Nonfiction Favorites for #NonfictionNovember

It’s #NonfictionNovember this month, with different sites hosting different topics each week to post about, all celebrating and exploring great nonfiction. I considered participating earlier, but it’s always nonfiction day/week/month in my life and it was easier to just write book reviews like usual instead of thinking about topics or lists. I’m a lazy blogger at the moment. But this week had such an great … Continue reading Nonfiction Favorites for #NonfictionNovember

A Girl, Growing Up and Growing Wiser, in Leningrad

Book review: A Mountain of Crumbs, by Elena Gorokhova This memoir has one of the most beautiful and intensely evocative openings I’ve read in a long time: I wish my mother had come from Leningrad, from the world of Pushkin and the tsars, of granite embankments and lace ironwork, of pearly domes buttressing the low sky. Leningrad’s sophistication would have infected her the moment she … Continue reading A Girl, Growing Up and Growing Wiser, in Leningrad

Secrets and Stories from the American Museum of Natural History

My photo of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the last time I visited in December 2016. I don’t know why I took the picture from that angle with the tree barging in, it looks spooky. This magnificent granite pile, this Museum on the west side of Central Park, between two rivers, in the New World, holds between its walls perhaps the … Continue reading Secrets and Stories from the American Museum of Natural History

Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

Book review: Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso, by Kali Nicole Gross In 1887, in a pond just outside of Philadelphia, the dismembered torso of a man was discovered, triggering a search that eventually led to Hannah Mary Tabbs, a Maryland native and seemingly very unpleasant lady, according to many who knew her. She had been, quite scandalously for a black woman in 19th century … Continue reading Hurston/Wright Legacy Award-Winner: Racial Politics and Murder in Post-Reconstruction Philadelphia

America’s Historian Evokes The National Spirit, Its Lessons and Promise

The American SpiritBook review: The American Spirit, by David McCullough History, I like to think, is a larger way of looking at life. It is a source of strength, of inspiration. It is about who we are and what we stand for and is essential to our understanding of what our own role should be in our time. History, as can’t be said too often, … Continue reading America’s Historian Evokes The National Spirit, Its Lessons and Promise

Exploitation and Triumph of Two Brothers, in the Circus and the South

Book review: Truevine, by Beth Macy Beth Macy, a former Roanoke Times journalist, first heard about the Muse brothers during her work at the paper in the 1980s. Their story was well-known, but not in much detail: the outline was that two albino African-American brothers were kidnapped by the circus and spent years touring in the freak show before their mother found them again. Whether they’d … Continue reading Exploitation and Triumph of Two Brothers, in the Circus and the South

A Braided History of Two Killers in 1952 London

Book review: Death in the Air, by Kate Winkler Dawson In 1952, two killers stalked postwar London. One was a serial killer: an average-looking, mostly unremarkable, middle-aged invoice clerk operating out of a grungy, now-notorious apartment building; the other was far more insidious and claimed many more victims: a suffocating, polluting smog that killed around 12,000 people. Maybe you can guess which got more media attention. Kate Winkler Dawson’s new history … Continue reading A Braided History of Two Killers in 1952 London

Eight Years of Power, Pain, and Ultimately Turning From Progress

Book review: We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates Ta-Nehisi Coates’ latest, garnering buzz for being among the year’s best, was a very hard book to read, but why wouldn’t it be? History is ugly and current events surely aren’t much better to look at. The book is structured chronologically by eight essays, one previously published every year of the Obama presidency at The … Continue reading Eight Years of Power, Pain, and Ultimately Turning From Progress

Dark Roots and the Myth or Reality of a European Family History

Book review: A Crime in the Family, by Sacha Batthyany Swiss journalist Sacha Batthyany heard a disturbing rumor: near the end of the Second World War, his Aunt Margit was alleged to have participated in the massacre of hundreds of Jewish prisoners in the small Austrian town of Rechnitz. The crime took place during a party at her home attended by Nazi officers. He’s haunted, … Continue reading Dark Roots and the Myth or Reality of a European Family History

Ladies of Cryptography: The Women Who Broke War’s Codes

Book review: Code Girls, by Liza Mundy I’m in some kind of hush, hush business. Somewhere in Wash. D.C. If I say anything I’ll get hung for sure. I guess I signed my life away. But I don’t mind it. Code Girls, author Liza Mundy’s history of the women who worked tirelessly cracking codes to aid the American Army and Navy in World War II, opens with … Continue reading Ladies of Cryptography: The Women Who Broke War’s Codes

A Reporter, A Newspaper, And A Rural Cold Case

Book review: Mary Jane’s Ghost, by Ted Gregory Histories – call them stories if you like – never really end. It’s more like they continue to unfold, but we’ve left them; they’ve ceased to resonate. Chicago Tribune general assignment reporter Ted Gregory gets roped into the investigation and conspiracies of a fifty-year-old cold case while ruminating on the state of print newspapers and the difficulty in … Continue reading A Reporter, A Newspaper, And A Rural Cold Case

History Speaks: Research and Analytics Catch A Serial Killer

Book review: The Man From the Train, by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James “He was a tiny man who cast a huge and terrible shadow, and he knew that, and in his mind he was the size of his shadow.” Between 1898 and 1912, an unbelievably large number of families were bludgeoned to death in their homes while they slept, across a wide swath … Continue reading History Speaks: Research and Analytics Catch A Serial Killer