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  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2018/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: , a season with the witch, alexander hamilton, , being nixon, , , bullies, , cooked, devil’s bargain, escape from camp 14, , , how google works, how we got to now, in the garden of beasts, , it’s okay to laugh, , , mistress of the vatican, muslim girl, Night, , orientalism, radium girls, , , shrill, silent spring, , stamped from the beginning, the autobiography of malcolm x, the blood of emmett till, the crown, the immortal life of henrietta lacks, the new jim crow, the origins of totalitarianism, the six wives of henry viii, the subtle art of not giving a f*ck, , , victoria the queen, we should all be feminists, we were eight years in power, welcome to the universe, what happened, , world without mind, year of yes,   

    50 Nonfiction Books that Will Make You Smarter in 2018 

    It’s 2018, and we’ve all heard the phrase “New Year, New You”…but here’s the thing: being you is actually the best, because you’re the only you there could ever be! So instead of trying to reinvent yourself, why not read some nonfiction books to help yourself be the smartest, most interesting, well-informed person you could be? (Also, you’ll know so much it will be impossible not to impress people at parties.)

    1776, by David McCullough
    Hamilton fans, if you can’t get enough of Revolutionary history, this book is your next read. It follows both the North American and British sides of the conflict, and focuses on two leaders in particular: George Washington, and Red Coat commander William Howe. Factual but fun to read, American history that won’t put you to sleep.

    Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
    Another mandatory pick for Hamilton fans; the book the musical is based on! Follow Hamilton’s haunting upbringing as a poor, but brilliant kid in the Caribbean who travels to America with the hope of changing the world…and the downfall he could not recover from.

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksby Rebecca Skloot
    This true story confronts the collision of science and systemic racism with the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her consent for study…and are still living today.

    In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    If you want to impress with facts from forgotten tales, this riveting thriller details the shipwreck of the Essex, the boat that inspired Moby Dick!

    The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt
    History can certainly inform the present….that is, if we the people aren’t informed. This book starts in the 1800’s and continues through World War I. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, history is history, and it never hurts to remember it.

    The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Alison Weir
    On to a more scandalous historical figure…or six of them, actually! The wives of Henry VIII had interesting lives before they met him, and his impact on their lives—and in some cases, their deaths—altered history. Full of juicy details, this reads like a novel.

    Cleopatra, A Life, by Stacy Schiff
    Who WAS Cleopatra, a woman built into life by myth and legend? Historian Stacy Schiff gives you access to her palace and a world that you MUST read to believe: incest, murder, poison, infidelity, and more…why isn’t there a TV show about her again?

    MAUS I, by Art Spiegelman
    I first read this book when I was young, but the story has stayed with me forever. The author shares the story of his father’s experience during the holocaust in graphic novel form, using animals instead of humans to detail the horrifying experience.

    We Were Eight Years In Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    This collection of essays that follow President Obama’s two terms is a fascinating deep-dive into how race impacted Obama’s presidency and the ensuing 2016 election.

    The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
    Here’s an uncomfortable truth: The ripple effects of slavery and Jim Crow are still here due to a systemic mass incarceration problem, essentially enslaving millions of black men and women behind bars. Learn about this system of oppression in this difficult, but important book.

    Night, by Elie Wiesel
    This classic autobiography of one man’s journey to survive the Holocaust is a gripping portrait of both the depths of evil—and the precipice of hope—that human beings are capable of.

    How Google Works, by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
    With terms like “net neutrality” leading in the news, it’s important to become informed on the intersection of tech and government…and where best to start than with Google? Learn about their founding history, philosophy, and what it takes to succeed there.

    Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    If tech isn’t your thing, but art, writing, dance or performance are, definitely check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s treatise and lifestyle guide for living creatively.

    How We Got to Now, by Steven Johnson
    The modern world wasn’t built in a day, but it did innovate to evolve. This book is great for history buffs and factoid-finders (and maybe a reluctant reader or two, because there are illustrations!).

    The Crown, by Robert Lacey
    Season Two of the hit Netflix TV show has aired, you’ve marathoned it already, and you want more! Check out the book the show is based on and relive all the shocking and emotional moments, this time on the page.

    Mistress of the Vatican, by Eleanor Herman
    This salacious non-fiction history delves into the sordid and secretive history of the Vatican, and the forgotten woman who helped a man become Pope.

    The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
    Look, 2017 was a rough year. So maybe the secret to success is not caring so much? Read this book and pass along the gospel of not giving a f*ck to your friends.

    Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle
    Glennon Doyle shares the heartbreaking story of learning her husband was unfaithful, and how she took her broken marriage and used the opportunity to piece herself back together again.

    It’s Okay to Laugh, by Nora McIerney
    This memoir about a woman’s journey through becoming a young, widowed mother (and losing her father shortly after her husband’s death) is surprisingly hilarious. That’s what Nora does: she uses dark humor to guide herself through grief, and if you could use a little bit of that, this book is for you.

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Malcolm X
    A definitive figure of the Civil Rights Movement, Malcom X’s biography is essential reading when it comes to understanding current race relations in the United States. Learn about his upbringing, his conversion to Islam, and his activism.

    Devil’s Bargain, by Joshua Green
    Moving from the past political situation to the present, this book is essential reading for newfound politicos who want to enter 2018 informed and engaged. It details Steve Bannon’s relationship with President Trump, and what it took to get him elected.

    Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo
    We all need a little more joy in our lives, so consult organizational specialist Marie Kondo for the ways you can get rid of clutter and make room in your heart for objects and people that make you happy.

    Bullies, by Alex Abramovich
    A fascinating story of a man who befriends his childhood bully later in life, this story can teach you about reaching beyond your bubble, finding common ground in common pain, and the importance of forgiveness.

    Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
    Math is not my thing, but reading the story of the brilliant black women who got us to the moon totally is. These women worked as “human computers” and calculated what we would need to win the space race, but their stories have been lost to history until now.

    Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
    Be an informed citizen and read this detailed account of racism in America. Using the stories of prominent American intellectuals to frame the debates of assimilationists, segregationists, racists, and allies.

    Being Nixon, by Evan Thomas
    Learn about the man behind the Watergate scandal: his background with a troubled older brother, his service in the Navy, and his political ascent. We tend to define historical figures by one event, and this biography shares the whole picture.

    In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
    Imagine being an American in the government….working with Adolf Hitler. This fascinating true story follows the Ambassador to Hitler’s Third Reich, William E. Dodd, and his family, as they enter the garden, are charmed by the snake, and witness the atrocities firsthand.

    Escape from Camp 14, by Blaine Harden
    We know most things about Hitler’s Germany, but North Korea’s totalitarian regime is still, in many ways, a mystery. This is the haunting story of a person born inside a North Korean prison camp who escaped—after witnessing the executions of his family, being taught to distrust his fellow prisoners, and even fighting his mother for food.

    Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
    The definitive text on the urgency of man-made harm to planet Earth, this book follows the banning of DDT and the sweeping reform that followed.

    Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli
    This book rides the border between fiction and non-fiction, but I’ll allow it, because it’s so cool. Reinvented stories about amazing women throughout history using fairytales as a framing device? Read this book yourself, then get it for everyone you know.

    What Happened, by Hillary Clinton
    Have you been living under a rock, or are just too busy/depressed/overwhelmed to deal with politics? Start 2018 on an informed note by reading the first female candidate for President’s account of the 2016 election.

    World Without Mind, by Franklin Foer
    Technology is the defining innovation of our time…but is it also the greatest threat? This book tracks the history of technological innovation, especially on the internet, and how it presents unseen dangers we need to prepare ourselves for.

    The Blood of Emmett Till, by Timothy B. Tyson
    We see stories of police brutality daily, but this story of civilian brutality had inexorable consequences on the Civil Rights Movement. Who was Emmett Till? And why has his murder shaped American history?

    Shrill, by Lindy West
    This memoir-slash-lifestyle guide for how to be a loud feminist who takes up space in a world that often wants women to be quiet, sweet, and invisible, is full of true stories about the importance of speaking out, showing up, and not caring if people call you “shrill.”

    Sex Object, by Jessica Valenti
    This book, on a similar theme, explores the impacts of sexism on the day-to-day lives of women.

    Muslim Girl, by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
    This painful and beautiful memoir details the reality of growing up Muslim in the wake of 9/11, and how Amani struggling with the impact of Islamophobia before launching her groundbreaking website.

    Orientalism, by Edward Said
    The origins of the problematic view of “orientalism” still persists, but this classic book breaks down the cultural and political perspectives of the Middle and Near East, aiming to combat prejudiced western philosophy.

    Welcome to the Universe, by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott
    Something for the science nerd! (Or, aspiring science nerd.) Take a tour of the universe (literally) with renowned scientists explaining planets, aliens, and so much more.

    Salt: A World History, by Mark Kurlansky
    Have you ever thought of the history of things we use every day, and totally take for granted? I never thought of salt as having a history, but it does, and this interesting book details where it comes from, and why it matters so much.

    Cooked, by Michael Pollan
    This memoir is one of the most unique on the list, structurally and content-wise! It follows a food writer’s journey through exploring the different ways we cook things—with fire, water, air, and earth—and mastering the techniques we use to perfect our food.

    Yes Please, by Amy Poheler
    A funny memoir by one of the best comediennes ever, read about Amy’s (rough) beginnings in Hollywood, her persistent optimism, and why she loves being funny.

    Bossypants, by Tina Fey
    If you read Amy’s memoir, you have to read her BFF’s! Tina Fey is wry, witty, and has lots to say on what it takes to succeed as a woman in a man’s world in this hilarious book.

    Wild, by Cheryl Strayed
    When your life collapses and there’s nothing left, where do you go? For Cheryl Strayed, to the Pacific Crest Trail, to figure out what she wants and who she wants to be by putting her body to the ultimate physical test.

    Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
    The story of a pilot brought down during World War II begins with a boy who would become an Olympian, despite a difficult childhood with a tendency towards defiance. It’s that defiance which saved his life years later in the Pacific Ocean, with only a life raft to guide him home.

    Victoria the Queen, by Julia Baird
    She was fifth in line for the throne, and only a teenager, but she became Queen. The second longest-reigning Queen in history, Victoria led a fascinating, passionate life: all of which is detailed in this book!

    A Season With the Witch, by J.W. Ocker
    Salem is an infamous place, ground zero to the 1692 Witch Trials. So when this writer decided to move his family to Salem in 2015 to experience Halloween in the most infamous stomping ground for witches.

    Radium Girls, by Kate Moore
    Radium is everywhere; in everything, and considered an essential ingredient to the beauty industry during World War I. But there is a dark underbelly to this element, experienced by girls working in factories to produce it who suddenly become ill.

    Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
    Part how-to guide, part memoir, this uplifting (and short, perfect for commutes!) read by showrunner and TV writer extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes is the guide to positivity you need going into 2018.

    We Should All be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    Based on her incredible TED Talk, this book explores the intersections of women’s issues, politics, and race using the author’s own experience against the backdrop of history.

    Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
    Roxane Gay’s essays on what it means to be a woman of color in the modern age are funny and profound, and touch upon everything from pop-culture, how Hollywood approaches rape, privilege, and much more. You’ll certainly impress at a cocktail party with some insights from this one.

    The post 50 Nonfiction Books that Will Make You Smarter in 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 6:42 pm on 2016/06/15 Permalink
    Tags: alexander hamilton, , , , ,   

    Read Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the Inspiration Behind the Broadway Juggernaut 

    In 2007, Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up a copy of Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, in an airport bookstore. He became obsessed with it and was soon inspired to start work on the Broadway show Hamilton, bringing his hip-hop inflected New York style to the 18th-century story of one of America’s most talented—and most overlooked—Founding Fathers. The show won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and recently came thisclose to tying a record for most Tony Awards when it received 11 at the 70th Annual Tony Awards.

    Miranda isn’t alone in his love of Chernow’s book. Originally published in 2004, Alexander Hamilton was an instant hit, sitting on the bestseller lists for months. Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Chernow (he won for 2011’s Washington: A Life), it was celebrated as one of the most readable biographies of the modern age. In light of Hamilton mania, there couldn’t be a better time to add it to your to-read pile.

    An orphan turned Founding Father
    It’s kind of amazing that more people aren’t familiar with Alexander Hamilton in this country. He was a Founding Father, after all. He fought alongside Washington. He shaped the earliest policies of the new country. He almost single-handedly invented the American economy. Add to that his colorful life: born illegitimate, orphaned at a young age, he nevertheless found sponsors for his college tuition and at the age of eighteen, joined a militia company to go fight for what he believed in. After the war he became a member of Washington’s first cabinet, and under President John Adams he was ready to lead an army against France in a war that never quite happened. And, most famously, he worked tirelessly to defeat Aaron Burr in the tied election of 1800, setting off a chain of events that ended when Burr fatally wounded Hamilton in a duel.

    If, after reading all that—which is a shallow dip into the incredible life Hamilton packed into forty-seven years—you’re not itching to start this book now, you are dead inside. Or possibly not American. Or both.

    An enemy of powerful men
    So how is it that such a talented man, such a force in the early days of the United States of America, a man who had such a profound influence on our shared history, is so relatively unknown? Aside from his many personal flaws—not the least of which was agreeing to fight in duels—Hamilton made a lot of enemies because he was one of those brilliant men who often acted without considering diplomacy. Two of those enemies were named John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, men of considerable talent, power, and influence in their own right—and it’s fair to say they both worked very hard to destroy Hamilton in life and beyond, and did a pretty good job of it. Chernow’s book, therefore, isn’t just another biography of a historical figure, it’s the biography of Hamilton, the book that almost single-handedly retrieved Hamilton from the dustbin of history and put him back in the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere.

    The book that inspired the show
    Which brings us to Hamilton, the amazing Broadway show. This is the book that inspired it. Let’s say that again: the Broadway show that everyone is talking about, that no one can get tickets to, that people enter a lottery for every day of their lives and never seem to win (but we’re not bitter), was inspired by Ron Chernow’s book. The show is almost entirely sung through, which means that with one exception, you can listen to the soundtrack and hear every song and every line written for it—which makes reading Chernow’s book while listening to the cast recording what scientists call an awesome experience.

    Chernow Himself
    Alexander Hamilton was an extraordinary man. He exploded out of his youth and achieved more in his forty-seven years than most people do in twice the time. And that incredible talent and his placement in history make him an easy subject to obsess over—but let’s not forget what Ron Chernow brings to the table. Alexander Hamilton is easily the most readable history published in recent years, a book that is fun to read but never sacrifices facts, research, or insight. The combination of clear, enjoyable prose and the incredible facts of Hamilton’s life make this a history books that you’ll happily make time for—and miss after you’ve turned the last page.

    We may never get to see Hamilton live on stage. But we can read this incredible book—and now’s the time to do it.

    Shop all history >
     
  • Jeff Somers 5:30 pm on 2016/04/15 Permalink
    Tags: alexander hamilton, , , , not throwing away my shot   

    7 Other Overlooked Historical Figures who Deserve the Hamilton Treatment 

    The country is gripped with Hamilton fever, and the only cure is scoring tickets to the hottest show on Broadway. Even if you don’t live close enough to New York City to attend, you’ve no doubt heard of the hip-hop musical retelling of the life of Alexander Hamilton, perhaps the most obscure person to ever appear on U.S. currency (he’s on the $10 bill, y’all). The combination of our general ignorance of an important figure and Lin-Manual Miranda’s sweet rhymes have made the show a phenomenon. Which makes us think of all the other shamefully overlooked historical figures whose lives would make for excellent musicals.

    Elisha Kane
    Elisha Kane was once the most famous man in America. More people attended his funeral services than Abraham Lincoln’s a few years later (thought, to be fair, a lot of people died in the intervening years owing to a little thing called the Civil War). Kane was a doctor, a marine, and an adventurer, part of two expeditions sent into the Arctic to search for explorer John Franklin, whose ships became icebound while making their way through the Northwest Passage. On the second attempt, Kane marched his men for 83 days through the tundra, carrying their wounded, suffering from scurvy and other ailments, and finding rescue with just a single fatality. Sadly, the effort broke him, and he died two years later having never recovered his health. His body was transported from New Orleans to Philadelphia, and was met at every station by throngs of people.

    Che Guevera
    The sexiest revolutionary ever would be a fantastic subject for a musical, especially now that we’ve moved past the era in which college students plastered his poster on their walls. A Marxist, he was a trained doctor and all-around brilliant guy who passionately despised capitalism (and, as a result, the United States). Upon meeting Fidel Castro in Mexico, he accompanied him to Cuba, where he helped overthrow the government and put Castro in charge, and promptly became the finance minister (and chief enforcer, a job at which he was brutally efficient). Guevera remains a divisive figure, but the combination of brains, brawn, good looks, and political convictions make him ideal for the Hamilton treatment.

    Billy the Kid
    Most think of Billy the Kid as a famous outlaw who shot some people, maybe? Or they think of Emilio Estevez. The truth is somewhere in between: Billy’s is actually a tragic story. There’s every reason to believe he was a more or less good kid; orphaned at the age of 14, he worked honest jobs and most people who knew him had nothing but praise. Yet being an orphan in America in the 19th century was no picnic, and Billy started journeying down a dark path more or less by default. His fame comes mainly from his status as a scapegoat for a gang war; a price of $500 was put on his head in 1880, making him an instant celebrity and resulting in his violent death shortly thereafter. Far from an amoral villain, Billy was probably just a scared kid trying to survive—yet he also killed eight people, making him a surprisingly complex character.

    Frank Wills
    Frank Wills was a security guard who happened to work at a hotel in Washington, D.C., called the Watergate. One night he noticed a piece of tape on the lock of an exterior door and, doing his job, removed it. When he came back on his rounds a little later, the tape was back, so he called the police, who discovered the first evidence of what would become the greatest political scandal of the modern age. For a short time, Wills was a celebrity, but when things calmed down, he found he couldn’t effectively capitalize on that renown, and no one would even hire him as a security guard, for fear of repercussions. He slid into poverty and died of a brain tumor at age 52. His tragedy would make for a dark musical, but the chance to show the relatively unknown side of Watergate would be pretty amazing.

    Peggy Shippen Arnold
    Let’s hear it for the antiheroes—especially when they’re not angry white guys. Everyone knows the name Benedict Arnold, which remains shorthand for “traitor.” But few seem to remember Arnold had a wife (his second). Peggy Shippen of Philadelphia was beautiful, smart, a prominent member of society, and a British loyalist. Arnold met her in the midst of the Revolutionary War when he was appointed military commander of Philadelphia as the British evacuated the city, and they were married soon after. Shortly after that, Arnold began communicating with the British, which was almost certainly not a coincidence. A modern Lady Macbeth, Shippen is a fascinating figure whose impact on American history remains criminally obscure—until a bouncy musical that finds new words to rhyme with “traitor” changes all that.

    Charles Deslondes
    Ask people about the “slave rebellion” of the 19th century and most will mention Nat Turner, but Charles Deslondes’ attempt to seize the city of New Orleans in early 1811 is just as incredible. Deslondes, a slave who worked as an overseer, planned his insurrection for years. He had a political goal and an organized force who concentrated their early efforts on seizing uniforms and weapons from the local militias as they marched on the city. It was a highly orchestrated attempt with a realistic goal, yet was eventually defeated by superior firepower and greater numbers. Deslondes was brutally tortured and executed, and his followers massacred. Many speculate the uprising was obscured in history books because the idea of organized slaves with sophisticated idea about freedom and independence didn’t fit the historical agenda. It’s about time Deslondes’ story was told.

     
  • BN Editors 3:23 pm on 2015/10/08 Permalink
    Tags: alexander hamilton, american sphinx: the character of thomas jefferson, , charmed circle: gertrude stein and company, , nicholson baker, , parallel lives: five victorian marriages, selected letters of martha gellhorn, , the witches, u and i   

    The Witches Author Stacy Schiff Picks Her Favorite Biographies 

    Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff has written about a fascinating and diverse group of subjects, from Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), to Benjamin Franklin and Cleopatra.

    Schiff’s most recent book, The Witches, explores in detail the horrifying Salem witch trials of 1692, a dark period during which even the most educated and influential were swept up in a frenzy of violence and accusation. We wondered what a writer with such wide-ranging tastes liked to read herself, so we asked Schiff to share a few of her favorite biographies with us. Her picks encompass the lives of a number of literary and political figures—on stages both intimate and grand.

    Below, Schiff offers her all-time favorites, with some notes about where they fit on her capacious bookshelf.

    Model of the genre, by which I am repeatedly intimidated:

    Oscar Wilde, by Richard Ellmann
    Still a model of the biographical form, which is to say a book that attends to the work and the life in equal measure and with equal sensitivity. Subject illuminates his own pages and vice versa. Ponderous biographer is nowhere in sight. Quick-witted chronicler everywhere present. Also, a hugely affecting, brilliant last few chapters.

    Impossible to put down, despite all demands of time and space—and its considerable girth:

    Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow
    I have puzzled over this since first I read Chernow’s Hamilton: Why is this volume such a page-turner? I still don’t have an answer. Certainly, it’s a perfect match of subject and biographer. And Chernow sets masterful scenes without compromising the larger intellectual or historical picture.

    Most artful biography of an elusive subject:

    American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, by Joseph J. Ellis
    This book changed the way I think about biography. It’s a most original portrait, one which—in its extended takes on parts of Jefferson’s life and its complete neglect of others—boldly reminds us that a biography is not a photograph.

    Gorgeously written, just plain brilliant reads:

    Mark Twain: A Life, by Ron Powers, and The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris.

    Best life in letters, from a subject who will always best her biographer:

    Selected Letters of Martha Gellhorn, by Martha Gellhorn and Caroline Moorhead (Ed.)
    Hands down one of the best books ever on the state of being a woman. Also proof that the subject can easily best her biographer. What Gellhorn wanted to be more than anything else was courageous, and she was, as graceful under pressure as on the page. She knew what she liked: laughter, words, honesty, men. She disliked tyranny, pretension, lies, sex. She couldn’t cook, but oh she could certainly write.

    Best biographer-on-the-page, mixed biography/autobiography genre titles, and in the last case, best how-to-get-a-book-out-of-not-doing-your-homework:

    Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, by Richard Holmes
    Most biographers will tell you that they go back to this book regularly. It’s a miracle of a hybrid, part travelogue, part biography. And probably we all wish we’d written it.

    U and I, by Nicholson Baker
    Witty, whimsical, and smart and the kind of thing that gets a biographer through rehab.

    Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence, by Geoff Dyer
    Best biographical example of how-to-get-a-book-out-of-not-doing-your-homework. I don’t know what this book is but I love it to death.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Have you read The Witches?

     
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