Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Personal Favorites in Non-Fiction 2006-2008

Every reader has some favorites and I am no exception. My tastes are quite eclectic but here are some of my very favorite books from the past several years in no particular order....

Now this is important to remember... the views expressed on this blog are my own and are not the opinion of anyone else (although you may or may not agree with my assessment of a particular writer or book).  I'm  one of those awful teachers you had in high school or college who just couldn't bring herself to give  an A+ unless perhaps you could quote Shakespeare, whilst standing on your head, holding tea filled  china saucers and cups in each hand  and on your toe tips (pointing to the ceiling of course) ready for handy reference the complete works of the Bard in case you needed to refresh your memory. 

Perhaps I am not quite that bad....


Swanson, James, L. Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer ***top notch writing & history – details that are unbelievable! 
Mnookin, Seth
Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top ****well researched & written account of the Red Sox from the purchase of the team in ’03-05 & how it came together for the 2004 world series win. Great behind the scenes info on the owners, gm, players, how stats were relied upon for trades, etc. Just a great sports book – one of a kind)

Goldstone, Nancy
Four Queens: The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe,**** A beautifully written history that is so fascinating it reads like a novel about four sisters, a clever mother and ambition matched by success. It was the time of knights, crusades, kings, and troubadours in medieval Europe. Each sister made a brilliant match marrying some of the most powerful men of their time, surviving wars, crusades, and rebellions. Their stories are interwoven in the fabric of the thirteenth century. Family disputes over dowries (how many times can a father promise the same castles?), triumphs, heartaches and petty jealousies as they grew into powerful women (all actually became queens) are all duly noted. How they raised families, formed political and social alliances and lasting impact on the times is also explored in detail. Nancy Goldstone writes with heart and makes the sisters stories a fascinating miniseries of thirteenth century life.

Cohn, Johnathan
Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis and the People Who Pay the Price***Traces the history of health insurance as well as  stories of average Americans who didn’t receive care they needed due to lack of insurance or “denials’ of care by their hmo’s etc….

Herman, Eleanor Sex With The Queen: 900 Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers and Passionate Politics***(great read, entertaining, historical info on princesses & queens stepping outside the royal marital bed and the effects on their marriages and countries)

Lerner, Michael The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country from the Religious Right ***1/2 Well written (basically essays) that address various issues related to “current state of faith in government.” And then looks at an eight  point plan to bring a new spiritual covenant to America that addresses the needs of our country including healthcare, poverty, etc.

Abbott, Karen, Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul.***1/2 Interesting read about Chicago’s Levee nee “RED Light” district home of the famous Everleigh Club. (Men said they were going to get “everleighed” that night – it eventually got shortened and that is where we now say… “laid”) The fashionable, questionable, business savvy Everleigh sisters, Minna and Aida(Ada) set up what arguably was the most famous brothel in America with fabulous rooms, a “Pullman buffet,” and thirty “butterflies to entertain gentlemen callers – after they learned Balzac and poetry per the sisters wishes. It was at the Everleigh club were the “drinking champagne out of a lady’s slipper” started when during a special evening entertainment for Prince Henry of Prussia, one of the butterfly’s accidentally lost her shoe and it collided with a champagne bottle…(pg. 76…Some of the liquor spilled into the shoe and a …man …scooped it up…”The darling mustn’t get her feet wet,”, …without further comment he drained the champagne from the shoe and tossed it back to it’s owner…Prince Henry’s entire entourage rose , yanked a slipper from the nearest girl and hled it aloft. Waiters…hurriedly filling each shoe with champagne…”Fascinating, fun and also in some parts sobering because many madams didn’t have “willing”: girls, there was white slavery, horrible abuse, etc. And so we learn about how all of this came to a halt and about the sisters before and after lives

Saunders, Nicholas Alexander’s Tomb***1/2 Tells the story of Alexander’s death, his many burials, mummification, how his generals used him after his death for their own advancement (literally and figuratively), his reburials, speculation about his final resting place and what it would mean if his tomb were actually found. Was he buried in Venice in place of St. Mark? Well written and absolutely intriguing for any history fan.

Rich, Frank The Greatest Story Ever Sold : The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina ***1/2 Scathing look at the Bush years and its lack of credibility with the American public and the world at large. How “we” took world sympathy from 9/11 and destroyed it through lies, war with Iraq and then the travesty of Katrina’s feeble “rescue” attempts - - reads like a fictional presidency – hard to believe it could happen in the USA

Kamp, David The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation *** (fun read on the culinary tastes of American mainly after WWII rise of Julia Child, James Beard, “Dean and DeLuca” celeb chefs, organic foods, imported foodstuffs, French cooking, etc. Some of the stories are too funny and almost hard to believe!)

Mueller, John Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National; Security Threats and Why We Believe Them***1/2 well written and makes you really stop and think how much money we are wasting and time spent worrying over this entire terrorism threat and how many people have died in this fruitless war. Thought provoker – everyone should HAVE to read this book.

Crosby, Molly Caldwell The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever The Epidemic that Shaped Our History*** fascinating look at the history of this disease and people like Walter Reed, but most fascinating was what happened to Memphis, Tn and how it shaped the destiny of this city when an epidemic hit –

Patterson, Benton Rain With the Heart of a King: Elizabeth I of England, Philip II of Spain, and the Fight for a Nation's Soul and Crown *** Well written and fascinating historical read about Elizabeth I & Philip II, their relationship, battles over religion (including inquisition –and so many details I suspect most poeople have never heard before about what went on in the courts of these two as they battled politically over their religious disputes)..Also showed the human sides of these two – their childhood years and the impact it had on each, the advisors they had, the battle with the Armada (great story about Cervantes having been aboard and one of the few to return alive to Spain and to eventually write Don Quite), other great tidbits like Frncis Drake landing ini Marin Co. Ca in mid 1500’s and leaving a few folks to start a small settlement “New Albion” (New England” but secretly so Spain would not find out… The story about the Netherlands and their “revolt” over the inquisition and Spain is really interesting too… How different our world would be if Spain had won these battles… and … the Protestant reformation had been quenched