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  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2018/01/18 Permalink
    Tags: , a season with the witch, , , 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, , , , , silent spring, , stamped from the beginning, the autobiography of malcolm x, the blood of emmett till, the crown, , the new jim crow, the origins of totalitarianism, the six wives of henry viii, the subtle art of not giving a f*ck, true stories, , victoria the queen, , 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 3:00 pm on 2016/04/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , true stories,   

    6 Writers (Who Aren’t Shakespeare) Who Coined New Words 

    English is a mess—just ask any non-native speaker who has tried to learn it. That messiness is part of what makes it such a thrilling language for writers, as it seems to invite the coining of new words and phrases. The heavyweight champion of neologisms is, of course, Bill Shakespeare—it’s estimated the Bard invented around 1,700 words, plus countless phrases that remain commonplace to this day—but writers haven’t been sitting idle since the 17th century. The words invented by these six books may surprise you.

    Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
    Charles Dickens was another prolific inventor of words. One of the most surprising to debut in one of his books is boredom, which seems like such a basic word it’s amazing to discover it first appeared in his Bleak House. While the word bore had existed for about 100 years already, Dickens seems to have been the first to turn it into a noun, instantly giving us all one more way of expressing our dissatisfaction with stifling Sunday afternoons.

    Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce
    James Joyce coined plenty of words, especially in the aggressively difficult Finnegans Wake, in which just about every line is a convoluted puzzle of reference, puns, and wordplay. Most of those words, however, stayed safely inside the pages of the book—with the exception of quark, used by physicist Murray Gell-Mann to describe the elementary particle he discovered. He originally wanted to call it a kwork, but upon reading the phrase “three quarks for muster mark!” in Joyce’s novel, he thought the alternate spelling a better fit—possibly because he interpreted the line to refer to quarts of liquor being called for, which makes Dr. Gell-Man our kind of theoretical physicist.

    If I Ran the Zoo, by Dr. Seuss
    The first time the word nerd appeared in print was in this 1950 Dr. Seuss book, where it’s used to describe a small, very angry-looking creature. Alternative spellings abound, including knurd, which is drunk spelled backward and supposedly indicates someone who doesn’t like to have fun. But Seuss’s spelling won the day, sparking the theory that tykes reading the book in the ’50s adapted the term into the classic insult we all know—and sometimes own—today.

    The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    Everyone knows Tolkien invented crazy words like “Nazgûl” and “hobbit,” not to mention entire fictional languages, but he also coined at least one term you’ve likely heard at least a few times this week: tween. In Tolkien’s works, it’s used to describe a hobbit older than 20 but not yet at the age of majority (33). While not exactly the definition most accepted today, when we use it to describe the terrifying population of preteen hipsters who secretly control all marketing and film scripts, it’s hard to believe the word doesn’t have its roots in Middle Earth.

    Christine, by Stephen King
    Considering King’s decades of prolificacy, it would be more surprising if he hadn’t introduced at least one word into popular parlance. But it’s he we can thank for the delightful phrase pie-hole, which appears for the first time in history in his possessed car novel Christine. To be fair, “cake-hole,” with essentially the same meaning and usage, had existed long before, but “pie-hole” has eclipsed the earlier version through superior rhythm and a slightly rougher connotation that adds to the rebuke, so we have to give King credit where it’s due.

    Marilyn, by Norman Mailer
    When not stabbing his wife, staring sullenly while being photographed, or picking fights, Norman Mailer was an incredible writer. In his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe, he casually created the word factoid, which he defined as, “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion.” The definition has been tweaked over the years to mean a fact of little importance, but the factoid is, Mailer created the word, putting him just 1,699 points behind Shakespeare.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:30 pm on 2016/03/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , true stories   

    The Fascinating Origin Stories of 7 Famous Novels 

    These days, everyone knows what an origin story is thanks to superhero movies and comic books. We’ve now seen multiple iterations of the origin story behind figures like Batman and Spider-Man, and will no doubt get to see them a few more times before the sweet release of death. Of course, the term “origin story” applies to more than just comic superheroes. Breaking Bad is basically the origin story of The One Who Knocks, and even inanimate objects and great novels have origin stories. Sometimes those origin stories are just as interesting as the novels themselves—like in these seven books.

    Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
    Perhaps the most famous literary origin story of all time, Frankenstein is such a permanent part of pop culture it’s easy to forget just how remarkable a book it is—arguably the first science fiction novel in the modern sense. Shelley was traveling with her future husband, Percy Shelley, and others (including Lord Byron) during 1816, the “year without a summer.” Bored, the group came up with the idea of trading “horror” or “ghost” stories to pass the time. The early 19th century was a giddy time, when people thought things like electricity and science! (always with the exclamation mark) could do anything, and so Frankenstein’s Monster was born of a ghost story challenge.

    Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
    Twilight is a book series that will be discussed for decades to come, in part for its cultural impact, in part for the backlash that impact inspired, and in part because Meyer has been pretty candid about its inspiration: a dream. As she writes on her own website: “In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire… For what is essentially a transcript of my dream, please see Chapter 13 (‛Confessions’) of the book.” Plenty of writers would kill to have a dream that turns into a bestselling novel series, and it’s refreshing to hear a story about inspiration that doesn’t hint at any sort of rarefied knowledge of the creative process.

    Killing Floor, by Lee Child
    The origins of the mega-successful Jack Reacher series are both prosaic and inspiring. At age 40, television producer Lee Child lost his job. Needing a way to generate income, and uncertain of what to do with the rest of his life, he decided to write a book. Normally stories in which people write novels in order to make money end in tragedy, but in Child’s case that novel was Killing Floor, which went on to be a bestseller and here we are 20 novels later. Child got the name Reacher from a grocery run with his wife when he retrieved a can from a high shelf and she told him he could have a career as a “reacher” in stores. Child and his creation Jack Reacher are therefore inspirations to all struggling writers (and midlife crisis survivors).

    The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss
    Dr. Seuss wrote his most iconic book as a response to the “primer” books of the age, especially Dick and Jane. These books, while written in a very simple style to help young children learn how to read, suffered from one defect in the opinion of Theodore Geisel: they were boring. He was therefore inspired to write a similar simple book that would engage children and make them want to read, which we are disturbed to discover was apparently a revolutionary idea in the 1950s. Working from a short list of words the publisher thought every six-year-old would know, Geisel took the first two words that rhymed on the list and The Cat in the Hat was born.

    The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
    It sounds like a made-up story, but it’s true: Tolkien, a professor, was grading papers in his office when he happened on a blank sheet of paper and wrote down a sentence that came to him from out of nowhere: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” No one, apparently, was more amazed at the sudden presence of this sentence than Professor Tolkien himself—especially the word hobbit. That sort of inspiration and automatic writing is the sort of thing writers live for.

    On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
    Most people know the story of the “the scroll”—the sheets of tracing paper taped together on which the first draft of On the Road was written in about three weeks in 1951. But On the Road wasn’t the product of three weeks’ feverish work, it was the result of years of real-life travels Kerouac undertook with Neal Cassady and others, driving around the country. Kerouac took notes along the way and worked on several early versions of the novel before having his breakthrough in deciding to write the story as if he were writing a letter to a friend, using the rhythms and improvisational aspects of jazz music as his muse.

    The Gambler, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    In the category of “writing novels to make quick cash,” Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler was literally written to satisfy gambling debts, which is so meta and self-reflexive we’re sorry we just lost our train of thought. Oh yes: Dostoyevsky loved roulette, but roulette did not love him, and in 1866 he signed a contract wherein he promised to deliver a publishable novel in a matter of weeks or he would give over the rights to all his work for the next nine years without compensation. He pulled it off, and while The Gambler isn’t considered among his top-tier works, it’s a great book, and even more interesting when you consider the personal nature of its inspiration.

     
  • Melissa Albert 3:30 pm on 2014/08/05 Permalink
    Tags: adam makos, , , , , , , , rick atkinson, , true stories, ,   

    4 Gripping Works of Nonfiction for Readers Who Loved Unbroken 

    In the Kingdom of Ice at B&N

    Since 2010 Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s white-knuckle account of the near-fatal plane crash and subsequent internment of World War II hero and former Olympian Louis Zamperini, has captured the imagination of readers around the world. It’s landed on best-seller lists and reader wish lists everywhere, and even inspired a film, out this December from director Angelina Jolie. If you’re looking for more historical tales to chill your blood, keep you up, and make you extra grateful for your easy chair, here are four more books you’ll love:

    In the Kingdom of Ice, by Hampton Sides
    Sides’ tale opens on the indelible image of the 1873 rescue of more than a dozen people—men, women, and children—from an Arctic ice flat, on which they’d spent 196 harrowing days. It then backs up to spin the story of the “grand and terrible Polar voyage of the USS Jeanette,” the ship from which the survivors were separated, folding in wealthy eccentrics, acts of great hubris, and life and death at sea. Set in the Gilded Age amid an unprecedented public thirst for Arctic exploration, In the Kingdom of Ice will keep you in its chilly grip from the first page to the last.

    Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    The 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill was a bloody tipping point in the Revolutionary War, and Philbrick’s book colors in the history, characters, and political and social landscape surrounding the powder keg of post–Tea Party Boston. By focusing tightly on just one battle, Philbrick uncovers new perspectives on an old story, and fleshes out the lives of a number of supporting players in the United States’ brutal struggle for independence.

    A Higher Call, by Adam Makos
    A sky-high act of incredible mercy inspired a dual biography of two World War II pilots: American Charlie Brown, who in December 1943 found himself in the pit of a crippled B-17, and Franz Stigler, the German pilot who, rather than ending his life, helped guide him to safety. That the two men met and became friends in 1990, following Brown’s late-life search for his unexpected savior, only sweetens this story of wartime grace.

    The Guns at Last Light, by Rick Atkinson
    In the concluding volume of his World War II Liberation trilogy, Atkinson highlights the often internally divided nature of the Allied forces, and never loses sight of the frightening costs of war. From the shores of Normandy to the final days of the Third Reich, Atkinson’s impeccably researched book will keep you riveted, whether you’re a military history buff or a n00b in need of a primer.

    What nonfiction page-turners have you been reading lately?

     
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