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Posts Tagged ‘non-fiction’

Cover Image A patron recommended this to me at the library and I had never got around to reading it, but then when I was going to be on the train for over 5 hours I thought I would bring it along.  I ended up reading it on my train ride home.  It was completely engrossing.  The first amazing fact is that the book, a biography, was written by the author at the age of 93!!!!!! And now at 96 he is working on another book.  It amazed me that he was able to craft this wonderful story.  I hope I can still talk at 93 let alone write so eloquently (not that I can do that now).  This is the story of the first 12 years of his life living in Manchester, England as a Jewish boy. It is not just his story though, but the story of his street which was divided by an invisible wall.  On one side lived the Christians and on the other the Jews.  It is an amazing snapshot of the time just before WWI that gives you an idea of what life was like then.  Harry was a wonderful, smart boy who took in so much of what was going on around him while not fully understanding at the time what it meant.  This is the story of his family, his friends, and the people that entered his life.  It is a story more of joy than sadness, though there is sadness.  It is marketed as a love story that broke barriers, but it is so much more than that.  It is a commentary of what life was like in a time long gone.  
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Marie Curie is an incredible scientist, but she also led a fascinating life. Krull once again presents the story  of a great scientist and shares more than just he dry facts.  She makes the person come alive  by introducing kids to them in such a way that they can’t hep but be fascinated.  Marie Curie is no different.  Krull  has a narrative approach to the biographies she writes and this makes the person seem more real.  Curie came from a proud Polish family who encouraged education and learning in their home.  It was very rare at the time for women to be seen as even remotely as intelligent as men, but Curie’s father always encouraged his daughters to learn, going so far as to send Marie math problems when she was a governess.  While Marie’s life became consumed by science, it was also consumed by her love for Pierre Curie that helped to balance her life (at least a little).  As someone who usually doesn’t care a jot for science, I find myself enthralled with the people presented in each of Krull’s Giants of Science books.  She makes the people seem real without going over kids heads with the technical science end of things.

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I thought this looked like an interesting non-fiction book that would be filled with interesting information.  Unfortunately, it was poorly written and confusing.  The book reads like a list of princesses without giving any information that girls might be interested in.  The princesses come across as these cutout people without interests of their own.  In addition, the author takes and mixes up contemporary and historical princesses.  You are never really sure that you are reading about the present or past.  Those should have been divided up.  There are little sidebars on most pages that give “details” about the lives of princesses, but sometimes they are narratives nad I am not sure if they are fictional or taken from a source since none are cited.  The layout is fun, but the writing is lackluster and will not grad young girls attention.  I was severely disappointed in this offering.

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Stephen Colbert is hysterically funny.  He takes you through the ins and outs of American society as seen through a crazy conservative person.  His book had me laughing out loud so many times (my husband kept asking,”What is he saying?  What? What is so funny?????”) He is pompous and arrogant and utterly irreverent.  He is so un-pc it cracks me up. Yet by going to the extreme he shows just how insane parts of the country have become.  He covers everything from religion to sex to homosexuals to old people and on and on.  It makes you step back and think (as you are cracking up laughing).  A short read, but completely worth every minute you spend with it!  

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For my husband’s birthday, I purchased tickets for us to go on an architectural tour based on Devil in the White City.  Jon had read it, but I had not gotten around to it.  Well today was the day of the tour and I, of course, waited til the last minute to read the book and was only halfway through the book by the time we went.  However, I did finish it tonight and feel now like I had a day full of the greatest event Chicago has ever seen. (The tour was quite interesting by the way and I would recommend it, though it did have to stretch the tie-ins to the book.)

I was very impressed with the book.  IT is written in a very conversational tone which is often lacking in non-fiction books of this nature.   I am ashamed to admit that I knew little of hte world’s fair before reading this despite the fact that I am a Chicago (suburbs) native.  Yet, now I feel, if not an expert, at least marginally more informed.  I feel like I don’t need to go into plot summary because hasn’t everyone heard of this book?  But mayhap not.  It tells the tell of the building of the White City as the Chicago Columbian Exhibition was dubbed.  Built for the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing, it was to rival that of the French world fair from a few years before.  It also tells the tale of the 1st serial killer in America.  The stories are interwoven and tell the tale from many different viewpoints.  What amazed me was that Burnham (who essentially ran the building of the fair) had only 27 months to design, build, and open this place.  It is truly amazing when you realize that the fair covered a square mile.  Larson really depicts what life was like back then and all the trials and tribulations that happened before the fair began.  It is an engrossing read (probably why it is still si popular despite having been published over 4 years ago.  I strongly recommend it, especially if you live in Chicago and want to get a behind the scenes look at one of the city’s claims to fame.  You won’t be disappointed. 

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