Archive for the ‘Nonfiction’ Category

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

December 5, 2012

Author:  Wes Moore

Title:  The Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Biography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2010

Number of Pages:  233

Geographical Setting:  primarily in Baltimore (MD), the Bronx (NY), and Wayne (PA)

Time Period:  1982-2010

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  In 2000, Wes Moore read a series of stories in the newspaper about a robbery/homicide in Baltimore; one of the young men arrested and convicted of the crime was also named Wes Moore.  Wes contacted the man, who was serving a life sentence in prison, and discovered through their letters and conversations that they shared much more in common than a name alone.  As boys, both had lived in poor neighborhoods, were fatherless, struggled in school, and had run into trouble with the police- yet their paths would diverge and lead to different ends.  Alternating between their stories, this insightful and thought provoking book follows the lives of the two boys named Wes Moore as they grow up, exposing readers to various factors that would influence their choices and opportunities (or lack thereof).  An extensive resource guide of over 200 youth-serving organizations across the country is provided at the end of the book.

Subject Headings:  Biography/memoir, African Americans, Childhood & youth, Baltimore (MD), Social conditions, Urban life, Family relationships, Life choices, Criminal activities, Prisoners, Education, Military service.

Appeal:  Character-driven, Coming-of-age story, Reflective, Thought provoking, Inspiring, Life choices and expectations, Second chances, Memoir, African American characters, Family relationships, Single-parent households, Mother-son relationships, Mentors, Leadership, Urban street life, Drug dealing & gangs, Baltimore (MD).

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, coming-of-age story, urban life.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.  Readers interested in learning more about the social justice inequities exposed within The Other Wes Moore may want to read this title- it addresses issues surrounding the high rates of incarceration for people of color in our country’s prison system.

2.  The Beautiful Struggle:  A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  Both The Other Wes Moore and this memoir are coming-of-age stories about African-American young men, set in Baltimore, and involving life expectations, choices, and consequences.

3.  My American Journey by Colin Powell.  In his book, Wes Moore describes Colin Powell’s memoir as being influential in his life, and more specifically in his decision to join the military.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson.  The Other Wes Moore and this novel are both thought provoking, inspiring, coming-of-age stories in which young men struggle to overcome their circumstances.

2.  Yummy:  The Last Days of a Southside Shorty written by Greg Neri and illustrated by Randy DuBurke.  A graphic novel based upon a gang-related murder that happened in Chicago in 1994, this title could be a good match for readers who found the violence, drug selling and gang life depicted in The Other Wes Moore to be compelling.

3.  Slam! by Walter Dean Myers.  Both Wes Moore and the main character (Greg Harris) of this novel are African-American young men who come from tough, city neighborhoods and have to adjust to life at new, mostly white, schools.  In both stories, the young men find supportive mentors who help open their eyes to life’s possibilities.

Name:  Nicole

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Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach

November 7, 2012

Spook CoverTitle: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Author: Roach, Mary

Publication Date: 2005

Pages: 311

Geographical Setting: This world or the next

Time Period: Present Day

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Series: N/A

Plot Summary:  With a heavy dose of wit and humor, Mary Roach examines the subject of life-after-death, delving into the science and the history of humanity’s search for the soul.  Roach’s search for evidence finds her to some curious and oftentimes hilariously strange circumstances—tracking down stories of reincarnation in India, examining “ectoplasm” at Cambridge, medium school—leading the reader on an amusing quest for the truth amongst the odd and the misguided.  Each chapter ends with a teaser that leads smoothly into the next making for compelling read.  And Roach’s ability to esteem both quacks and true scientists equally is charming and wonderfully engaging.  But readers looking for solid evidence and definitive answers beware.  Spook is impressively researched and deftly told.  It doesn’t promise enlightenment.  But it does infuse a great sense of wonder and delight into the world of science.

Appeal Characteristics: humorous, spiritual, scientific, accessible, witty, engaging, funny, well-researched, quirky, unconventional, thought-provoking, engrossing, unpretentious, smart, entertaining, history of science

Subject Headings: Life after death, soul, paranormal phenomena, Religion and Science

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Funny, scientific, engaging

Similar Non-fiction:

The Disappearing Spoon, and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean

Readers who enjoyed Roach’s obscure anecdotes in Spook will find a wealth of similar stories in this tale about the building of the Periodic Table.  Brimming with whimsy, wit, and authority, this book will appeal to those looking for a good story as much as those looking for scientific history.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Combining history and science, this story brings to life the woman whose cells became one of humanity’s most important medical tools and details the history of medical ethics and the good of society versus the rights of the individual.  Skloot maintains an objective tone evincing compassion and respect for both sides of the debate.

Death by Black Hole, and Other Cosmic Quandaries by Neil deGrasse Tyson

In this series of essays, Tyson cheerfully explains the complex fields of astrophysics, relativity, and quantum mechanics with engaging humor, accessible language, and a Star Trek reference or two.  Readers who wished for more “hard science” in Roach’s writing, look no further.

Similar Fiction:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Fans of Roach’s vividly depicted oddballs and outcasts will find their fictional counterparts in droves in this sci-fi cult classic.  Adams tells the story of displaced Earthling Arthur Dent with a serious flair for the wacky, the outlandish, and the odd bit of science.  Prepare yourself for an onslaught of witty one-liners (which is Adams’ case may actually take up an entire paragraph).

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

A darkly funny tale about a neurotic man who becomes a widower, a father, and a sort of grim reaper all in one day, this story takes a comical look at our soul’s inevitable slide toward the undiscovered country.  Readers of Roach will find in Moore a shared philosophy that perhaps death and dying should be approached with less trepidation and more humor.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The first novel in Pratchett’s famed Discworld series, The Color of Magic introduces readers to a universe so richly detailed it seems like it could be real enough if alchemy and suspicion had won over science and reason.  Readers of Roach may enjoy Pratchett’s thought-provoking satire as well as the outrageously funny situations his characters find themselves in.

Name: Jessica

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

November 7, 2012

Author: Anthology, 64 contributing authors

Title: The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 281

Geographical Setting: N/A

Time Period: Present (some flashbacks to authors’ adolescence).

Plot Summary: What would you write if you could send a letter to your young adult self? This question is explored in The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves as sixty-four LGBT authors, including Michael Cunningham and Amy Bloom, create an anthology of letters written to themselves as teenagers. While each letter is unique and distinctive, the collection as a whole discusses topics such as: exploring self-identity, the sometimes painful process of coming out, and encouragement and hope for bright futures ahead. Some authors write letters that are nostalgic and humorous as they discuss memorable moments from their adolescence, a well-remembered love for Barbara Streisand’s Broadway albums for example. Other letters take on a more serious tone with discussions of bullying or teenage self-loathing. Despite the variety of moods present in this anthology, the collective message found in the text is hopeful and reassuring with promises of happy adulthood in a more tolerant society. In addition to content, the letters are also unique in format. While the majority of entries consist of traditional letters, others are written in free verse or graphic novel form. This anthology of unsent letters makes for an emotional read that is heartwarming at times while tearful at others. Written in a conversational tone, The Letter Q is an honest and endearing read about courage and self-acceptance that will appeal to both teen and adult readers.

Subject Headings: Coming out (Sexual orientation), Gay men, Self-acceptance, Social situations, Teenage, Teenagers, Gays-Identity, Adolescence

Three Appeal Terms: Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic

Appeal: Compassionate, Heartwarming, Hopeful, Humorous, Nostalgic, Optimistic, Flashbacks, Issue-Oriented, Thought-Provoking, Candid, Conversational, Multiple Points of View.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle to Help their Teenage Son Come to Terms with his Sexuality by John Schwartz

Written by a New York Times correspondent, Schwartz tells the heartbreaking story of his thirteen-year-old son’s attempt to commit suicide after coming out to friends and family. The near tragedy becomes an uplifting tale as Schwartz recounts his mission to make his teenage son feel safe and supported. Fans of The Letter Q who are looking for additional true coming out stories that are both positive and encouraging may also enjoy this title.

Queer: the ultimate LGBT guide for teens by Kathy Belge

Structured as a guidebook for young adults, Queer offers advice on a wide range of topics including dating, sex, and homophobia. For young adults who appreciated the guidance and suggestions provided in The Letter QQueer may be helpful additional reading for teens who are seeking more resources on coming out.

When I Knew (2005)

A collection of anecdotes from eighty contributing writers, When I Knew authors describe the moment they realized they were gay and the coming out process that followed. When I Knew may appeal to Q fans who are looking for additional anthologies of coming out stories that are both inspiring and humorous.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

My most excellent year: a novel of love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park by Steve Kluger

My Most Excellent Year is narrated by three young adults from Boston who share their experiences of love and friendship through letters, emails, and instant messages. This trio of unique characters consists of  T.C., who is baseball-obsessed and has made a hobby of writing letters to his deceased mother; Alejandra, whose father is an ambassador to Mexico and holds Jacqueline Kennedy as her role model; and Augie, a musical theater fanatic who shares his own coming out story. Young adult readers who enjoyed the multiple voices included in The Letter Q may appreciate this humorous coming-of-age/coming out story told through three narrators. My Most Excellent Year’s format of letters, emails, and texts might also appeal to Q fans.

Tessa Masterson Will Go To Prom
 by Emily Franklin

High school senior Lucas is thoroughly shocked when his lifelong best friend, Tessa, turns down his prom invitation and also comes out to him as a lesbian. Wanting to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the dance, Tessa is faced with Lucas’ betrayal of spreading her secret and the town’s backlash towards her determination to attend the prom.  readers who are looking for another inspiring yet humorous coming out story told through multiple perspectives might appreciate this title.

Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

Sixteen-year-old Steven embarks on a mission to prove to himself that, despite his doubts, he is straight. His adventures include dating a slue of his female classmates, socializing with the jocks, and a comical attempt to purchase a Playboy. When Steven finally admits to himself that he is gay, he comes out to his best friend who responds with overwhelming enthusiasm and urges him to share the good news with everyone he knows. Similar to The Letter Q, Absolutely, Positively Not is endearing, hopeful, and hilarious. Q fans who are seeking additional believable, light-hearted coming out stories might enjoy this book.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Temari Techniques

November 7, 2012

Author: Barbara B. Suess

Title: Temari Techniques A Visual Guide to Making Japanese Embroidered Thread Balls

Genre: Nonfiction

Publish Date: 2012

Pages: 199

Summary: An in-depth study of Temari; embroidered thread balls that are symbols of friendship and good luck in Japan, originally created as toys for young children and now are miniature works of art. Includes their origin, how they were made in the beginning  and to make the balls now, teaches the various embroidery techniques used to decorate them, lesson plans for teaching others in a class setting using the book, and more diagrams than you can shake a stick at. Contains full color photographs and practice projects, as well as how to create your own original designs. Complete bibliography and source guide for gathering materials is included. Includes some Romanji (English characters for Japanese words) in describing the embroidery aspect of the craft, but everything is set forth in plain English. Meant for people of all levels of craftiness, including the complete novice and the expert: the author caters to both in this text.

Headings: 1. Fancy work–Japan 2. Embroidery–Japan 3. Decorative balls–Japan

Appeal: detailed, artistic, informative, exotic, green (recycling), history, arts and crafts, math-based, geometry, unique, toys, accessible

Top Three Terms: Accessible, informative, artistic

Similar Nonfiction:

  • Japanese Sashiko Inspirations by Susan Briscoe (2008) For those who are interested in learning other Japanese techniques, Sashiko is a intricate type of embroidery or quilting completely done with one simple stitch. The motifs used here are also applicable to the temari balls and can also used as home decor. Even if you are just curious, the pictures are a pleasure to look at and may inspire you to try something new.
  •   Japanese Braiding The Art of Kumihimo by Jaqui Carey (1997, spiral bound in 2009) Although originally used as the lacing to samurai armor, kumihimo can be used in home furnishings, jewelry and fashion, much like the other crafts mentioned so far. This little book has all the details on the materials to how to make several of the basic braids, though this is not the end all be all on the topic. Full of diagrams, this is a good place to start.
  • Kanzashi in Bloom: 20 Simple Fold and Sew Projects to Wear and Give by Diane Gilleland (2009) Kanzashi refers to the hairpins worn by geisha, and is also the name given to pretty little flowers made of folded fabric that often make up the decorations for the hairpins. Full color photographs and diagrams teach the novice how to make several kinds of flowers and how to use them. Kanzashi flowers can be used for jewelry and fashion purposes, as well as for home decor. Just about the only book on the topic in English.
  • Bonus Nonfiction: Women of the Pleasure Quarters The Secret History of the Geisha by Lesley Downer (2001). A detailed history of Geisha from those who were and are a part of the ‘flower and willow’ world. Contains photographs and a glossary of terms used by the community. Included because the crafts talked about here also play a role in the culture. Interesting for those who want to really know what the geisha were about.

Similar Fiction:

  • Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden (1997). A fictional memoir of a young girl who is pulled into the ‘flower and willow’ world of geisha and how she tries to live her life. Similar to Pleasure Quarters because of its detail and poignancy. One of the few books on the topic because of the secrecy surrounding the geisha world.
  • The Ronin’s Mistress by Laura Joh Rowland (2011) A fictional answer to  the historical occurrence that was the 47 Ronin is presented in book 15 of the Sano Ichiro mystery series. Another view point on Japanese culture presented through the eyes of men. Replete with detail, readers will be pulled into a forgotten time.
  • The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu (Tyler Translation 2001) The original novel of Japanese court life in the 10th and 11th century. For those who love history with a touch of romance or are curious about another culture.

Name: Jennifer

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)

November 7, 2012

Author:  Jenny Lawson

Title:  Let’s Pretend This Never Happened:  (A Mostly True Memoir)

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Autobiography/Memoir

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  318

Geographical Setting:  Various locations in Texas, including Houston and several small towns in West Texas.

Time Period:  2000’s, with flashbacks to 1970’s-80’s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:

In Jenny Lawson’s self-proclaimed “mostly true memoir” she shares humorous anecdotes and reflections about her childhood and adolescence, marriage and motherhood, foibles and friendships, and attempts to rid her new home from the threat of potential zombie attacks.  With chapter headings like “Stanley, the Magical Talking Squirrel,” “My Vagina is Fine, Thanks for Asking,” “And Then I Got Stabbed in the Face by a Serial Killer,” you realize from the start that this book is probably not going to follow the conventions of many memoirs- and you wouldn’t want it to.

The author, creator of the popular online blog, “The Bloggess,” engages and entertains readers with stories that are mostly funny and offbeat (i.e. an overzealous taxidermist father), though she does share some painful episodes (a miscarriage, an anxiety disorder, rheumatoid arthritis) as well.  In both everyday experiences and big-life moments, Jenny Lawson seems to relish finding and sharing the humor of an awkward and/or absurd situation- overall, it makes for a fun, fast read that you were glad to share in, though slightly thankful you didn’t have to go through first-hand.

Subject Headings:  Personal narratives, Childhood memories, Growing up, Awkward high school experiences, Drug use, Family relationships, Marriage, Motherhood, Friendships, Pets, New homes, Human resource departments, Anxiety disorder, Misadventures, Taxidermy, Texas, Rural towns, Blogs.

Appeal:  Humorous, Offbeat, Sarcastic, Conversational, Candid, Engaging, Witty, Bawdy, Contemporary, Colorful characters, Family relationships, Growing up in rural towns, Photographs.

Three appeal terms that best describe this book:  Humorous, Offbeat, Engaging.

Similar Authors and Works:

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa Migrom

In Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson shares anecdotes of living with a father who is a taxidermist.  Readers interested in finding out more about taxidermy may enjoy this title, in which the author explores the history, community, and craft/art of taxidermy.

2.  I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies): True Tales of a Loudmouth Girl by Laurie Notaro.

Readers who enjoyed the offbeat humor of Jenny Lawson’s book may enjoy reading this collection of funny, quirky stories chronicling the idiosyncrasies of the author’s life in her thirties.

3.  Blog, Inc.: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho.

Readers inspired to begin a blog of their own after reading Jenny Lawson’s book may find this title to be a helpful resource.  It covers a range of topics about starting and developing a blog, in addition to interviews with current successful bloggers.

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.  The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks

Max Brooks’ humorous book of survival strategies for dealing with the undead could have come in handy for Jenny Lawson- in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, she searches the property of her new home for supposed graves in order to avoid being unexpectedly accosted by zombies.

2.  If You Were Here: A Novel by Jen Lancaster

In both Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and this story, we follow the funny and frustrating ups and downs of couples as they adapt to life in a new home and married life.

3.  Pipsqueak by Brian M. Wiprud

Readers who enjoyed the wacky humor of Jenny Lawson’s book and her penchant for collecting taxidermies may enjoy reading this title, the first of a series of mysteries starring unlikely sleuth Garth Carson- a New York City taxidermy collector.

Name:  Nicole

Get me out: a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

November 7, 2012

Get me outTitle: Get me out : a history of childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the sperm bank

Author: Randi Hutter Epstein

Genre: Nonfiction, Science Writing

Publication Date: 2010

Number of Pages: 302

Geographical Setting: Setting changes, as does time period

Plot Summary:  Get me out is an incredibly interesting, if not mildly disturbing overview of the history of childbirth.  Randi Hutter Epstein does a good job providing scholarly information in a popular and easily accessible way that non-medical professionals will be able to understand.  An example of this blending of scholarly and popular is the stylistic choice to include footnotes at the bottom of the pages, instead of having to flip to the end of the book to find the additional information.  The topics covered vary from medical to issue-oriented.  A few examples are discussions about how certain current medical procedures were perfected, how resistant doctors were to accept findings contrary to what suited their needs, and how influential health insurance providers were several decades ago.  This is  book is for everyone; however, I would caution the faint of heart, or anyone currently pregnant because the descriptions can be rather graphic and some of the topics covered are still current issues today.
Subject Headings: Birth customs; Childbirth; Gynecology; Midwifery; Obstetrics; Pregnancy; Reproduction; Reproductive technology; Medicine; Childbirth — History

Appeal:  Compelling; Engrossing; Sobering; Issue-oriented; Thought-provoking; Historical details; Accessible; Medical details; Descriptive; Episodic; Frank; Jargon; Well-researched; Informative; Graphic

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Compelling; Informative; Historical and Medical details;

Three fiction read-alikes:

The birth house by Ami McKay (Childbirth, Thought-provoking, Descriptive)

In an isolated village in Nova Scotia during the first years of World War I, a midwife and her apprentice, Dora Rare, face the challenge of protecting generations of birthing traditions and wisdom when a smooth new doctor comes to town promising fast, painless childbirths.

The birth of love by Joanna Kavenna (Childbirth, Issue-oriented)

In nineteenth-century Vienna, doctors did not routinely wash their hands.  In twenty-first-century London, a woman chooses to have a drug free homebirth.  In twenty-second-century Arctic Circle, a woman rebels against custom and becomes pregnant without the help of science.  Three different women, during three different centuries face their generations’ challenges of labor and childbirth.

 The zygote chronicles by Suzanne Finnamore (Pregnancy)

A humorous story, told in diary form, about a 30 year-old woman’s pregnancy and the changes and challenges she faces as motherhood nears.

Three related non-fiction titles:

Pink and Blue: telling the boys from the girls in America by Jo B. Paoletti (Social issues, Descriptive, History)

How important is it to dress children in the ‘right’ colors?  This book explores the fascinating history of gendered clothing in America.  A culmination of 30 years of research, this book covers issues of child development, gender studies, fashion, marketing, and parenting. For those curious about the answer to the question, blue used to be for girls!

Birth matters: how what we don’t know about nature, bodies, and surgery can hurt us by Ina May Gaskin (Science writing, Descriptive, Childbirth)

Ina May offers a global and practical look at pregnancy and the significance and purpose of childbirth.  Ina May is a famous midwife with years of experience and knowledge about different cultural approaches to childbirth.

Pushed: the painful truth about childbirth and modern maternity care by Jennifer Block (Science writing, Childbirth, Maternal health services)

Block, known to many from her previous book Our Bodies, Ourselves, tackles the current issues women are faced with when deciding where and how to give birth.  This book delves into questions pertaining to the number of cesarean sections and episiotomies performed and whether or not that number is reflective of necessity for a safe and healthy childbirth.

Name: Shira

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace

November 7, 2012

Author:  Kate Summerscale

Title:  Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Genre:  Biography

Publication Date:  2012

Number of Pages:  291

Geographical Setting:  Scotland and England

Time Period:  Victorian Era, 1850-1859

Plot Summary:  Isabella Robinson was a 31 year-old widow with a young child when she met and married Henry Robinson in 1844.  The Robinsons subsequently had two children of their own, and the family became firmly ensconced in upper middle class society in Scotland and England.   Isabella ultimately grew unhappy with her aloof husband, and spent more and more of her time in the company of family friends and academics whom she admired.  After stumbling upon and reading Isabella’s private diary in 1857, Henry Robinson promptly sued his wife for divorce in the English courts on charges of adultery.   The resulting divorce hearings and trial erupted into in a scandal of massive proportion when The London Times printed a series of unedited excerpts from Isabella’s diary in which she described, in lurid detail, a series of intimate encounters with Edward Lane, a respected London doctor and friend to the Robinson family.  Was Isabella really a bold, unrepentant adulteress or simply a discontented wife who wrote unashamedly about her sexual frustrations and fantasies?  Why was Isabella subject to public scorn, while Dr. Lane was afforded greater sympathy?  Summerscale provides readers with a moving portrait of Isabella’s life, details of her relationship with Edward Lane and his family, and an informative look at the moral and cultural influences of the Victorian era.  This well-researched work includes excerpts from Isabella’s diary and letters, relevant court transcripts and news reports of the day, and excerpts from the personal letters of historical figures such as Charles Darwin and controversial phrenologist George Combe, both of whom were patients of Dr. Lane’s, and acquaintances of Isabella’s.  Overall, this work offers a fascinating examination of the role of women in the Victorian era, and the inequalities afforded them by society and the courts.

Subject Headings:  Robinson, Isabella (1813-1887)—Diaries;  Middle class women—Scotland—Edinburgh—Diaries;  Edinburgh—Scotland—Social life and customs—19th century;  Divorce—England—19th century

Appeal:  compelling, densely written, stately, atmospheric, dramatic, introspective, sophisticated, thoughtful, detailed, evocative, insightful, sympathetic characters, authentic, details of the Victorian era, complex, investigative, rich and famous, accessible, colorful, engaging, informative, journalistic, polished, well-researched

Three Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book:  compelling, insightful, well-researched

Three Fiction Read-alikes:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson is aware of the scandal surrounding the publication of Madame Bovary in France in 1856, and the charges of obscenity which prevented its publication in Scotland and England.  Did the tale of Emma Bovary’s discontent and adultery influence Isabella’s behavior or simply spark her imagination?  Flaubert’s classic novel mirrors Isabella’s life with its theme of a passionate woman dissatisfied with her marriage and way of life.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace interested in its examination of the effects a scandalous affair can have on a woman’s reputation may also enjoy this fictionalized account of the relationship between architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his mistress of many years, Mameh Cheney.  Horan’s award-winning novel focuses on the impact their long-time affair had on Wright’s wife and family, and the public derision Cheney endured after she left her husband and children to make a new life with Wright.

Clara Callan by Richard Bruce Wright

Readers of Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace who enjoyed learning about societal expectations impacting women in a bygone era may also enjoy Wright’s novel about two sisters pursuing separate dreams against the backdrop of the political and social upheaval of the 1930’s.  Written as a series of letters and diary entries, Wright’s novel offers a vivid portrait of the lives of the two women, one pursuing a career in glamorous New York City, while the other struggles with the limitations of a more traditional life in her small Canadian town.  Interwoven throughout the story are real world events that shaped the era, including the effects of the Great Depression and the rising political tensions in pre-WWII Europe.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works:

Marriage, Feminism, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

In Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, Isabella Robinson found herself a victim of society’s attitudes toward the role of women in Victorian era England, as well as antiquated and discriminatory divorce laws which afforded women few rights when a marriage was dissolved.  Out of the struggles of married women like Isabella, a feminist movement was born.  Shanley’s title examines the Victorian feminists’ battle for fundamental reforms to marriage law that ultimately transformed both the legal and social status of married women.

Hydotherapy:  Simple Treatments for Common Ailments by Clarence Dail and Charles Thomas

Edward Lane, the doctor who was the object of Isabella Robinson’s passion in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, was the proprietor of a popular health retreat that specialized in hydrotherapy, a relatively new and fairly provocative medical treatment at the time.  In addition to Isabella, his patients included upper class members of society, celebrities of the era, and historical figures such as Charles Darwin.  This title by Dail and Thomas examines modern-day beliefs surrounding the healing powers of water.

 Darwin:  Portrait of a Genius by Paul Johnson

As one of many famous patients to take treatment at Dr. Lane’s health retreat throughout the 1850’s, influential scientist Charles Darwin makes several appearances in Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace, with his opinion regarding the scandal surrounding Dr. Lane and Isabella reflected in his writings of the time.   Readers interested in learning more about Darwin will find much to enjoy in Johnson’s new biography, which details the life and times of the celebrated scientist, whose groundbreaking work Origin of the Species was published in 1859, just as the Robinson divorce case was reaching its conclusion.

Bossypants

November 7, 2012

Bossypants book coverTitle: Bossypants

Author: Fey, Tina

Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Biography, Memoir

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 272

Geographical Setting: Pennsylvania, Virginia, Chicago, New York

Time Period: 1970’s to Current Times

Plot Summary: With this hilarious and engaging autobiography, Tina Fey can add clever writer to her list of accomplishments.  Bossypants tells the story of Fey’s life along with her personal advice and general thoughts.   It tells the story of her awkward upbringing in Pennsylvania before moving on to her embarrassing college/theater years as well as her time with Second City, SNL and then her current role as creator and star of 30 Rock.  Fey’s road to success is told in a straightforward manner while also remaining humorous.  There are stories about the people she has worked with through improv and television shows, and she shares intimate stories without being too gossipy.  She shares personal essays on topics such as motherhood and the treatment of women in charge.  Her conversational style pulls the reader in, and you might find yourself wishing you could hang out with her.  Tina Fey manages to be self-deprecating while remaining endearing and it is a fast read.  A great read for those seeking a witty, lighthearted and fun memoir.  Readers who enjoyed her style might want to check out the audiobook version of this autobiography, which Tina Fey herself narrates skillfully.

Subject Headings:  American wit and humor, Women comedians, Women television personalities, Fey, Tina 1970-, Saturday Night Live (Television program), Motherhood-Humor, 30 Rock (Television program), Celebrities-humor

Appeal: Witty, observant, self-deprecating, autobiographical, conversational, candid tone, humorous, sarcastic, insightful, pop culture references, clever, straightforward, earnest, easy pace, inventive, chatty style, unpretentious, engaging

Three Most Relevant Appeal Terms: Witty, Insightful, Candid

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

I Don’t Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother by Allison Pearson

A novel that was made into a movie, this book deals with the issue of balancing family and work as hedge fund manager and mother of two Kate Reddy tries to do.   A humorous, moving tale that is a great book for readers who enjoyed Tina Fey’s thoughts on trying to be a successful mother and boss.

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

Enjoy this Women’s Lives and Relationships novel whose main character could almost be Tina Fey/Liz Lemon.  It follows television writer Ruth Saunders who is living in Los Angeles along with her sassy grandmother Rae, who raised Ruth after a violent crash that killed her parents and left young Ruth with gruesome facial scars.   Ruth’s dream comes true when her autobiographical sitcom is picked up by a large network.  But the dream is not such a fairytale, as Ruth must deal with egotistical actors, difficult show executives, a crush on her boss and her grandmother’s upcoming wedding.  A witty and charming novel that has a smart, witty protagonist who screams Tina Fey and deals with workplace social issues mentioned in Bossypants.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

A fascinating read with a self-deprecating, witty style that Fey could enjoy.  Judd Foxman is jobless and living out his depressing life in the basement of a crappy house.  He is newly separated from his wife who he caught having an affair in the most outlandish yet amusing way, but must return home to his crazy dysfunctional family to sit shiva after the death of his father.  An intimate, candid tale of a family full of flawed characters and hilarious moments with each other.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

A nonfiction book that explores the dark side that can lurk in the world of young girls’ princess fascination.  Here is a subject for those interested in the motherhood advice given by Tina Fey, and maybe even a great read for Tina herself.  Orenstein explores the troubling aspects of the princess phenomenon and early sexualization messages given to girls.  Her research takes her to places including Disneyland, American Girl Place, a Miley Cyrus concert and a child beauty pageant.  An engaging read for anyone trying to raise girls or fascinated by the subject.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Loved reading a biography by a comedy star and want even more? Then this similarly styled memoir should fit the bill.  Comedy writer and star of NBC’s The Office and now The Mindy Project, Mindy candidly talks about growing up as a chubby Indian girl in Massachusetts, her road to comedic fame as well as her thoughts on life, love and friendship.  Enjoy some more humorous tales on comedy writing, television show business and the awesomeness of food.

We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen

Get an overview of the history of female comedians within this last half century including the witty Tina Fey.  It traces female comedians and their struggle to conquer a male-dominated world, from Phyllis Diller in the 1950s to current comedians like Chelsea Handler and the women of SNL.  Enjoy this inside look at the evolution of female comedians and the personal interviews with the people involved.

Name: Margita Lidaka

Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

November 7, 2012

Author: Ann Rule

Title: Without Pity: Ann Rule’s Most Dangerous Killers

Genre: True Crime, Essays (Nonfiction)

Publication Date: 2003

Number of Pages: 431

Geographical Setting: Various geographical settings, but mainly Washington State and the Pacific Northwest.

Time Period: 1970s through 2002

Plot Summary: This collection of stories features some of Ann Rule’s most deranged and horrendous criminals. The book is a collection of twelve true stories about criminals, and includes three cases (the first three of the book) that have never been included in other collections. Ann Rule is a relatively popular true crime writer, and has published many collections of true crime stories, and this one is a collection of some of the worst from her first eight volumes. Each story is set up similarly, with an opening describing the particular town and the victims, and the tone is very reminiscent of a true crime TV show.

Subject Headings: Murder, Murderers, Criminals, Crime, Vic tims, True Crime, United States Case Studies

Appeal: Gritty, Compelling, Emotionally Charged, Menacing, Macabre, Chilling, Nonfiction, True Crime, Journalistic, Compelling, Realistic, Well Researched,

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: Gritty, Journalistic, Well Researched

Similar fiction authors and works:

Azzarello, Brian. 100 Bullets Volume 1: First Shot Last Call

A mysterious man known as Agent Graves approaches strangers on the street and offers them the chance to exact revenge on someone who has wronged them in their past. He provides them with a gun, untraceable bullets, and guarantees immunity from any troubles, including murder. This first book in a collection of 13 graphic novels is gritty and chilling, and takes a look at what people will do when offered guaranteed protection.

Collins, Max Allen. Double Dealer: CSI Crime Scene Investigation Book 1

A homicide cop, a forensic analyst, and their team of hard boiled police force members work together to solve a murder. Fans of the gritty writing style of Without Pity, or fans of the television show CSI will surely enjoy this novel.

Ellroy, James. Crime Wave: Reportage and Fiction from the Underside of L.A.

This collection of short stories presents some dark and gritty fiction tales taking place in the L.A. crime scene. Fans of the gritty chilling writing style and the short story presentation of Without Pity will be sure to enjoy this fictional but no less dark collection.

Similar nonfiction authors and works:

Connelly, Michael. Crime Beat

This nonfiction work by a well known fiction writer is sure to interest readers. Connelly tells a collection of stories of his time working as a crime reporter in both Florida and Los Angeles, and how these stories have influenced his work as a bestselling fiction crime writer.

Schecter, Harold. True Crime: an American Anthology

This true crime work is a collection of stories from all different time periods. It includes some well known cases and also some lesser known ones, by a variety of authors from Ben Franklin to Ann Rule, and spans over 300 years of true crime writing.

Campbell, John H. Profilers: Leading Investigators Take You Inside the Criminal Mind

This collection of fifteen essays compiles stories from some of the nation’s top homicide investigators. It chronicles the investigation process and the mysteries that surround a variety of crimes, from murder to abduction.

Post by Ellen

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

November 7, 2012

devilwhitecitycoverAuthor: Erik Larson

Title: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Genre:Adult books for young adults; History Writing; True Crime

Publication Date: 2004

Number of Pages: 447

Geographical Setting: Chicago, IL

Plot Summary: While the architect David Burnham and his colleagues labored tirelessly to design the spectacular World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a man by the name of H.H. Holmes used the distraction of the fair to erect his own World’s Fair Hotel and lure victims under his guise as a charming doctor to their gruesome deaths. Larson alternates the stories of the architect and the serial killer to create one compelling tale of the effects of the World’s Fair on the city of Chicago and the underlying evil that lurked right in the midst of the excitement.

Subject Headings: Mudgett, Herman W. 1861-1896. Burnham, Daniel Hudson, 1846-1912. Serial murderers – Illinois – Chicago – Biography. Serial murders – Illinois – Chicago – Case studies. World’s Columbian Exposition (1893; Chicago, Ill.)

Appeal: Compelling, historical details, well-researched, suspenseful, disturbing, gritty, detailed setting, uneasy, character-centered, engrossing, psychological

Three appeal terms:  Historical details, well-researched, compelling

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

City for Ransom by Robert W. Walker

City for Ransom is a fictional tale of a killer on the loose during the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Inspector Alastair Ransom must locate the killer who is using the bustling fairgrounds as a distraction to get away with murder, before the inspector becomes a victim himself.

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston

For readers who like a suspenseful read about a serial killer, I suggest The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas J. Preston. It’s written in a gritty style similar to The Devil in the White City, and details a copycat serial killer who begins overtaking New York City using methods similar to that of a killer in the 1880s. Together, FBI agent Pendergast, journalist Bill Smithback, and archaeologist Nora Kelly work to solve the case – and keep themselves alive.

Wakefield by Andrei Codrescu

Readers who enjoyed the architectural aspects of the Devil in the White City might enjoy this story of an architecture enthusiast who winds up on a journey to understand his purpose in life and continue to explore his love of architecture.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The World’s Columbian Exposition: the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 by Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing

I suggest this book to readers who enjoyed reading about the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City and are looking to learn more about the fair. This book provides a visual history of the fair with stunning panoramic images of the fair’s splendors, including the landscaping, waterways and gondolas, and the structures that were designed and built just for the fair. The authors cover every concept of the history of the fair from its very beginnings to its lasting impact and all of the details in between.

Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H.H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago by Harold Schechter

Those who wish to learn more about notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes can check out this true crime story about the madman who carried out acts of torture and murders in his own “Castle of Horrors.” Schechter chronicles Holmes’ methods of luring victims by posing at different times as a doctor, druggist, and inventor, and the design of his torture chamber that included trapdoors, body chutes, and acid vats.

Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War by James Mauro

Readers that enjoyed the history of the Chicago World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City might enjoy reading about another famous fair in history – the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. As Europe prepared for war overseas, the Big Apple prepared to throw a big party, which met with less than stellar success. Mauro recounts the festivities that brought out 45 million people, even among big rain storms, heat waves, and power outages. This book has much of the same historical appeal as The Devil in the White City, but not as strong a focus on the crime scene.

Name: Melissa Apple