Notable Historic Non-Fiction Titles

Notable Historic Non-Fiction Titles

Longing to learn while you read? Get your history lesson with these notable non-fiction titles.


Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me by Deidre Bair

In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and a recently minted Ph.D. who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could be his biographer despite her never having written a biography before. The next seven years of probing conversations, intercontinental research, singular encounters with Beckett’s friends, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Bair to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir.

From Russia with Blood by Heidi Blake

They thought they had found a safe haven in the green hills of England. They were wrong. One by one, the Russian oligarchs, dissidents, and gangsters who fled to Britain after Vladimir Putin came to power dropped dead in strange or suspicious circumstances. One by one, their British lawyers and fixers met similarly grisly ends. Yet, one by one, the British authorities shut down every investigation — and carried on courting the Kremlin.

Give Me Liberty by Richard Brookhiser

Award-winning historian and biographer Richard Brookhiser offers up a truer and more inspiring story of American nationalism as it has evolved over four hundred years. He examines America’s history through thirteen documents that made the United States a new country in a new world: a free country. We are what we are because of them; we stay true to what we are by staying true to them.

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power.

The Shadow of Vesuvius: a Life of Pliny by Daisy Dunn

When Pliny the Elder perished at Stabiae during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, he left behind an enormous compendium of knowledge, his thirty-seven-volume Natural History, and a teenaged nephew who revered him as a father. Grieving his loss, Pliny the Younger inherited the Elder’s notebooks―filled with pearls of wisdom―and his legacy.

Wounded Shepherd by Austin Ivereigh

This deeply contextual biography centers on the tensions generated by the pope’s attempt to turn the Church away from power and tradition and outwards to engage humanity with God’s mercy. Through battles with corrupt bankers and worldly cardinals, in turbulent meetings and on global trips, history’s first Latin-American pope has attempted to reshape the Church to evangelize the contemporary age. At the same time, he has stirred other leaders’ deep-seated fear that the Church is capitulating to modernity―leaders who have challenged his bid to create a more welcoming, attentive institution.

Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers by Brian Kilmeade

In March 1836, the Mexican army led by General Santa Anna massacred more than two hundred Texians who had been trapped in the Alamo. After thirteen days of fighting, American legends Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett died there, along with other Americans who had moved to Texas looking for a fresh start. It was a crushing blow to Texas’s fight for freedom. But the story doesn’t end there. The defeat galvanized the Texian settlers, and under General Sam Houston’s leadership they rallied. Six weeks after the Alamo, Houston and his band of settlers defeated Santa Anna’s army in a shocking victory, winning the independence for which so many had died.

Blowout by Rachel Maddow

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events.

Peace, War and Liberty by Christopher A. Preble

Has the United States been a force for liberty around the world? Should it be? And if so, how? To answer these questions, Christopher A. Preble traces the history of U.S. foreign policy from the American Founding to the present, examining the ideas that have animated it, asking whether America’s policy choices have made the world safer and freer, and considering the impact of those choices on freedom at home.

Betrayal in Berlin by Steve Vogel

Its code name was “Operation Gold,” a wildly audacious CIA plan to construct a clandestine tunnel into East Berlin to tap into critical KGB and Soviet military telecommunication lines. The tunnel, crossing the border between the American and Soviet sectors, would have to be 1,500 feet (the length of the Empire State Building) with state-of-the-art equipment, built and operated literally under the feet of their Cold War adversaries. Success would provide the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service access to a vast treasure of intelligence. Exposure might spark a dangerous confrontation with the Soviets. Yet as the Allies were burrowing into the German soil, a traitor, code-named Agent Diamond by his Soviet handlers, was burrowing into the operation itself. . .

 

Titles on Strength and Resilience

Titles on Strength and Resilience

 

Sometimes having the capacity to withstand life’s pressures can feel impossible. The characters in these titles find strength and resilience, despite the odds against them.


Cover ImageThe Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s sequel to THE HANDMAID’S TALE picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

Britt Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg, she is more than a little unprepared. Employed as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center, the fastidious Britt-Marie has to cope with muddy floors, unruly children, and a rat for a roommate.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.

And Then There were None by Agatha Christie

Ten…Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious U. N. Owen. Nine… At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead. Eight…Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, Victoria Jones is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Read more

Native American Heritage

November is Native American Heritage Month. Celebrate by exploring works of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and film by indigenous American authors from the SPL collection.

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo (2019)
Check out the current Poet Laureate’s latest collection of poems, entwining reflections on her personal history with the history of her tribe.
“Rich and deeply engaging, An American Sunrise creates bridges of understanding while reminding readers to face and remember the past.”
Elizabeth Lund, Washington Post, 8/13/2019. Available in print and eaudiobook.
Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (1984)
Erdrich’s groundbreaking debut novel tells the interconnected stories of the Kashpaw and Lamartine families on a Chippewa reservation in Minnesota. Told from various points of view and spanning generations, it is recommended for fans of magical realism and character driven novels. Available in print only, but other titles by Erdrich are available in ebook and eaudio format from Hoopla and Overdrive.
Louise Erdrich is member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

There There by Tommy Orange (2018)
Preparing for the Big Oakland Powwow is no small feat. Orange effortlessly weaves together the distinct voices of his large cast of characters in this debut novel, illustrating both the diversity and commonality of experience of First Nations peoples through the various threads of story. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Available in print, cd audiobook, ebook, and eaudiobook.
Tommy Orange is a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma.

Winter Counts by David Weiden (2020)
In this gritty thriller set on South Dakota’s Rosebud Reservation, Virgil Wounded Horse is paid to dispense justice when the law can, or will, not. When his teenage nephew becomes involved with drugs, the issue becomes personal, and Virgil is drawn into a battle with the cartel that supplies the reservation. Compelling characters and the authentic portrayal of native life make this more than your standard vigilante hero fare. Available in print, ebook, and eaudiobook.
David Heska Wanbli Weiden is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer (2019)
This nonfiction book provides a much needed counternarrative to the standard European American view of Native American history. A finalist for The National Book Award. Available in print, ebook, and eaudiobook.
David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota.
Also recommended: Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian, available in ebook and eaudiobook. “A deeply knowing, darkly funny, unabashedly opinionated, and utterly unconventional account of Indian–White relations in North America since initial contact”–Overdrive description.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (2017)
Alexie, who won a National Book Award for his bestselling young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, processes the complicated relationship he had with his mother in this poignant and raw memoir. Available in print, cd audiobook, Playaway, ebook, and eaudiobook.
Sherman Alexie is a A Spokane/Coeur D’Alene Indian. 

Indian Horse (Film, 2017)
Saul Indian Horse is sent to a Canadian residential school as a young boy. Despite the deprivations and abuse he endures there, he discovers ice hockey and becomes a star player. The film is based on the 2012 novel by Richard Wagamese. Available in DVD.
Richard Wagamese was an Ojibwe from the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations.

June is Pride Month

June is Pride Month

The Heart’s Invisible Furies: A Novel by John Boyne

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?
Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

Less : A Novel by Andrew Sean Greer

Who says you can’t run away from your problems? You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes—it would be too awkward—and you can’t say no—it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.
QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?
ANSWER: You accept them all.
What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last. Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, Less is, above all, a love story.


Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington

 

Telling Your Story: Books on Memoir Writing

Have you ever considered sitting down to write out your life story? Regardless of who you are or where you’ve been, everyone has a story to tell. From celebrities to politicians to everyday people, it seems that nearly everyone is writing a memoir. If you’re interested in crafting a memoir of your own, here are some great books to help you through the process.
Read more

Women in Science

Did you enjoy the movie Hidden Figures? Then you are sure to enjoy more tales of women breaking barriers in science and math fields. Check out a few of these similar titles or be inspired by the book version of Hidden Figures!

Hidden FiguresHidden Figures : The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Glass UniverseThe Glass Universe : How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.

HeadstrongHeadstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World by Rachel Swaby

Headstrong delivers a powerful, global, and engaging response. Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby’s vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one’s ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they’re best known. This fascinating tour reveals these 52 women at their best—while encouraging and inspiring a new generation of girls to put on their lab coats.

Rise of the Rocket GirlsRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading.

 

Girls of Atomic CityThe Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan

At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, and consumed more electricity than New York City, yet it was shrouded in such secrecy that it did not appear on any map. Thousands of civilians, many of them young women from small towns across the U.S., were recruited to this secret city, enticed by the promise of solid wages and war-ending work. What were they actually doing there? Very few knew. The purpose of this mysterious government project was kept a secret from the outside world and from the majority of the residents themselves. Some wondered why, despite the constant work and round-the-clock activity in this makeshift town, did no tangible product of any kind ever seem to leave its guarded gates? The women who kept this town running would find out at the end of the war, when Oak Ridge’s secret was revealed and changed the world forever.

Big Fall Books

Summer is almost over, and autumn is approaching. Here are some books to get excited about as the temperature falls.

FICTION

CommonwealthCommonwealth by Ann Patchett

The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives.

One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

 

 

A Great ReckoningA Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

#1 New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny pulls back the layers to reveal a brilliant and emotionally powerful truth in her latest spellbinding novel.

When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity. But the closer the villagers look, the stranger it becomes. Given to Armand Gamache as a gift the first day of his new job, the map eventually leads him to shattering secrets. To an old friend and older adversary. It leads the former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté du Québec to places even he is afraid to go. But must.

 

Here I Am by Jonathan Sanfran FoerHere I Am

A monumental new novel from the bestselling author of Everything Is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Showcasing the same high-energy inventiveness, hilarious irreverence, and emotional urgency that readers loved in his earlier work, Here I Am is Foer’s most searching, hard-hitting, and grandly entertaining novel yet. It not only confirms Foer’s stature as a dazzling literary talent but reveals a novelist who has fully come into his own as one of our most important writers.

 

 

Razor GirlRazor Girl by Carl Hiassan

When Lane Coolman’s car is bashed from behind on the road to the Florida Keys, what appears to be an ordinary accident is anything but (this is Hiaasen!). Behind the wheel of the other car is Merry Mansfield–the eponymous Razor Girl–and the crash scam is only the beginning of events that spiral crazily out of control while unleashing some of the wildest characters Hiaasen has ever set loose on the page.

 

 

Today Will Be DifferentToday Will Be Different by Maria Semple

Eleanor knows she’s a mess. But today, she will tackle the little things. She will shower and get dressed. She will have her poetry and yoga lessons after dropping off her son, Timby. She won’t swear. She will initiate sex with her husband, Joe. But before she can put her modest plan into action-life happens. Today, it turns out, is the day Timby has decided to fake sick to weasel his way into his mother’s company. It’s also the day Joe has chosen to tell his office-but not Eleanor-that he’s on vacation. Just when it seems like things can’t go more awry, an encounter with a former colleague produces a graphic memoir whose dramatic tale threatens to reveal a buried family secret.

Today Will Be Different is a hilarious, heart-filled story about reinvention, sisterhood, and how sometimes it takes facing up to our former selves to truly begin living.

 

 

NON FICTION

Born To RunBorn To Run by Bruce Springsteen

In 2009, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performed at the Super Bowl’s halftime show. The experience was so exhilarating that Bruce decided to write about it. That’s how this extraordinary autobiography began.

Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs.

 

Killing the Rising SunKilling the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan by Bill O’Reilly

Autumn 1944. World War II is nearly over in Europe but is escalating in the Pacific, where American soldiers face an opponent who will go to any length to avoid defeat. The Japanese army follows the samurai code of Bushido, stipulating that surrender is a form of dishonor. Killing the Rising Sun takes readers to the bloody tropical-island battlefields of Peleliu and Iwo Jima and to the embattled Philippines, where General Douglas MacArthur has made a triumphant return and is plotting a full-scale invasion of Japan.

New Biographies – July 2015

Anchor & Flares: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hope and Service
Kate Braestrup
B BRAESTRUP
The author of Here If You Need Me presents a new chapter of her life and thoughts as a parent and through her work as a chaplain to the Maine Warden Service.  “Bare, unflinching, and very funny.”

 And the Good News Is… Lessons and Advice from the Bright Side
Dana Perino
B PERINO
The former White House press secretary reveals the lessons she’s learned that have guided her through life, led to success, even in the face of adversity.

Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
B COATES
“This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” Excellent reviews accompany this personal narrative, reimagined history and emotionally charged reporting.

The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation
Melissa Rivers
B RIVERS
The one person who new Joan Rivers better than anyone else tells the story of her life with the inimitable personality.

Criminal That I Am
Jennifer Ridha
B RIDHA
A memoir from a young lawyer who becomes romantically entangled with the convicted drug felon she represents—Cameron Douglas, son of film actor Michael Douglas  —and who makes the mistake of her life … or not.

The Double Life of Fidel Castro: My 17 Years as Personal Bodyguard to El Líder Máximo
Juan Reinaldo Sánchez
B CASTRO
Fidel Castro lived a simple soldier’s life in the public eye and a luxurious dictator’s life in private.  The author exposes seventeen years of Castro’s secrets.

Einstein: His Space and Times
Steven Gimbel
B GIMBEL
A look at the brilliant scientist who was politically engaged with his times and with a strong moral compass.  Here is an engaging look at another side of the famous physicist.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Ashlee Vance
B VANCE
A look into the remarkable life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious businessman.  He is the innovator behind PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and Solar City.

Getting Real
Gretchen Carlson
B CARLSON
Now a television personality, the author is also a former Miss American and a childhood violin prodigy.

Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica
Matthew Parker
B PARKER
For two months every year, from 1946 to his death eighteen years later, Ian Fleming lived at Goldeneye, the house he built on a point of high land overlooking a Jamaican white sand beach.

Joan of Arc: A History
Helen Castor
B JOAN OF ARC
A fresh view of the amazing life of the woman who, 500 years after her death, would be declared a saint.

Jonas Salk: A Life
Charlotte DeCroes Jacobs
B SALK
For decades, poliomyelitis stalked America’s children.  When the announcement of a vaccine was made on April 12, 1955, the nation learned of the man and his team that made this amazing breakthrough.

A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope
Tom Brokaw
B BROKAW
The famous newscaster, reflects on a year of dramatic change, a year spent battling cancer and reflecting on a long, happy, and lucky life.

On the Move: A Life
Oliver Sacks
B SACKS
The noted author and physician, recounts his own extraordinary life.  From the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings, among other titles.

One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon
Tim Weiner
B NIXON
A history of the presidency of Richard Nixon that includes all of the secret tapes and documents, many that have been declassified in the last two years.

Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva
Rosemary Sullivan
B ALLILUYEVA
Born in 1926, Svetlana Alliluyeva spent her youth inside the Kremlin as her father rose to power.  Eighty-five years later, she died alone and penniless in rural Wisconsin as Lana Peters.

The Theft of Memory: Losing My Father One Day at a Time
Jonathan Kozol
B KOZOL
The noted author and children’s advocate now tells the personal story of his father’s life and work as a specialist in disorders of the brain. At the onset of his own Alzheimer’s disease, he was able to explain the causes of his sickness and then to describe what he was going through.

Under the Same Sky: From Starvation in North Korea to Salvation in America
Joseph Kim with Stephan Talty
B KIM
A heartrending story of starvation and survival in North Korea, followed by a dramatic escape, rescue by international activists, and success in the United States.

Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime
Scott Simon
B SIMON
Spending their last days together in a hospital ICU, the author and his mother reflect on their lifetime’s worth of memories, with stories of humor and resilience.  From the noted NPR reporter.

A Very Dangerous Woman: The Lives, Loves and Lies of Russia’s Most Seductive Spy
Deborah McDonald and Jeremy Dronfield
B BUDBERG
Spy, adventurer, charismatic seductress and mistress of two of the century’s greatest writers, the Russian aristocrat Baroness Moura Budberg was born in 1892 to a wealthy family. Intrigue!

The Wright Brothers
David McCullough
B McCULLOUGH
On a winter day in 1903, on the remote Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio, Wilbur and Orville Wright, changed history.  Here’s their story from the noted and popular author.

Spotlight on Memoir: New Biographies

Recently the library has added several new memoirs to its biography collection. Telling a story from the author’s life, rather than the story the author’s life, memoir is a special category of autobiography. Memoir has become an increasingly popular literary nonfiction genre in recent years.

Below, take a look at three memoirs Sewickley Public Library has recently added to its shelves. You may click on the titles to see the books in our online catalog, from which you may place a hold.


Glitter and GlueGLITTER AND GLUE: A MEMOIR
, by Kelly Corrigan
Booklist Review

When mother of two Corrigan struggles with cancer, she remembers a mother she never met more than 20 years earlier in 1992 in Australia. Back then, seeking money to enhance the next leg of her round-the-world travels, Corrigan became the nanny for a widower, John, whose family five-year-old Martin and seven-year-old Milly as well as a garage-living stepson and an in-law-apartment-living father-in-law had just lost their matriarch to cancer. Though it’s a true story, Corrigan has changed the names and some of the details to disguise identities. Here, the memories of her work as companion, surrogate mom, and onetime lover to various family members are filtered through Corrigan’s experiences, good and bad, of herself as mother and herself as daughter (her mom’s admonitions and pronouncements, served up in italics, support the young nanny as well as the text, then and now). The flavor of what a youthful, journal-writing Corrigan probably once hoped this book would be a spectacle of travel and awesome experience comes through in the writing but doesn’t disturb this touching, hard-won paean to mothering and parenting, living and losing.–Kinney, Eloise Copyright 2010 Booklist

This book is also available in Adobe EPUB eBook format via OverDrive.


Flyover LivesFLYOVER LIVES: A MEMOIR
, by Diane Johnson
Booklist Review

The author of shrewd and scintillating novels about Americans abroad, Johnson (L’Affaire, 2003; Lulu in Marrakech, 2008) grew up in Moline, Illinois, A pleasant place, surrounded by cornfields, I had always longed to get out of. And so she did, as she crisply and wittily recounts in this stealthily far-reaching family history. Johnson’s personal story gains resonance in harmony with a remarkable set of memoirs written by her ­great-­great-great grandmother, Anne, born in 1779, and Anne’s daughter, Catharine, a teacher who, after a tortuous nine-year engagement, married a doctor only to endure his depression and long absences and the deaths of all but one of her nine children. Johnson perceives that her skilled and strong foremothers lived daunting yet satisfyingly useful lives. Adeptly structured, incisive, funny, and charming, Johnson’s look back delves into deep questions of history and inheritance, from the impact of America’s many wars on the Midwest to the transforming changes in modern women’s lives to her own adventures as a novelist and screenwriter raising a large, blended family, living overseas, and keenly observing cultural differences, personal quirks, and timeless commonalities.–Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist


Answer to the Riddle in MeTHE ANSWER TO THE RIDDLE IS ME: A MEMOIR OF AMNESIA
, by David MacLean
 – Booklist Review

While studying in India on a Fulbright scholarship in 2002, Ohio native MacLean abruptly lost consciousness and came to his senses in a Hyderabad train station minus any memories of his name or reasons for being there. Luckily, a kindly station attendant took pity on the presumably drug-addled foreigner and found him refuge in a well-run mental hospital where he hallucinated his way back to reality as friends and parents were contacted. So begins this riveting, sad, and funny memoir from PEN literary award-winner MacLean, expanded from an essay featured on the radio show, This American Life. Contrary to the station agent’s assumption, however, MacLean’s amnesia was triggered by an allergic reaction to Lariam, a common antimalaria agent that receives a scathing critique here. In addition to short-circuiting his memories, the drug’s aftermath forced MacLean to get reacquainted with his parents, a girlfriend, and his rationale for coming to India in the first place. His work is both a sharply written autobiography and an insightful meditation on how much our memories define our identities.–Hays, Carl Copyright 2010 Booklist

For more memoir suggestions, please visit the Reference Desk at Sewickley Public Library, where a librarian can help you to choose a title of interest.

NPR Book Concierge 2013

The folks over at NPR Books usually write a variety of end-of-year ‘Best Of’ lists to highlight the outstanding literary offerings of the past year. However due to the number of lists ballooning from 13 in 2008 to 20 in 2012, they decided to try a different format.

And so, NPR’s Book Concierge was born! It’s billed as ‘Our Guide to 2013’s Great Reads,’ and I encourage you to go check it out. The site allows you to choose what you’d like to read along the left-hand side (in categories such as ‘Eye Opening’ or ‘ It’s All Geek To Me’) and displays a collage of books recommended by NPR Staff that fit you chosen category or genre.

Of course, not all of the books will be available at Sewickley Public Library, but if one grabs your attention, it never hurts to give us a call or stop in to ask a librarian whether it can be requested from another library in Allegheny County.

Here are a few from the site you may not have heard a lot of buzz about that can be found at Sewickley Public Library, to get you started:

FICTION

LexiconLEXICON by Max BarryBooklist Review *Starred Review* – Words have power to persuade, to coerce, even to kill. And so they have since the days when wordsmiths were called sorcerers. Streetwise teenager Emily knows nothing of this until she is recruited to join a clandestine international organization that seems bent on taking over the world through the power of language—the reason, perhaps, that its members call themselves poets. In the meantime, a young man, Wil, is kidnapped from an airport by two mysterious men determined to unlock a secret buried deep in his brain. Yes, Wil and Emily will be brought together in due course, but in the meantime, there is a great deal, some of it abstruse, about language in this fast-paced, cerebral thriller that borders on speculative fiction, but none of it slows the nonstop action that takes readers from Washington, D.C., to a small town in the Australian desert, a town whose 3,300 residents have all died mysteriously and violently. Could the cause have been the power of words at work? The poets sometimes seem a bit too omnipotent, and the book’s chronology is occasionally a bit confusing, but otherwise this is an absolutely first-rate, suspenseful thriller with convincing characters who invite readers’ empathy and keep them turning pages until the satisfying conclusion.–Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist

Night FilmNIGHT FILM by Marisha PesslBooklist Review *Starred Review* – When the daughter of a notorious film director is found dead in New York, an apparent suicide, investigative reporter Scott McGrath throws himself back into a story that almost ended his career. But now McGrath has his Rosebud, and like Jedediah Leland in Citizen Kane, who hoped to make sense of media mogul Charles Foster Kane by understanding his last word, so the reporter sets out to determine how Ashley Cordova died and, in so doing, penetrate the heart of darkness that engulfs her reclusive father, Stanislas. Like Pessl’s first novel, the acclaimed Special Topics in Calamity Physics (2006), this one expands from a seemingly straightforward mystery into a multifaceted, densely byzantine exploration of much larger issues, in this case, the nature of truth and illusion as reflected by the elusive Cordova, whose transcend-the-genre horror films are cult favorites and about whom rumors of black magic and child abuse continue to swirl. His daughter, piano prodigy Ashley (her notes weren’t played; they were poured from a Grecian urn ), is almost as mysterious as her father, her life and death equally clouded in secrecy and colored with possibly supernatural shadings. Into this mazelike world of dead ends and false leads, McGrath ventures with his two, much younger helpers, Nora and Hopper, brilliantly portrayed Holmesian irregulars who may finally understand more about Ashley than their mentor, whose linear approach to fact finding might miss the point entirely. Pessl’s first novel, while undeniably impressive, possessed some of the overindulgence one might expect from a talented and precocious young writer. All evidence of that is gone here; the book is every bit as complex as Calamity Physics, but the writing is always under control, and the characters never fail to draw us further into the maelstrom of the story.–Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist

NONFICTION

Lawrence in ArabiaLAWRENCE IN ARABIA: WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST by Scott AndersonBooklist Review *Starred Review* – To historians, the real T. E. Lawrence is as fascinating as the cinematic version in Lawrence of Arabia is to movie fans. The many reasons interlock and tighten author Anderson’s narrative, yielding a work that can absorb scholarly and popular interest like. Start with Lawrence’s WWI memoir, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1922). A rare-book collectible, it inspired many of the scenes in David Lean’s film and is also subject to cross-referencing interpretations of Lawrence’s veracity. For lyrical though Lawrence could be about Arab leaders and desert landscapes, he could also be enigmatically opaque about the truth of his role in events. Accordingly, Anderson embeds Lawrence and Seven Pillars in the wider context of the Arab revolt against Turkey, and that context is the British, French, German, and American diplomacy and espionage intended to influence the postwar disposition of the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence was Britain’s agent in this game, and the other powers’ agents, although none enjoy his historical celebrity, assume prominence in Anderson’s presentation. Its thorough research clothed in smoothly written prose, Anderson’s history strikes a perfect balance between scope and detail about a remarkable and mysterious character.–Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist

To the End of JuneTO THE END OF JUNE: THE INTIMATE LIFE OF AMERICAN FOSTER CARE by Cris BeamBooklist Review *Starred Review* – Whenever newspaper headlines scream about the abuse of foster children, the public is outraged, child protection agencies radically change their policies, and poor children go on living in a hodgepodge of foster care and suffering myriad unintended consequences, according to Beam, whose background includes a fractured childhood and experience as a foster mother. Here she offers a very intimate look at a system little known to most people. Beam spent five years talking to foster children, parents and foster parents, and social workers, mostly in New York. Her profiles include Bruce and Allyson, with three children of their own, taking in as many as five foster children, and Steve and Erin, fostering a child they want to adopt, whose mother signed away her rights on a napkin. Beam also writes about teens who’ve been bounced from home to home, some longing for adoption, others sabotaging their chances out of fear, many hoping for promised aging-out bonuses. Beam offers historical background and keen analysis of the social, political, racial, and economic factors that drive foster-care policies, noting the recent swing from massive removals to support for keeping families together. A very moving, powerful look at a system charged with caring for nearly half a million children across the U.S.–Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist

Sources:

Best Books of 2013: NPR(http://apps.npr.org/best-books-2013/)

Booklist Online: Book Reviews from the American Library Association (http://www.booklistonline.com/)