Books and Reading: Books to Go!—Nonfiction Titles [New page coming soon. This page is under construction. We have added and deleted titles. Contact a librarian to verify if a title you want is in the Books to Go collection.]

Annette Weiss, Librarian Selector

1185 Park Avenue by Anne Roiphe.

1185 Park Avenue cover illustration With a rush of words, layer upon layer, acclaimed author Roiphe dissects her childhood family, depicting as well a grim view of growing up rich and Jewish on Upper Park Avenue in the 1940s and 1950s. The daughter of a wealthy, frightened, chain-smoking mother and a handsome, philandering, cold, immigrant father who rejected his past, Roiphe watched her parents savage each other daily. The tragedy of her parents' disastrous marriage repeats itself in Roiphe's own life, when she marries a man like her father, who wants her money but not her. This is not pleasurable reading; nevertheless, it is hard to put down this mesmerizing memoir.

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle.

Arc of Justice cover illustration History professor Boyle has brilliantly rescued from obscurity a fascinating chapter in American history that had profound implications for the rise of the Civil Rights movement. With a novelist's craft, Boyle opens with a compelling prologue portraying the migration of African-Americans in the 1920s to the industrial cities of the North, where they sought a better life and economic opportunity. This stirring section, with echoes of Dickens's Hard Times, sets the stage for the ordeal of Dr. Ossian Sweet, who moves with his young family to a previously all-white Detroit neighborhood. When the local block association incites a mob to drive Sweet back to the ghetto, he gathers friends and acquaintances to defend his new home with a deadly arsenal. The resulting shooting death of a white man leads to a sensational murder trial, featuring the legendary Clarence Darrow, fresh from the Scopes Monkey trial, defending Sweet, his family and their associates. This popular history, which explores the politics of racism and the internecine battles within the nascent Civil Rights movement, grips right up to the stunning jaw-dropper of an ending.

A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. (Oxford Shakespeare Edition)

A Comedy of Errors cover illustration A Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare's shortest play yet one of his most popular comedies. Here is a new modern-spelling edition, based on the 1623 Folio text with on-page commentary and notes that explain meaning, staging, language and allusions. A detailed and informative introduction describes the play's first performance at Gray's Inn in December 1594, its multiple sources and its uneven critical and theatrical history. Appendices include the complete text of the play's main source, Plautus' Menaechmi, and extracts from Gesta Grayorum and the Geneva Bible. Illustrated with production photographs and related art, this edition vividly brings to life Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors. "Not simply a better text but a new conception of Shakespeare. This is a major achievement of twentieth-century scholarship."—Times Literary Supplement.

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander New Foundland by Jim DeFede.

The Day the World Came to Town cover illustration Through selective interviews, this book describes events surrounding the 6595 people on board 38 planes whose transit across the Atlantic was disrupted when they were vectored to the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, on September 11, 2001. As a chronicle of the heartwarming reception these passengers received from touchdown until departure six days later, the volume resounds with tributes to the kindness and acts of generosity on the part of local residents (population 10,000). Quick-thinking initiatives led by the mayor, constable, air-traffic controllers, and local heads of professional disaster-relief agencies organized a process for greeting deplaning passengers; checking luggage; fulfilling immigration/security requirements; and then transporting groups to churches, schools, and community centers where they were housed and fed. One account tells of volunteers from Gander's SPCA who crawled through the cargo spaces of the jetliners, locating pets and animals in cages, and bringing them food, water, and fresh bedding until they could be moved to a vacant hangar. Separate vignettes focus on the parents of a New York City firefighter who was missing, on a Texas couple returning from adopting an orphan in Kazakhstan, on a teenage cancer victim en route home following a "make- a-wish" trip to Italy, and more.

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Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.

Dreams from My Father cover illustration Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this powerfully affecting memoir, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller when it was reissued in 2004. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obamas struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mothera struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego.

Eat, Pray, Love:  One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Eat, Pray, Love cover illustration Gilbert, author of The Last American Man (2002) and a well-traveled I'll-try-anything-once journalist, chronicles her intrepid quest for spiritual healing. Driven to despair by a punishing divorce and an anguished love affair, Gilbert flees New York for sojourns in the three Is. She goes to Italy to learn the language and revel in the cuisine, India to meditate in an ashram, and Indonesia to reconnect with a healer in Bali. This itinerary may sound self-indulgent or fey, but there is never a whiny or pious or dull moment because Gilbert is irreverent, hilarious, zestful, courageous, intelligent, and in masterful command of her sparkling prose. A captivating storyteller with a gift for enlivening metaphors, Gilbert is Anne Lamott's hip, yoga-practicing, footloose younger sister, and readers will laugh and cry as she recounts her nervy and outlandish experiences and profiles the extraordinary people she meets. As Gilbert switches from gelato to kundalini Shakti to herbal cures Balinese-style, she ponders the many paths to divinity, the true nature of happiness, and the boon of good-hearted, sexy love. Gilbert's sensuous and audacious spiritual odyssey is as deeply pleasurable as it is enlightening.

First Darling of the Morning by Thrity Umrigar.

First Darling cover illustration *Starred Review* A melancholy mood suffuses Indian author Umrigar's eloquent coming-of-age memoir (after If Today Be Sweet, 2007). Born in Bombay to middle-class Parsi parents, smart, precocious Umrigar spent much of her childhood feeling out of place. She was very close to her gentle father and her beloved aunt, but her mother was menacing and cruel, frequently mocking her and beating her with a switch. Umrigar's life changed when she met Jesse, a forward-thinking and rebellious young woman five years her senior, who introduced her to the wonders of literature and art. Umrigar soaked it all in, even shunning her family's privileged existence after reading Irving Stone's Lust for Life (1934), a novel based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh. Umrigar's upbringing in an apolitical family left her unprepared for the passion she felt after participating in a demonstration against the government. A sense of restlessness, combined with relentless family discord, fed her desire to escape to the U.S. The memoir ends with Umrigar at 21, departing for America, where she now works as a journalist and associate professor of English at Case Western Reserve University. But she has never forgotten her native land, brilliantly rendered in three critically acclaimed novels and now in this latest bracingly honest and bittersweet memoir.

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Galileos Daughter by Dava Sobel.

Galileos Daughter cover illustration Everyone knows that Galileo Galilei dropped cannonballs off the leaning tower of Pisa, developed the first reliable telescope, and was convicted by the Inquisition for holding a heretical belief--that the earth revolved around the sun. But did you know he had a daughter? In Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel tells the story of the famous scientist and his illegitimate daughter, Sister Maria Celeste. Sobel bases her book on 124 surviving letters to the scientist from the nun, whom Galileo described as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and tenderly attached to me." Their loving correspondence revealed much about their world: the agonies of the bubonic plague, the hardships of monastic life, even Galileo's occasional forgetfulness.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls.

The Glass Castle cover illustration Freelance writer Walls doesn't pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parentsjust two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual bookwere a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonusthey'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presentswalking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a starwas delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure."

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper.

The House at Sugar Beach cover illustration Cooper, a descendant of the founding families who developed Liberia in the 1800s, was part of the mixed-race elite. Her ambitious, quirky extended family is caught off guard when one of the numerous uprisings by the downtrodden against the privileged turns into a dangerous coup in 1980. Her uncle was killed, her mother raped, and her father wounded before the family fled into exile in the U.S., leaving behind adopted sister Eunice. Cooper and her sister adjust to life in the U.S., grappling with ignorance of Africa, their lower socioeconomic status, and the typical confusion of adolescence, all the while trying to stay in touch with Eunice. Cooper's intelligence, ambition, and wanderlust lead to a career in journalism as a foreign correspondent with the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, although she assiduously avoided Liberia. But when she was nearly killed covering the war in Iraq, Cooper realized she needed to go home to face Liberia and to find Eunice. Cooper's memoir is an absorbing look at the complexities of politics in Liberia and the compelling pull of family ties.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks cover illustration The first immortal human cells, code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, growing with mythological intensity. Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta's family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta's daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist's artistry, a biologist's expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force.

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Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life by Queen Noor.

Leap of Faith cover illustration Anyone who loved The King and I will readily warm to the love story of Queen Noor and the late King Hussein of Jordan. Born in America in 1951 as Lisa Halaby, Noor came from a wealthy, well-connected family and was part of Princeton's first co-ed class. Her father's aviation business produced a chance meeting with King Hussein in 1976, and a year or two later Noor realized the king was courting her. He was 41, she was 26. The rumor mills buzzed: was she the next Grace Kelly? Before long, the king renamed her Noor (light in Arabic), and she converted to Islam. They were married in the summer of 1978. From this point on, her story is mostly his, mainly covering his attempts to broker peace in the Middle East. There are meetings with Arafat, Saddam Hussein, American presidents and other leaders. Noor details Hussein's struggles to create Arab unity and his vision of peaceful coexistence with Israel. Her own activities developing village-based economic self-sufficiency projects and improving Jordan's medical, educational and cultural facilities take second place to her husband's struggles on the world stage. And while she occasionally acknowledges her domestic difficulties, Noor is careful not to allow personal problems to become any more than asides. Her pleasing memoir ends with the king's death after his struggle with cancer, although readers may suspect that this smart, courageous woman will remain a world presence for years to come.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (a Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson.

pretend cover illustrationIn punchy chapters that cover a fairly uneventful life in the southern Republican regions, blogger Lawson achieves an exaggerated sarcasm that occasionally attains a belly laugh from the reader ("I grew up a poor black girl in New York. Except replace 'black' with 'white' and 'New York' with 'rural Texas' "), but mostly descends into rants about bodily functions and dead animals spiced with profanity. The daughter of a taxidermist whose avid foraging and hunting filled their "violently rural" Wall, Tex., house with motley creatures like raccoons and turkeys and later triggered some anxiety disorder, Lawson did not transcend her childhood horrors so much as return to them, marrying at age 22 a fellow student at a local San Angelo college, Victor, and settling down in the town with a job in "HR" while Victor worked "in computers." In random anecdotal segments Lawson treats the vicissitudes of her 15-year marriage, the birth of daughter Hailey after many miscarriages, some funny insider secrets from the HR office, and an attempt to learn to trust women by spending a weekend in California wine country with a group of bloggers. With little substantive writing on these subjects, however, Lawson's puerile sniggering and potty mouth gets old fast.

Life is So Good by George Dawson.

Life is So Good cover illustration What makes a happy person, a happy life? Dawson, who learned how to read when he was 98, tells how as he describes his own remarkable odyssey across the span of the 20th century.

Lipstick Jihad by Azdadeh Moaveni.

Lipstick Jihad cover illustration Time reporter Moaveni, the American-born child of Iranian exiles, spent two years (2000–2001) working in Tehran. Although she reports on the overall tumult and repression felt by Iranians between the 1999 pro-democracy student demonstrations and the 2002 "Axis of Evil" declaration, the book's dominant story is more intimate. Moaveni was on a personal search "to figure out my relationship to Iran. Neither her adolescent ethnic identity conundrums nor her idyllic memories of a childhood visit prepared her for the realities she confronted as she navigated Iran, learning its rules, restrictions and taboos—and how to evade and even exploit them like a local. Because she was a journalist, the shadowy, unnerving presence of an Iranian intelligence agent/interrogator hovered continually ("it would be useful if we saw your work before publication," he told her). Readers also get intimate glimpses of domestic life: Moaveni lived among family and depicts clandestine partying, women's gyms and the popularity of cosmetic surgery. Eventually, Moaveni became "more at home than [her mother] was" in Iran, and a visit to the U.S. showed how Moaveni, who now lives in Beirut, had grown unaccustomed to American life, "where my Iranian instincts served no purpose." Lipstick Jihad is a catchy title, but its flippancy does a disservice to Moaveni's nuanced narrative.

The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece by Jonathan Harr.

The Lost Painting cover illustration Harr, author of the best-selling A Civil Action (1995), turns from a true-life courtroom drama to the riveting story of a lost masterpiece. The Italian painter Caravaggio (1573-1610) was famous for his startling vision of the divine in ordinary lives, and infamous for his street-fighter life. An artistic genius and a fugitive killer, Caravaggio remains a compelling enigma and his mystique is enhanced by the scarcity of his works. The disappearance of one painting in particular, The Taking of Christ, baffled art historians for two centuries. Harr, a consummate storyteller, now traces the canvas' journey in an effortlessly educating and marvelously entertaining mix of art history and scholarly sleuthing. The search begins when a Roman graduate student, Francesca Cappelletti, manages to charm the Marchesa Mattei, an eccentric descendant of one of Caravaggio's Roman patrons, into allowing her and her to examine never-before-studied family archives. Meanwhile, Sergio Benedetti, an ambitious Italian restorer working in Dublin at the National Gallery of Ireland, believes that an old painting hanging in a Jesuit residence, a work in dire need of cleaning, is a forgotten Caravaggio. As Harr expertly tracks the converging quests of the students and the restorer, he incisively recounts Caravaggio's wild and tragic life, and offers evocative testimony to the resonance of his daring and magnificent work.

Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.

Love is a Mix Tape cover illustrationMusic critic Sheffield's touching and poignant memoir of love and death will strike a chord in anyone who has used a hand-selected set of songs to try to express something that can't be put into words. A socially awkward adolescent, Sheffield finds true love as a college student in the late '80s with Renee, a "hell-raising Appalachian punk-rock girl." They're brought together by their love of music, get married and spend eight years together before Renee suddenly dies of a pulmonary embolism. Sheffield's delivery is not that of the typical actor/ reader. We come to know Rob as this geeky, lanky guy, and his reading is characteristically a little bit uncoordinated, yet it is tender and heartfelt enough to win us over. Each chapter opens with a song list from a mix tape made at the time. Listeners may wish that, as with Nick Hornby's essay collection Songbook, there had been an audio component that would allow the music to take us back or would introduce us to new songs that helped Sheffield press on into an uncertain but hopeful future.

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Michelangelo & The Pope's Ceiling by Ross King .

Michelangelo & The Popes Ceiling cover illustration A celebrated novelist as well as a lively nonfiction writer, King casts fiction's spell as he tells the creation stories of crowning artistic achievement in this exciting account of the making of Michelangelo's magnificent Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes. Not only is King fluent in the complicated art of frescoing, a chancy technique sculptor Michelangelo (1475–1564) was loathe to undertake, he also relishes the tumultuous politics of early-sixteenth-century Rome, particularly the escapades of the irascible, syphilitic, gourmand Pope Julius II, Michelangelo's demanding patron. Everyone in Rome was terrified of this stick-wielding, bearded, warrior pope except for moody, homely, antisocial Michelangelo, and King recounts their skirmishes with as much verve as he chronicles the arduous efforts involved in creating the most famous ceiling in the world.

My Life in France by Julia Child.

My Life in France cover illustration Knowing little about the country and less about its cooking, Child sailed to France with her new husband in 1948. Her first meal after debarking, a simple sauteed sole, opened to her (and to posterity) a new world. She began her French sojourn as the underemployed and ever-curious wife of a diplomatic officer, frustrated at being unable even to speak the language. Language classes led to cooking classes, then to partnering with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle in an American book contract. Child's devotees know the basics of this story, but the details reveal the gradual education of Child's palate, her anti-McCarthy politics, her intense love for her husband, and her boundless capacity for hard work. Although Child died before this memoir compiled from her papers reached completion, her grandnephew Prud'homme proves a worthy editor. In seamlessly flowing prose, the text follows Child's growth as a cook into one of the best and most influential teachers of the twentieth century. Like Child herself, this memoir is earnest but never pedantic. Her eye for the ironic, her sense of humor, and her sharp sensitivity to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and colors that surround her make lucid, lively reading.

The Orchard: A Memoir by Theresa Weir.

The Orchard cover illustration Everyone told her that marrying Adrian Curtis was a bad idea. Not only was there the legendary family curse of multiple, mysterious deaths going back generations, there was also the whole idea of life as a farmer's wife, living in a rundown shack, constantly under the scrutiny of in-laws who made no secret of their dislike. As Weir observes her young husband's inexplicably erratic behavior, she also becomes aware of the insidious nature of large-scale apple growing, with its demand for perfection that relies disturbingly on the escalating use of increasingly lethal pesticides. No mere accounting o. life on the farm. Weir's captivating memoir reveals dark undercurrents: environmental destruction due to wanton use of pesticides, emotional devastation due to calculated intimidation, economic degradation due to the inherent poverty of the farming life. Best known for her acclaimed suspense novels written as Anne Frasier, Weir's own story is as harrowing as they come, yet filled with an uncanny self-awareness that leads, ultimately, to redemption.

An Ordinary Man: an Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina.

An Ordinary Man cover illustration As his country was being torn apart by violence during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina refused to succumb to the madness that surrounded him. Confronting killers with a combination of diplomacy, flattery, and deception, he risked his life every day to offer shelter in Kigali's Hotel Mille Collines to more than twelve hundred Tutsis and Hutu moderates, while homicidal mobs raged outside." "In An Ordinary Man, Rusesabagina tells the story of his life for the first time. As the son of a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, he describes what it was like to grow up on a small farm in a country continually plagued by racial and political unrest. We learn of his extraordinary career path, which led him to become the first Rwandan general manger of a Belgian-owned luxury hotel—the Mille Collines—where he formed important relationships with some of the most powerful men in his country. Rusesabagina takes us inside the hotel for those terrible one hundred days in April 1994, an experience that became the inspiration for the film Hotel Rwanda. He gives a vivid account of the anguish that he and his family and friends suffered as they watched their loved ones hacked to pieces, and of the betrayal they felt as a result of the international community's refusal to help. Finally, he explains how he and his family, unable to remain in Rwanda when the crisis was over, eventually settled in Belgium and began rebuilding their lives.

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The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger.

The Perfect Storm cover illustration Junger, a journalist noted for his adventure stories in magazines, reconstructs here the last moments before the wreck of a swordfish boat during a fierce storm off the coast of Nova Scotia in October 1991. The Andrea Gail was a 70-foot, steel-hulled vessel that fished for swordfish using a 30-mile "longline" with thousands of hooks. Junger provides an excellent account of the fishing industry, detailing various fishing techniques; he also chronicles the rowdy lifestyle of fishermen. He recounts harrowing stories of the search and rescue efforts of other vessels caught in the same storm, including a fascinating look at "rescue swimmers." Although none survived on the Andrea Gail, Junger did extensive interviews with families and friends of the crew to put together a cohesive story that reads like a novel.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Teryy Ryan.

The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio cover illustration In the 1950s, the Ryan family struggled to make ends meet. Ten kids and a father who spent most of his paycheck on booze drained the family's meager finances. But mom Evelyn Ryan, a former journalist, found an ingenious way to bring in extra income: entering contests on the backs of cereal boxes and the like. The author, Evelyn's daughter, tells the entertaining story of her childhood and her mother's contest career with humor and affection. She is not a professional narrator, but her love and admiration for her mother come through in every sentence. Evelyn won supermarket shopping sprees that put much-needed food on the table, provided washing machines and other appliances the family couldn't afford, and delivered cash to pay the mounting pile of bills. This well-told, suspenseful tale is peppered with examples of Evelyn's winning poems and slogans, taken from the years of notebooks that she saved and passed on to her daughter, and has a fiction-worthy climax that will keep listeners laughing even as they're glued to Ryan's tale.

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The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

The Professor and the Madman cover illustration When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary put out a call during the late 19th century pleading for "men of letters" to provide help with their mammoth undertaking, hundreds of responses came forth. Some helpers, like Dr. W.C. Minor, provided literally thousands of entries to the editors. But Minor, an American expatriate in England and a Civil War veteran, was actually a certified lunatic who turned in his dictionary entries from the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Ultimately, its hard to say which is more remarkable: the facts of this amazingly well-researched story, or the sound of author Simon Winchesters erudite prose.

Riding the Bus with My Sister: A True Life Journey by Rachel Simon.

Riding the Bus cover illustration

Because Simon's adult sister, Beth, is mentally retarded, she doesn't spend her days the way most people do. Her life is a stark contrast to that of the author, whose professional responsibilities often consume so much of her time that she has virtually no personal life. While Simon spends her days and nights writing and teaching, Beth makes the best of what her limited opportunities and meager income afford her. She rides the buses all day for the sheer joy of passing through the city and interacting with various drivers and passengers. Simon spent a year riding the buses with Beth and learns about a whole new world and a way of looking at life that is completely foreign to most middle-class people. The experience allows Rachel to forge a new understanding about her sister and her own life. The year spent with Beth prompted Rachel to reexamine their upbringing and ultimately to realize that Beth taught her as much as she taught her sister. Riding the Bus with My Sister is absorbing and honest.

A Secret Gift: How One Man's Kindness and a Trove of Letters Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression by Ted Gup.

Secret gift cover illustration

An inspiring account of America at its worst-and Americans at their best-woven from the stories of Depression- era families who were helped by gifts from the author's generous and secretive grandfather. Shortly before Christmas 1933 in Depression-scarred Canton, Ohio, a small newspaper ad offered $10, no strings attached, to 75 families in distress. Interested readers were asked to submit letters describing their hardships to a benefactor calling himself Mr. B. Virdot. The author's grandfather Sam Stone was inspired to place this ad and assist his fellow Cantonians as they prepared for the cruelest Christmas most of them would ever witness. Moved by the tales of suffering and expressions of hope contained in the letters, which he discovered in a suitcase 75 years later, Ted Gup initially set out to unveil the lives behind them, searching for records and relatives all over the country who could help him flesh out the family sagas hinted at in those letters. From these sources, Gup has re-created the impact that Mr B. Virdot's gift had on each family. Many people yearned for bread, coal, or other necessities, but many others received money from B. Virdot for more fanciful items-a toy horse, say, or a set of encyclopedias. As Gup's investigations revealed, all these things had the power to turn people's lives around- even to save them. But as he uncovered the suffering and triumphs of dozens of strangers, Gup also learned that Sam Stone was far more complex than the lovable- retiree persona he'd always shown his grandson. Gup unearths deeply buried details about Sam's life-from his impoverished, abusive upbringing to felonious efforts to hide his immigrant origins from U.S. officials-that help explain why he felt such a strong affinity to strangers in need. Drawing on his unique find and his award-winning reportorial gifts, Ted Gup solves a singular family mystery even while he pulls away the veil of eight decades that separate us from the hardships that united America during the Depression. In A Secret Gift , he weaves these revelations seamlessly into a tapestry of Depression-era America, which will fascinate and inspire in equal measure.

Shackleton's Forgotten Men: The Untold Tragedy of the Endurance Epic by Lennard Bickel.

Shackletons Forgotten Men cover illustration This is a dramatic story of tragedy and survival about the heroic group that was to lay supplies across the Ross Ice Shelf in preparation for the Expedition led by Shackleton. This courageous crew completed the longest sledge journey in polar history and endured near unimaginable deprivation. They accomplished most of their mission, laying the way for those who never came. This story underscores the capacity of ordinary men for endurance and noble action.

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Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson.

Shadow Divers cover illustration This superlative journalistic narrative tells of John Chatterton and Rich Kohler, two deep-sea wreck divers who in 1991 dove to a mysterious wreck lying at the perilous depth of 230 feet, off the coast of New Jersey. Both had a philosophy of excelling and pushing themselves to the limit; both needed all their philosophy and fitness to proceed once they had identified the wreck as a WWII U-boat. The successful completion of their quest fills in a gap in WWII history-the fate of the Type IX U-boat U-869. Chatterton and Kohler's success satisfied them and a diminishing handful of U-boat survivors. While Kurson doesn't stint on technical detail, lovers of any sort of adventure tale will certainly absorb the author's excellent characterizations, and particularly his balance in describing the combat arm of the Third Reich. Felicitous cooperation between author and subject rings through every page of this rare insightful action narrative. .

Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen.

Stealing Buddha's Dinner cover illustration "I came of age before ethnic was cool", the author writes in her carefully crafted memoir of growing up in western Michigan as a Vietnamese refugee in the early 1980s. Swimming in a sea of blond, Nguyen recalls she often felt as if she were dreaming in wheat. No matter that they're mixed, the metaphors powerfully convey the author's experience of being an outsider—not only because she was a Vietnamese surrounded by Dutch descendants but also because she was an incipient writer: My role was to be out of the way, apart and observing. What seems most to have caught her eye and fired her imagination, then as now, was food, which not only provides the title for each chapter of the memoir but also serves as a convenient shorthand for the cultural (and metaphorical) differences between Toll House cookies and green sticky rice cakes, between Pringles and chao gio, between American and Vietnamese. It's a clever device and—like the book itself—leaves the reader hungry for more.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote PeaceOne School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Three Cups of Tea cover illustration Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers' hearts.

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To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America by Tara Bahrampour.

To See and See Again cover illustration Which is better, Iran or America? Growing up in both countries, Tara Bahrampour grew accustomed to hearing this question. Both her American mother and her Iranian father, who met in the early sixties at the University of California, found much to value in both cultures. During the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when Tara was eleven, the family fled Iran with very few possessions and struggled to find a place for themselves in Oregon. As an adult, Tara became the first member of her immediate family to return to Iran. Braving the uncertain and dangerous political climate of a society still in transition, Tara discovered that enormous changes have taken place since her childhood. With tremendous graciousness and fluidity, Bahrampour's writing imparts a clear sense of both the joys and challenges of living biculturally.

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd.

Traveling with Pomegranates cover illustration An introspective and beautiful dual memoir by the #1 New York Times bestselling novelist and her daughter Sue Monk Kidd has touched millions of readers with her novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair and with her acclaimed nonfiction. In this intimate dual memoir, she and her daughter, Ann, offer distinct perspectives as a fifty-something and a twenty-something, each on a quest to redefine herself and to rediscover each other. Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann travel throughout Greece and France. Sue, coming to grips with aging, caught in a creative vacuum, longing to reconnect with her grown daughter, struggles to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and benumbed by the classic question about what to do with her life, grapples with a painful depression. As this modern-day Demeter and Persephone chronicle the richly symbolic and personal meaning of an array of inspiring figures and sites, they also each give voice to that most protean of connections: the bond of mother and daughter. A wise and involving book about feminine thresholds, spiritual growth, and renewal, Traveling with Pomegranates is both a revealing self-portrait by a beloved author and her daughter, a writer in the making, and a momentous story that will resonate with women everywhere.

Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Wait Till Next Year cover illustration Doris Kearns Goodwin fell in love with baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers when she was six and her father taught her how to record the complex symbols and lines in her scorebook. "By the time I had mastered the art of scorekeeping, a lasting bond had been forged between my father and me," she writes about the summer of '49. An exploration of her childhood and pursuit of the stories that defined her parents' lives, this tenderly written memoir has, as its foundation and narrative glue, baseball. We're treated to a history of the Brooklyn Dodgers, as well as to the bleaker events of mid-century America—McCarthyism; the Little Rock Nine (that momentous refusal of then Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus to uphold the Supreme Court ruling to desegregate the schools); the polio scare; the tyranny of the Legion of Decency; and, sadly, Brooklyn losing its Dodgers to California.

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Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt.

Will in the World cover illustration A young man from the provinces—a man without wealth, connections, or university education—moves to London. In a remarkably short time he becomes the greatest playwright not just of his age but of all time. His works appeal to urban sophisticates and first-time theatergoers; he turns politics into poetry; he recklessly mingles vulgar clowning and philosophical subtlety. How is such an achievement to be explained? Will in the World interweaves a searching account of Elizabethan England with a vivid narrative of the playwright's life. We see Shakespeare learning his craft, starting a family, and forging a career for himself in the wildly competitive London theater world, while at the same time grappling with dangerous religious and political forces that took less-agile figures to the scaffold. Above all, we never lose sight of the great works—A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and more—that continue after four hundred years to delight and haunt audiences everywhere. The basic biographical facts of Shakespeare's life have been known for over a century, but now Stephen Greenblatt shows how this particular life history gave rise to the world's greatest writer.