Category Archives: Non-Fiction

When We Were the Kennedys

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Title: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine

Author: Monica Wood

Publish: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Summary/Review: When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico Maine by Monica Woods is an endearing memoir told from the voice of a nine year old girl. It is 1963 and the family patriarch is felled by a heart attack on his way to work at the local paper mill. Left behind are a mother and her five children including a daughter with special needs.

The author writes beautifully of the bonds between families, neighbors and co-workers. Her Uncle Bob, a Catholic priest and her Mom’s youngest brother, does his best to be the man of the family even when he is so devastated by their loss. In this memoir you are transported back to the early 1960’s and what is was like to grow up during this time like reading Nancy Drew, and riding your bike all over town, and making up games with neighborhood friends. It is also the story of a mill town and what happens when there are union issues and when the plants are sold to outside entities that have no ties to the town.

Woods is a fiction writer so the book flows like a novel. Although the author writes from a nine year old perspective it is not saccharine and sweet; rather the narrative is reminiscent of a more innocent time. The title of the book is somewhat misleading since the reference to the Kennedy’s is that Jackie and her children lost their father and husband in the same year that this family suffers their devastating loss. This book is written with humor and love and is a touching story of healing and families.

Who will like this? Memoir readers, people who grew up in the 1960’s, people who appreciate good writing.

If you like this, try this: ”Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood” by Alexander Fuller, “The Tender Bar” by J.R. Moehringer,” The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls.

Recommended by: Claudia, Technical Services Assistant

Does this look like a book you would like to try?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available and/or place a hold [link will open in a new window]

Hiking Through

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Title: “Hiking Through: One Man’s Journey to Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail”

Author: Paul Stutzman

Publisher: Revell, A Division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan- 2012

Summary: All his life, Paul Stutzman dreamed of hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a hiking adventure of 2,176 miles. Paul was not looking to be a section hiker, hiking small sections of the trail at a time, but to experience the Appalachian Trail as a thru-hiker, doing the hike from start to finish continuously over an extended period of time. Like most people, Paul’s dream was put on hold by day to day life. The challenges of paying a mortgage, raising three children and paying college tuition, car payments and working full time along with his wife. Paul and his wife Mary looked forward to retiring together and doing all the things that they never had time to do while working full time and raising a family. Unfortunately, life threw them a curve ball, and Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer. After four years, Mary lost her battle with cancer. Paul is devastated and does not know how to pick up the pieces of his life and to work through his grief. His dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail now seems like a way for him to heal. But how can he quit his job of 25+ years in the food industry and pack up and leave for several months? He is torn between his own desire to pursue his dream and the guilt he feels by leaving everything behind. Paul takes us on his personal journey of a lifetime. He quits his job and spends 4 ½ months on the Appalachian Trail. Along the way he experiences the kindness of strangers and the friendship of several thru-hikers. It is truly an amazing story of strangers coming together to share one common goal and the challenges they face in their quest to fulfill their dream. It is a very unique bond that is formed out in the middle of the woods. Paul’s remarkable journey was about more than just hiking. In the book, he states “In one month, I had gained more insights on life than I had in many, many years past.” This book will make you laugh and make you cry. You can’t help but become a part of Paul’s journey and anticipate the challenges he faces each day spent on the trail. His writing will touch your heart. There are moments when he questions his own sanity of quitting his job and walking over 2,000 miles. His faith and his sense of humor were of great help along the way. There were days when he questioned his desire to stay on the trail and reach his goal at the top of Mount Katahdin, but he never gave up. Paul reminds all of us that we spend so much time preparing for the future that we neglect to enjoy the present. He said his experience on the Appalachian Trail changed his life. I loved this book! It is fun, it is inspiring, and it is one man’s choice to take that first courageous step. As a day hiker, this book even had me thinking about a thru-hike. It is an amazing story of change and healing, stepping out of one’s comfort zone and a little trail magic along the way.

To read his blog and see pictures of his hike, visit Paul Stutzman at www.hikingthrough.com

Who Will Like this? Anyone with an adventurous streak. Anyone with dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail (or any other hikes). Those who enjoy hiking, or just reading about it. Anyone looking for great inspiration or motivation to turn a dream into a reality. Anyone with a love of the outdoors.

If you like this, try this: “Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peak Bagging Adventure” by Patricia Ellis Herr, “A Walk In The Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson, “In Beauty May She Walk: Hiking the Appalachian Trail at Age 60” by Leslie Mass, “Halfway To Heaven: My White Knuckled and Knuckleheaded Quest for the Rocky Mountain High” by Mark Obmascik.

Recommended by: Laura, Technical Services Department

Does this look like your kind of read?  Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to check if it’s available and to place a hold!

Bringing up Bebe

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Title: Bringing Up Bebe

Author: Pamela Druckerman

Publisher: Penguin Press, NY 2012

Summary: This is less a manual on raising children than it is a comparison on how mostly upper middle class children are raised in France and America. Pamela Druckerman, a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal, lives in Paris with her husband and three children. She started to think about “French parenting” after experiencing restaurant hell while on vacation with her first child, an 18 month old. Dinner was a horrifying, embarrassing experience involving picking up torn napkins and sugar packets, running after the child and leaving large tips to compensate for the mess left behind. After a few meals she noticed that the French families with children the same age as her daughter actually seemed to be enjoying themselves. The French children were sitting and eating, not shrieking, running around and tossing food and condiments on the floor. You can either consider this situation in the light of your own, possibly too relaxed, parenting skills or write a book about the differences between French and American parenting tactics. Pamela Druckerman decided on option #2.

I’m loath to condemn this entire country for sloppy, permissive parenting but I’m sure everyone knows that family with the kids that you just want to smack with a rolled up newspaper. I’ve never understood the concept of the child as the head of the household. Unless you’re contributing an income stream that far exceeds my own (and there probably are three year olds that do have an income stream that far exceeds my own) you might be a part of the household, but you are not the head. And that is a concept that does come through loud and clear in Bringing Up Bebe, the child is a part of the family unit, not the center. But is that a cultural concept or just plain common sense?

Two more desired attributes in a child that are mentioned in Druckerman’s book are the cultivation of self-reliance and allowing the child the freedom to learn on their own. I don’t know if there’s a term for “helicopter parent” in the French lexicon. Druckerman mentions her intention to childproof their apartment while renovating, including placing kidproof locks on every appliance and installing the type of oven door that doesn’t get hot. Her contractor, Regis, says the best way to childproof an oven is to “let the kid touch it once and he’ll quickly learn it’s hot.” Those second degree burns are a real learning experience.

I can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to raise a spoiled, dependent, self-centered child who is incapable of amusing themselves, a constant annoyance to everyone around them and will grow up lacking the skills needed to become an independent, self- supporting adult that you will be stuck with until you have the good fortune to die and then they will be cast homeless, helpless and clueless into the street to live out the rest of their miserable life eating from garbage cans and swilling cheap wine under a viaduct. But it happens.

Who Will Like This: Anyone interested in differing parenting techniques.

If you like this, try this: How Eskimos keep their babies warm : and other adventures in parenting around the world (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) by Mei-Ling Hopgood Battle hymn of the tiger mother by Chua, Amy.

Recommended by: Sue D’Num, Library Assistant

Does this look like a book that interests you? Visit the Fairfield Public Library catalog to see if it’s available or to place a hold! [Link will open in a new window]

The Fiddler in the Subway

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Title: The Fiddler in the Subway: The true story of what happened when a world-class violinist played for handouts - and other virtuoso performances by America’s foremost feature writer

Author: Gene Weingarten

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, July 2010

Summary: If you take one of the worlds best musicians and place him in the middle of one of the nation’s busiest subway stations and have him play his heart out, will anyone stop and listen? In this collection of sharply observed essays, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten shows why he is the only person to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing twice. Not only is he a brilliant writer (or, ‘investigative humorist,’ as he calls himself), he chooses to write on a variety of subjects from the ridiculous (trying to incite the French to be rude to him in Paris) to the sublime (witnessing the lengths to which a concerned citizenry will go in order to save a small bird trapped in a shop window.) Along the way, you will discover that the highest paid children’s performer in the D.C. area, “The Great Zucchini,” is a man whose personal demons might be his greatest professional asset, and you will meet the residents of Battle Mountain, NV, who might just live in “The Armpit of America.”

Like any great humorist, Weingarten is not afraid of pointing out his own shortcomings. Like any great journalist, he is willing to get to the root of his subject, even if what he finds there is chilling, disturbing, or deeply tragic. Many people believe Weingarten is the best essayist in America. Readers of this book would have a hard time arguing with that.

Who will like this book?: This is a great book for all general non-fiction readers – the essays cover a wide array of topics. And as Weingarten is a former editor, this book is also full of useful information and inspiration for writers.

If you like this, read this: How Did You Get This Number? by Sloane Crosley. I’ll Mature When I’m Dead by Dave Barry. Don’t Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

Wishful Drinking

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TitleWishful Drinking

Author:  Carrie Fisher

Publisher: Simon & Schuster, December 2008

Summary: Typically, the children of movie stars and celebrities grow up with an unusual lifestyle; one that only you or I could hardly begin to imagine. Carrie Fisher, daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, and perhaps best known for sporting her Princess Leia hair buns, takes unusual to the next level, and tells us all about her life journey and experiences in her hilarious and revealing biography, “Wishful Drinking”.  From playing dressup in her mother’s closet with her brother to getting drug abuse advice from Cary Grant to details of electro-shock therapy, pick up Carrie Fisher’s book today for a quick, entertaining and poignant look into this unique life.

Recommended by: Merry, Municipal Web Librarian

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

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Title: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

Author: Paul Greenberg

Publisher: Penguin Group, July 2010

Summary: The title refers to four types of fish popular for consumption:  salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna.  I found this  book to be very well-written and researched. The author did not cop a “wholier than thou” attitude about whether you should or should not eat fish and was very much aware that his attitude may not be shared.

He made some very interesting observations about fish and the ocean providing wild food (and fish as wildlife, much as wolves, elephants, dolphins and whales are now considered wildlife), and not just exploitable beings. One of the most thought-provoking themes was the farming of fish, the commercial breeding of fish to bring out specific characteristics for human consumption and production, and the “necessity” of maximizing the protein potential of the sea’s creatures for human nutrition since land-based animals produced for food are rapidly approaching their maximum land-based potential.

The author made very clear statements about the ocean ecology as a whole, not just as it applies to catching and eating fish. He also approaches all of his discussions with the attitude of someone who grew up fishing and enjoys fishing both for sport and the food it can produce.

Who will like this book? Foodies, conservationists and some sports-minded people.

Recommended by: Mark Z., Guest Reviewer

Intimacy After Breast Cancer

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TitleIntimacy After Breast Cancer: Dealing with Your Body, Relationships and Sex

Author:  Gina M. Maisano

Publisher: Square One Publishers, May 2010

Summary: This book is misnamed – more appropriately it is about LIFE after breast cancer.  You finish all your surgeries and treatments and then the doctors leave you alone – very alone.  Ms Maisano is a two-time breast cancer survivor who is wonderfully upbeat about telling other survivors to LIVE their lives, not to remain in “cancerland”.  She offers tips on lymphedema, skin care, dealing with side effects of various medications, adjusting to the physical new ‘you’, and how to prepare yourself physically and emotionally for intimacy.

Recommended by: Lauren, Reference Dept.

Cranioklepty

TitleCranioklepty

Author:  Colin Dickey

Publisher: Unbridled Books, September 2009

Summary: What do Haydn, Beethoven and Mozart all have in common besides being great composers? For one thing, they all had their skulls, or at least part of their skulls, stolen from their graves. Cranioklepty relates the intriguing history of Phrenology and the attempts made by phrenologists to validate their beliefs. According to Webster, phrenology is “the study of the conformation of the skull based on the belief that it indicates mental faculties and character traits.” It was developed in 1796 by Franz Gall and was very popular through the 1800’s. There were famous supporters of phrenology, including Walt Whitman who made references to it in some of his writings. There were famous skeptics as well. Mark Twain was openly critical when writing about the skull readings he received. Phrenologists were careful to “not to predict genius from the shape of the skulls but instead to confirm the already established genius in the heads before them.”

Skulls of prisoners and insane asylum patients were easy to acquire, but phrenologists were desperate to study the skulls of famous citizens, especially anyone with creative or intellectual genius. Since no one was offering to donate their skulls to this strange science, practitioners had to resort to grave robbing. The collecting of skulls became a hobby for some, and an obsession for others. Elaborate glass cases were designed to display the skulls in homes and offices. What we think of as morbid today, was thought of very differently in the 19th century. Keeping relics of someone you knew or admired was considered an honor. One collector, Joseph Hyrtl, donated his collection which is now housed in Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum. If you are a fan of the macabre, you should read Cranioklepty. If you are ever in Philadelphia, you should visit the Mutter Museum.

Who will like this book? Fans of  the bizarre and slighly morbid.

Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator

Logicomix

Title: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

Author: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papademitriou

Publisher: Bloomsbury, September 2009

Summary: Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher, pacifist and lightning rod, was one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. This ambitious graphic biography focuses equally on his turbulent personal life and his groundbreaking work in the area of mathematical logic. We follow Russell as he discovers a paradox and works (and reworks) his theories. He teams with and is opposed by heavyweights of early twentieth-century philosophy,  including Wittgenstein and Godel, all the while searching for truth and remaining haunted by the madness he believes is constantly circling him.

Bertrand Russell affected – and was affected by – some of the most dramatic personalities and events of the twentieth century. While a graphic  novel about math and philosophy might not seem like the most enticing subject, in the hands of  these gifted writers and illustrators, Russell’s story comes to life in surprising and compelling ways.

Who will like this book?: People interested in the history of science, technology and math.

If you like this, try this: For another unique take on philosophy, try The Book of Dead Philosophers by Simon Critchley. Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Ian Stewart. If you are as clueless about math and science as I am, check out 100 Most Important Science Ideas by Mark Henderson.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian

The Kids Are All Right

Title: The Kids are All Right: A Memoir

Authors: Diana, Liz, Dan and Amanda Welch

Publisher: Harmony, September 2009

Summary: In 1983, the four Welch children lose their beloved father in a tragic car accident, and within months their still-grieving, soap opera-star mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. This gripping saga is emotional, poignant and hard to put down. The family lives in upper crust Bedford, New York. Their father is an investment banker who, unknown to the rest of the family, was in deep financial debt, forcing their mother to support the family. Sadly, the mother succumbs to the illness early in the story, leaving four young children in a state of shock and confusion. This is the story of these lost souls who muddle their way through a dysfunctional childhood and tumultuous teenage years.

The memoir is told in alternate voices of the four Welch children, giving each of them the opportunity to recall their own memories. The combination of despair, hurt, hope and survival makes this memoir a captivating read. I very much look forward to hearing Liz Welch tell her personal story when she visits the Fairfield Woods Branch Library on February 17 at 7:00.

Recommended by: Laurie, Branch circulation and book club leader