CategoryReviews of Non-fiction Books

A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Egan

The subtitle, The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them gets all the elements of the book into the title, though perhaps the declaration is a tiny bit overdrawn. I suspect my questions are unanswerable:  what caused this fever to take hold so strongly in disparate parts of the U.S. in the mid-1920s? Is this going to continue to happen? Egan centers the...

Empress of the Nile by Lynne Olson

Lynne Olson has found another brave and impressive woman to write about. I was enthusiastic about Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, about a resistance warrior in World War II, as well as Citizens of London. Christiane Desroches-Noblecourt, born in 1913, became an Egyptologist for the Louvre in the mid-1930s. She was a rare, perhaps unique, female figure in digs and was unusual in making good...

The Power Broker by Robert Caro

It has taken me weeks to listen to this 66-hour audiobook and it’s been a grueling, but fascinating undertaking. This three-volume work about Robert Moses, written in the 1970s, is about an extremely unusual figure, a man who for nearly 40 years was a powerful figure in New York City and State politics who was never elected to any office. It is about how he amassed power, what he did with...

On Tim Winton by Geraldine Brooks

In the series called “Writers on Writers” Australian Geraldine Brooks wrote about Tim Winton; a writer I greatly admire wrote about one of my very favorites. What a treat. To prepare for the memorable trip we made to Australia in 2009 I read some of the books on Reading Matters’ list of 10 of her favorite novels from Australia. I recall vividly how much I loved the ones I read...

Beaverland by Leila Philip

It was a recommendation by James Fallows that took me to Beaverland:  How One Weird Rodent Made America. I’m not so sure about that subtitle, but there were some great tidbits to be found here. The author describes beavers as a keystone species, a species that like that block in the center of a medieval archway is vital to the archway, is key to the survival of a biological community. They...

Montebello by Robert Drewe

What a treat this audiobook memoir by Robert Drewe is! I loved his previous memoir, The Shark Net and especially his novel The Drowner. In this one published in 2012 he ranges around his life recounting moments that are enlightening, or nostalgic, or revelatory. Interspersed throughout is his description of a visit to the Montebello Islands with scientists who were reintroducing some species to...

Tête-à-Tête by Hazel Rowley

The subtitle is The Tumultuous Lives and Loves of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. Long as it is, the title could use another word in there somewhere. I would suggest “creepy.” While I learned a great deal about the work of these two brilliant public intellectuals of the 20th century, the book focuses on their unusual relationship and their connections to others, especially...

Robert E. Lee and Me by Ty Seidule

Ty Seidule’s premise, that the lie of the Lost Cause perpetuated from the end of the Civil War is a reflection of White Supremacy that infects the whole country, is not a surprise or new idea. What is different is that a military historian at West Point who grew up in the South idolizing Robert E. Lee has described his beliefs and his coming to understand the facts and reject the myth. As...

River of the Gods by Candice Millard

Years ago I read books about the discovery of the Blue Nile and the White Nile by Alan Moorehead, a great biography of Henry Morton Stanley, and a biography of Richard and Isabel Burton. It was interesting to revisit the European discovery of source of the White Nile and that dramatic struggle between Richard Burton and John Speke. The recent book by Candice Millard is good, but left me more...

The Ride of Her Life by Elizabeth Letts

This book was recommended by Dorothy and it gave me hours of pleasure as I listened to it. Annie Wilkins found herself in dire straits financially in the mid-1950s, having just recovered from a serious illness, and was told by her doctor that she would no longer be physically fit to run her farm. She had no family and he suggested she give up the farm that had been in her family for three...

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