themselves out there with their book, and I put myself out there by finding and reading and thinking about it, and sometimes, when I come across an "aha!" moment in a book, where something just strikes me as perfectly funny or perfectly reasoned or just perfectly perfect for me at that moment in time, I can just enjoy it. The author and I can be together without being together, which is weirdly impersonal, I know, but also very comfortingly universal.

Until now. Until the marketing department gets hold of data about how I'm reading, and lets the author know they have to punch the story up a bit on page 176 to keep the reader interested. Really. Can you imagine a world in which Wuthering Heights ends with Cathy marrying Heathcliff because that's what more readers want? Sure, it would make the novel shorter, maybe happier, but would it be Wuthering Heights anymore? How about when all nonfiction, including memoir, history, science, has to be "helped" just a little at various junctures to make it more "page-turning" or "marketable"? Brother. As if it isn't hard enough to find some version of truth in nonfiction, now we get to think about publishers tweaking every single paragraph to keep you reading your ebook.

Lately I had been thinking, you know, the kids won't need or want my library of print books. They'll be digital natives, after all. And if we ever move, do I really want to move hundreds of books again? And their bookshelves? If the writing is on the wall for reading, and print books, maybe I should find some other reason for living, ditch all the books, and live lighter on this earth.

But I can't do it. I just went and visited my bookshelves in the basement (it's a nice, warm, and partially finished basement, and that's just the only place we have room, so that's where they are), and just looking at them made me feel calmer. And you know what? Nobody recorded how long I looked at each title, or which books I removed lovingly, recalling who gave them to me and why, or when and where I bought them. Joyfully, a lot of the books I own I have not yet read, so I feel like I always have this store of fresh reading material, even if the Zombie Apocalypse comes and we have to lock ourselves in the house. (Books, Fiber One cereal for me, and endless pasta for Mr. CR and the CRjrs, and we should be nicely placed to wait out that Zombie Apocalypse, I hope.)

So: I'm keeping the bookshelves. And I'm not going to just say no anymore when I pass any book sales. Because I love books, and I always want them around, and I want the old-fashioned kind that marketing departments aren't watching me read, and that Amazon can't pull back off my Kindle just because they feel like it, even though I've already paid for it. There's many healthier reasons why I'm going to keep the books, and the shelves, but at least one reason is because I am thrilled, when reading print books, that nobody but ME knows why or how I'm reading it.

*I have a cell phone, but it is a flip phone and is roundly mocked by everyone I know. Including a friend who sent me a text on it, and then had to show me how to open and read the text the next time I saw her.

**Watch Broadcast News if you want your mind blown by how different things looked even thirty years ago. A newsroom with no computers! People using phones hanging on walls!

Each subsequent chapter sadder than the last.

At least, that's sort of the way I felt as I made my way through Catherine Bailey's history book Black Diamonds: The Downfall of an Aristocratic Dynasty and the Fifty Years that Changed England.

All Anglophiles and general history readers should check this one out; it's the story of Great Britain's Fitzwilliam dynasty, based at the [unbelievably huge] Wentworth House estate in the Yorkshire region of England. Starting with the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam, born in 1815, this book traces the family's intrigues, economics, and, above all, its geneaology, although the bulk of it focuses on the 7th and 8th Earls and their lives in the twentieth century.*

The family was immensely wealthy, and their wealth derived from the vast number of coal mines they owned and ran. So in addition to being a history of the very rich, this is also a history of the very, very poor. I read this one over the course of a few weeks, and whenever I did, I went to bed glad that I am not a coal miner. Holy shit. Dangerous job, unhealthy job, very poorly paid job; and often undertaken for rich families that might or might not be decent employers. I will say this for the Earls Fitzwilliam: particularly in the case of the 7th earl, "Billy," he did try to treat his people somewhat decently (enough so that he was remembered fondly in the neighborhood, and most of his workers never voted for strikes against him).

Although: the lives of the rich people don't sound like a whole lot of fun in this book either. Billy himself was the target of a campaign by his aunts to disinherit him; he was born in Canada and it was alleged that his father, who died before his own father and therefore was never an earl himself, took steps to replace the baby girl that was really born to him with a Canadian baby boy (so that he could inherit the title and wealth). Good lord. The whole "only males can inherit" thing has really messed up a lot of lives.

But I digress. It's an interesting book. Not a great one--it skips around some in time and that makes it a bit tough to follow, particularly when you consider that all the earls are named some variation of William something, and it all gets a bit confusing. But it was an engrossing read; if you're in an area of the country where there's still just a bit of winter left, this might be a good thick book to settle in with by the fire until spring really arrives. (Oh: and be glad you didn't have to dig out the coal to light for your fire.)

Other reviews: The Guardian; Kirkus

*And there's even a bit about one of the earls and his love affair with Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy, sister to JFK.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 23 March 2015

New Nonfiction Titles: Week of March 23, 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold are titles with commentary.

Campbell, Thomas – The Campbell Plan: The Simple Way to Lose Weight and Reverse Illness, Using The China Study’s Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet

Flay, Bobby – Brunch at Bobby’s: 140 Recipes for the Best Part of the Weekend

Goldman, Katja, Judy Bernstein Bunzl, and Lisa Rotmil – The Community Table: Recipes and Stories from the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and Beyond

Hargrove, John with Howard Chua-Eoan – Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish (Another title about whales I should check out, as CRjr is obsessed with whales, but this one doesn't sound very happy.)

Houston, Philip, Michael Floyd, and Susan Carnicero – Get the Truth: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Persuade Anyone To Tell All (This sounds intriguing, actually, but at my last job I worked with several colleagues who told me TOO MUCH, and that wasn't cool. Also: do we have to persuade anyone to tell all anymore? Don't we just go check their Facebook account and learn more than we ever wanted to know?)

Hsu, Huan – The Porcelain Thief: Searching the Middle Kingdom for Buried China

Podell, Albert – Around the World in 50 Years: My Adventure to Every Country on Earth (I don't read a lot of travel, actually, but this one might be fun.)

Schlender, Brett – Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader (Ugh, Steve Jobs. He's one of my reading topic "deal breakers"--I just don't want to read about him.)

Tack, Karen – Cake My Day! Easy, Eye-Popping Designs for Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes

Thomas, Abigail – What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir (Here's how Amazon sums up this memoir: "What comes after the devastating loss of Abigail's husband, a process both sudden and slow? What form does her lifelong platonic friendship take after a certain line is crossed? How to cope with her daughter’s diagnosed illness? Or the death of her beloved dog?" Yeah, with memoirs, the blurbs help me decide almost immediately if I want or don't want to read them. I don't want to read this one.)

White, Kate, ed. – Mystery Writers of America Cookbook

So what do you think? Anything look good there?

Only One Thing Can Save Us, by Thomas Geoghegan

I have two main things to say about labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan's interesting book Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement.

First, when I started reading it, I was really digging it. It made total sense to me. It's a book about how things stand for "labor" (organized and not) in this country right now, and the author strikes a tone that seems, to me, totally reasonable:

"Of course it's for the young I feel sorry: after all, it was on our watch that a labor movement disappeared. Am I wrong or do they seem intimidated? So far as I can tell, at least on the El [in Chicago], they seem to shrink from one another. They stare pitifully down at their iPhones, which stare up pitilessly at them. Their own gadgetry sits in judgment of them.

But why pick on them? Everyone seems demoralized...More and more I have clients who have signed away their rights to be considered 'employees' at all--which means there's no minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, no Social Security, nothing. Years ago they should have said something when the HR people said: 'You're no longer employees here--but cheer up, you'll go on working for us as independent contractors.'...Sometimes I think: one day, every American worker will be a John Smith, Incorporated, every cleaning lady, every janitor, every one of us--it will be a nation of CEOs in chains. 'How did I let this happen?'

At some point, maybe 2034, it won't even occur to us to wonder. We'll just be too beat." (pp. 4-5.)

Now, the only thing I can argue with in the above is that I don't think it will take until 2034, or anywhere near it. So I enjoyed this book for the author's matter-of-fact tone. In fact, it didn't faze me in the least, until I left it in the bathroom, and Mr. CR said, "Holy cow, that is one depressing book you've got in the bathroom."

The second thing about this book is that I am not smart enough to read it right now. I really want to; I think the author has a lot of interesting things to say about where we've been with labor in this country and where we might want to think about going (rather than mindlessly following the path we're on), but this is a book that requires some concentration and some knowledge. There's a whole middle part, for instance, where the author discusses the economic ideas of John Maynard Keynes, and he seems to assume a level of knowledge that I don't have.* So for now, I'm going to put this book down...but only due to my failings, not the author's.

In the meantime, here's a more thorough review, from the New York Times.

*As the years pass I become more furious about how my time was wasted in public schools for 12 years, and about how I wasted my own time in college for nearly six more. Really? Nearly 18 years of school and nobody could give me a quick rundown on Keynes and basic economic theories?

How to Be a Heroine

So here's the thing about blogging about books:

Sometimes you just don't feel like it.

Last night I was sitting there, trying to figure out what to say about Samantha Ellis's memoir How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much. And for some reason--not least because I was having one of those nights when a. I couldn't form a coherent sentence to save my life, and b. I also couldn't summarize a pretty basic nonfiction book to save my life*--I thought, you know, I read this book, and it was okay, but there really wasn't that much (for me) to say about it.

I can say this: I got this book because I am a sucker for books about reading, writing, literary characters, or really, anything "book." And I stuck with it because I almost always finish any "book about books" that I read. Ellis is a serviceable writer and seems to be a likable person; in this memoir she mixes memories of growing up in a tightly knit Iraqi Jewish expat community in London (as well as coming-of-age and love stories) with her memories of literary heroines she has known. Here she is talking about Anne of Green Gables, and Anne's love interest Gilbert Blythe:

"He has roguish hazel eyes and a teasing smile and he likes pinning girls' braids to their chairs. But when he calls Anne 'carrots' (not knowing that red hair is her greatest affliction; as great an affliction as my failure to go blonde), she cracks a slate over his gorgeous head. No amount of apologies will melt her heart. She takes a whole book to forgive him, and two more to consent to becoming more than his friend. But they do eventually marry. For me, growing up among a lot of arranged marriages, it was a revelation that you could marry a man who was also a friend--and that a man might want a woman who was his intellectual equal; in the years when they are enemies, rivalry with Gilbert spurs Anne on to work harder than ever at school, and they're always battling to be top of their class. I was already starting to feel that boys were supposed to be clever and girls were supposed to be pretty, so I found this deeply reassuring." (pp. 38-39.)

Huh. And here's the other thing about book blogging: sometimes it allows you to take a moment and appreciate something you've read. Just typing that quote made me think, you know, this wasn't my favorite book ever, but it was kind of a good little read.** Give it a try.

*A better review of the book I'm talking about can be found at The Guardian.

**And it was nice to read it during March, which is Women's History Month.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 16 March 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold are titles with commentary.


  • Bloomfield, April - Girl and Her Greens: Hearty Meals from the Garden
  • Frank, Barney - Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage
  • Givhan, Robin - Battle of Versailles: Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History
  • Gottfried, Sara - Your Body Cure Diet: Reset Your Metabolism to Lose Up to 15 Pounds in 21 Days
  • Gottfried, Sara - Hormone Reset Diet
  • Harden, Blaine - The Great Leader and the Fighter Pilot: The True Story of the Tyrant Who Created North Korea and the Young Lieutenant Who Stole His Way to Freedom
  • Heidler, David S. - Washington's Circle: The Creation of the President
  • Hof, Dennis - The Art of the Pimp: One Man's Search for Love, Sex, and Money
  • Magee, Jeffrey - Your Trajectory Code: How to Change Your Decisions, Actions, and Direction to Become Part of the Top 1% of High Achievers
  • Moffit, Mitchell - AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World's Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena
  • In my continuing quest to read more science, I might have to check this one out.
  • Montillo, Roseanne - Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America’s Youngest Serial Killer
  • I used to read a lot of true crime, but I must have burned through my interest in it. I have not been in the mood to read it for some time.
  • Paulson, Jr., Henry M. - Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower
  • Ugh, Hank Paulson. Like he didn't screw us over enough as Secretary of the Treasury, now we're supposed to buy and read his book?
  • Taft, John G. - A Force for Good: How Enlightened Finance Can Restore Faith in Capitalism
  • Thomas, Gordon - Gideon's Spies : The Secret History of the Mossad (Revised)
  • I was completely fascinated by George Jonas's book Vengeance, about a Mossad assassin, so I might get this one.
  • Vetri, Marc - Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto


  • Hval, Cindy - War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation
  • Brother. If I never see the words "greatest generation" on a book again, it will be too soon.

So, what do you think? Anything look good there?

Oh, Russell Brand, what are we going to do with you?

I have a little soft spot for British comedian Russell Brand, even though I fully realize it's probably easiest to love Russell Brand from afar, which, luckily, is what I will always be from Russell Brand.

Let's break down the case. There's this: when Russell Brand is funny, he's really, really funny. Also: he is not a believer in voting, and I can go along with that.*

Third: He can write a serviceable memoir. I really enjoyed his first memoir, My Booky Wook, although I have just become aware he wrote another one, titled (not very imaginatively, Russell) My Booky Wook 2, and I will not in fact be reading that book. Only so much time, and all that. But when I saw he had a new book out called rEVOLution, I thought, all right, we'll give it a try.

It's awful. Really. It's unreadable. I am not alone in this opinion; most book critics seem pretty united in their opinions that it is not a well-written or even funny book. So it hurts me to write that you should not read this book, which is a mish-mash of memoir, political and ideological beliefs, befuddled writing about yoga, and (a very few) interviews with anarchist, nonprofit organizer, Occupy protestor types, including some of their ideas for bettering the world.

But? Every 100 pages or so he still managed to charm me. For example, when remembering a fraught conversation he had as a child with his grandmother (the "nan" he was not very fond of, to be exact), he decides that what he has to do as an adult is try and see his grandmother's point of view:

"I now look at my nan in another way. As a human being just like me, trying to cope with her own flaws and challenges. Fearful of what would become of her sick daughter, confused by the grandchild born of a match that she was averse to. Alone and approaching the end of her life, with regret and lacking a functioning system of guidance and comfort. Trying her best. Taking on the responsibility of an unusual little boy with glib, atheistic tendencies, she still behaved dutifully. Perhaps this very conversation sparked in me the spirit of metaphysical inquiry that has led to the faith in God I now have." (p. 60.)

So yeah, I can't recommend the book. But you've got to love a guy taking the time to re-evaluate his grandmother. Don't you? I do.

*He is also no fan of the British royal family, which is where we diverge in our opinions.

The glory years: Kids' nonfiction

I gotta tell you, all hardcore nonfiction readers should have at least one little kid. Because I'm finding that little kids really LOVE nonfiction. And it's super.

CRjr has become all about perusing the nonfiction shelves at the library. (Might I also add that taking the CRjrs to the library on a regular basis has been balm to my routine-loving soul. We go, we pick up our holds, we visit the little lizard who lives there, we wander the kids' nonfiction section, they play at the train table while I try to sneak in a chapter of whatever I'm picking up on hold, we look at pop-up books, we pick some Scooby-Doo readers off the shelf, we go. We could probably vary the order of those events, just once, but hey, why fool with a working system?)

So this week it's all sharks, manta rays, giant squids, and the moon. Last week it was body parts, trucks, and cranes. Did you know that sperm whales eat squids? And that squids have beaks on their mouths? Beaks that get stuck in whale stomachs, form little balls, and get coated with ambergris, which is whale digestive juices? That the perfume industry makes use of?

Mother Nature is a mad scientist, I tell you, and let's hear it for CRjr, taking me on the wild and wonderful tour of all things kids' nonfiction.

New Nonfiction (with commentary): 9 March 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Text in bold is the commentary.

  • Adams, Mark - Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City
  • Brencher, Hannah - If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers (I love writing and getting letters, so I might have to get this one.)
  • Cockburn, Andrew - Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (Just the subject makes me say "blech.")
  • Dawson, Shane - I Hate Myselfie: A Collection of Essays
  • deBuys, William - Last Unicorn: A Search for One of Earth's Rarest Creatures
  • Enriquez, Juan;Gullans, Steve - Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation are Changing Life on Earth (Kind of an intriguing title, actually, and I don't read enough science.)
  • Fleming, Thomas - The Great Divide: The Conflict Between Washington and Jefferson That Defined a Nation (Boy, the Founding Fathers subject is just one that people can't get enough of?)
  • Gelles, David - Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business from the Inside Out
  • Greitens, Eric - Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life
  • Gross, Michael - House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World's Most Powerful Address (MMMmmmm, New Yorky book, might have to have it.)
  • Guangcheng, Chen - The Barefoot Lawyer: A Blind Man's Fight for Justice and Freedom in China
  • Hodgman, George - Bettyville (This is a memoir, about a man going home to Missouri--from Manhattan--to look after his aging mother. Could be interesting.)
  • Hyman, Mark - Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet Cookbook
  • Joyce, Dru, II; forward by LeBron James - Beyond Championships
  • Kang, Maria - The No More Excuses Diet
  • Larson, Erik - Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
    (I am not an Erik Larson fan, but many nonfiction readers are, so I thought I'd draw your attention to this one.)
  • Lieberman, Jeffrey - Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry
  • Meyer, Karl E. and Shareen Blair Brysac - China Collectors
  • Morton, Andrew - 17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis and the Biggest Cover-Up in History
  • Neiwert, David - Of Orcas And Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us
    (CRjr is obsessed with all things whale and marine animal right now, so perhaps this would be a good read-alike for me!)
  • Niequist, Shauna - Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are
  • Paddock, Bonner - First Second(s): Kilimanjaro, Ironman, and the Moments That Make a Life Beyond Limits
  • Putnam, Robert - Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Putnam is, of course, the author of the often-cited social science title Bowling Alone, about the loss of community involvement, so this might be an important read.)
  • Sass, Cynthia - Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches Without Giving Up Carbs
  • Scott, Stuart - Every Day I Fight
  • Sehgal, Kabir - Coined: The Rich Life of Money and How Its History Has Shaped Us
  • Stone, Curtis - Good Food, Good Life: 130 Simple Recipes You'll Love to Make and Eat
  • Wills, Garry - Future Of Catholic Church With Pope Francis


  • Parker, Matthew - Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming's Jamaica
  • Rubin, Gretchen - Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Life (Ugh, Gretchen Rubin. I am not a fan. But she's very popular, so again, a good title to be aware of.)

So, what do you think? Anything look good there?

Men Explain Things to Me: Take Two.

Okay, I was just working on a horrifically long post about Rebecca Solnit's essay collection Men Explain Things to Me.

I'm not going to post it.

Instead, here's a little anecdote I'm going to tell you. I so badly want to try for a third little CRjr, just because I have been so lucky and the first two little CRjrs are so great. But I have what Mr. CR and I call my "hierarchy of fears" on that subject. My fears about a new baby are, in this order:

  1. Down Syndrome (because I am OLD);
  2. Autism;
  3. Twins (because I am OLD, and I don't know how even young people handle that);
  4. Girl

Let's just say I don't think it's easy to be a girl. I am the mother of sons and I think it was meant to be that way.* And I say that even as someone who has been phenomenally blessed in her interactions with male family members, friends, and partners, as well as unbelievably lucky in her avoidance of violence at anyone's hands.**

So yeah, you know what? Just read Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me. (In fact, you can even read the title essay online, if you want to give it a try first.) If you like it, recommend it to other women and men. However else I felt about it, this passage, in a later essay, really got to me:

"When I was young, women were raped on the campus of a great university and the authorities responded by telling all the women students not to go out alone after dark or not to be out at all. Get in the house. (For women, confinement is always waiting to envelope you.) Some pranksters put up a poster announcing another remedy, that all men be excluded from campus after dark. It was an equally logical solution, but men were shocked at being asked to disappear, to lose their freedom to move and participate, all because of the violence of one man." (p. 77.)

Just think about that paragraph for a while. I did. I'm not saying it's a perfect book, but there's a few paragraphs like that, that should start to make it clearer why I'd fear having a baby girl. And that's just not right, I don't care how you look at it.

*Which is not to say I don't worry about my boys. I am a Champion Worrier, and if I told you the long list of worries I had for and about my boys this week alone, you would think I'm absolutely nuts. If you don't think that already.

**Really. If my mother knew some of the places I went by myself after ten p.m., she would keel over dead. I almost keel over dead sometimes remembering some of my risky choices. Luck. Pure dumb, good luck.

Matt Taibbi, back at Rolling Stone.

All last summer and fall I was bereft, because Matt Taibbi had left Rolling Stone to write for a new, unknown publication, and there were some months when I couldn't find any new writing of his online to read.

But: he won't be writing for the new publication after all.

That's sad, and I hope he's okay with it, but the great takeaway here is, he's back at Rolling Stone! YAY! Now go read him there.*

*I was going to link you to his most recent article, on Scott Walker, the oh-so-charming governor of my home state of Wisconsin, but I don't think it's his strongest work. For one thing, he seems to think the Democratic Party has their act together sufficiently to defeat Walker in a presidential election (God help us, that's a scary line to write), and I don't personally believe that they do (and there's an even scarier line to write).

New Nonfiction: 2 March 2015

A new series, published each Monday, sharing a selected list of new nonfiction titles to be published during the week. List originally published at The Reader's Advisor Online. Highlighting reflects titles I'll be trying to get from the library.

  • Alda, Arlene - Just Kids from the Bronx (Just looked this up--Arlene is Mrs. Alan Alda, interesting, and this is an oral history. I must have it!)
  • Barry, Dave - Live Right And Find Happiness (Although Beer Is Much Faster): Life Lessons and Other Ravings from Dave Barry (My first thought here was, huh, Dave Barry's still alive. Not very nice, I know.)
  • Bissonnette, Zac - Great Beanie Baby Bubble
  • Cordain, Loren - Real Paleo Diet Cookbook: 250 All-new Recipes from the Paleo Expert
  • Coupland, Douglas, Hans Ulrich Obrist, & Shumon Basar - Age Of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present (I have no idea what this is about, but I've liked Coupland ever since I liked his novel Generation X.)
  • Dasher, Courtney - Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog With the Overbite
  • De Angelis, Barbara - Soul Shifts: Transformative Wisdom for Creating a Life of Authentic Awakening, Emotional Freedom & Practical Spirituality
  • Henderson, Bruce - Rescue at Los Baños: The Most Daring Prison Camp Raid of World War II
  • Holland, Julie - Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy (Yes, I will be getting this one, you can stop your subtle hinting.)
  • Little, Benilde - Welcome to My Breakdown
  • Lyndsey, Anna - Girl in the Dark: A Memoir
  • MacDonald, Helen - H Is for Hawk
  • Morin, Brit - Homemakers: A Domestic Handbook for a New Generation (Ugh, I should get this, but let's face it, I'm old generation and not much of a homemaker to boot.)
  • Parr, Ben - Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention (A book on public speaking, maybe? I am addicted to public speaking manuals.)
  • Potter, Jennifer - Seven Flowers: and How They Shaped the World (Ugh. Microhistory. Not for me, but perhaps you like microhistories?)
  • Reid, L. A. - L. A. Confidential
  • Schlender, Brent - Becoming Steve Jobs  
  • Schneier, Bruce - Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World (Oh yeah, a downer tech book, I'm all over it.)
  • Slack, Charles - Liberty's First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech (I liked Slack's history of Hetty Green, the "world's greatest miser" and stock market master, so this is history I might try.)
  • Smith, Ian K. - Shred Diet Cookbook
  • Vance, Ashlee - Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

 So what do you think? Does anything look good?