10 May 2019

8 True Stories to Read This Month

Do you have genres you just can't say no to? I do, and one of them is nonfiction.As you may have noticed, I've been on a true-story kick lately. Lucky me, because May is full of great new nonfiction of all types. I tried to restrain myself, but I couldn't resist the list I'm sharing today. Memoirs, history, architecture, crafting, biography, and the outdoors--bring it on!

Here's just some of my nonfiction list for this month. I've already read some of the books featured here (see next Monday's post), but others are still to come.


review of Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay JonesDo you like green eggs with ham? Or will you not eat them here or there, will not eat them anywhere? If you know what I'm talking about then you'll want to pick up a copy of Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones (Dutton, May 7). I sure hope all of you grew up with Dr. Seuss. When I was very small, I loved his books and poems and illustrations. He was publishing some of his most famous books (Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat) when I was learning to read, and even though I know most of his work from the 1950s and early 1960s, I don't know anything about the man who created the Grinch. I'm looking forward to discovering the arc of his life and career, and I trust Jones to do Seuss right. First line: "On paper, Mulberry Street doesn't look like much." Audiobook: Read by Mike Chamberlain (Penguin Audio, 18 hr)

review of CNN's Anthony Bourdain RememberedWhen I was in college I had a half dream of opening a restaurant. Fortunately (or maybe not), I woke up and went on to become a few other something elses. I still love cooking for others, even all these years later. I also still remember when I read Kitchen Confidential. It's hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago, but I've followed Anthony Bourdain ever since. I was so sorry to hear about his death by suicide last year, but I'm glad to have a chance to revisit him in CNN's Anthony Bourdain Remembered (Ecco, May 28). This book is not a memoir but a collection of photographs and tributes, stories and memories from his friends, fans, and acquaintances. It's beautifully put together and will tug at your heart. It will also make you want to travel and to eat! First line: "When we met Tony for the first time in 2012 to discuss developing and hosting our first CNN Original Series, he explained that he did not consider himself a journalist." Audiobook: none.

Curious Minds

review of The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCulloughHere's another thing about me: despite the hardships and dangers, I'm forever sorry that I was not around during the pioneer days of the American West. I've read quite a few firsthand accounts of the journey from St. Louis to parts unknown so it comes as no surprise that The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, May 7) is on my list. I'm kind of saving this book for deck-reading weather, thinking I'll do an alternating read and listen--one of my favorite ways to read history. McCullough starts in the late 1780s with the settling of Ohio country and ends just short of a 100 years later in the aftermath of the Civil War. The print/digital book has maps and photo inserts, which I'll look at while I'm listening. First line: "Never before, as he knew, had any of his countrymen set off to accomplish anything like what he had agreed to undertake—a mission that, should he succeed, could change the course of history in innumerable ways and to the long-lasting benefit of countless Americans." Audiobook: Read by John Bedford Lloyd (Simon & Schuster Audio; 10 hr, 23 min)

REview of Suzanne Hinman's The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York Whenever I visit a new place, especially a big city like New York City, I love looking at the buildings. My eye, and my camera, are drawn to the details: the muntin patterns, the shape of the brackets and braces, the adorning statues, and the stonework. Did you know that the current Madison Square Garden--that round, rather nondescript building above the train station--is actually the third arena to grace that corner? Suzanne Hinman's The Grandest Madison Square Garden: Art, Scandal, and Architecture in Gilded Age New York (Syracuse University Press, May 15) is all about building two, completed in 1890. How I would have loved to see that tower, topped with the shining nude sculpture of the goddess Diana. Oh the shock! This book introduces us to the architects and visionaries who build the Garden and places the entire project in the context of the city and the splendors and excesses of the Gilded Age. Period photographs and maps are found throughout the book. First line (prologue): "New York City, 'the diamond stickpin on the shirtfront of America.' " Audiobook: none

Women's Stories

review of Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland by Tory BilskiAs you might have guessed by the number of books I read set in cold, sparsely populated places, I love the northern climes. I've never been to Iceland, but if I visit, it's the northern tip I'm interested in. In Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland (Pegasus Books, May 7), Tory Bilski describes her love of horses and life on a remote farm far away from the stresses of the modern world. Each June, Bilski and a few other women move to Iceland to spend the long summer days with Icelandic horses and with each other. Although married and working at Yale, Bilski finds a deep sense of her inner self and a connection to nature when on horseback in this wild area of the world. Over the years, the women have gotten to know each other, sharing their joys and sorrows and finding strength in their joint commitment to the horses and their growing friendship. The print/digital copy includes color photos. First Line: "First time, right off the bat, years before the technical advantages of GPS or iPhones, we get lost." Audiobook: none

review of Dear Scarlet by Teresa WongYou know how if it's a woman's problem then no one talks about it? I'm reassured in this new(ish) century that things are changing. Menopause has emerged from taboo land, and now so has postpartum depression. It's real, and until recently women kept their sorrows and struggles private. Modern mothers are telling their stories, offering empathy and support to others who suffered from PPD. In her graphic memoir, Dear Scarlet (Arsenal Pulp, May 7) Teresa Wong writes honestly and frankly about the darkness that overcame her after the birth of her first child. Wong sets her memoir up as a letter to her daughter and writes about thinking she wasn't a good enough mother and of feeling overwhelmed. Despite getting domestic help, seeing a therapist, and accepting support from her family, she could not find the light within. Wong's journey ultimately turns out okay, offering hope to other new mothers. The black and white drawings nicely convey Wong's roller-coaster emotions. First line: "The other day, you told me that when you grow up, you want to be a mommy." Audiobook: none.

Men's Stories

review of Jonathan Gornall's How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed SeaDid you know that I come from a sailing family? My parents had a boat that they sailed on the Great Lakes pretty much all the way up to the day my father died. My mother was a freelance journalist, and boats and sailing were her beat. One of my cousins built a boat or two, and one of our closest friends has also built seaworthy small boats. Thus Jonathan Gornall's How to Build a Boat: A Father, His Daughter, and the Unsailed Sea (Scribner, May 7) caught my eye. In his memoir, Gornall talks about his unlikely decision to build a wooden Viking-style small boat for his newborn daughter. This venture led him to learn about wood, about boats, about tools, and about becoming a better father this second time around. Throughout he also talks about his own childhood, his relationship with his grown son, and his (sometimes failed) experiences on the open water. First line: "There are, I suppose in my ignorance, two foolproof ways to find out if a newly built wooden boat is watertight." Audiobook: Read by the author (Simon & Schuster, 9 hr, 22 min)

review of John Connell's The Famer's SonI grew up in farm country, and though I moved to a different state, I still make my home in (dwindling) farm country. I've never, however, been a farmer. John Connell grew up on a farm in Ireland, but he spent his early adulthood away from home, earning his way as a filmmaker and journalist. The call of the land finally became too strong to ignore, and he returned home. The Farmer's Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 7) is his story of homecoming, of reconnecting to Ireland, of the endless farm chores, of tending to the animals, and of living under the scrutiny of his father. The work is physically demanding and living with his father is rocky, but Connell notices a lifting of his blues as he settles back into the community and finds a place among the animals under his care and on the land that nurtured generations of his family. First line: "I’m twenty-nine and I’ve never delivered a calf myself." Audiobook: Read by Alan Smyth (Highbridge, 7 hr, 56 min)

Need More?

Here are a few more books I really want to read:

  • Unspeakable: The Things We Cannot Say by Harriet Shawcross (Canongate, May 7): A multi-perspective look at silence
  • The Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom One Step at a Time by Antonia Malchik (De Capo, May 7): An anthropological, sociological look at human locomotion
  • Every Tool's a Hammer: Life Is What You Make It by Adam Savage (Atria, May 7): A maker's life.
  • How to Think Like a Fish: And Other Lessons from a Lifetime in Angling by Jeremy Wade (De Capo, May 21): A life lived in the outdoors.


bermudaonion 5/10/19, 7:52 AM  

I love nonfiction so I'm making note of most of these titles.

Kay 5/10/19, 8:16 AM  

I like the sound of THE WALKING LIFE!

rhapsodyinbooks 5/10/19, 9:30 AM  

Good round-up, thanks! I may look for the Dr. Seuss one; now I'm curious!

Vicki 5/10/19, 6:08 PM  

Interesting group of books! I love non fiction too, especially true crime and disasters.

(Diane) bookchickdi 5/19/19, 5:13 PM  

I'm looking forward to the McCullough book too.

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