Tag: non-fiction

The Civil War in 50 Objects

July 17, 2013 History, non-fiction 8

16158513Title: The Civil War in 50 Objects
Editor: Harold Holzer
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★★★
Fun Fact: Mississippi didn’t ratify the 13th amendment until 1995.
Review Summary: Both a very broad look at the feel of the Civil War era and a very personal look at the lives of individuals, this book really had it all.

This book takes a fascinating approach to civil war history, progressing generally chronologically but with each chapter focused on a particular artifact. As the goodreads description states, the objects include everything “from a soldier’s diary with the pencil still attached to John Brown’s pike, the Emancipation Proclamation, a Confederate Palmetto flag, and the leaves from Abraham Lincoln’s bier”. Each chapter talks about both broader themes and personal stories that the artifacts connect to. Read more »


Wordplay in the 400’s

July 10, 2013 Uncategorized 2

26503Title: Verbatim
Editor: Erin McKean
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Fun Fact: Dictionaries didn’t used to be objective and included information beyond definitions. For example, Webster’s 1806 edition stated that the earth was created in 4004BC.
Review Summary: This collection included some really funny essays and some that are only going to be enjoyable if you love collecting obscure words.

Verbatim: The Language Quarterly is a periodical that accepts reader submitted essays on all things related to the English language. The book is a collection of some of editor Erin McKean’s favorite essays from her time as editor of the periodical. Topics range from word origins to grammar to pop culture jargon. Authors also express a variety of opinions, from a willingness to embrace changes to the English language to essays lambasting particular developments the author hates. Read more »


Leonardo’s Foot

July 3, 2013 Uncategorized 3

16057335Title: Leonardo’s Foot: How 10 Toes, 52 Bones, and 66 Muscles Shaped the Human World
Author: Carol Ann Rinzler
Source: from publisher for review
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Fun Fact: Koala’s have two opposable thumbs on each of their hands and one on each of  their feet
Review Summary: The author’s conversational style was both a strength (funny! approachable!) and a weakness (oh the rambling).

The goodreads description of Leonardo’s Foot claims that it will “[stretch] back to the fossil record and forward to recent discoveries in evolutionary science to demonstrate that it was our feet rather than our brains that first distinguished us from other species”. In reality, I found it be far more playful and less goal oriented. This book covers everything from evolution to foot fetishes to famous people with foot-related illnesses.

Read more »


Monday Musing on Discovering New Genres

July 1, 2013 Monday Musings 17

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…

• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

This week I’m thinking about the fact that I’m still discovering new genres and genres I’m surprised I like, despite having always been an avid reader. Here are a few genres that I’ve recently fallen in love with… Read more »


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 »


The Ascent of Woman in the 324’s

June 19, 2013 Uncategorized 2

1488401Title: The Ascent of Woman
Author: Melanie Phillips
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Review Summary: Initially the tone was too dry and the information was repetitive throughout, but the action picked up enough at the end to add some excitement to this thoughtful analysis of the women’s rights movement.

I picked up this somewhat obscure book (only obtained through my school library by special request) for the goodreads group I’ve been most involved with lately, The Perks of Being a Bookworm. Only after I started reading did I realize that it might be hard to find in the US because it’s actually a history of the women’s rights movement in Britain. Just learning what happened in this period of turmoil was interesting (and helped me get some references I completely missed the first time around during an audiobook “re-read” of Caitlan Moran’s How to be a Woman). The book’s real strength, however, was in the focus on issues that divided the women’s rights movement as some are still relevant today. Read more »


I Love Data

June 13, 2013 Uncategorized 8

Title: The Signal and the Noise
Author: Nate Silver
Source: library
Rating: ★★★★★
Fun Fact: There was public outcry in 2001 when the weather channel attempted to change the color representing rain from blue to green.
Review Summary: I loved the topic and was incredibly happy that the author was able to clearly present complex computational topics without oversimplifying.

I thought I should just get that geeky admission out of the way in the title since my love of this book is largely based on my love of data and the cool things we can do with it. Nate Silver is an awesome statistician best known for his model that has done a great job predicting election winners. In this book, he looks at a lot of incredibly interesting topics from public issues to sports and policy decisions to natural disasters while analyzing the common mistakes people make when making predictions about the future. Read more »



The Perfect Scent

May 23, 2013 Uncategorized 4

Title: The Perfect Scent: A Year Behind the Scenes of the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York
Author: Chandler Burr
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Fun Fact: Synthetic ingredients are less likely to cause an allergic reaction than their natural counterparts.
Review Summary: The subject made this a fascinating read, but the author’s snobbery and excessive listing of chemicals kept it from being awesome.

As the New York Times perfume critic, Chandler Burr was able to spend a year behind the scenes watching two perfume firsts unfold. First, Sarah Jessica Parker wanted to be involved in creating her own perfume, far more than most celebrities or brands that get their names put on a perfume. Second, the famous perfumer  Jean Claude Ellena was about to make his first perfume as the head perfumer at Hermès. Both had many reasons for wanting to get their perfume just right and this book is one of the first looks at how perfumers go about designing the perfect scent. Read more »


Investing in the 332’s

May 9, 2013 Uncategorized 1

Title: What You Need To Know Before You Invest
Author: Rod Davis
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Fun Fact: The Dow Jones index was created in 1884, when it included 11 companies and was computed by hand.
Review Summary: This was mostly an easy read and seemed like a good introduction to the different types of investments.

Investing is a topic that makes me anticipate being confused, bored or both, so I approached this book with a certain amount of trepidation. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up at all if it weren’t for two things. First, my significant other and I are reaching a stage in our careers where knowing something about investing seems responsible. Secondly, my attempt to read through the Dewey Decimal system made this day inevitable. Fortunately, the majority of the book was a much easier read than I expected. Read more »