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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!

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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.

 

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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.

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Vera: Mrs. Valdimir Nabokov and The Wife: A Novel: Very Late Nonfiction November Coupling

“Véra assumed her married name almost as a stage name; rarely has matrimony so much represented a profession.”
Stacy Shiff, Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabobov
“Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives.”
Meg Wolitzer, The Wife: A Novel

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Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov

More Than Lolita’s Secretary

Say the name “Vladimir Nabokov” and readers can be forgiven for immediately thinking “Lolita”–the novel for whom the author is best known. While Lolita is instantly recognizable, MRS. Nabokov was not. Yet what an extraordinary woman she was! I have delayed writing this review because the book just overwhelmed me with feelings.

“If you can’t be one, marry one?”

Today these are fighting words, but until very recently this was the choice for many women.  Powerful men needed well-educated, well-organized women to attend to the “rest” of their lives. Until the post-World War II era most successful men could hire servants to keep the house, attend to the cooking and raise the children. The wife then was the networker, the protege, the junior partner, the one who did the grunt work. Yes, I understand this isn’t easy to read today, but it’s true. My grandmother ran a cocktail party like today’s networking events! The “cleaning lady” did the dirty work, while my grandmother schmoozed for my grandfather and helped connect the right people.

Vera brought her own considerable talents as translator, writer, and poet to the aid of her beloved husband. She was his editor, his muse, his agent, his advocate, his sounding board, his driver, his classroom substitute. She made his career possible by keeping him focused on his writing and on his other profession as a lepidopterist.  Let’s not forget that Vera coped alone with their son when the war started as well! SuperWoman! Ironically, she was just as capable of achieving great success with her pen as her husband.

My Thoughts

I read this book on Kindle and it has more highlighted passages than any other book I’ve read in that format. I loved the book–it brought a very real and lasting love affair, not to mention both Naboko’s fabulous careers to light. It reads like the very best romantic fiction combined with a very well-told biography. That’s a win-win for me.

Would the world have the works of Nabokov had he married someone else? Possibly, but not the same brilliant masterpieces that we know today. It took Vera’s love and skill to birth them, market them, litigate on their behalf, liase with agents and sustain their author.

Sidebar: Interesting, isn’t it that two more different writers than Vladimir Nabokov and Gene Stratton Porter, both of the 20th century, had identical dual-vocations, albeit with Porter specializing in moths!

Verdict

4.5 Stars

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The Wife: A Novel

Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife mirrors the life of the Nabokovs in many ways. A wife decides on a flight to collect the husband’s prestigious literary award that she’s done with him. The story goes on to tell their story–from a student/professor affair through to the current day. Like Vera, Joan Castleman makes her husband’s work possible…and then some….

I chose the quotes at the top of this post to show the way the books were the same, but different. For one the marriage was the profession, for the other….[no spoilers, only hints!]

I loved this book! It kept me returning again and again to Vera. I love it when a book that is not a fictionalized account of real persons life does that! I am anxious now to see the movie.

My Verdict

4 Stars

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Review: Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman

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The Story

Elkhart, Indiana, born Jonathan Kauffman traces the story of the Natural Foods movement in America starting with his memories of his own mother’s cooking.  He explores each movement, diet, guru, book in a fun way. This is a great read for anyone, but foodies will love it. It would be a perfect Christmas gift for the food-freak on your list, too!

My Thoughts and Some Memories and Recipes

I really enjoyed this on audio. It was like reliving my own early adulthood. My first job was as a clerk in a wholesale warehouse bagging natural foods sold by the pound to individuals on Saturday morning and to the sort of food buying co-ops he discusses in the book during the rest of the week. I made countless batches of carob chip cookies, too, while volunteering in the office of my Congressman that summer as well.

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I went to college at Indiana University in Bloomington–a town with a Co-op grocery store (that I never visited–it was too long of a walk from where I lived). I loved the “Health Nut” sandwich at the I.U. library cafe–whole wheat “Wonder Bread.” a slab of American cheese, chicken, a pineapple-nut sauce, tomato slice and, naturally, those delicious grass-like alfalfa sprouts (actually, come to think of it, they ARE grass sprouts!). Delicious! Great vegetarian food, even in 1980, could be had several places, but the Tao and Rudi’s Bakery were the best. Here are their cookbook and my favorite recipe–their HUGE poppy seed cake.

 

As I learned to cook I bought more cookbooks. Back in the 80’s cookbooks, cooking magazines and women’s magazines were the ways in which recipes and food trends and fads were communicated.  I also enjoyed watching cooking shows on PBS–remember, Food TV, the Pioneer Woman, Jamie Oliver, and all the others were far in the future. The Frugal Gourmet was one of the first I liked–I still love a few of his recipes to this day, regardless of what became of him personally.

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In Peace Corps, in the late 80’s nearly everyone brought one of these cookbooks. I was surprised to learn that “protein complementarianism” was debunked as not necessary. Not harmful, just not a dire need.  We were taught that in Peace Corps training. I took Diet for a Small Planet with me, as did several others. The other big favorite was More With Less. I also have the Living More With Less book which was about living simply and frugally. In the end, I used the locally produced Peace Corps Malawi cookbook the most for obvious reasons.

Hippie Food by Jonathan Kauffman

Recipes from my natural food binges

Here are some old favorites from the books above or other cookbooks and one from a magazine. While I haven’t made Complimentary Pie or the Six Layer Soybean Casserole in decades, I do still love Roman Beans and Rice and the quiche–which I make with fresh broccoli, carrots, green pepper, onion, and garlic. We love it. I treat “whole” or “natural” recipes like this just like any other cuisine–they are a part of my eating, never a strict diet.

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I’ve always loved this salad just as it is. I imagine it should be made with feta, but that was hard to get in the early 1970’s. I would love it with that, too. Israeli Salad from the Moosewood cookbooks.

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This quiche, as I said, is still a family favorite. A friend makes it with Velveeta and while I don’t use that product, it does make an unbelievably creamy quiche.

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The 1970’s classic from Diet For A Small Planet

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Roman Rice and Beans–Peace Corps staple and still on my menu today. I’ve never used kidney beans, but have used pintos or white beans. Diet For A Small Planet

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Six Layer Soybean Casserole– I always used V-8 Juice and often more spices and garlic–this is from a La Lache League cookbook, so garlic wasn’t in many recipes.

There are so many more I could share–these are just a sampling. Enjoy!

 

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Review: The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

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A Tiny Bit of Background

Dave Eggers captivated me with The Circle, his eery corporate management by “like” novel that resonates with me becasue of my own experience in a culture that has a similar idea-sprouting routine (happily mine is nice, not menacing). His newest book, The Monk of Mokha, is a nonfiction account of a young man, a child of immigrants, who chose success.

Choosing Success

Mokhtar Alkhanshali is a 24 year old Yemeni American, working as a doorman in San Francisco and trying to go to college, when his girl friend says “You ever looked across the street?” That simple phrase, and the iconic statute it pointed to, started a rise to riches like something from an 19th century Horatio Alger novel.

 

 

 

Hills Brother’s Coffee statute and logo

Maybe you’ve heard of Arabica coffee? Sounds a lot like….Arabic. Don’t worry, I didn’t catch that till I read the book, either! Apparently Hills Brothers Coffee had–they put a stereotypical old school Yemeni on their can and made him a statue at their old corporate head quarters–across from where Maktar and his girl friend were talking that fateful night.

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Well, it turns out coffee originates in Yemen. The same Yemen now enduring war and famine. But, coffee farmers there didn’t really know what they were growing–at least not in terms of what well-heeled San Franciscan, and Americans in general, would pay for the world’s best cup of coffee. Happily, Mokhtar had a wild idea to make Yemeni coffee known as the world’s best. Happier still, he spoke the language fluently, had a group of fellow Yemenis and others in San Francisco and elsewhere to bankroll his dream and the tenacity to stick with it.

What impressed me was that Mokhtar  grew up in a dirt poor neighborhood full of  those entertainment places whose name brings lots of spam so I won’t say it, as well as guns, an open drug market and lots of booze. The schools were pretty bad. Yemeni immigrants took the normal new-comer jobs of janitors, cab drivers, cleaning ladies, etc.  Mokhtar could easily have resigned himself to such a life–or maybe a notch or two up the immigrant ladder. Instead of wasting time on a pro sports or celebrity dream, Mokhtar, when not out goofing around with friends, read anything he could get his hands on–even Plato’s Republic. You see, Mokhtar choose to succeed.

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When he decided to go to Yemen and export coffee he did his homework with a vengeance. He sought out the best help and advisors, educated himself, took industry certification exams and more. When he landed in Yemen he was ready except for…. [No Spoilers!] But when his ship comes in….well, you’ll have to read the book to find out!

I truly hope Dave Eggers will produce a Young Person’s version of this book. Parents may not be pleased that Mokhtar put college aside to pursue his dream, but the education he gave himself, plus the industry certifications he earned, were worth as much or more, to the success of his dream. I loved this book–and I don’t even like coffee. Go figure!

The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers

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Here is the New York Times review link.

Here is an interview from PBS’ News Hour

 

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Review: We Fed An Island by Jose Andres

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“You should never feel guilty about feeling ambitious when you are trying to help other people. If you don’t dream then reality never changes.”

The Story

After hurricane Maria leveled Puerto Rico, chef Jose Andres and others got together to feed the people of the islands while FEMA, the Red Cross and others dithered and followed standard operating procedures that left people hungry, homeless and without hope. Military MREs were given out but were barely edible.

“A plate of food is not just a few ingredients cooked and served together. It is a story of who you are, the source of your pride, the foundation of your family and community. Cooking isn’t just nourishing, it’s empowering.”

As he tells his story, Andres tells of other disasters and how groups responded to the crisis. He documents the many times that President Trump’s TWEETS were nowhere near the reality and times when the President seemingly intentionally mislead the American people on the effort in Puerto Rico. He shows how ridiculous much of the response process is, how much over-spending and under-delivering is involved and how impractical many solutions are. Then he explains how he re-wrote the rule book on feeding people after a disaster.

“The group seemed to like my energy, but that was about it….They looked at me like I was a smart ass with some crazy vision of saving the world.”

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My Thoughts

Having seen the foreign aid process first hand–the graft and corruption that eats up much of it, I know he is telling the truth. Having researched charities and the amount per dollar that actually reaches the intended “target” versus what is spent on staff, offices, transportation, etc., I know he is telling the truth.  FEMA, a name now reviled after Hurricane Katrina, gets more well-deserved criticism. STOP–standarad operating procedures really can mean STOP or stopped.

Having visited Puerto Rico, worked with educators and educational administrators there back in the early 90s, and having an uncle with a home on Vieques, I know everything he said about the kindness and generostiy of the Puerto Rican people is true. The communities pulling together is exactly what happens there.

Sadly, the legislative history of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States (Puerto Ricans ARE U.S. Citizens) was very dull even to me, a former law librarian who enjoys researching things like that.

As a librarian and historian, I loved seeing how social media is capturing history in the making. Andres made excellent use of it in documenting the story.

Some Things I Learned

I did not expect to hear the Southern Baptist Convention praised in this book! I had no idea that they provide fully staffed mobile kitchens to help in Red Cross disaster relief efforts. That was fascinating.

I may have misunderstood–I was, after all, listening while driving on my daily commute, but I did not know that the Red Cross spends only what is donated for that cause–not it’s millions in general. That shocked me. I know they are ridiculously wealthy, have horrendously high overhead, but I had thought they used the money on hand for each disaster. I knew they were a virtual government agency, but I really didn’t know the full extent of that. I had long ago stopped donating to them, but this reinforces my decision.

Regret

Why or why didn’t he include recipes!

P.S.

Jose? Please find a different word for focus. I loved your accent but I heard a very different word in your accent! (laughing)

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Nonfiction November: My favorite nonfiction so far for 2018

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Until I returned to writing about 8 years ago, I read almost exclusively nonfiction. For the last 10 years, though, I have had almost two and a  half hours of commuting time to deal with. It became unrealistic to just listen to nonfiction so that also contributed to the switch. This month I’ll be intentionally listening to or reading more nonfiction. To help with my decision, I joined the Goodreads.com group Nonfiction November which asks members to read 4 or more nonfiction books in the month. To kick off the month, here are my favorite nonfiction reads, so far, in 2018. To date, I’ve read 10 nonfiction books–including one I loved, but still, need to review. I’m not including it in the list for this reason.

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew

by Annejet van der Zijl

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Thanks no doubt to Meghan Markle, this has been one of the most popular posts on my blog this year! Even though it is about an obscure one-time wife of a minor European Royal and not about Prince Harry’s actress bride. It’s an interesting biography all the same. Here is the link to my review.

How To Get Dressesd and  The Accessory Handbook

by Alison Freer

These little books are FABULOUS! Their value far outstrips their size. Leave it to a savvy and talented Hollywood costumer to help women look good! Here are the links to my reviews:  How to Get Dressed and The Accessories Handbook.

Kick: The True Story of JFK’s Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth

by Paula Byrne

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The Kennedy Curse claimed Joe Jr.,  Rosemary (though she did not die), Kick, Jack and Bobby–and nearly claimed Teddy. Kick is the sister who was presented at Court to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen’s parents) and shocked her parents and the British Aristocracy by being the very Catholic bride of the extremely Protestant Marquess of Hartington. She was also the sister seen as a near “twin” to JFK. Here is the link to my review.

Do you read nonfiction? Are you participating in Nonfiction November–even informally? Leave me a comment.