Category: non-fiction

The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England

June 26, 2013 History, non-fiction 12

16158562Title: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England
Author: Ian Mortimer
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★☆
Fun Fact: In Elizabethan times, assigned rations often included a gallon of beer a day.
Review Summary: The level of detail is incredible, especially since it’s presented  in a way that will not only keep your interest, but also make you feel immersed in Elizabethan England.

Have you ever wondered what people in Elizabethan England ate, what they built their houses out of, how they spoke, or what they did for entertainment? This book answers all of those questions and more, giving you a picture of daily life that many other history books leave out. Every aspect of Elizabethan life is covered in detail, with sections covering topics from religion to entertainment. Particularly unique is the inclusion of information on the lives of the middle and lower class. Read more »

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts

May 15, 2013 non-fiction, Psychology, Science, Self-Help 3

Title: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Fun Fact: Individual animals may also be categorized as introverts or extroverts.
Review Summary: This was fun, easy to read, enjoyable and educational. Also somewhat inspiring for us introverts 🙂

The stereotypical introvert is not viewed as someone who could be a great leader, lawyer, or salesperson. Susan Cain challenges that view with both fascinating research and enjoyable anecdotes. This research strongly suggests that society could benefit from the complementary strengths of extroverts and introverts. However, much of American society is designed to favor extroverts. Cain discusses why that is; why we should try to change it; and how we can begin doing so. Read more »

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The Measure of All Things in the 526’s

June 14, 2012 History, non-fiction 0

Title: The Measure of All Things: The Seven Year Odyssey and the Hidden Error that Transformed the World
Author: Ken Alder
Source: library
Fun Fact:  Prior to adoption of the metric system, over 250,000 different units of measurement were being used in France alone.
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: The book started out really well, making a potentially boring topic feel exciting but by the end there was too much tangential information included and the plot started to drag.

In The Measure of All Things, Ken Alder describes the surprisingly difficult and adventurous process by which the length of the meter was determined.  Savants or learned men of France decided that the best way to develop a universal standard of measurement was to base that measurement on the natural world.  They selected one ten-millionth of the distance from the equator to the north pole and tasked two savants with leading expeditions to measure part of that distance using triangulation (the rest of the distance would then be estimated based on their results).  Their journey started while the French revolution was taking place and over the seven years of their travels they faced challenges including civil war, wars with other countries, mountainous terrain, and malaria. Read more »

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The Pluto Debate in Mini-Reviews

June 8, 2012 non-fiction, Science 0

First, a quick reminder: the Dead Beautiful giveaway is still going on, from now until Sunday night, so be sure to head over to my new giveaway blog to register!  And now, on to the reviews…

Title: The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference 
Author: Alan Boyle
Source: library
Fun Fact:  Pluto is so tilted on its’ axis that sometimes the sun would rise in the south and set in the north for someone standing on Pluto.
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: More in depth look at the history of Pluto than The Pluto Files, with more personal back stories and smoother plot flow, but still presented in a mostly dry and impersonal way.
Read more »

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Pluto in the 523’s

June 6, 2012 non-fiction, Science 0

Title: The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Source: library
Fun Fact:  Every 228 years, Pluto is closer to the sun the Neptune is.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Summary: Fun and approachable, but not much substance.

First, a quick reminder: the Dead Beautiful giveaway is still going on, from now until Sunday night, so be sure to head over to my new giveaway blog to register!  And now, on to the synopsis…

The Pluto Files chronicles the history of Pluto, from its’ discovery in 1930 to the more recent debate about its’ classification as a planet.  Tyson takes a mostly unbiased approach to this debate, with lots of quotes from other scientists giving an overview of the issue.  The book also includes lots funny cartoons about Pluto, which were by far my favorite part of the book! Read more »

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Lost in Shangri-La

May 23, 2012 Narrative Non-Fiction, non-fiction 6

Title: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of WWII
Author: Mitchell Zuckoff
Source: from publisher for a TLC Book Tour
Fun Fact:  By 1945, New Guinea was home to more missing air planes than any other country on earth.
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Summary: An incredibly engaging story with a great human element supported by well-integrated primary sources.

Lost in Shangri-La was my first experience with narrative non-fiction and I think I may be in love. For those of you like me who haven’t read narrative non-fiction before, I would describe it as a novel in which personal lives are as well researched as the bigger picture and the whole thing is presented as a story.  In this particular story, we learn about a plane crash in New Guinea stranding three service men and women in the jungle with potentially unfriendly natives.  Due to their isolated location, finding them in the jungle was only the first challenge.  A daring and dangerous rescue mission was then required to get them out. Read more »

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Cultivating an Ecological Conscience in the 630’s

April 20, 2012 Nature, non-fiction 0

Farmer-philosopher Frederick Kirschenmann’s Cultivating an Ecological Conscience is a collection of thoughtful essays about the “ethical and practical principles” of developing a sustainable agricultural system.  Drawing on his experiences as a theologian and a farmer, he delivers a series of measured arguments that a shift to more sustainable agriculture is a necessary change.  As I mentioned in my Monday Musing, this was a welcome break from the rhetoric some other authors depend on.  It is clear that the author is a product of a true liberal arts education, with a gift for elocution (I would love to hear him speak!) and a deep knowledge of the classics.  I was at times astounded by the variety of sources he drew on to support his economic and agricultural theories – everything from Adam Smith to Machiavelli.  I think the fact that he has read such different works and thought about their connection to agriculture is truly indicative of his passion for the topic. Read more »

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Uncertain Peril in the 631’s

April 13, 2012 non-fiction, Science 1

2210231Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds is a manifesto strongly opposing our current use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).  As someone pursuing a PhD in bioinformatics and generally comfortable with the idea of genetic engineering, I expected to be entirely unconvinced by the author’s arguments.  In fact, I almost didn’t pick this book up at all, because I wasn’t sure I could read it objectively enough.  However, I think avoiding reading books by author’s with viewpoints opposed to my own would seriously limit the amount I learn from this project.  Surprisingly, I ended up agreeing with a lot of the author’s points, even though I was sometimes shocked by her completely one-sided rhetoric. Read more »

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Silent Spring in the 632’s

April 5, 2012 Nature, non-fiction, Science 3

There were two reasons I knew I had to read Silent Spring.  First, all of the environmentalist books I’ve been reading in the 630’s quote Silent Spring and a lot of them clearly aspire to be the next Silent Spring.  Second and more pragmatically, it was the only book my library had in the 632’s 🙂  Because all of the quotes I’ve read from Silent Spring have been emotional appeals, I was worried the book would be all poetic descriptions, poorly grounded in science.  Instead I found that, as the introduction claimed, Rachel Carson not only had a “lyrical, poetic voice” but also offered sound “scientific expertise” and an impressive “synthesis of wide-ranging material”. Read more »

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Container Gardening in the 635’s

March 4, 2012 Nature, non-fiction 2

Finally, a book review!  Just for those of you who are new and were beginning to believe I don’t actually do those 😛  In fact, today I have several short book reviews for you, as I spent last week slowly absorbing information from a variety of books on container gardening.

The book I started with was Container Gardening for the Midwest, one of many books at my library which has caused me to be pleasantly surprised by the ability of even a small library to collect lots of region specific books.  This book followed a layout typical of the books I read, starting with general information about container gardening.  This included the benefits of different pot materials, different design elements (color pairing, shape, etc), how to plant your garden, and how to care for your garden.  Following the general care section was a section on specific plants.  Unfortunately, for gardening I think location north/south matters at least as much as what region of the US you’re in, so there was still some generality to this section.  I don’t think it’s fair to blame the book for that though when the only way to improve that would be an even more specific focus.  In fact, the plant specific section in this book was one of my favorites, because it had great pictures for every plant and I prefer to pick plants by appearance before determining whether or not I can really grow them.  I think it was a good book to start with, since it didn’t provide overwhelming details, and the long, picture-filled plant section made it the book I used most to make a to-be-shortened list of plants I might like to include in my own balcony garden. Read more »

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