Discussion Forums - Biographies & Memoirs

Topic: 2012 - TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION - NF Reading Challenge - DISCUSSION

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
Page:   Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: 2012 - TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION - NF Reading Challenge - DISCUSSION
Date Posted: 11/24/2011 5:58 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,130
Back To Top

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION

This year there are 16 categories to choose from, and 3 levels of participation.

DABBLER -  Read books from 4 different categories -For those who don't read a lot of nonfiction but would like to add a little to this year's reading

WELL READ - Read books from 8 different categories -For those who like NF but want to leave room for lots of fiction too

ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE - Read books from 12 categories -For those who love NF and want to read a different category each month

The Categories:

1. Anthropology (Physical, Cultural, Linguistic or Archaeology)

2. Arts (Fine or Performing)

3. Biography/Memoirs

4. Current Events

5. Entertainment

6. Food/Nutrition/Culinary Arts

7. Georgraphy/History

8. Medicine/Helath

9. Nature/Animals

10. Philosophy/Spirituality/World Religions

11. Science/Math/Technology

12. Social Science

13. Sports/Recreation/Physical Fitness

14. Travel

15. True Crime

16. Reader's Choice

These categories should allow for everyone's preferences as well as a little "stretching".  Some categories overlap a little, so you can use your judgment where to put any particular book.

There is also a PARTICIPATION BONUS category.  To complete the bonus, you have to post in the discussion thread at least a couple of lines about each book you finish--telling us what the book was about, and why you liked or disliked it.  You should also mark the books in your list "completed" and the date.

***Anyone who completes EIGHT OR MORE books for this challenge, and follows the Participation Bonus guidelines, will receive a PBS book credit at the end of the year! (In order to receive a credit you will have had to create your list no later than 6/30/12 and have posted in the discussion thread about your first book read no later than 9/30/12.)***

There's a separate thread for lists only.

HAVE FUN!

Diane

 

 

 



Last Edited on: 11/24/11 6:07 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 11/29/2011 9:16 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
Back To Top

Diane - great job! And, the participation bonus!!

Date Posted: 12/15/2011 1:34 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 26,635
Back To Top

Great list.  I've decided to read the oldest of my TBR for each category.   This year I hope to clean out several boxes of books and make
some room.

Date Posted: 12/31/2011 11:38 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,130
Back To Top

Well, here we are on the eve of the new reading year!  I haven't listed my books yet, I probably only have half of them in my mind and those are still tenuous.  I'm thinking the first book I'll read for this challenge will be a medical subject because that's what I feel in the mood for.  What book do you think will start out 2012 for you? 

Diane

Date Posted: 1/1/2012 2:06 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
Back To Top

I think I will read Paddle the Amazon by Starkell for my first book. I want to finish my book club book first and then start my challenge books. Diane - we have joined many of the same challenges :-)

Here's to an enjoyable reading year!

 

Date Posted: 1/1/2012 5:43 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,130
Back To Top

Well, as usual, I changed my mind about which book would be my first challenge book started today.  I had planned on a mystery, I had it packed in my bag on my way out the door for a long trip on public transportation, and at the last minute exchanged it for a nonfiction.  It's called The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear by Seth Mnookan.  It's about the way the media reported the now-debunked research claiming that vaccines cause autism, which cause people to stop vaccinating their children and as a result, there's now a surge in diseases that were once considered eradicated in the US.  I thought at first to put it under medicine, but it really fits better under sociology.  The author also talks about the public's reaction to other vaccinations in the past, including some vaccine failures/problems.

This is an interesting book for me to read, because I have a major skepticism about certain aspects of the medical profession.  On the other hand, the same skepticism extends to alternative treatments, so I'm trying to see both sides of this issue.   I'm agreeing with most of what the author says, but then he'll make a statement that I take exception to.  So it's making for lively reading--very enjoyable so far, I finished about a third of the book while out on my trip today.

Diane

Date Posted: 1/2/2012 2:06 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
Posts: 10,392
Back To Top

I'll participate!  I was one category shy last year, but this year I'm going to complete the challenge!  yes

Date Posted: 1/2/2012 2:12 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 26,635
Back To Top

I got halfway through my last book by midnight on NYE.  Does that count as finished?  wink
If not I'm still reading the rest of it and I'll count it toward this year.

 
So far it's pretty interesting.  I'm learning more about penguins than I ever wanted to know.   It's a wee bit repetative, but all in all,
a good read.
 


Last Edited on: 1/2/12 2:15 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/2/2012 2:34 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

Looks like my first category will be true crime...I'm reading The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (about Ted Bundy).

Date Posted: 1/2/2012 6:14 PM ET
Member Since: 5/4/2009
Posts: 87
Back To Top

I've started reading How the Dog Became the Dog: from Wolves to Our Best Friends by Mark Derr - for the nature/animals category.

Date Posted: 1/2/2012 7:18 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
Posts: 10,392
Back To Top

The Mark Derr books are always good.  I started reading one a few years ago, but left it on an airplane.  crying

we need a banner for our challenge, but I am too inept to make one...... any volunteers?  LOL!  I'll buddy a credit to whoever is willing and able to make one.



Last Edited on: 1/2/12 7:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Geography/History
Date Posted: 1/9/2012 7:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

Tony Horwitz is a favorite author of mine and his latest book, "Midnight Rising:  John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War", did not disappoint.  It is a book with lots of historical detail in it but reads like a novel.  I learned a lot about the life and times of John Brown and why the raid at Harpers Ferry was such a pivotal event in American history. 

Date Posted: 1/10/2012 5:03 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 2,929
Back To Top

Finished more than the minimun number of eight reads for this challenge by reading ten (10) books from my listing.  Hope to do more if time allows.

Creatures of Accident by Wallace Arthur for Nature/Animals:.  Interesting indeed!  The author explains the ladder theory of evolution, moving up in development of a species in contrast to lateral development, whereby a species adapts to a changing environment such as the pepper moth developing a dark color to blend into smoky atmopheres rather than a white form which blends into the barks of many trees.  Both forms can breed with each other as the only difference is color.  As the author progresses in his explanation, he talks about how lateral adaptation begins at the cellular level.  Arthur expands the theory of evolution that was from Darwin, giving numerous examples of complexity are much common from the insect world to animals to man.  If, like me, it's been awhile since you read any biology this book will help update your learning in this area.  Found the read fascinating.  3 1/2 stars     

Travel:  Miles from Nowhere by Barbara Savage which I so enjoyed.  I put off reading this one for a long time when I read that the author had been killed riding her bicycle in California after her trip was completed.  The story is fascinating.   It's so much more than a travel book.   It's about people, relationships, friendship, and love.  However, I don't think I could have handled biking in Egypt or India.  Too many people, too many crazy drivers and too much dysentery.  Perhaps, much has changed now but many of the areas where Barb and Larry Savage biked must still be the same.  Imagine having people throwing rocks, clumps of dirt and animal piles at you or giving lewd remarks and looks at10 your wife.  Imagine being chewed on by mosquitoes much of the time, bed bugs on others or fleas.  The people and the scenery seemed to make it all worthwhile and the experiences the couple have are of the type that is never forgotten.  4 stars   

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, Arts (Fine or Performing):  Good, good read and a reminder that there are still those who do not believe what science has taught us but thank heaven not as strongly as this tale reminds us.  For those who may not remember the movie, the play or the book, this is a tale about The Origin of the Species by Darwin and the teacher who brought it into the classroom to share with his students.  He is accused of violating an obsolete law based on religious belief that conflicts with and defames the science of the book.  Two very different lawyers battle over the concept with the country awaiting the outcome.  Is man allowed to think for himself or must all thought be based on literal interpretation of the Bible?  4 stars

A Man Named Dave by Dave Pelzer for biography/memoirs.  This is an inspiring story about a man who was so abused as a boy that his mother called him, "It."  The tale begins with his last few abuses and his removal from his mother.  He grows up in a foster home with all the emotional and physical scars from his childhood.  He finds a place in the Air Force where he works hard to reach his goals in spite of his childhood baggage.  He marries, his marriage breaks up, tries to become a speaker and author to inspire others who live in abusive situations all the while experiencing setback after setback.  But Dave never gives up.  He just works harder.  It's an inspiring read that makes one want to cry at times.  Good one!  4 stars

A Good Fall by Ha Jin, social science.  The author has written several tales detailing the experiences of Chinese immigrants in America. Some of the immigrants have been in the US for years whereas others are newly arrived.  "The Beauty" is a story about a couple who has a homely baby.  Fearing that the child is not his, the husband questions his wife only to discover that she, too, was once homely but had had plastic surgery to improve her appearance.   "Children as Enemies" focuses on grandparents who cherish their heritage and find it difficult to accept that their grandchildren want American names because their friends have trouble pronouncing their Chinese names.  Other interesting tales are "The House Behind a Weeping Cherry," "Temporary Love." and "A Composer and His Parakeets."   I liked the reality depicted in these little tales.  3 1/2 stars

Anthropology (Physical, Cultural, Linguistic or Archaeology):  Prairie Son by Dennis M. Clausen (cultural):  The story of a man who is adopted by a couple who are searching for a hired man.  Never does he encounter love or affection.   The people he knows as Ma and Pa are married as a matter of convenience - Pa's convenience.  He needs Ma to clean, cook and keep his house and Claus the work the farm so he can play cards and fish.  Claus remembers his birth mother holding him and loving him so and cherishes this memory his entire life.   Why did she give him up?  The child finds friends in a cousin who like him is adopted, two dogs, the mailman, neighbors and teachers.  While he misses more school than he attends he, nevertheless, graduates from high school.  His one passion, as he grows up, is to find his birth mother.  The book uncovers many mores of the time.  For example:  Bearing a child out of wedlock is tabu for any young woman.  Attending church is customary.   Taking a child out of school to work on the farm is common.  3 stars    

Sports/Recreation/Physical Fitness:  Over the Wall by John H. Ritter:  I'm not really a sports fan but I do believe that I will look for other books written by Ritter.  He writes so well capturing the angst of being a boy growing up and facing both his own problems and those handed to him by life over which he has no control.   This is a wonderful story.  I haven't watched baseball games for many years but I felt as if I were beside this angry young boy who was dealing with his feelings about his father and his sport. I recommend this read to those who wish to understand a growing boy with dreams of fame and/or hurting for many reasons.  It's outstanding.  4 stars

Philosophy/Spirituality/World Religions:  Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller:  It's been awhile since I've read a book devoted entirely to religion but this one is most interesting.  Miller discusses Christianity at its most basic - that of loving others, helping others, feeding the poor, helping abate loneliness, witnessing your faith and tithing to your church.  I truly enjoyed his approach because he believes that politics, racism, and other such topics should be devorced from Christianity.  I cringe when I hear politicians spouting "Christian" values with regard to current issues in their political speeches.  And, Miller asserts that if one really believes in God and Jesus, one can live one's life to the fullest by serving his/her faith and loving all mankind.   3 stars

Reader's Choice:   Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick:  Sometimes a good book is inspiring, heart warming and well written.  While I found a few errors in this ARC I found the story just kept me moving through the pages.  This is the life of a woman named Hulda Klager, a German farmwife with an eighth grade education whose passion for improving the plants in her life stimulates her interest in eveloping her own varieties.  It all began with wanting a better apple for her pies and expanded to daffodils, azaleas, tulips, and lilacs which became her passion.  She developed more than 250 cultivars of lilacs.  What a story!  What a woman!  4 stars

Science/Math/Technology:  The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr, the story of Luca Turin, whose obsession with how we smell makes for a fascinating but slow reading (for me).  Turin and his controversial theory of smell is fascinating.  The novel also gives one a look at the ethics of those who have much to lose when a new theory threatens their work.  One would think scientist would welcome new science but that is not necessarily so.   3 stars

Entertainment:  Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (a collection of humorous stories)  Sedaris discusses many life experiences from a humorous point of view.  Loved his discussion about a lisp and his speech therapist.  Neither can one forget the several sections devoted to living in France and his attempts to learn the French language.  The focuses on his father and sisters were hilarious as well.  His father never gave up on trying to make musicians out of his musically inept children.  While I found his attempts at becoming an artist of almost any kind entertaining I couldn't help wondering about all the references to drug use.   3 stars    

Current Events:  Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama  Obama tells his story as a boy, as an adolescent dealing with color, as a young man who takes responsibility for his heritage, as a man who travels to his father's Kenya where he discovers poverty beyond what he has ever known, returning home to live a life of his own accepting responsiblity for who he is.  4 stars

2012 YA Books 12 of 33 Completed;  2012 Classics Challenge 4 of 13 Books Completed;  2012 Fantasy Challenge 18 of 40 Books Completed;  2012 Contemporary Fiction Challenge 5 of 13 Books Completed;  2012 Historical Fiction Challenge 10 of 10 Books Completed (more in some categories and none in others);    2012 Historical Mystery Challenge 4  of 8 Books Completed; 2012 History Challenge Books Completed; 2012 Mystery Challenge 4 of 22 (if I do entire challenge) Books Completed;  2012 Nonfiction Challenge 8 0f 8 Books Completed;   2012 World Literature Around the World Mini Challenge 3 of 7 Books Completed

 

 



Last Edited on: 12/31/12 12:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 70
Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/13/2012 6:19 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

I finished The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer today (my first book, since I'm taking a break from Ann Rule).  It's hard to classify, precisely, so I'm putting it in the "Reader's Choice" slot.  The overall theme of the book is about how beliefs are formed and reinforced, and how beliefs go awry.  It tackles the issue from various standpoints, so it could be partly science, partly social science or philosophy or psychology.  Shermer himself is primarily a promoter of critial thinking, and is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, and is also a professor of Science History.  I thought the book was excellent, and very informative...though as prose I'll admit it's a little slow sometimes.  

Date Posted: 1/14/2012 1:56 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
Back To Top

I am nearly finished with my first book for the challenge, Paddle to the Amazon by Don Starkell. Overall a pretty good read - well edited and nicely narrated. Starkell has a friendly, self-deprecating manner that is easy to get along with. However, I was amazed at how much they depended on the kindness of strangers and the lack of preparation they had done for dealing with some of the countries they paddled through on their route. Granted, their trip started in 1980 so internet research was not available but a trip to the library and a few phone calls would have yielded some important information that may have lessened some of the problems they encountered along the way. Don and his sons (only one completed the trip) canoed from Winnipeg to the Amazon, 12,180 miles, a two year odyssey that landed them in the Guinness Book of World Records.



Last Edited on: 1/19/12 11:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
kickerdad - ,
Date Posted: 1/17/2012 11:25 PM ET
Member Since: 12/30/2010
Posts: 28
Back To Top

Just finished "The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women's Soccer Team and How It changed the World" by Jere Longman.  Pretty good read, great read if you are a soccer fan.  It is more than a motivational telling of the 1999 U.S. Women's National Team and their win vs China for the Women's World Cup; it is about the development of soccer and more specifcally women's soccer in the United States.  Also, a great read for someone who like true sports stories or tales of competition.

Subject: The Mind's Eye
Date Posted: 1/18/2012 9:11 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

I finished The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks today. He uses a case study approach to discuss how catastrophic changes in the brain (such as through a stroke or tumor) can result in strange changes in the ability to read, write, speak, and/or recognize common objects and places.  I was most interested in the section on prosopagnosia (inability to recognize faces) and the interrelated functions of the brain involved in reading and I was moved by the author's descriptions of his vision difficulties in dealing with a retinal tumor.  I enjoyed the book even though I found it a bit too technical in places for someone with my limited science background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Date Posted: 1/19/2012 7:47 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,130
Back To Top

Wow, you guys have been reading some great books--I love reading your summaries!  Every time I look at anyone's challenge lists I realize how many wonderful books there are out there and how little time (comparatively) I have to read--I want to have time to get to ALL of them.

I finished the first book for this challenge, the Panic Virus by Seth Mnookin.  Excellent book, I learned so much.  I remember the controversy a few years back when people started blaming autism on vaccines and was somewhat interested in it because of my interest in medicine, but not being a parent I didn't have to look into any of it for practical purposes.  The author details how the scare got started, gives a lot of background information on the doctor that was involved (who since has had his licenses taken away) and talks a little bit about how diseases that once were considered eradicated are now making a comeback.  But a large part of his point is how people choose what information to believe, whether they form opinions based on facts or on feelings.  Also, how the media irresponsibly picks up on the sensational aspects of a case.  (Matt, the book you described ties into this perfectly, I'll definitely be looking for that one.)  I consider myself very skeptical, I want proof of anything told to me and I think of myself as someone who would use facts exclusively when making decisions.  But this author made me think about the times I've made decisions based on feelings.  I don't think taking feelings into consideration is wrong, but just recognizing how you're making a decision is helpful so you can look at all sides of an issue.

I've been reading history books but they don't count for this challenge, I might cross post some of my comments on them because I've read some great ones so far.  I'm half way through my next NF challenge book, which will fit into the "food" category--All The Tea in China--a subject that I didn't even know I was interested in until I started this book!

Diane

 

Date Posted: 1/19/2012 7:59 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
Posts: 26,635
Back To Top

Book number two was  The Simple Faith Of Mr. Rogers.    It's always nice to spend some time with an old friend.   I was more
interested in the assorted tidbits I learned about the man than I was in the author's take on his spirituality.   It was good to
know that Mr. Rogers was every bit the same person off screen as he was on.

 

Date Posted: 1/19/2012 11:37 PM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
Back To Top

Donna - if you are interested in  prosopagnosia you might be interested in the memoir, You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers. The author has prosopagnosia, which she refers to as face blindness, and she elaborates on how the disease affects her life and her eventual search for help in dealing with the condition. I read it a couple of years ago.

Date Posted: 1/20/2012 6:20 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

Thanks, Sheila.  I think the topic is fascinating.

 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/21/2012 2:48 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
Back To Top

For the philosophy category, I just finished Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell.  The title refers to a speech he gave, but the book is a collection of essays spanning 1899 to 1954 (he lived to be 97, so even that's not his whole career).  I often have a hard time with the plodding logical structure favored by some philosophers, but Bertrand Russell is captivating and easy to read.  There is also a lengthy appendix covering the case of how he was denied the right to teach at the College of the City of New York in 1940.  The entire episode is almost unbelievable...a judge made the ruling on grounds he was immoral and likely to indirectly contribute to breaking of the penal code.

Date Posted: 1/22/2012 9:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2009
Posts: 1,790
Back To Top

I just finished Living History by Hillary Clinton. I admire Hillary and think she is doing a great job as Secretary of State, but her book is kind of boring.  It is a list of everything she did during Bill Clinton's presidency but doesn't give a lot of insight into the person she is.  I don't know why I was expecting that...a person who is still in the public domain and a possible future political candidate (although she claims not) probably would not reveal her inner feelings.  But I was hoping for more.  The first third of the book, which covered her childhood and meeting Bill, went quite fast; but towards the end I was really wading through it and just reading to get it finished.

Date Posted: 1/22/2012 9:58 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,130
Back To Top

Good old Mr. Rogers--I was an adult but would sometimes turn his show on just to have a few minutes of calm and sweetness.  I liked the cat puppet too!

Leslie, too bad about the Clinton book--I'm guessing that she could write something fascinating if she could be open and honest.  Some day she will, when she retires from public life.

As far as philosophy goes, this time around I left that category out!  I love the idea of philosophy but always find it a difficult read.  I'm sure I'll read more at some point but I have to be in the right mood to tackle it.

I'm still only half way through my book about tea, and oddly enough, I found a similar book about the history of coffee at the thrift shop last week!  I bought it, I don't know if I'll read it right away.  I don't even drink coffee or tea!

Diane

Date Posted: 1/24/2012 7:46 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,130
Back To Top

I finished All The Tea in China, by Sarah Rose.  I'm so surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, and prior to this I would never have even thought about this subject.

In the mid 1800s, tea was very popular in Britain and it was only being grown in China.  The huge trading company (the British East India Company) was losing its monopoly on the tea trade and decided to send a botanist to China to basically steal tea plants, seeds, and the knowledge required to process tea.  China did not allow foreigners into the country except in the coastal trading ports, so this botanist (Robert Fortune) disguised himself as a Chinese mandarin in order to gain access to the interior regions where tea was grown.  Eventually he figured out a way to transport the plants and seeds in such a way that they would survive the journey of several months required.  India turned out to have the same climate as parts of China, so Britain started planting it there.

The information about transporting the plants was fascinating to me (basically he used a brand new invention which was the early version of a terrarium).  But there's also a lot of adventure because his crew had many dangerous close calls with locals along the way.  And of course, back then there were no consequences for a company that basically stole not only property, but also trade secrets from China.

A couple of other interesting tidbits from this book--Britain's obsession with tea had a couple of other consequences--it improved the porcelein industry, because prior to tea drinking British porcelein could not stand up to boiling water!  And, tea drinking was credited to preventing widespread cholera outbreaks because it required boiling the contaminated water to prepare it. 

Diane

Page: