Category: non-fiction

TLC Review: The View From the Cheap Seats

June 8, 2016 non-fiction 30 ★★★★★

TLC Review: The View From the Cheap SeatsTitle: The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction
Author: Neil Gaiman
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: Brilliant! I loved every piece in this collection.

I keep trying Neil Gaiman’s books in hopes of finding one that I can rave about as much as it seems like everyone else is and this book was it! This probably shouldn’t surprise me though, because the second reason I keep trying Neil Gaiman’s books is because when I got the chance to hear him give a talk, he was fantastic. As the description says, this book covers topics that include: “authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood” (source). I’m happy to say I had fun reading about every one of these topics and all but two of the dozens of essays were easily enjoyed, whether or not I was familiar with the author, movie, book, comic, musician, etc that the essay was about. Read more »

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#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: Grunt

June 7, 2016 Humor, non-fiction, Science 18 ★★★★

#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: GruntTitle: Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
Author: Mary Roach
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was a slightly more depressing topic than Mary Roach’s previous books, but it delivered all the same great elements – fascinating facts, hilarious commentary, and delightful footnotes.

Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier’s most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them” (source). And if you’ve read a book by Mary Roach, that’s probably all you need to know – maybe more than I needed to know. Mary Roach’s amazing ability to find the best fun facts and quirky stories, then present with great candor and humor are enough that I’d read on any topic she wants to write about. Read more »

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Want to Understand GMOs? First Read The Gene

June 1, 2016 non-fiction, Science 13 ★★★★

Want to Understand GMOs? First Read The GeneTitle: The Gene: An Intimate History
Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: Although this lacked The Emperor of All Maladies‘ focus on moving human stories, it was one of the most ambitious yet accessible books I’ve ever read on the history of genome editing.

Throughout history, our understanding of heredity and the gene has become more precise and more nuanced. As a result, our ability to manipulate the genes of other organisms and eventually our own has increased as well. In The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee places our current genome editing abilities in the context of this history and insightfully presents both the promise of these abilities and the potential results of their abuse. Read more »

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#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks in Mini-Reviews

May 19, 2016 Fiction, non-fiction 30 ★★★★

This post is for two events being hosted by Andi at Estella’s Revenge: the year long #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge and this month’s #SmashYourStack event, both of which focus on reading books you own. All four of these are books I’ve owned since before the beginning of the year and which I was finally able to read while travelling this week.

#ReadMyOwnDamnBooks in Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible
Author: A.J. Jacobs
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

This book was a perfect read for a busy time in my life. It was light and funny, but I still got to enjoy learning new things. I love the way that Jacobs mixes humor, fun facts, and personal stories about his life just as much in this book as in The Know-It-All. I have to say, I can’t believe the things his wife puts up with or the things she lets him share about their lives, but I’m glad she does! I’ll definitely be looking to read all of his other books.
Read more »

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Review: From Silk to Silicon

April 9, 2016 History, non-fiction 14 ★★★★

Review: From Silk to SiliconTitle: From Silk to Silicon: The Story of Globalization Through Ten Extraordinary Lives
Author: Jeffrey E. Garten
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:four-stars

Summary: This was a fascinating, whirlwind tour of the history of globalization, but would have been better if it were longer.

I’d describe this book as a microhistory, focused on the most influential people in the expansion of globalization. About 30 pages are devoted to each of ten influential individuals, from Genghis Khan to Andy Grove to Margaret Thatcher. Each had a large impact on history, but was also a product of their times and provided an interesting window into the era they lived in. Read more »

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Review: Voices from Chernobyl

March 13, 2016 History, non-fiction 26 ★★★★★

Review: Voices from ChernobylTitle: Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
Author: Svetlana Alexievich, Keith Gessen
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: This was an incredible, heartbreaking account.

Since I’ve been trying to read more translated books, I immediately added Voices of Chernobyl to my to-read list when author Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize last year. This is a collection of interviews with survivors of the Chernobyl disaster, relatives of survivors, and the many individuals involved in the reaction to the disaster. Read more »

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Review: In Other Words

March 9, 2016 Memoir 16 ★★★

Review: In Other WordsTitle: In Other Words
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:three-stars

Summary: I enjoyed this beautifully written glimpse into the experience of learning a new language, but I felt emotionally disconnected from the author.

I find the way in which this book was written fascinating. The author, Jhumpa Lahiri, grew up in the US, speaking Bengali at home and English in school, but along the way, she also fell in love with Italian. This is her first attempt to write a book in Italian and the version I read was translated back into English by someone else, translator Ann Goldstein. In it, Jhumpa discusses her love of Italian, her experience learning the language, and a bit about what motivates her to write. Read more »

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Review: Motions and Moments

March 6, 2016 Memoir, non-fiction 11 ★★★★★

Review: Motions and MomentsTitle: Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo
Author: Michael Pronko
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: I loved the way each of these short stories bring curiosity, wonder, joy to an everyday moment.

Although I suspect that Michael Pronko’s observations of Tokyo are possible in part because he’s an expat living there, I would be just as happy to read essays he wrote about any country. I enjoy learning about Tokyo, the little details of another culture that make it unique and that are only visible to someone who has lived there long enough, but what I really love is the way the author captures moments in daily life.
Read more »

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#Futuristic Friday Review and Giveaway: Pandemic

February 26, 2016 non-fiction 14 ★★★★★

#Futuristic Friday Review and Giveaway: PandemicTitle: Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Author: Sonia Shah
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Rating:five-stars

Summary: I couldn’t ask for more than from my nonfiction than this engagingly told story with its mix of history, science, and important predictions about the future of medicine.

Although every pandemic seems uniquely and surprisingly deadly, there are some common principles that can be  learned from our past. Using cholera as a case study, Sonia Shah describes some of the factors that can lead to pandemics. She also explores how those factors have changed or stayed the same over time and describes some of the challenges that might face us when the next pandemic strikes. Read more »

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Nonfiction November Week 4: Readalong Discussion

November 23, 2015 Blogger Events, non-fiction 15

Nonfiction November 2015I can’t believe I’m saying this already, but welcome to week 4 of Nonfiction November! Here’s our discussion topic for the week:

This week we’ll be wrapping up Nonfiction November with a discussion of our read-along book, I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. Discussion questions, my answers, and a link-up are below. In your post, you can answer these questions and/or write about your own response to the book. You can also share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #NonficNov. Read more »

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