This is a fascinating collection of interviews with leading historians, writers, actors, musicians and filmmakers about what makes America, America. The interview style leads to a conversational tone that is entertaining to read, and may lead readers to other books that pique their interest. This is great for readers who love reading about many different subjects and books that lead to more books!
This book is a wonderful account of the North American colonists' conflict with the British Empire. The colonies had diverse motivations and goals in the struggle that fell under the umbrella of the Cause. The story brings new perspectives from lesser known historical characters and events, and will delight readers with a realistic view of this tumultuous time in history.
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant encourages intellectual humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness. Too often we fail to update our views when presented with evidence in conflict with our existing beliefs, because it isn't as easy to unlearn something as we think. It takes effort to resist going into preacher, politician, or prosecutor mode and to think like a scientist in search of the truth. An insightful and thought provoking book!
When their father dies, and Emmett is released from a work farm for wayward youth, Emmet and Billy Watson are determined to leave Nebraska behind and pursue a fresh start in California. Their quest is complicated by detours, dangers, and new discoveries, as are the journeys of the notable heroes in Billy's cherished compendium by Professor Abernathe. This novel describes a ten day stretch in 1954, it shifts points of view between characters, and digs into timeless "puzzles of the heart" and the contours of life. An absolutely absorbing story.
When a young, charismatic university professor goes on a TV show to demonstrate his progress teaching sign-language to a chimpanzee, he attracts the attention of a listless student who is captivated and compelled to join the project. Things get complicated when the three live together, and the project’s funding dries up. Like other TC Boyle novels, this one is driven by great characters, including Sam the communicative chimpanzee, and a climactic storyline. Loved it!
This personal reflection from best selling novelist Matt Haig is in fact very comforting. Drawing on a range of wisdom traditions and philosophies, Matt Haig discusses his struggles with depression, and shares lessons he has learned along the way. He offers hope and comfort to readers, which is something we could all use in our lives! This is a great book to read, and re-read.
Mary Jane is a heart-felt coming of age story set in Baltimore in the 1970s. Mary Jane is the teenage daughter of a very traditional household, and for the summer she babysits in a household very different from her own. She befriends rock stars struggling with addiction, and her worldview is opened to ways of living quite unlike anything she had imagined. This book is light-hearted but quite touching, driven by its memorable characters.
John Green writes with humor and wit in these personal essays about living in the Anthropocene, our current geologic time period dominated by human activity. Green is thoughtful, honest, and empathic, and a keen observer of human nature. I give his book five stars.
A fascinating look at our remarkable species, one that becomes aware of Earth’s history and previous five mass extinctions, while simultaneously realizing that we are causing a sixth. This is a great book for those who love reading about scientific discovery, geology, paleontology, and biology.
After thoroughly enjoying Ridgeline by Michael Punke, I read his first book, The Revenant, which was adapted to a major motion picture film. The story is one of survival against all odds, and in this case, the driving force is revenge. Based on historical characters whose stories have become legendary, this book depicts the rough and tumble fur-trapping trade on a forbidding frontier.
Known to some as the “Resident Expert” on John Stewart’s Daily Show, John Hodgeman writes with dry wit and sense of irony that really hit the spot for me. Hodgeman reflects on his vacation times spent at his mother’s rural Massachusetts home with a great bog view and a trash pile in the garage, and in coastal Maine, where the beaches will hurt you and the people are elusive. Where he hopes you do not go so that he will not have to see you there.
This is a timely book that encourages readers to reexamine US foreign policy and rethink our position in the 21st century. Bacevich, a military veteran and professor, urges American voters to set aside romantic notions of America’s position in the world in favor of pragmatism and working with the right partners. His writing is engaging and accessible, while deeply informed and independent in thought.
David Gessner addresses the sometimes negative superficial image that Thoreau suffers, digs deeper, and gives fresh relevance to the writer who inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Gessner reads and writes from a shack he built, which doubles as a bird blind, near his coastal North Carolina home. He explores his own writing process, and applies Thoreau’s ideas to modern pandemic times, in which some are adjusting their mental calculus of wants, needs, productivity, and how to live well. A brilliant and thought provoking book!
A great collection of essays from Joseph Epstein, on everything from reading books (broadly, with pleasure, and print over pixel of course!), political correctness, baseball, literary magazines, and social theories. While I don’t agree with all of Epstein’s points of view, reading them is thoroughly enjoyable and great food for thought. I especially enjoy his essays on Tom Wolfe, P.G. Wodehouse, and George Gershwin. Take what you will, and leave the rest, this collection is bound to enrich your reading life.
A fantastic account of a late 19th century Belgian expedition to Antarctica, predating Shackleton’s famous trip, which reveals a multinational crew of memorable and nuanced characters. To me, the most fascinating has to be the quintessentially American physician, explorer, promoter, writer, and other sometimes self-proclaimed titles, named Frederick Cook. A fascinating and well written book!
Following up on the success of The Revenant, Michael Punke’s new book Ridgeline is a thriller of historical fiction. Veterans of the Civil War find themselves deployed to the frontier to fight against the mighty Lakota, who ruled the northern plains with ferocity. Punke brings to life a young emerging leader named Crazy Horse, as well as other legendary characters such as Nelson Story and Jim Bridger. A gripping page-turner!
This book is a laugh out loud comic crime novel that revolves around a mysterious disappearance at a posh charity event in Palm Beach, Florida. The fictional (yet strangely familiar) story satirizes so many elements of our society, from top to bottom, and points at all the layers of absurdities within the political and media landscape that all one can do is laugh. The no nonsense, tough as nails protagonist, a wildlife biologist turned varmint extractor, leads readers through a wild and memorable series of events.
Breathtaking photos and personal reflections from twelve of the world’s most influential nature photographers. A beautifully printed and curated book for any nature lover, conservationist, traveller, or photographer. This is the type of book that is a pleasure to read and riffle through again and again. The personal stories of the photographers are quite inspiring, which makes me think that this would be a perfect graduation gift. If someone is an expert at capturing images of leopard seals in Antarctic waters, the story of how they got there is bound to be fascinating.
Seinfeld held onto his joke notes from the 1970s through today, and among them are some gems. He writes about his life and career in-between decades of stand-up routines. This book is a great antidote to the difficult times we live in.
A great book to read everyday, one page at a time. Meditations from the Stoics with modern day interpretations. A daily dose of wisdom, or at least a reminder to strive towards it.
The Wilco/Uncle Tupelo singer/songwriter has written a wonderful follow up to his poignant memoir “Let’s Go (So we can get back)”. He lays out his creative process and shares decades of lessons learned in the songwriting business and in life. Writing a song can be daunting for an aspiring songwriter, but for Tweedy, “showing up with a reliably open heart and a will to share whatever spirit you can muster is what resonates and transcends technical perfection.”
This book blew my mind, to put it simply. Ehrenreich ponders the beginnings and endings of worlds, from the Mohave to the Maya, and the potential end of our own. He writes about history, natural science, literature, mythology, and the unrelenting march of what we call progress. This book is incredible in its vast breadth, and will pluck one right out of their worldview.
This historical novel revolves around the rough and tumble mining and lumber town of Spokane in the early 1900s. Gig and Rye Dolan are but two orphan brothers amongst the Cold Millions, the legions of penniless laborers tramping about around the West in search of work, food, and a place to hole up for the winter off-seasons. The brothers find themselves in the main current of history, caught up in the conflicts between the labor movement and the mining and timber companies. The narrative is brought forth through shifting first person perspectives of different characters, which are brilliantly woven together to tell an amazing story. The characters of this book (both real and fictional) reveal a deeply human story about resistance and persistence.
Ryan Holiday is a prolific reader, writer, thinker, and entrepreneur, who has rekindled the value of philosophy in the modern world. Building on the success of The Daily Stoic, Stillness is the Key, and Ego is the Enemy, Holiday and co-author Stephen Hanselman provide us with a comprehensive evolution of Stoicism and the primary proponents and detractors of the philosophy. In doing so we gain insights into the lives and dilemmas of Roman citizens and their leaders, and it may come as no surprise that they are not very different from dilemmas we face today. Outbreaks of disease, war, politics, the corrupting potential of money and power, and the fundamental question of how one should conduct themselves in this life are problems we still grapple with, and it is only natural that we should learn from the successes and failures of the past.
This book builds upon the success of Guy Raz’s popular podcast of the same name, and offers a more in-depth look at entrepreneurship and the very human stories behind some of the most interesting businesses today. This book is a must read for an aspiring entrepreneur, or for someone who is simply trying to figure out what to do with their great ideas. The case studies contained in this book will inspire and educate readers on navigating the uncertainties inherent in launching and building a business. Guy Raz’s own story in life and in business is wonderfully written, honest and insightful. Read this book, and then get to work on bringing your great ideas to life!
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This courageous, witty, and insightful book is a pleasure to read, and will leave readers with a renewed sense of hope and perseverance. Lulu Miller, a science writer and founder of NPR’s Invisibilia podcast, is drawn to study the life of a 19th century naturalist, whose life seems to contain many lessons in resiliency in facing setbacks. It uncovers the dangers of self-deception and other misguided ways of thinking that can lead to tragedy. This book is a search for meaning, of how to view the world through a scientific lens without becoming utterly bummed out that we are but a speck on a speck on a speck in the universe, and here on Earth we do not sit atop a ladder of evolution as we once believed. Returning to themes of entropy, the second law of thermodynamics, Order and Chaos, the book is an existential inquiry, and a moving and joyous journey.
Our narrative non-fiction book of the year is a compelling and vigorous book that serves as a wake up call. Our public lands are facing numerous threats that we, the landowners, must check with informed and knowledgeable actions. Catalyzed by the drastic reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, David Gessner digs deep into the life and conservation work of Teddy Roosevelt, and the history and evolution of public lands in this country. As he hits the road from the Badlands to Bears Ears, Gessner weaves together history, biography, and memoir, and the result is an essential book for anyone who is passionate about the environments of the West. Go backpacking in the high Sierras with Roosevelt and Muir, and as you sit with them by the fire, think about what we want to leave for future generations.
This is a vast and sweeping story of the expansion of the United States, beginning with Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and taking readers all the way to the end of the bloody and contentious era at Wounded Knee. This epic book is a thrilling page-turner, perhaps all the more so because the incredible stories that fill its pages are true, and are our history. It is filled with amazing stories of survival (and demise) in the most challenging conditions, booms and busts of industries, and all manner of deception and intrigue. Famous characters like Crazy Horse, Black Elk, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, Quanah Parker, John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Stephen Austin, Joe Meek, and John Wesley Powell are given new life in this highly accessible, knowledgeable, and poignant history of the American West.
When egregious crimes are committed on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota and neither the tribal police nor the feds prosecute blatant violent crime (which sadly is not a fictional situation), the people there call upon Virgil Wounded Horse, the vigilante enforcer protagonist of this powerful, gritty novel. When heroin starts showing up on the reservation, Virgil is called on to put a stop to it, and he and his nephew Nathan get roped into a tangled web of drugs, gangs, and corruption. This novel is a visceral depiction of the Lakota people’s struggle for justice, and the search for meaning and congruence of their traditional values and rituals within the brutal realities of the modern world.
Renowned botanist Hope Jahren has crafted a beautiful memoir that is equal parts mind-expanding natural science writing, and honest life-navigation reflections. She attempts to bring out the scientist in all of us, and distills complicated scientific processes into easily understandable terms. The natural world is fascinating on its own, but this humorous and personal account of one remarkable person’s winding path, with pitfalls, setbacks, and complex relationships, encourages perseverance, intellectual curiosity, and seeking answers to explain the world around us. For example, how can analyzing hackberry seeds inform us about global glaciation cycles? Read this wonderful book to find out!
A harrowing account of a child of Guatemalan immigrants trying to find his way back to California. This book is an emotional and insightful read, both devastating and hopeful. I think that one of the purposes of reading books is considering new perspectives and developing empathy, and this book accomplishes that goal in a most powerful fashion.
This book is a thriller that I was not able to put down until I was finished. Excellent and relatable character development, an accurate and knowledgeable depiction of a canoe expedition in the great northern wilderness, an impending natural disaster, and shady occurrences come together to form a confluence of narrative that makes this novel by acclaimed writer Peter Heller a must read for outdoor adventure lovers.
My current top pick, The Overstory, is an engrossing novel that is packed with insights into our evolving understanding of ecological systems, and probes into the numerous and knotty conflicts between industry and nature, conflicts that we must attempt to resolve if we wish to continue our recent (especially relative to trees) existence here on Earth. Through the eyes of a diverse set of characters (fearless, tenacious, and simply endearing Doug being my favorite) it explores our relationship to the natural world, resistance to exploitation, the technological revolution, and the immense known and unknown value contained in rapidly diminishing old growth forests of planet Earth. A story of struggle for morality and justice and of unintended consequences.
Elton John writes with honesty and humor that shines throughout his riveting memoir. His writing is refreshingly real, humble, and down to earth, particularly for a person who has enjoyed the level of success he has had as a global icon. Combine a fiercely strong willed personality with raw talent, the trappings of fame, success, and excess, and tragedy after tragedy, and you get hilarity. An incredibly wise man who has plumbed the depths and climbed the peaks of a huge life, Elton John is a living treasure.
My favorite field guide to birds of North America. Comprehensive and well crafted. Easy to use with beautiful and instructive illustrations and migration pattern maps. Pop this in your pack with your binoculars, and let me know what you spot!
This guide to living in a human body is a a fun and informed story of our current understanding of the human body, from head to toe. The story of our journey to arriving to that understanding is filled with fascinating characters, serendipitous discoveries, and shocking gore (early surgical procedures). The body is an amazing system of parts and this book left me with a sense of awe and wonder, of what we think we know, and what remains a mystery.
They go on so many amazing adventures, a shark, a tarantula, a wolf, a snake a piranha, and a villain named doctor Marmalade and he is an alien. Adventurous. - Jack
There are three chickadees, one owl, one worm, two hummingbirds, and two fireflies. The owl is really nice, but people think he’s scary. (In reading this book) I felt happy and sad, sad because Owly just wants to help people, and I was happy when he found friends. -Jack
I like it because it’s really funny. Calvin loves pretending, and he’s really naughty and Hobbes is not a real tiger. He’s a stuffed animal tiger. Sometimes when his mom is calling him for a bath he is on the roof. He pretends he’s spaceman spiff, an astronaut, and his mom is Zogwort. - Jack
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While their popularity is leading to busy trailheads on weekends, there is still ample reason to climb the iconic 14,000+ ft mountains in Colorado. Whether one is summiting Mount of the Holy Cross, Crestone Needle, or Pikes Peak, this book has all of the information you need for your adventure. Detailed route descriptions and maps make this book indispensable for those seeking higher altitudes. Safety tips for navigating Colorado’s weather are helpful as well. Choose your own adventure!
What’s that you say? Fourteeners are the thing? Well, I know that, but as someone who is 5’ 11 1/2” in height, I am not all that interested in arbitrary height distinctions. 14ers are getting a little bit crowded these (weekend) days, and this book has all the information you need to plan your next challenging adventure on paths less traveled. From hikes to climbs to ski mountaineering missions, this book has the information that you will need. Detailed route descriptions and maps are essential back-ups to your tech gadgets. Don’t get stuck in a pinch with low batteries or spotty service. Get out there, and get after it!
This first hand account of the life of Ogalala Souix warrior and visionary Black Elk is a work that has stood the test of time as a poignant account of life and culture of the mighty plains Native Americans. As direct insight into Black Elk's perspective and cultural worldview, reading his account of life is an arresting experience. We should all be grateful that Nebraskan Poet John G. Neihardt went out to the Pine Ridge Reservation to interview the relative of Crazy Horse in the early 1930s, as he found a man who wanted to share his life and visions with future generations.
That violent social upheaval is the seemingly perennial condition of this country is a cold comfort, and yet here we are, persistent in our quest for a country of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Ignorance, fear-mongering, and extremism are not novel threats to society and we must learn from the past in order to strive for “the better angels of our nature.” Relevant.
Towles’ writing is just beautiful, and reading A Gentleman in Moscow feels like a healing salve for the mind. Enjoy the fine company of Count Rostov, Nina, Sofia, Anna Urbanov and others in the confines of the Hotel Metropol as they navigate the mortal dangers of life in Bolshevik Russia. A great work.