Can It Be True? -or Narrative Nonfiction is Real!

Who doesn’t like to change up the fictional for the true every once in a while? It can be nice knowing the story you’re reading really happened to someone or is a factual event that can be researched for additional information. And it seems like everyone at our narrative nonfiction discussion would agree -sometimes nonfiction just hits the right spot! So would you like to see what everyone had to say about the books they read?

Steve: Last of the Blue and Gray, by Richard A. Serrano, nicely follows preparations for the Civil War centennial in the late 1950’s, in anticipation of the 1961 kickoff commemorations. Another story unfolds within this time period, as the last two veterans of the war vie to outlast the other, one from the Union, and one from the Confederacy. As it turns out, only one is a true veteran though. History and Civil War buffs will especially enjoy this work.

Dori: What Are You Looking At? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz builds the case that modern art is about more than just the craftsmanship, it’s all about the idea behind the work. Starting with impressionism and ending with performance and conceptual art, Gompertz shares stories, anecdotes and a slew of information about the artists that brought us Starry Night (Van Gogh), The Fountain (a urinal turned upside down by Duchamp) and The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (a pickled shark by Damian Hirst). Funny and enlightening, this book opened my mind about modern art.

Emma: On 9/11 the citizens of Gander, Newfoundland (population 10,000) welcomed 6,595 passengers from 38 jetliners bound for the United States who were redirected to their community. Many of their experiences are shared in The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede. For about a week the people of Gander and the surrounding communities provided housing, food, showers, internet access, local transportation, friendship, etc. to the stranded people from all walks of life. A heartwarming tale of the good things people are willing to do in crisis situations.

Carol: Wild by Cheryl Strayed chronicles the journey of self-discovery and forgiveness that the author embarked upon when, at age 26, she set out to hike over 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Her memoir of the experience makes for a gripping, suspenseful, emotional and riveting read–one that soon will be made into a film starring Reese Witherspoon.

Megan: The Eighty-Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts is the story of a dutch immigrant and an unwanted plow horse bound for the slaughterhouse. When Harry de Leyer bought the beat up plow horse for eighty dollars in 1956, he never imagined he was rescuing a future champion. The unlikely pair, to everyone’s surprise, began training for the show-jumping circuit. Together they overcame extraordinary odds, beating the best thoroughbreds, and earned Harry the nickname “the Flying Dutchman.” This is an inspirational story about hope and dreams and a horse that captured the heart of a nation.

Stacey: In Knocking on Heaven’s Door, by Katy Butler, the current approach to health care -particularly for the elderly or chronically ill- is examined as the author shares her own family’s experiences. At the core, this is a personal, heart-felt story in which Ms. Butler is also able to present a well-reasoned argument against the medical community’s current approach of suggesting expensive procedures with long-term consequences over less invasive options that may have similar, or better, results. Such a thought provoking book!

The February genre is… Romance! How funny! (We actually pull the genre topic without looking, that’s why it’s funny!) If you’d like to play along, you’ll want to find a book that focuses on a misunderstanding or circumstances that keep our hero and heroine apart until the very end. Both lead characters will be equally strong and capable but we’ll all be hoping that they find their very own happy ever after!


— Stacey

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