Book Reviews

Nonfiction November: New to my TBR

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Well, November ends tomorrow! On Thursday I’ll post my November challenges, reading months, etc, final post. Today, though, here are some of the new or new-to-me nonfiction books recently added to my TBR.

Most of the royal or royal-related books are not yet out in the USA, so I won’t bother linking to books today. [I make no money off this blog–even if you click on a link, it is merely a convenience for you].

What nonfiction have you added to your TBR recently? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

Thanks again to the hosts of Nonfiction November for a great month!

Reading Challenges

Week 3: (November 14-18) – Stranger Than Fiction: This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real.

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This week’s topic isn’t one with which I have a lot of experience. I don’t read a lot of creepy, other-worldly nonfiction and that’s kind of how it strikes me. So, here is as close as I could come. I did not read them this year.

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I hated science in school. It bored me silly. But this book, tracing the origin of a cholera epidemic in long-ago London fascinated me. Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

 

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What is killing the honey bees? Fruitless Fall by Rowan Jacobsen.

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Why are some of us Autistic? In A Different Key: The Story of Autism by Caren Zucker was very interesting.

I did not read any of these this year. I hope these meet the criteria for this week!

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Book Reviews

Nonfiction November Review: The Women of Rothschild by Natalie Livingstone

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My Interest

The name “Rothschild” conjures up for me images of unimaginable wealth. Aristocratic families are a big interest of mine, so when I saw this on NetGalley I requested it and somehow got both a print and an audio copy. I listened to the audio.

The Story

Starting in the 18th century in “Jewish ghetto” and ending in the late 1990s, this biography purports to tell the real story of the women behind the Rothschild men. We are promised that the women were more than mere wives and mothers. What did these women do as the wives and daughters of one of the world’s best known Jewish families? That is what the biography sets out to tell us. The family is compared to a royal family because they all hate each other but close ranks and form a united front in public–I loved that, even if I couldn’t stop and write out the exact quote. (NetGalley’s reading app doesn’t have any features and I forgot and downloaded to it and not Kindle, so it wasn’t easy to find it).

In the early years the women were more involved with the family business, but as time went on they fell into the normal society lady type charitable works. There is nothing unusual about a great “lady” helping with encouragement and money to improve the education of poor children, nor is there really anything unusual about them working to improve health conditions. It was unusual for anyone to take up the cause of Jewish “women of the night,” but as others were doing it for non-Jewish women of that profession I don’t really see it as that unique.

Fast-forward to the 20th Century. While various men of the family involved themselves in the late 19th Century with the Prince of Wales “Marlborough House” set, there was little remarkable about that, either. They had pots and pots of money. The Prince often needed it. Sir Ernest Cassel (Grandfather of Edwina Mountbatten) was another Jewish financier in the Marlborough House set.

Finally, somewhere around World War II or just after we get to some slightly more interesting activities. A Rothchild woman contributed to a report hoping to de-criminalize h o _ – se-u _; ! ty. Good thing, since at least one of the men had such proclivities. Miriam became an expert on fleas and other parasites. She was finally even welcomed by “professionals” for her extensive knowledge. Veronica, aka “Nica’ gets the lion’s share of the coverage–or rather her famous male associates to. Thelonious Monk and Charlie “Bird” Parker. The hose she built for jazz sessions was called “The Cat House.” And, she observed first hand a Jim Crow-era beating in New Castle, Delaware (a Civil War border state) that Monk endured.

Finally, another end-of-the-book Rothschild,  discovers that motherhood isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. Being rich and having discovered this, she got to write about it. Wow. I think Betty Friedan beat you to it, Sweetie, but …. Goodness knows it must be way harder to be a Mom with a ton of money in the 1990’s than in the stifling suburbia and low pay of the early 1950s!

Miriam, of flea fame, also did contribute in a very humanitarian way to the founding of Israel and the Zionist movement as led by the nation’s first President, Chaim Weizmann. That was very commendable and I would like to have heard more about that.

My Thoughts

I’m being a bit snarky for a reason. There is so much MORE material in here (as there often is in such biographies of pre-21th Century women) about the men. And the man with the most coverage wasn’t even a Rothschild! He was Theolnious Monk, a great jazz musician. I love his music, his talent, but I came to read about how different the Rothschild women were. Instead I found out they did exactly the same sort of charity work as most other titled ladies of the era until about the time of World War II. Helping decriminalize you-know-what is very noteworthy. Also, Miriam certainly deserves praise for sticking to her studies and taking her naturalist studies to the professional level. (I loved that she included her son in her research)/

This is not a bad biography. I learned a lot. The prose is well written. It just didn’t profile enough about the women that was “exceptional.” I also found it very weird that they married cousins and it was even possible for an uncle to marry a niece–though not the very bold uncle whose announcement of such a marriage was one of the stories in the book. Too weird for words. Liberty Rothschild, the hidden “Rosemary Kennedy” of the family, deserved more attention, but alas, the records about her treatment were mostly burnt. I also like the appearance at the very, very end of Lady Bird Johnson and her “beautification” schemes with wildflowers. That was wonderful. She gave the world a gift–nice to see someone outside America, and with influence, admiring her work.

My Verdict

3.5

The Women of Rothschild by Natalie Livingstone

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Book Reviews · Reading Challenges

Nonfiction November: Book Pairings!

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This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title (or another nonfiction!). It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. Or pair a book with a podcast, film or documentary, TV show, etc. on the same topic or stories that pair together. (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction)

This is my favorite part of Nonfiction November–book pairs!

My past pairings lists:

  1. 2019
  2. 2020
  3. 2021

This year I had some of these in a list I kept. Others are formed with books I read this year.

Last Summer on State Street is possibly my favorite book of 2022. I wish everyone would read it! It is the fictional story while, An American Summer: Love & Death in Chicago and the author’s earlier book, There Are No Children Here, are the nonfiction story of growing up in Chicago’s worst public housing projects–and after. Another good nonfiction piece is the documentary Hoop Dreams. While those focus more on boys, they are still a good counterpart to Toya Wolfe’s story of that Last Summer on State Street.

This is a pair I identified in 2019 and keep forgetting to use in the book pairings post!! Whether newly arrived via the immigration crisis, or long-settled, those of African-descent who consider themselves now European have interesting stories. Two such books are the novel. Travelers by Helon Habila (my review is linked) and Afropeans: Notes from Black Europe by Johnny Pitts (nonfiction and beautifully reviewed by Liz Dexter on her blog. I have not read Afropeans yet.

We Band of Angels is the nonfiction book in this trio. When We Had Wings and Angels of the Pacific are both new novels. All deal with the nurses taken prisoner in the Philippines early in World War II. I find it amazing that this happens so often today–two books on the same topic, often very similar, coming out at around the same time. I’ve taken to calling these “Book Twins.”

I’ve previously paired Hitler’s Forgotten Children with Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf. Another set of “Book Twins” hit the shelves this year–Cradles of the Reich and The School for German Brides. I’ve added the nonfiction group biography, Nazi Wives because the “twins” deal with a different aspect of the Lebensborn program, and some of that information is similar to a little of the discussion in Nazi Wives.

Are you doing Nonfiction November? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November

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I look forward to this event each year now, having done it for several years running. Some years I barely get any read, others I get several. This year? Who knows! You can read all the details of the event here at, Doing Dewey–one of the hosts.

Here a few books I’m considering reading.  I have let my NetGalley books stack up, so I’m focusing on them (at least right now–that may change). I’m not really good at making a reading list and sticking to it–too much like homework from school. So, “watch this space” to see what I do actually read/listen to.

  1. Berlin: Life and Death in a City at the Center of the World by Sinclair McKay
  2. Your Table is Ready: Tales of a NYC Maitre D by Michael Cecchi-Azzolina
  3. The School that Escaped the Nazis by Deborah Cadbury
  4. Sweet Land of Liberty: A History of America in 11 Pies by Rossi Anastopoulo

Here’s the lineup for each week this year:

Week 1 (Oct 31-Nov 4) – 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? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? (Katie @ Doing Dewey)

Week 2 (November 7-11) – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title (or another nonfiction!). It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. Or pair a book with a podcast, film or documentary, TV show, etc. on the same topic or stories that pair together. (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction)

Week 3 (November 14-18) – Stranger Than Fiction: This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that almost don’t seem real. A sports biography involving overcoming massive obstacles, a profile on a bizarre scam, a look into the natural wonders in our world—basically, if it makes your jaw drop, you can highlight it for this week’s topic. (Me! @ Plucked from the Stacks)

Week 4 (November 21-25) – Worldview Changers: One of the greatest things about reading nonfiction is learning all kinds of things about our world which you never would have known without it. There’s the intriguing, the beautiful, the appalling, and the profound. What nonfiction book or books has impacted the way you see the world in a powerful way? Do you think there is one book that everyone needs to read for a better understanding of the world we live in? (Rebekah @ She Seeks Nonfiction)

Week 5 (November 28-Dec 2) – New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book! Pro tip: Start this draft post at the beginning of the month and add to it as your TBR multiplies. (Jaymi @ The OC Bookgirl)

Are you participating in Nonfiction November? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post–I’d love to see what you are considering reading.

If you are interested in my past Nonfiction November posts, please use the search feature. If you are reading this on your phone, the search feature is way, way, way down at the bottom. Someday, I’ll fix that.

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November: Week 1 (Oct 31-Nov 4) – Your Year in Nonfiction:

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I’ve had a very good nonfiction reading year. Back before I got into blogging and started writing and trying to publish my novel, I read mostly nonfiction. But, my 13 years of an hour each way in the car to work 5 days a week meant I got through a lot of books on audio. Nonfiction wasn’t always available and, no matter what, anything gets boring with that much exposure. I’m a very eclectic reader, too. Just no sci fi or fantasy. The titles below, except for the royal books (except for the Duke of Kent’s boring memoir) I did not review. Like series books, I choose not to normally review royal books. Most are pretty vapid, but this year had some more serious ones. Still, I don’t want hate-bots on my tail for being honest, so I’m skipping reviewing books about a certain new monarch’s other daughter-in-law. Enough said.

My reviews are linked below the photo collage of book covers.

My Nonfiction Year to Date:

Full Tilt: From Ireland to India With a Bicycle

Churchill’s Band of Brothers 

River of the Gods

The Puma Years

Mary Churchill’s War

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? 

The Girl from Lamaha Street

A Royal Life 

Valor

Nobody Better

Sugar & Slate

After the Romanovs 

Bagels, Schmears and a nice piece of Fish

 

Are you doing Nonfiction November? Leave me a link to your post!

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November Review: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

My Interest

I’m a woman.

The Story

If you are a woman you will read this book. Now, here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Doctors, aside from their gynecology and labor/delivery training, are trained on an “average” male body even though women’s heart attacks are very different.
  2. Drugs, with a few exceptions, have traditionally been tested on mostly male volunteers. Which explains why some do not do what they should for women
  3. City planners design spaces that all must live in, but that forget the needs of women and children for things like grocery stores and playgrounds.
  4. Transportation systems engineers design systems for men’s commute to work–not for women’s round-about trips to first check on Grandma, then drop the two stroller-bound toddlers at daycare and THEN go to work and then at the end of the day adding a stop to buy groceries before going to the daycare and the other Grandma’s house.
  5. Cars and airbags are designed for men. Pregnant women, who are naturally closer to the steering wheel? Never considered.
  6. Disaster relief teams, refugee camps, and similar forget that women menstruate, endure cultural shunning for being with men to whom they are not related, and often must give birth. Condoms, yes. Sanitary pads–no. Or worse, only tampons in spite of taboos restricting them to only married women.

The book shows all the ways that leaving women out of surveying, quantifying, and otherwise amassing information to inform decisions is costing us time, money, productivity, advancement, lives, and more. Just read it.

My Thoughts

There are so many more I won’t go on. Now, about the author. Yes, she is a strident left-wing feminist and yes the HRC person is mentioned more than one time. Ignore both and read the book. This book has been needed for so long! The distortions of data have cost women lives, dignity, safety, and opportunities–and that is being said by someone far to the right of the author. This book should be used in every course on quantitative research or similar. It is not a boring textbook. The author tells the story very well and illustrates it almost too well. This is one of the most interesting nonfiction books I’ve read in years. I do not agree with every single thing she says, but it was very interesting and thought-provoking. Just read it. Have I mentioned you should read it?

 

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Invisible  Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November: New to My TBR

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Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction is this week’s Nonfiction November host. For the final week, we are showcasing the newest nonfiction additions to our TBRs. I’ve done two “lists” (groups?)–books found via Nonfiction November this year and those found elsewhere.

Books Found Via Nonfiction November

 

Books Found Elsewhere Recently

 

A Few I Did Not Get To Read in 2019

 

 

 

That’s it for 2019’s Nonfiction November.

If you’ve enjoyed these posts, won’t you consider participating next year? It’s fun!

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November: Week 4 Nonfiction Favorites–Why is it a favorite?

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Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) –Nonfiction Favorites (Leann @ Shelf Aware):  Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Confession

I did not read much nonfiction this year! So, I’m posting long-time favorites.

What I Love

With rare exceptions, a nonfiction book must read like a novel. It must flow. It must tell the story. Yes, I do want documentation of sources, but I do not have to read a Ph.D. thesis. Enjoyable prose matters. Photographs or illustrations, depending on the time period, matter as well. If it is about a family, then a family tree is a must. I like glossaries of names or a Cast of Characters listing if there are many people to keep straight. I would truly love a timeline ala Genevieve Foster’s George Washington’s World (and the rest of her books), to put historical subjects into a context I can comprehend, but that seems to be asking too much. Now, do all of my favorites have each of these things? Of course not, but I love them when they are there. A final note–American Experience IS my favorite television show, but in every case, I’ve read the book before the show came out.

What I’ve Left Out

    1. I’m skipping all royal books–most of my favorites are in last week’s post. Click here to read it.
    2. I’ve limited myself to ONE David McCullough and ONE Candace Millard, ONE Doris Kearns Goodwin. Brutal.
    3. But what about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books? Love them! Not on here. And what about James Herriott’s All Creatures Great and Small books? Dear, dear, friends but not on here. Nor are Helene Hanff’s wonderful 84 Charing Cross Road and other books. Biographies and Memoirs are tough. I’ve included a few but tried to choose only those about a specific time or place in a life only. I made exceptions for two books. Madeline L’Engle Crosswick Journals I left out because her children regarded them as fiction. I loved them.

Favorite Nonfiction Book of 2019

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Favorite Nonfiction Books–History

History is my favorite, so there were way, way too many favorites. If you think one is missing, I probably DID love it, but couldn’t include them all.

 

Favorite Nonfiction Books–Nature

Favorite Nonfiction Books–Science

 

Favorite Nonfiction Books–Crime

Favorite Nonfiction Books–Travel

These are different from expatriate or immigrant life memoirs or Peace Corps memoirs

 

 

Nonfiction November concludes next week with a discussion of the books we’ve added to our TBRs.

 

Book Reviews

Nonfiction November Week 1: My Year in Nonfiction

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Thank you to Nonfiction November hosts: Katie of Doing Dewey, Julz of Julz Reads, Rennie of What’s Nonfiction, Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves, and Leann of Shelf Aware. Each of the five week’s features a special topic. This week’s topic is the year’s 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? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

#NonficNov

My Interest

For years I read nonfiction almost exclusively. Then in 2008 I took my current job and moved to my current house. My 1.25-hour commute each way meant I now listen to a lot of fiction to pass the time. I still get in a good bit of nonfiction though. This challenge will take me back to my love of nonfiction.

The Questions

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What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichel–it was so much more of a book than I expected. I love foodie books and foodie memoirs, love browsing cookbooks, and enjoy cooking, but this was also a darned good read.

 

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? Much of my nonfiction reading always concerns royal history, and World War I and II. I enjoy social history the most. I read two books relating to violence or prison and was surprised by how fascinated I was by both–American Prison and American Summer.

51rowt2ce2l._sx331_bo1204203200_What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? Twelve Patients: Life and Death in Bellevue Hospital by Eric Mannheimer. We are all affected by our messed up health care payment system. This book shows that and more.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November? Just to enjoy reading or listening to well-written nonfiction “stories” of history or interesting persons or new-to-me places.

The Total to Date

Of the 73 books read/listened to so far this year, 17 were nonfiction. This month, obviously, I will read/listen to more nonfiction.

The Books

Click the linked title to go to my review

Twelve Patients: Life and Death in Bellevue Hospital by Eric Mannheimer

Why I Left the Amish by Salmoma Miller Furlong

White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll by James Fox

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichel

Rocket Girl by George D. Morgan

A Well-Read Woman: The Life, Loves & Legacy of Ruth Rappaport by Katie Stewart

American Moonshot by Douglas Brinkley

Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Elinor Pruitt Stewart

American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz

Hitler and the Hapsburgs by James Longo

The Assassination of the Archduke by Greg King and Sue Woolmans

Princess: The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II by Jane Dinsmore

Claiming My Place by Planaria Price

Journey Interrupted: A Family Without a Country by Hildegarde Mahoney

Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power by Andrew Nagorski

American Prison: A Reporter’s Underground Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer

1947: Where Now Begins by Elizabeth Asbrink

It’s not too late to join in! Post this week’s topic and link it at Julz Reads.