What do you do when you’d like to read a good book, but you want it to be a real(ly) good book? Well, you could do what we just did and pick up a nonfiction book that is just as much storytelling as it is a reporting of factual information! I enjoyed hearing what everyone had to say and I hope you do to!
Evelyn: The Ungarnished Truth: A Cooking Contest Memoir by Ellie Mathews. This is the story behind the story of Ellie Mathews, who won the Pillsbury Bake-Off in 2008 with her quick and easy recipe for Salsa Couscous Chicken–a recipe she concocted on a whim using Old El Paso salsa. Up against major players in the contest world, Ellie’s fresh, uncomplicated look at things is poignant and even humorous. Thinking she’d be happy if she just ended up a semi-finalist, she wowed everyone by taking home the million dollars.
Carol: Fifth Avenue, 5 AM : Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the modern woman by Sam Wasson. In “Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.” Sam Wasson examines everything “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” how it was nearly cast (w/ Marilyn Monroe!), how Truman Capote wanted nothing to do with making the film, how it was nearly not made (several times) and changed directors as often. He begins by summarizing the early career of Audrey Hepburn, the ordeal of casting her as Holly Golightly and how screenplay writers chose to translate the blatant sex from the book to the silver screen.
Donna: The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels-A Love Story by Ree Drummond. This book was a delightful, entertaining and easy-to-read account of the author’s unlikely romance with a real cowboy , their eventual marriage and move to her husband’s, the Marlboro Man, cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Drummond is a blogger and author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Her website is http://thepioneerwoman.com. This memoir also includes several mouth-watering recipes to try.
Emma: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson is a fun book for anyone wanting to reminisce about simpler times. The author grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in Des Moines, Iowa. His father was a successful sports writer for the Des Moines Register. His mom was a “home furnishings” reporter for the same newspaper. When Bill was 6-years-old he found a sweater decorated with a satin thunderbolt and so the amazing “thunderbolt kid” was born. Bill pretended that he had special powers enabling him to vaporize people that gave him a hard time.
Megan: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is the story of how scientists took samples of cervical cancer cells from an African-American woman without her permission and developed an immortal human cell line. This cell line has played a pivotal role in groundbreaking medical discoveries in areas such as cancer research, gene mapping, and infertility. While advancements in science and great wealth was made from these cells, Henrietta’s family remained poor and ignorant of the truth behind her cells. The science aspect of this story is fascinating and thought-provoking, but not too science. The story of Henrietta’s personal legacy, her children, and the impact that her cell line had on them is disturbing. This engrossing book, while well-researched and full of medical history reads like fiction.
Chris: The Best American Science and Nature Writing, the 2010 version edited by Freeman Dyson is filled with fascinating information about what’s going on in the areas of space, neurology, natural beauty and the environment. All the essays are very accessible; many were taken from the pages of The New Yorker, National Geographic, even GQ. A few I particularly enjoyed were “Don’t,” “Hearth Surgery,” “Brain Games,” and “The Superior Civilization” which informed me that stilts could be put on ants. Why else but to prove that they were counting steps in order to return to their nest?
Rosemary: And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for my own Dirt Road by Margaret Roach is pretty much summed up in the subtitle. Margaret had a brilliant career as an editor for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and also as an editor for the New York Times. After 9/11 she began to question the basic tenets of her life and somehow her career and material success no longer held sway over the longings of her inner life. It took five or six years of thinking and planning, but recently Margaret moved to her home in the country for good. This memoir details the good, the bad, and the feline.
Dori: In The Emperor of Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer physician and researcher, weaves together the biological, political, and sociological threads of cancer, creating a moving and articulate study of this horrible disease.
Janet: Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore tells the story of an unlikely friendship between an international art dealer and a homeless man. Debbie Hall, Ron’s wife, felt called by God to help the homeless people of Fort Worth, Texas at The Union Gospel Mission. Ron agreed to volunteer with Debbie one day a week. Over time Deborah’s involvement continued to grow and Ron agreeably followed her ideas including becoming a friend with Denver Moore. Same Kind of Different As Me is the story of Deborah, Ron and Denver. Their journey is inspirational and certainly memorable.
Julie: The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova-Bailey is part natural history, part memoir. It tells of the author’s battle with a devastating illness and the little snail who made such a huge difference in that struggle. You might think it would be a sad, dry read but the elegant prose instead produces an interesting and inspiring read. Definitely try it!
Ann: Tales of an African Vet by Roy Aronson takes you with this South African veterinarian as he treats exotic animals such as a little squirrel monkey, a lion, and a baby elephant. The squirrel monkey that Dr. Aronson thought was doomed makes a miraculous recovery. The baby elephant, stuck in the mud, and abandoned by his mother and aunties is pulled out in the nick of time and saved; he goes on to be one of the elephants at the wildlife refuge that gives rides to visitors touring the refuge. Dr. Aronson gets a surprise when he is sitting alone in the back of a truck with a lion who had been given anesthesia, and everyone felt was down for the count, but the lion suddenly lifts his head and roars- luckily he then drops his head and goes back to sleep. Lots of interesting adventures in these tales.
Stacey: 365 Thank Yous by John Kralik is John’s story of how he turned his life around by writing 365, simple notes to let people know he appreciated their thoughtfulness. It started with notes in return for material gifts he had received. John took pains to acknowledge the thought behind the gift and it helped him to realize how much he had in his life that made him truly happy. This book is inspirational without being preachy and I can’t believe anyone could read it without sending at least one thank you note of their own!
Next time? We’re going to hit the dusty trails and head to the Wild West of the past! If you want to come along for the ride, you’ll want to find a book set in the American West with a clear-cut hero who has stepped up to fight against a dastardly person -or situation. Most often they are set in the past and have a strong sense of place thanks to the wide-open plains, rugged mountains, or wide desert areas. Yee-haw, saddle up pardner!