Book club January 2016 and Friday Finds

meme-FridayFinds-brown-boxedFRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’
and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list…
whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever!
(they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

I’m presenting here the books we shared
at our last block Book Club meeting
– it’s a potluck book club,
meaning each member shares about his/her latest good read.
Awesome for diversity in books, lively conversations,
and your TBR getting suddenly taller!

 

1. Wish You Well, by David Baldacci (2007)
presented by M.

David Baldacci has made a name for himself crafting big, burly legal thrillers with larger-than-life plots. However, Wish You Well, set in his native Virginia, is a tale of hope and wonder and “something of a miracle” just itching to happen. This shift from contentious urbanites to homespun hill families may come as a surprise to some of Baldacci’s fans–but they can rest assured: the author’s sense of pacing and exuberant prose have made the leap as well.

The year is 1940. After a car accident kills 12-year-old Lou’s and 7-year-old Oz’s father and leaves their mother Amanda in a catatonic trance, the children find themselves sent from New York City to their great-grandmother Louisa’s farm in Virginia. Louisa’s hardscrabble existence comes as a profound shock to precocious Lou and her shy brother. Still struggling to absorb their abandonment, they enter gamely into a life that tests them at every turn–and offers unimaginable rewards. For Lou, who dreams of following in her father’s literary footsteps, the misty, craggy Appalachians and the equally rugged individuals who make the mountains their home quickly become invested with an almost mythic significance.

2. Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard, by Laura Bates (2013)
presented by P.

Just as Larry Newton, one of the most notorious inmates at Indiana Federal Prison, was trying to break out of jail, Dr. Laura Bates was trying to break in. She had created the world’s first Shakespeare class in supermax – the solitary confinement unit.
Many people told Laura that maximum-security prisoners are “beyond rehabilitation.” But Laura wanted to find out for herself. She started with the prison’s most notorious inmate: Larry Newton. When he was 17 years old, Larry was indicted for murder and sentenced to life with no possibility of parole. When he met Laura, he had been in isolation for 10 years.
Larry had never heard of Shakespeare. But in the characters he read, he recognized himself.
In this profound illustration of the enduring lessons of Shakespeare through the ten-year relationship of Bates and Newton, an amazing testament to the power of literature emerges. But it’s not just the prisoners who are transformed. It is a starkly engaging tale, one that will be embraced by anyone who has ever been changed by a book.
.

3. And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer, by Ann Rule (2000)
presented by J.

The shattering crime story that shocked the nation: the Thomas Capano murder case.
On a June evening in 1996, 30-year-old Anne Marie Fahey, secretary to the governor of Delaware, vanished without a trace following a restaurant rendezvous with her secret lover of more than two years: Thomas Capano. One of Wilmington’s most prominent and respected figures, a millionaire attorney and former state prosecutor, “Tommy” was a charming, softspoken family man. But in the weeks and months that followed Fahey’s disappearance, investigators would gradually uncover the shocking truth: Capano was a steely manipulator driven by power and greed — and capable of brutal murder. In a riveting narrative expertly documented by probing interviews, diary entries, and e-mail correspondence, and with superb insight into the twisted motivations of a killer, Ann Rule chronicles a real-life drama of Shakespearian proportions: ambitions fall, love turns to obsession, family names are tainted, the façade of success crumbles — and a beautiful but vulnerable young woman pays the ultimate price in a convoluted and deadly relationship.

4. Last Dance, Last Chance and Other True Cases, also by Ann Rule, (2001)
presented by S. – amazing that without planning it, two of our members presented a book by the same author!

Dr. Anthony Pignataro was a cosmetic surgeon and a famed medical researcher whose flashy red Lamborghini and flamboyant lifestyle in western New York State suggested a highly successful career. But appearances, as this shocking insider account of Pignataro’s tailspin from physician to prisoner proves, can be deceiving — and, for the doctor’s wife, very nearly deadly. No one was safe if they got in his way. With scalpel, drugs, and arsenic, he betrayed every oath a physician makes — until his own schemes backfired. Now, the motivations of the classic sociopath are plumbed with chilling accuracy by Ann Rule. Along with other shocking true cases, this worldwide headline-making case will have you turning pages in disbelief that a trusted medical professional could sink to the depths of greed, manipulation, and self-aggrandizement where even slow, deliberate murder is not seen for what it truly is: pure evil..

5. A History of the English Speaking Peoples: Volume 2: The New World, by Winston Churchill (1956)
presented by P.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries England underwent a startling series of transformations. The turbulent reigns of the Tudors and Stuarts witnessed the Protestant Reformation, the growth of powerful monarchies, the English Civil War, and the colonization of the new world. In this, the second volume of his History of the English Speaking Peoples, Sir Winston Churchill turned his considerable rhetorical and analytical acumen to weaving a compelling and insightful narrative of these formative centuries.

6. Frank: The Voice (2010), and
Sinatra: The Chairman by James Kaplan (2015), both volumes presented by J.

Just in time for the Chairman’s centennial, the endlessly absorbing sequel to James Kaplan’s bestselling Frank: The Voice—finally the definitive biography that Frank Sinatra, justly termed “The Entertainer of the Century,” deserves and requires. Like Peter Guralnick on Elvis, Kaplan goes behind the legend to give us the man in full, in his many guises and aspects: peerless singer, (sometimes) powerful actor, business mogul, tireless lover, and associate of the powerful and infamous.

In 2010’s Frank: The Voice, James Kaplan, in rich, distinctive, compulsively readable prose, told the story of Frank Sinatra’s meteoric rise to fame, subsequent failures, and reinvention as a star of live performance and screen. The story of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” continues with Sinatra: The Chairman, picking up the day after Frank claimed his Academy Award in 1954 and had reestablished himself as the top recording artist in music. Frank’s life post-Oscar was incredibly dense: in between recording albums and singles, he often shot four or five movies a year; did TV show and nightclub appearances; started his own label, Reprise; and juggled his considerable commercial ventures (movie production, the restaurant business, even prizefighter management) alongside his famous and sometimes notorious social activities and commitments.

7. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, by Matthew B. Crawford (2009)
presented by W.

A philosopher / mechanic destroys the pretensions of the high- prestige workplace and makes an irresistible case for working with one’s hands.
Shop Class as Soulcraft brings alive an experience that was once quite common, but now seems to be receding from society-the experience of making and fixing things with our hands. Those of us who sit in an office often feel a lack of connection to the material world, a sense of loss, and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day. For anyone who felt hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, against their own inclinations and natural bents, Shop Class as Soulcraft seeks to restore the honor of the manual trades as a life worth choosing.
On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide.

But Crawford offers good news as well: the manual trades are very different from the assembly line, and from dumbed-down white collar work as well. They require careful thinking and are punctuated by moments of genuine pleasure. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Crawford makes a case for the intrinsic satisfactions and cognitive challenges of manual work. The work of builders and mechanics is secure; it cannot be outsourced, and it cannot be made obsolete. Such work ties us to the local communities in which we live, and instills the pride that comes from doing work that is genuinely useful. A wholly original debut, Shop Class as Soulcraft offers a passionate call for self-reliance and a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world.

The Wright Brothers8. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough (2015)
presented by me

Two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize David McCullough tells the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly: Wilbur and Orville Wright.

On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot.
Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did?
David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly American story of Wilbur and Orville Wright.
Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were books aplenty, supplied mainly by their preacher father, and they never stopped reading.
When they worked together, no problem seemed to be insurmountable. Wilbur was unquestionably a genius. Orville had such mechanical ingenuity as few had ever seen. That they had no more than a public high school education, little money and no contacts in high places, never stopped them in their mission to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off in one of their contrivances, they risked being killed.

In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers’ story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.

You can read my own review here.

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 HAVE YOU READ ANY OF THOSE?
WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE?

Nonfiction November: My Year 2015 in Nonfiction

Nonfiction-November-2015-300x300

Click on the logo to see the detailed schedule

Doing Dewey is organizing a fun month around nonfiction! I plan to participate as much as I can. Here is the topic for week 1, hosted by Sophisticated Dorkiness:

Your Year in Nonfiction:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions:
What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?
What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?
What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

 

First of all, here is the recap of the nonfiction I have read (the link will send you to my review when it’s posted):

  1. Journeys Through France and Life, by Glenda de Vaney
  2. That’s Paris, anthology by Velvet Morning Press (actually mix of fiction/nonfiction) – ebook
  3. The Showings, by Julian of Norwich
  4. How to Blog a Book, by Nina Amir  – ebook
  5. Petite Confessions, by Vicki Lesage – ebook
  6. Bridges of Paris, by James St Michael
  7. The Cost of Courage, by Charles Kaiser
  8. H is For Hawk, by Helen Macdonald – audiobook
  9. The Fictional 100, by Lucy Pollard-Gott
  10. The Homilies, by Gregory Palamas – currently reading
  11. Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais, by Vinay and Darbelnet – currently reading
  12. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough – I have the book and may have time to read it in 2015  – ebook

NB: 7 of these 12 books were received for review

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

The Fictional 100

Click on the covers to read my detailed review

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

 The Fictional 100   The Cost of Courage

What is one topic or type of nonfiction
you haven’t read enough of yet?

I was planning to read absolutely everyday from The Homilies by Palamas, but under the pressure of reading books with a scheduled review, I don’t do it everyday.
I’d like also to read more books related to current issues, like the present situation in the Middle East, etc. I have titles in mind, but not the time to read them 😉
Recently, I have started a particular practice: each time I go to the library, and that can be 3 or 4 times a week, I go to the nonfiction section and select a book per section (so out of let’s say 30 books). I’m not planning to read these books from A to Z, but the introduction, the conclusion, to get the main ideas and get to read a bit about things I may not have heard of before.
I plan to follow the shelves, so yesterday I was in the 028 and grabbed (actually 2!): When Books Went to War, by Manning and The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, by Allan Jacobs.

What are you hoping to get out
of participating in Nonfiction November?

Get acquainted with more nonfiction readers and titles.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE NONFICTION THIS YEAR?