CategoryReviews of Non-fiction Books

A History of Women in 101 Objects by Annabelle Hirsch

I don’t remember where I saw a reference to this very new book; the only major newspaper review I have seen was done by The Guardian and only 29 people have written about it in Goodreads. I’m hoping it will receive the appreciation I believed it deserves. I was intrigued by the unique idea of 101 readers, many you’ve heard of, reading seven or eight minute descriptions of a wide...

All the Beauty in the World by Patrick Bringley

It’s hard to imagine a better audiobook than this one; hearing a deeply personal memoir read by the author reflecting on his brother’s death and on being a guard for ten years in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as he healed was great. The author had been a staffer at The New Yorker at the time of his brother’s death in 2008. His job was to work with eminent writers as...

Went to London, Took the Dog by Nina Stibbe

I have read almost all of Nina Stibbe’s books. This one is non-fiction, like her first, Love, Nina, about moving to London to be a nanny for the two sons of Mary-Kay Wilmers, founder and former editor of The London Review of Books, and Stephen Frears, filmmaker (My Beautiful Laundrette and Philomena). That book is a compilation of her letters to her sister Vic; this one is in the form of a...

Lev’s Violin by Helena Attlee

The author was so taken with the violin in a Klezmer band playing in a small Welsh town that she spoke to Greg, the violin player after the performance. To explain its seductive depth and unsettling power, he described its “mongrel history.” ‘I’ve been told it was made in Italy at the beginning of the eighteenth century,’ he said, ‘but it came here from Russia...

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...

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