Category Archives: Non-Fiction

Soldier Girls

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Title: Soldier Girls

Author: Helen Thorpe

Publisher: Scribner, August 2014

Summary/Review: A thoroughly touching look at the circumstances and lives of three women in Indiana who, for various reasons, have enlisted in the National Guard. A common thread is an attempt to utilize their service to further their secondary educations with the assistance of the GI Bill. The last thing any of them expect is to be sent to a war zone. But that is exactly what happens when the US becomes ensnared in Afghanistan and Iraq. We see the economic, emotional and family hardships exacted upon these women by prolonged absence from family and friends. We learn how difficult it is to be a woman in the almost-entirely male national guard and then in the US armed services overseas.

The three women are at different ages and points in their lives as they struggle (that’s the only word for their trials) to adapt, thrive and survive the day-to-day boredom, danger and stress of providing administrative, repair and support services, since they are banned from “combat” duties. They are, however, certainly in harm’s way every time they venture outside the US compounds where they work and live while on duty.

This is a look at women in vastly different economic and educational situations than most of us in southern Connecticut experience and certainly enlightens us about the real people behind the headlines and media coverage which barely touches on the human cost of repetitive and prolonged deployments experienced by the citizen-soldiers in the US National Guard services. You will enjoy the time you spend learning about the lives of these three women.

Who will like this book?: Someone looking for a new perspective on war and deployment.

If you like this, try this: Helen Thorpe has written only one other book, “Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America”, but be on the lookout for more from this author. If you are looking for books about war and deployment, try “Undaunted: The Real Story of America’s Servicewomen in Today’s Military” which offers another take on women in the military, or “Fives and Twenty-Fives” by Michael Pitre.

Recommended by: Mark Z, Guest Reviewer

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

100 Years and 3 Days

This week we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Florence Green, the last known WWI veteran, died in 2012 at age 110. Frank Buckles, the last living U.S. WWI veteran died in 2011, also at age 110. Here are today’s reading suggestions if you would like to learn more about this global conflict, or if you want a novel set during that time period.

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Waiting for Sunrise: a novel                                                                                                                       By William Boyd

“Sex, psychiatry and Vienna on the eve of World War I – those are promising ingredients for a novel. And William Boyd makes the most of them. . . . Boyd’s narrative moves briskly, and his local color is deftly done.” ~The Seattle Times

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Waiting for Sunrise: a novel please click here.

The Lie                                                                                                                                                            By Helen Dunmore

“[A] tender tale… subtle and enduring…A quiet tragedy… a poet’s feeling for language shines through the descriptions of the landscape…in this novel Dunmore has wreaked tenderness out of tragedy, so that the reader is left with the sense that something beautiful, however fleeting, has been salvaged from the darkness.” ~The Observer (UK)

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on The Lie please click here.

Somewhere in France                                                                                                                                  By Jennifer Robson

“Utterly engaging and richly satisfying, Somewhere in France depicts the very best in love and war. Fans of Downton Abbey will devour this novel!”  ~author Erika Robuck

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Somewhere in France please click here.

Women Heroes of World War I : 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics                 By Kathryn J. Atwood

“In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote.” ~Amazon.com

If you would like to check our catalog or place a hold on Women Heroes of World War I : 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics please click here.

 

100 Years and 2 Days

World War I, which began 100 years ago Monday, involved a total of 76 current nations and more than 65,000,000 troops. Here are today’s suggested fiction and non-fiction titles that are set during or around The Great War.

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The Secret Life of Violet Grant                                                                                                                  By Beatriz Williams

“Rumor has it that Violet murdered her husband and mentor, Dr. Walter Grant, before mysteriously disappearing with her lover on the eve of WWI. As Vivian closes in on the past, she has a heart-wrenching problem of her own to resolve in the present. Readers will love wallowing in the twists and turns of this irresistibly luxurious tale.” ~Booklist

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Secret Life of Violet Grant, please click here.

Stella Bain: a novel                                                                                                                                       By Anita Shreve

“An intriguing character study that delivers compelling mystery without melodrama. Shreve offers a fresh, feminine twist on a topic that’s much in vogue lately-World War I…. Shreve cleverly and movingly shifts between Stella’s two lives, as we learn who she really is. A custody battle, a horrible case of wartime disfigurement, and even questions of women’s rights emerge in this spare but involving novel….” ~USA Today

To check our catalog or place a hold on Stella Bain: a novel, please click here.

The Canal Bridge                                                                                                                                              By Tom Phelan

“From Phelan’s effectively constructed and emotionally honest novel about Irish participation in WWI, the reader gains a new perspective on how the Great War decimated lives throughout Europe.” ~Booklist

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Canal Bridge, please click here.

The Great War : a Combat History of the First World War                                                                   By Peter Hart

“Hart demonstrates an admirable command of the subject matter and offers a compelling case for the lasting impact of the ‘unwaking nightmare that was WWI.'”
~Publishers Weekly

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Great War : a Combat History of the First World War, please click here.

100 Years and a Day

This week we are highlighting some novels set during or around World War I. We’ll also share a few non-fiction titles to commemorate this historic event. 100 years and a day ago, World War I, “The Great War”, began and would last more than 4 years.

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The Shoemaker’s Wife
By Adriana Trigiani
“Trigiani’s page-turning newest… is a sweeping saga… More than an epic romance, Trigiani’s work pays homage to the tribulations of the immigrant experience, and the love that makes the journey and hardships worthwhile.” ~Publishers Weekly

To check our catalog or place a hold on The Shoemaker’s Wife, please click here.

The First of July
By Elizabeth Speller
“Utterly gripping and completely immersing, Speller’s historical novel of WWI captures the experience of four very different young men during the war’s early years, leading up to one of the grimmest campaigns, the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916.” ~ Booklist

To check our catalog or place a hold on The First of July, please click here.

Ashton Park
By Murray Pura
“For fans of the hugely popular Downton Abbey series, comes this equally enthralling story of the Danforth family of Ashton Park… The year is 1916. The First World War has engulfed Europe and Sir William’s and Lady Elizabeth’s three sons are all in uniform—and their four daughters are involved in various pursuits of the heart and soul.” ~Amazon.com

To check our catalog or place a hold on Ashton Park, please click here.

Sergeant Stubby : How a Stray Dog and His Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation
By Ann Bausum
“For those who loved New York Times bestseller Rin Tin Tin comes the memorable story of Sergeant Stubby–World War I dog veteran, decorated war hero, American icon, and above all, man’s best friend.” ~Amazon.com

To check our catalog or place a hold on Sergeant Stubby : How a Stray Dog and His Best Friend Helped Win World War I and Stole the Heart of a Nation, please click here.

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!