Nonfiction that Reads Like Fiction

Summer Reading 2013 - Nonfiction that Reads Like Fiction

Unbroken : a World War II airman's story of survival, resilience, and redemption by Laura HillenbrandUnbroken : a World War II airman's story of survival, resilience, and redemption  
Hillenbrand, Laura
Call Number: 921 Z26H
2010
From the 1936 Olympics to WWII Japan's most brutal POW camps, Hillenbrand's heart-wrenching new book is thousands of miles and a world away from the racing circuit of her bestselling Seabiscuit. But it's just as much a page-turner, and its hero, Louie Zamperini, is just as loveable: a disciplined champion racer who ran in the Berlin Olympics, he's a wit, a prankster, and a reformed juvenile delinquent who put his thieving skills to good use in the POW camps, In other words, Louie is a total charmer, a lover of life-whose will to live is cruelly tested when he becomes an Army Air Corps bombardier in 1941. The young Italian-American from Torrance, Calif., was expected to be the first to run a four-minute mile. After an astonishing but losing race at the 1936 Olympics, Louie was hoping for gold in the 1940 games. But war ended those dreams forever. In May 1943 his B-24 crashed into the Pacific. After a record-breaking 47 days adrift on a shark-encircled life raft with his pal and pilot, Russell Allen "Phil" Phillips, they were captured by the Japanese. In the "theater of cruelty" that was the Japanese POW camp network, Louie landed in the cruelest theaters of all: Omori and Naoetsu, under the control of Corp. Mutsuhiro Watanabe, a pathologically brutal sadist (called the Bird by camp inmates) who never killed his victims outright-his pleasure came from their slow, unending torment. After one beating, as Watanabe left Louie's cell, Louie saw on his face a "soft languor.... It was an expression of sexual rapture." And Louie, with his defiant and unbreakable spirit, was Watanabe's victim of choice. By war's end, Louie was near death. When Naoetsu was liberated in mid-August 1945, a depleted Louie's only thought was "I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!" But as Hillenbrand shows, Louie was not yet free. Even as, returning stateside, he impulsively married the beautiful Cynthia Applewhite and tried to build a life, Louie remained in the Bird's clutches, haunted in his dreams, drinking to forget, and obsessed with vengeance. In one of several sections where Hillenbrand steps back for a larger view, she writes movingly of the thousands of postwar Pacific PTSD sufferers. With no help for their as yet unrecognized illness, Hillenbrand says, "there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path...." The book's final section is the story of how, with Cynthia's help, Louie found his path. It is impossible to condense the rich, granular detail of Hillenbrand's narrative of the atrocities committed (one man was exhibited naked in a Tokyo zoo for the Japanese to "gawk at his filthy, sore-encrusted body") against American POWs in Japan, and the courage of Louie and his fellow POWs, who made attempts on Watanabe's life, committed sabotage, and risked their own lives to save others. Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten. She restores to our collective memory this tale of heroism, cruelty, life, death, joy, suffering, remorselessness, and redemption. (Nov.) -Reviewed by Sarah F. Gold (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Behind the beautiful forevers : [life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity] by Katherine BooBehind the beautiful forevers : [life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity]  
Boo, Katherine
Call Number: 305.569 B7241
2011
A Mumbai slum offers rare insight into the lives and socioeconomic and political realities for some of the disadvantaged riding the coattails (or not) of India's economic miracle in this deeply researched and brilliantly written account by New Yorker writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Boo. Divided into four parts, the narrative brings vividly to the page life as it is led today in Annawadi, a squalid and overcrowded migrant settlement of some 3,000 people squatting since 1991 on a half-acre of land owned by the Sahar International Airport. (Boo derives her title from a richly ironic real-world image: a brightly colored ad for floor tiles repeating "Beautiful Forever" across a wall shutting out Annawadi from the view of travelers leaving the airport.) Among her subjects is the fascinating Abdul, a sensitive and cautiously hopeful Muslim teenager tirelessly trading in the trash paid for by recycling firms. Crucially, Boo's commanding ability to convey an interior world comes balanced by concern for the structural realities of India's economic liberalization (begun the same year as Annawadi's settlement), and her account excels at integrating the party politics and policy strategies behind eruptions of deep-seated religious, caste, and gender divides. Boo's rigorous inquiry and transcendent prose leave an indelible impression of human beings behind the shibboleths of the New India. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Just kids : from Brooklyn to the Chelsea Hotel : a life of art and friendship by Patti SmithJust kids : from Brooklyn to the Chelsea Hotel : a life of art and friendship  
Smith, Patti
Call Number: 921 S656
In 1967, 21-year-old singer-song writer Smith, determined to make art her life and dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities in Philadelphia to live this life, left her family behind for a new life in Brooklyn. When she discovered that the friends with whom she was to have lived had moved, she soon found herself homeless, jobless, and hungry. Through a series of events, she met a young man named Robert Mapplethorpe who changed her life-and in her typically lyrical and poignant manner Smith describes the start of a romance and lifelong friendship with this man: "It was the summer Coltrane died. Flower children raised their arms... and Jimi Hendrix set his guitar in flames in Monterey. It was the summer of Elvira Madigan, and the summer of love...." This beautifully crafted love letter to her friend (who died in 1989) functions as a memento mori of a relationship fueled by a passion for art and writing. Smith transports readers to what seemed like halcyon days for art and artists in New York as she shares tales of the denizens of Max's Kansas City, the Hotel Chelsea, Scribner's, Brentano's, and Strand bookstores. In the lobby of the Chelsea, where she and Mapplethorpe lived for many years, she got to know William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Johnny Winter. Most affecting in this tender and tough memoir, however, is her deep love for Mapplethorpe and her abiding belief in his genius. Smith's elegant eulogy helps to explain the chaos and the creativity so embedded in that earlier time and in Mapplethorpe's life and work. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Nothing daunted : the unexpected education of two society girls in the West by Dorothy WickendenNothing daunted : the unexpected education of two society girls in the West  
Wickenden, Dorothy
Call Number: 920 W6363
2011
On July 24, 1916, the Syracuse Daily Journal printed the headline: "Society Girls Go to Wilds of Colorado." The two young women were Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, recent graduates of Smith College who, in order to defy their family's expectation of marriage, sought work in the small town of Hayden, Colo. Woodruff was the grandmother of New Yorker executive editor Wickenden, who herself becomes a central character in an informative and engaging narrative. Using letters from her grandmother, newspaper articles, and interviews with descendants, Wickenden retells how Woodruff and Underwood traveled to the newly settled state of Colorado to teach at a ramshackle grade school. The book offers a wide cross-section of life in the American West, but the core of the story is the girls' slow adaptation to a society very different from the one in which they were raised, and their evolution from naive but idealistic and open-minded society girls to strong-willed and pragmatic women who later married and raised families in the midst of the Great Depression. Wickenden brings to life two women who otherwise might have been lost to history and who took part in creating the modern-day West. Photos. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Born to run : a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen by Christopher McDougallBorn to run : a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen  
McDougall, Christopher
Call Number: 796.424 M4788
2009
From the depths of Mexico's Copper Canyon to the heights of the Leadville Trail 100 ultramarathon in Colorado, from the centuries-old running techniques of Mexico's Tarahumara tribe to a research lab at the University of Utah, author McDougall celebrates, in this engaging and picaresque account, humankind's innate love of running. There are rogues aplenty here, such the deadly narco-traffickers who roam Copper Canyon, but there are many more who inspire, such as the Tarahumara runners, who show the rest of the world the false limitations we place on human endurance. McDougall has served as an Associated Press war correspondent, is a contributing editor to Men's Health, and runs at his home in rural Pennsylvania, and he brings all of these experiences to bear in this slyly important, highly readable account.--Moores, Alan Copyright 2009 Booklist
Empire of the summer moon : Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history by S. C. GwynneEmpire of the summer moon : Quanah Parker and the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history  
Gwynne, S. C.
Call Number: 921 P2416G
2010
Journalist Gwynne tracks one of the U.S.'s longest-running military conflicts in this gripping history of the war against the Comanche Indians on the high plains of Texas and Colorado. The Comanches stood for decades as the single most effective military force on the southern plains; their mastery of horseback warfare and their intimate knowledge of the trackless desert of the plains stymied the armies of Spain and Mexico, and blocked American westward expansion for 40 years. Gwynne's account orbits around Quanah Parker (ca. 1852-1911), the brilliant war chief whose resistance raged even as the Comanche, increasingly demoralized by the loss of the buffalo and the American military's policy of total annihilation, retreated into the reservation. Rigorously researched and evenhanded, the book paints both the Comanches and Americans in their glory and shame, bravery and savagery. The author's narrative prowess is marred only by his fondness for outdated anthropological terminology ("low barbarian," "premoral" culture). That aside, the book combines rich historical detail with a keen sense of adventure and of the humanity of its protagonists. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
The lost city of Z : a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon  by David GrannThe lost city of Z : a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon  
Grann, David
Call Number: 918.11 G759
2009
In 1925, renowned British explorer Col. Percy Harrison Fawcett embarked on a much publicized search to find the city of Z, site of an ancient Amazonian civilization that may or may not have existed. Fawcett, along with his grown son Jack, never returned, but that didn't stop countless others, including actors, college professors and well-funded explorers from venturing into the jungle to find Fawcett or the city. Among the wannabe explorers is Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker, who has bad eyes and a worse sense of direction. He became interested in Fawcett while researching another story, eventually venturing into the Amazon to satisfy his all-consuming curiosity about the explorer and his fatal mission. Largely about Fawcett, the book examines the stranglehold of passion as Grann's vigorous research mirrors Fawcett's obsession with uncovering the mysteries of the jungle. By interweaving the great story of Fawcett with his own investigative escapades in South America and Britain, Grann provides an in-depth, captivating character study that has the relentless energy of a classic adventure tale. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Crazy for the storm : a memoir of survival  by Norman OllestadCrazy for the storm : a memoir of survival  
Ollestad, Norman
Call Number: 921 O497
2009
In a spare, brisk prose, Ollestad tells the tragic story of the pivotal event of his life, an airplane crash into the side of a mountain that cost three lives, including his father's, in 1979. Only 11 years old at the time, he alone survived, using the athletic skills he learned in competitive downhill skiing, amid the twisted wreckage, the bodies and the bone-chilling cold of the blizzard atop the 8,600-foot mountain. Although the narrative core of the memoir remains the horrifying plane crackup into the San Gabriel Mountains, its warm, complex soul is conveyed by the loving relationship between the former FBI agent father and his son, affectionately called the "Boy Wonder," during the golden childhood years spent in wild, freewheeling Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970s. Ollestad's unyielding concentration on the themes of courage, love and endurance seep into every character portrait, every scene, making this book an inspiring, fascinating read. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Manhunt : the twelve day chase for Lincoln's killer  by James SwansonManhunt : the twelve day chase for Lincoln's killer  
Swanson, James
Call Number: 973.7 S969
2006
Thomas has done many solid jobs of acting in all mediums since his television days on The Waltons, but it's the memories of the wide open American country tones of his flexible voice that add immeasurably to his reading of the audio version of Swanson's intensive new book about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the full-throttle hunt for the conspirators who planned and carried out the deed. Thomas's nuanced but never hyped narration serves as a seamless link between the words of the individual characters he brings to life. Some of the voices work better than others: his Lincoln is perhaps a bit too young and straightforward, especially compared to the darker, richer oratory of actors connected to the role such as Raymond Massey. But his John Wilkes Booth is just about perfect, catching the desperation and increasing lunacy of an actor getting ready for his role in history. And the other major characters-plotters, hunters, politicians, distraught family members-all bring a familiar story to exciting new life. Simultaneous release with the Morrow hardcover (Reviews, Dec. 12, 2005). (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Bossypants by Tina FeyBossypants  
Fey, Tina
Call Number: 921 F433
2011
In her highly anticipated first book, Fey hilariously covers her childhood and coming-of-age; time at Chicago's Second City; years at Saturday Night Live (SNL) as a writer, "Weekend Update" cohost, and performer; development of 30 Rock; and ubiquitous role as Sarah Palin. She gives advice on raising an "achievement-oriented, obedient, drug-free, virgin adult," how to be a good boss and what she learned from SNL producer Lorne Michaels ("Never tell a crazy person he's crazy"), and breast-feeding ("If you choose not to love your baby enough to breast-feed, you can pump"). After portraying the queasy-factor of putting in contact lenses as somewhere between a breast self-exam and losing a tampon string, Fey writes, "If you are male, I would liken it to touching your own eyeball, and thank you for buying this book." Verdict Of Fey's Palin debut on SNL, which was viewed by ten million people, she explains, "You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn't even realize it because of all the jokes." She accomplishes the same feat with her book. Highly recommended. [Four-city tour; see Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/10.]-Anna Katterjohn, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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