Category Archives: Non-Fiction

One Summer

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Title: One Summer: America 1927

Author: Bill Bryson

Publisher: Doubleday, 2013

Summary/Review: Reading this book is like having a friendly historian take you by the arm and walk you through a momentous summer in America a long time ago – 1927. Not just any summer to be sure, but a summer that included a long list of history-making events:

· The flight of Charles Lindbergh revolutionizing modern flight forever.

· Babe Ruth- changing the way baseball is played forever.

· Prohibition – making alcohol in the United States even more prevalent.

· Sacco and Venzetti – were they guilty? The evidence just wasn’t there.

· The invention of the television – “Commercial Use in Doubt”!!

· Talking motion pictures

And the list goes on.

Bill Bryson weaves the extraordinary story as he moves from one subject to another and breathes life into a time that I did not know much about-until now!

Who will like this book?:  History buffs

If you like this, try this:  If you liked Bill Bryson’s writing, he has quite a few other books – most popular titles include “A Walk in the Woods” and “A Short History of Nearly Everything”.  If you’re interested in more history, Erik Larson (“Devil in the White City”, “Garden of Beasts” is a popular historical author, and Vincent Bugliosi (“Four Days in November”, “Helter Skelter”) deals more with real crime.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like a book you’d like to try, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or to place a hold.

 

Wolf of Wall Street

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Title: Wolf of Wall Street
 
Author: Jordan Belfort
 
Publisher: Bantam Books, 2007
 
Summary/Review: It’s hard to believe that this book is non-fiction because Jordon Belfort, the author and main character of the book, has portrayed his meteoric rise from lowly assistant stockbroker a mega-millionaire as such a farce.  I am sure that there are financial and stock market insights to be gleaned from reading this book, but it is so funny that you don’t care.  The author describes in excruciating detail his all-encompassing desire to eat, drink, self-medicate, and debauch to his heart’s content.  All while earning millions of dollars each month.  He takes us behind the scenes of manipulated IPO’s, some of which seem to be created exclusively to enrich him and his firm.  By the time he is caught out by federal authorities for money laundering, insider trading, and other financial crimes he has been married twice, had two children, and achieved the ripe old age of 36!  This is a morality story but again it is so funny, page after page, that you can simply enjoy it.
 
This book has been made into a movie starring Leonard DeCaprio.
 
Who will like this book?If you saw (and enjoyed) the movie, we always recommend reading the book!  If you’re looking for a funny read about a very serious topic.  If you’re interested in memoirs, finance, or comedy!
 
If you like this, try this: Belfort has written another book about his exploits (and ultimately, his downfall) in “Catching the Wolf of Wall Street”.  If you felt there was anything lacking, this second book of stories may fill in the gaps.  If you’re looking for more information and stories dealing with Wall Street and the people who run it, try “House of Cards” by William Cohan (who also writes “The Last Tycoons”).  Greg Smith also wrote a piece for the New York Times, “Why I Left Wall Street”, which has since been turned into a book after 3 million readers logged onto the Times website to see his account.  This one has a much darker view on the excess and extravagance of Wall Street. 
 
Recommended by: Mark Z, Guest Reviewer
If you’d like to read this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold!
 

Salt, Sugar, Fat

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Title: Salt, Sugar, Fat

Author: Michael Moss.

Publisher: Random House, 2013

Summary/Review: The most striking aspect of this brilliant investigative book is the seeming ease with which household name food manufacturing and marketing corporations manipulate the public into purchasing and consuming more and more foods which offer less and less nutritive value.  The author has gained access to food corporate scientists, business men, and advertising agencies who pull no punches explaining exactly how they hook us from the very earliest ages to crave that which we have been told is actually no good for us:  Salt, Sugar, and Fat.  These ingredients, which are less expensive and easier to use in the manufacturing process than whole natural nutritive ingredients, are the corner stones of many commonly purchased and consumed brand name foods. Specific brand names are given and you will be surprised how much sugar, salt or fat is in your favorite!   There is also extensive discussion of how easily we can all avoid enriching the peddlers of salt, sugar, and fat by simply spending a half hour a day thinking about what we are eating and preparing it ourselves.

Who will like this book?: Anyone who wants to know more about how companies market food to consumers.  Someone looking to become more aware about what they put in their bodies.

If you like this, try this: This is Michael Moss’ first book, but since he’s an investigative reports for the NYT  I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes out with another.  If you’re interested in the social commentary, try Malcolm Gladwell – who also writes non-fiction in such an interesting way you won’t feel bogged down with facts (ex: Blink, What the dog saw).  If you’re interested in making a life change, try “Four Fish” by Paul Greenberg (featured on our blog).  The “good food” revolution is still going strong, so there are plenty of titles to choose from if your focus is just healthier living.

Recommended by: Mark Z, guest reviewer

If this looks like a book you’re interested in, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold.

The Swerve

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Title: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Author: Stephen Greenblatt (narrated by Edoardo Ballerini)

Publisher: WW Norton, 2012

Summary/Review: Stephen Greenblatt (Ph.D. Yale) is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and is a historian.  His most recent book ,winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for general Non Fiction, revolves around a Roman poem  by Lucretius entitled On the Nature of Things. The poem, startling even for its time, asserts that there are only atoms that make up this universe, and the matter and the recombining of matter is all accidental – there is no god who guides and plans our lives; no god that cares about our existence. This is a startling assertion: a very disturbing and very modern idea is postulated about 50 years BCE!

Greek papyrus, Roman papyrus and codex suffer:  the ideas of the ancients deteriorate during the middle ages due to book worms, deterioration of ink and paper, persecution by church officials who deem them heretical, and the general ravages of time.  Enter Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary, scribe and book hunter, who found a neglected copy of On the Nature of Things in a German monastery, copying it and distributing it to his humanist friends, and thus reintroducing important ideas to the Renaissance and beyond, ideas that are even found in our own Declaration of Independence.  There is so much more to this book that I can tell you here – and not all historians agree with Dr. Greenblatt.  But this was a fantastic “listen” – the narrator is excellent.

Who will like this book?:  History buffs and philosophical thinkers.  Someone looking for a non-fiction read that will illuminate the history of thinking.

If you like this, try this:  If you enjoyed Greenblatt’s writing, he has a number of other books – many focused on Shakespeare.  If you’d like to go back to the basics, “On the Nature of Things” is readily available, as are multiple interpretations and writings about the poem.

Recommended by: Susan Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like something you would be interested, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if the book or audiobook are available!

Chanel Bonfire

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Title: Chanel Bonfire

Author: Wendy Lawless

Publisher: Gallery Books, 2013

Summary/Review: Growing up with an alcoholic, narcissistic, and mentally ill mother was by no means easy for Wendy and her younger sister Robin. Keeping the severe dysfunction hidden behind closed doors was even harder. Wendy, the dutiful older daughter, became the glue that held her family together despite the neglectful and manipulative ways of her mother Georgann. Robin on the other hand, had very little patience for her mother’s shenanigans.

Always on the lookout for a rich man and living beyond her means, Georgann moved the girls to New York, London, and Boston (just to name a few) in search of the life she felt she deserved. All the while Georgann maintained that the girls’ biological father had a new family and no longer wanted them. Manipulation was her forte, telling the girls things like “My doctor thinks that if you and your sister appreciated me more, I wouldn’t be so depressed” and “…my doctor thinks that it’s because of you girls that I drink”. As Georgann’s behavior became more erratic and dangerous, the two sisters did all they could to break free from their mother’s grip and live their own lives.

Similar to The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this is a memoir loaded with family dysfunction that reads like a novel and is told with self-reflective honesty and more than a little humor.

Recommended by: Sue B., Circulation

Who will like this?: Someone looking for an amusing memoir that still deals with difficult issues.

If you like this, try this:  The author has a very similar writing style as Jeannette Walls (Glass Castle), so you may want to try out some of her memoirs.  Additionally, Jenny Lawson’s “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened” also deals with difficult issues while still speaking through humor.

If this looks like a book you’d enjoy reading, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and to place a hold!

My Mother Was Nuts

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Title: My Mother Was Nuts: A Memoir

Author: Penny Marshall

Publisher: Brilliance Audio, 2012

Summary/Review: Penny Marshall reminisces about growing up in the Bronx, where she spent most of her time in her mother’s dance studio. She talks about her accidental introduction into acting and her later transition into directing. Her brother Garry may have initially opened the door for her, but Penny’s dedication and talent secured her place in Hollywood. Best known for her role on Laverne & Shirley and as director of Big and A League of Their Own, Penny gets up close and personal on her first marriage and entrance into motherhood, her second marriage to Rob Reiner, and relationship with Art Garfunkel (who knew?!). Surrounded by famous friends (Carrie Fisher and John Belushi–to name a few), Penny offers up many private and often humorous moments.

I loved that the audio book was performed by Penny Marshall, however, I wish she did less “reading her book” and more “telling her story”.

Who will like this book: : In addition to Laverne & Shirley fans, anyone with an interest in Hollywood stars or the seventies/eighties would enjoy this book.

If you like this, try this: My Happy Days in Hollywood by Garry Marshall or Bossypants by Tina Fey.

Recommended by: Sharyn, Circulation

To see if this book is available, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog.  We have it available in both audio and print!

Yankee Miracles

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Title: Yankee Miracles: Life with the Boss and the Bronx Bombers

Author: Ray Negron and Sally Cook

Publisher: Liveright, 2012

Summary/Review: If you read this book, not only will you learn the incredible story of Ray Negron who was “nabbed” by former Yankee owner George Steinbrenner (“The Boss” of the Yankees) you will also be transported into the inner sanctum of the Yankees and Yankee stadium, home of the most storied and decorated sports franchise of all time. Ray Negron became a Yankee batboy when he was caught spray painting, or tagging, the wall of Yankee stadium. As “punishment”, Steinbrenner had him work off repainting the wall by becoming a batboy with all the menial tasks assigned a batboy. He became so beloved in the club house that he stayed with the team and professional baseball his entire career. You will read inside stories about Yankee greats from Mantle to Jeter, championship seasons, runner up seasons, and all the ways Negron and sports page heroes actually do give back to their communities. I recommend this book to all sports enthusiasts–especially the Yankee faithful (and you know who you are!)

Who will like this book?:  Someone who loves Yankees, baseball, or sports in general

Recommended by: Mark Z, guest reviewer

Think this looks like a book you’d like to read?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and place a hold! [Link will open in a new window]

One On One

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Title: One on One:  Behind the Scenes with the Greats in the Game

Author: John Feinstein

Publisher: Little, Brown, & Company 2011

Summary/Review: I don’t know how I keep encountering books like this one. John Feinstein, the incredibly successful sports columnist and author, takes the reader “inside”, way inside, the world of college and professional sports time after time. In this book, the author goes back to interview and to reexamine the subjects of some of his previous investigative books. You are reacquainted with Bob Knight (A Season on the Brink), Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus (The Majors), several Patriot League basketball players (The Last Amateurs), and many, many other internationally famous athletes. Feinstein’s genius for behind-the-scenes, unlimited-access sports reporting and writing allows the lucky reader first-person access to the heroes of just about any game to have watched from afar, your whole life. It’s no surprise that his books, both non-fiction as well as his novels, rise to the top, or very near the top of best-seller lists time and again.

If you enjoy sports of any kind, and are at all interested in the people behind the box scores and headlines, you will only be disappointed when you come to the end of John Feinstein’s latest investigative effort.

Who will like this book?: Those interested in sports, who are interested in getting a more personal look at athletes and sports reporting

If you like this, try this: Frank Deford is one of the more-famous sports writers, and has written a number of books that investigate the sports world.  Additionally, the book “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN” by by James Andrew Miller might be of interest if you’re looking for a book more focused on the world of investigative reporting when it comes to sports.

Recommended by: Mark Z, Guest Reviewer

Dangerous Instincts

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Title: Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us. (Fear Can’t Help You. An FBI Profiler Can)

Author: Mary Ellen O’Toole, Ph.D.

Publisher: Penguin, 2011

Summary/Review: The author knows her business.  She is a retired FBI profiler and has seen and interviewed violent criminals of all types: mass murderers, rapists, kidnappers, pedophiles.  The purpose of this book is to impart to readers how people don’t make safe decisions on a regular basis:  hiring a contractor in the home, deciding at whose home your child can play, or even opening the door to a complete stranger.  We get lulled into a false sense of safety because our biases lead us to deem someone harmless when we really don’t have enough information to make a decision. The author tries to instruct on how to assess risk: physical risk, health risk, social or emotional risk, professional, or financial.  Being a good listener is key; but “listening between the lines” is even better.  She also discusses how to observe a persons behavior to try to make an assessment.  She also discusses those people in our society who are most dangerous:  the sociopath.

Scary when I think of the number of times that I have done exactly what the author warns us against.  I will never be able to read someone’s mind, but I will try to employ some of these techniques in my own danger-filled life!

Who will like this book?:  Those who are interested in psychology, or are interested in true crime.

If you like this, try this:  If you are interested in the psychology topics discussed in the book, Malcolm Gladwell has a number of books, including “Blink” which you may find interesting- especially because he discusses the decisions made on impulse.  “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stout may also be interesting for you, as she discusses the nature of humans and what makes them stray from a healthy psychological profile.

If you would like to learn more about criminal profiling, Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”, Erik Larson’s “Devil in the White City”, and Vincent Bugliosi’s “Helter Skelter” might be good choices, but beware – they may be graphic.

Recommended by: Sue Z, Reference Librarian

If this looks like your kind of book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check if its available and place a hold. [Link will open in a new window]

Going Home

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Title: Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die

Author: Jonathan Katz

Publisher Villard Books, 2011 

Summary/Review: Jonathan Katz is famous for his many books on dogs and life on Bedlam Farm – he’s written seven novels and twelve works of non-fiction.  But he’d never really addressed what happens to someone when an animal that they have loved and cared for dies.  When Katz made the very difficult decision to put down his border collie Orson, he was blindsided by a grief that was so strong, he didn’t quite know how to deal with it, so initially he didn’t.  After some time and healing, he realized that his experience was very similar to others who’d lost pets, so he decided to write a book about it.  This beautiful book will be of real help to anyone who’s said goodbye to an animal that they loved.  Katz addresses not only the grief – he also writes about the guilt that may come from having had to make the decision to end a pet’s life.  Speaking from personal experience, this book is very comforting and a true gift for anyone in pain over the loss of a pet.

Who Will Like ItAnyone who has ever shed a tear over the loss of a beloved pet.

If you like this, try this: As mentioned, Jon Katz has a number of other books including “Dogs of Bedlam Farms”, “A Good Dog”, and “Dog Year”.  If you’re looking for more stories about pets, try “Marley & Me” by John Grogan, or “Dewey” by Vicki Myron.

Recommended by:  Mary, Reference Librarian

If you’d like to read this book, visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and place a hold [Link will open in a new window]