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Topic: 2013 - TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION - NF Reading Challenge - DISCUSSION

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Subject: 2013 - TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION - NF Reading Challenge - DISCUSSION
Date Posted: 11/30/2012 10:00 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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 TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION

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. History

8. Medicine/Health

9. Nature/Animals

10. Philosophy/Spirituality/World Religions

11. Science/Math/Technology

12. Social Science

13. Sports/Recreation/Physical Fitness

14. Geography/Travel

15. True Crime

16. Reader's Choice

Some categories overlap a little, so you can use your judgment where to put any particular book.

PARTICIPATION BONUS To complete the participation bonus, you should 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 6/30/32 and have posted in the discussion thread about your first book read no later than 9/30/13.)

THEME BONUS  Earn an additional credit if four of your books (from different categories--not including reader's choice) follow the same specific theme.  The theme should be narrow enough to be challenging.  As an example-- "Western Hemisphere" would be too broad--"London" would be specific enough.  Using my own interest in psychology, if I wanted to choose "Treatment of Depression", I could read a book about pharmacological treatment for Medicine, counseling treatment for Social Science, the controversy between the two methods for Current Events, and a Biography of Aaron Beck.  Use your imagination!

There's a separate thread for lists only.

HAVE FUN!

Diane

 



Last Edited on: 11/30/12 10:03 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/23/2012 10:29 PM ET
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Hooray!  I came close to completing the challenge in 2012; in 2013 I will be serious about it.  smiley

Date Posted: 12/31/2012 10:10 PM ET
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Hi Elizabeth!  I see from your signature line that you read 13 NF, which is 1 more than the 12 needed for the highest category, so it looks like you more than finished!

I had meant to give out credits before now, but for the last two weeks I've been fighting a vicious computer virus--after many, many excruciating phone calls to Dell tech support crying  the best we could do is isolate it--my virus software still sees it but it seems to have stopped doing any harm.  I'm not totally convinced, but I've been able to use my computer for a couple of days now with no problems, so I'm trying to be hopeful.  Anyway, it's supposed to be safe to send emails, etc., so I'm back online for a good part of every day, as usual.

I'll give out the credits earned tomorrow, so if your list isn't finished or clear, please update it or send me a PM.  Many of your lists don't say "completed", they just have books listed, so I don't know if those were planned or completed reads.  I've been going through the posts with the book comments on an ongoing basis, but I don't want to miss anyone, and I'll do a final doublecheck using your lists.

The end of the year really crept up on me, I usually do some planning for the challenges but this year I'm just going to go along and list as I read books that fit.  I signed up for fewer challenges this year, 2 of the ones I joined last year haven't been repeated this year, and some of the others aren't as "challenging" as I'd like them to be.  That means this year I should be able to read more NF than last year (although I did read more NF this year than the year before).  I haven't chosen my first NF challenge book yet, I'll do that in the next few days.  I have some really good possibilities that I've been acquiring over the last few months, but  I look forward to seeing what everyone plans to read, and of course, stealing a lot of your suggestions to add to my wish and reminder lists.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Diane

 

 

 

Date Posted: 12/31/2012 11:21 PM ET
Member Since: 8/15/2007
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Diane, I guess I should have read the instructions, LOL!  I did better than I thought!  Looking forward to this year's challenge, I got a bunch of good fiction from the PBS Market and the MAB program recently, so I am ready to start reading.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/6/2013 6:59 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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My first challenge book of the year was, coincidentally, for the first category: Lone Survivors by Chris Stringer.  Broadly it's about paleoanthropology, studying ancient humans (including all homo species, particularly the Neanderthals).  Stringer is the first person to propose the "Out of Africa" theory that all modern humans had emerged from Africa at a relatively recent date in history.  This book deals with how humans became "modern" and the question of why the Neanderthals died out, and there's a lot about possible mingling of moden Homo Sapiens and the Neanderthals, since there seems to be recent overlap in some of the genes.  This stuff is generally interesting to me, but I was pretty disappointed with the book overall.  The writing style was extremely dry and it was a real chore to finish it.

Date Posted: 1/10/2013 12:09 PM ET
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Finished 1st challenge book early this morning for the history category:  The Great Sea:   A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia.  I enjoyed it, although it was doorstop size (>600 pages).  The book begins with prehistoric events and ends with current days, and covers interesting characters, empires, religions, throughout the ages.  His writing style is active and interesting.  I never was bored.

Date Posted: 1/14/2013 6:04 PM ET
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Hello everyone!  All credits are finally out to 2012 Challenge participants so if I missed anyone let me know.

Matt, the book you're reading sounded like something I would love until you said you had a hard time finishing it.  The writing style in a subject like that really makes a difference.

Tess, welcome to the challenge!  I'm impressed that you already finished a book over 600 pages--I have yet to start my first NF of the year!  I've had 4 NF books sitting on my desk and I keep paging through and trying to decide which I want to start first--I think I've finally decided, and I'll start it tomorrow.

Diane

Date Posted: 1/15/2013 12:39 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2008
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I came pretty close last year, but I'm determined to do it in 2013!!

My problem is that I read too many history and biography books and forget to get to the rest.

Date Posted: 1/15/2013 6:06 PM ET
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Last Edited on: 2/4/15 4:20 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/18/2013 8:20 AM ET
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1. Anthropology (Physical, Cultural, Linguistic or Archaeology):  Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat4 stars, 4/22/2013.  I truly enjoyed this second journey into the world of northern animals by Farley Mowat.  Earlier I had read People of the Deer which was fascinating, too.  In Wolf, Mowat studies the patterns and life of wolves which are believed to be killing the carabou.  What he discovers is that wolves only take what is needed to sustain their families.  It is man who is responsible for the declines. 

2. Arts (Fine or Performing): The Prince and the Lily (Lilly Langtry, minister's daughter, society darling and actress)  by James Brough, 6/9/2013, 3 stars.   Lillie Langtry came from the island of Jersey.  Independent, outgoing and determined, Lily married a wealthy man so she could move away from the island of her birth. Her goal was to reach London and become a mover in the society of England. When she was discovered she enjoyed every minute and earned the love of the prince.  She was a darling of society and an actress.  Quite interesting biography.

3. Biography/Memoirs   I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui, 3 stars, 1/16/2013.  This read reminds us that life in some countries is far different for women than in the U.S.  A tragic reminder about life in another culture for a young girl who grows up quickly.  Some tribes in her country consider marrying a female as young as nine as a privilege.  However, Nujood is determined to live out her childhood while making a very grown up decision to seek a divorce.

4. Current Events:  The Crone by Barbara G. Walker, an examanation of how we need the wisdom of aging women to better survive as a species, 3 stars.  Walker does a most creditable job of covering woman's role throughout history. First and foremost this is feminist literature. Remembering the author's viewpoint, it is a fascinating depiction of women's place in society.  After reading this one, the term of crone has come to mean wise woman to me - one who has lived a long life with much experience to share with younger people - men and women alike.

5. Entertainment:  An Especially Tricky People A Doonesbury Book by G.B. Trudeau, 3 stars  This is a book that features Doonesbury cartoons with comments about life and events of the time.  Enjoyed it.  Like a trip back in time for me.  Back to wnen Patty Hearst did her thing, when to questions about politics of the 1970s.

6. Food/Nutrition/Culinary Arts:  Julie and Julia, 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment by Julie Powell, 1 star.  I love good food and enjoy Julia Childs so very much but this book seemed to make fun of her and her recipes not to mention the horrid use of one unsavory word over and over as well as sharing some oddest aspects of her own life. I guess it's supposed to be a humorous take on living in a tiny New York apartment and trying to cook one's way through Julia Child's classic cookbook. Some may find it humorous. I didn't.  

7. History:  The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick. 4 stars, 9/26/2013, 4 stars.  He was a military man, first and foremost, who followed the orders of his superior officers.  Most of the time. Yet sometimes, George Armstrong Custer was a risk-taker.  And, most of the time it worked except when it didn't, at the last stand.  This telling of the story we have heard so many times flows wonderfully well with many narratives and comments from those who were there that day.  The author's research is outstanding the story telling intriguing. 

8. Medicine/Health:  How to Meditate by Lawrence LeShan, 6/29/2013, 4 stars.  I have often thought about meditation and this little book gives a quick look at it, the types, and benefits for those who practice it.  I learned about a simple procedure called Breath Counting is given for readers to try.  I discovered, just as the author said, that the procedure is difficult to master but can be achieved.

9. Nature/Animals:  Crazy Good by Charles Leerhsen (horse racing), 4 stars, 4/23/2013  A wonderful story about an outstanding pacer, Dan Patch was an anomoly among harness racing horses.  He was a stallion with a gentle, calm personality who appeared to love running and people.  He gave his all to the sport in spite of the money hungry owners and trainers who ruled his life.  And, unlike most horses who traveled from place to place, slept much of the way rathre than pacing nervously.  The author did a creditable amount of research.  My only complaint is that he sometimes was carried about research details that were unnecessary to his story. 

10. Philosophy/Spirituality/World Religions:  Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell, 6/4/2013, 3 stars. This is an interesting collection of essays.  The author discusses many topics and validates them with statements of others and his own rationale.  He writes well and discusses issues that others may avoid.  I liked reading this point of view.  One of the essays that I found amusingly sarcastic was about "nice people."  

11. Science/Math/Technology:  The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, 4 stars, 2/28/2013.  Essentially this is a story about a math professor who is injured in a tragic auto accident that reduces his short term memory to eighty minutes.  Every day the housekeeper introduces herself all over again but she enjoys her work with this gentle man who teaches her and her son about math - prime numbers, triangular numbers, square roots and how to solve many types of problems.  The professor and the housekeeper's son love baseball, discuss it, the mathematics of it and a particular player named Enatsu.  It's funny, sad and so interesting.

12. Social Science:  The Blue Notebook (about a fictional character named Batuk Ramasdeeny whose father sells her into prostitution but is based on the author's experiences in treating children in third world countries) by James A. Levine, 7/12/2013, 5 stars

13. Sports/Recreation/Physical Fitness  Downhill Lies and Other Falsehoods by Rex Lardner, 1/19/2013, 2 stars.  Decided to read this since I have a sister and some friends who are into golf.  The humor is tongue-in-cheek and a bit overdone for me.  However, I did learn some basics about golf.  Since I don't play the game some of the historical comments and golf terms were new and interesting to me.

14. Geography/Travel:  Letters on an Elk Hunt (hunting) by Eleanore Stewart, 4 stars.  The choice for this read evolved when hubby and I both obtained our first elk licenses and both bagged our elks.  We had so much fun.  The letters document the travels of the author as she embarks on an elk hunt.  What amazed me was how many people she met along the way, including the children she decides to adopt.  Furthermore, her descriptions are so interesting.   

15. True Crime:  The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean ("The true story of Beauty and Obsession."), 7/24/2013/ 4 stars   Researching and writing about the John Laroche, orchid thief and more, the author adds history about other thieves, orchids, Seminole life, and much about the beautiful Fakahatchee Strand. A mercurial character, Laroche considers himself more intelligent than most men, loves orchids and searches them out wherever he can find them.   The author encounters many orchid growers, collectors and lovers and finds herself drawn ever closer to the background of orchids and those who love it.  For me, this was a most enjoyable read. Who ever knew people could be so passionate about orchids as to kill others, steal prize winners or undermine the efforts of others who want to become part of this enchanting world. 

16. Reader's Choice:  The Crazy Years Paris in the Twenties by Wiliam Wiser, 3/20/2013, 3 stars.  The author writes about the rich and famous and their lives during this chaotic years.  Of course, some of the soon-to-be famous are also included.  The book reminds me of a gossip column but I enjoyed anyway.  Not certain that I would have liked to be in Paris with these people in the twenties.



Last Edited on: 12/7/13 1:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 48
Date Posted: 1/20/2013 10:24 AM ET
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Date Posted: 1/20/2013 11:34 AM ET
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The first book I finished for the challenge this year was

Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts
Author: Matthew Polly

The Sports category was one I did not complete last year.  Matthew Polly is a journalist who got a book contract by agreeing to study with several well-known martial arts instructors, then get into the ring for a UFC-type competition.  Intersperced with his training stories are details of his relationship with the woman that will become his wife, and a history lesson on mixed martial arts and the rise of the sport's popularity.  The tone is light-hearted for such a violent topic and Polly only competes in one fight, so no one really gets their a** kicked or seriously hurt.  Still, this was an interesting introduction to a sport I know little about and have little interest in (thought some of my male contemporaries are kind of obsessed).

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 1/20/2013 9:41 PM ET
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Today I finished The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe about the beginnings of NASA.  I'd seen the movie as a kid, but the book had a very different tone.  It did not paint a very flattering picture of the program or the astronauts and was more abotu them and what it meant to be a top pilot, and what it meant to their wives, than it was about the space program itself.  The book was interesting in some respects, but I did not really care for the writing style.  I think Wolfe wants to be a poet while writing nonfiction.  It doesn't work.  I'm counting this for the "reader's choice" category, since I'm not really sure where else to stick it.  

Date Posted: 1/21/2013 3:19 PM ET
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I've just completed Daniel Klein's Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life. When he was a young man, Klein visited the Greek island of Hydra. Now, as an old man - on the verge of old old age (his words), he has returned, with philosophers like Epicurus, Kierkegaard, and others as guides to making the transition from being old to old old. These are his reflections on this transition. Epicurus's name in the title drew me in - I did not really know what the book was about until I started reading it. I was pleasantly surprised. 

Date Posted: 1/24/2013 11:41 AM ET
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Last Edited on: 2/4/15 4:21 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/26/2013 9:36 PM ET
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Just finished The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table
Author: Tracie McMillan

The author wants to learn about the how the food Americans eat is grown, distributed, and served, as well as learn about the workers who make these things happen.  She works as a farm worker, clerk in a Walmart produce department, and in the kitchen at Applebee's.  Tales of her experiences on these jobs and living in poor communities amongst her co-workers are interspersed with bits of history about American agriculture and the rise of unhealthy eating.  While this book does a better job of pointing out problems than solutions (as most of this genre tend to do), it is an entertaining read and provided an interesting behind the scenes view of Walmart and Applebee's.  (I have never liked Applebees.  The last time I ate there was after Hurricane Sandy because it was the only thing open.  I don't plan on eating at Applebee's again unless there is another hurricane and my food goes bad.)

Date Posted: 1/27/2013 6:48 PM ET
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I finished another one!  50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True Author: Guy P. Harrison

The only good thing about the flu is that it leaves plenty of time for reading.  I put this book in the science category, though it could overlap into others.

This book is broken into chapters of a few pages each.  Each chapter addresses a fairly commonly held belief, such as "Ghosts are they live in haunted houses" and "Atlantis is down there somewhere."  The author then makes counter arguments to each claim, using a combination of science, logic, and personal anecdotes.  A list of references is given at the end of each section in case the reader wants to delve further into a particular topic.

It is a bit much for one sitting, so I dipped in and out of this book over time.  I skimmed chapters that did not particularly interest me, but the range of topics addressed in this book is so varied that there will be something of interest to most anyone.  This book is a good introduction to skeptical thinking.

Date Posted: 1/27/2013 7:05 PM ET
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For the Memoir/Biography category, I finished Thomas Jefferson:  The Art of Power by Jon Meacham.  Meacham explores the development of Jefferson's leadership style over his lifetime and includes lots of direct quotations from correspondences of the day.

Date Posted: 1/28/2013 1:34 AM ET
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Last Edited on: 2/4/15 4:21 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 1/29/2013 1:40 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
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Medical

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks - Dr Sacks was the doctor in the film Awakenings, and this is a compilation of other neurological cases. It was written in 1986 and reads pretty dated, the section on people with mental retardation is called "The Simple" and they are refered to as defectives, morons, simpletons, retards, retardates. They may have been acceptable medical terms of the time but seem so weird now. I'm not a PC person but it was kind of distracting. The case stories were interesting but he does tend to go on a lot, especially about things like whether a person with profound brain damage still has a soul, is still an actual person. He refers to Freud and several philosophers a lot. I prefer my science without any of that kind of stuff and ended up skimming a lot. He refers to Awakenings a lot too, I didn't even know the connection until reading the book. There are about 25 case studies, many of them people who have extraordinary abilities despite being extremely damaged in one way or another and are really interesting, but be prepared to skim over a lot of padding.

Date Posted: 1/30/2013 3:49 PM ET
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Date Posted: 1/31/2013 7:38 AM ET
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For the category, Sociology, I read " At Home" by Bill Bryson. 

This book is just chockfull of fascinating and detailed information about the origin of, well, just about everything.  Bryson uses the rooms of his English country house (a former rectory) to create an organizational structure for laying out all of these factoids.  At times these connections are very tenuous and, on several occasions, Bryson has to make them explicit for the reader.  Because of this lack of connectivity, I wasn’t able to read the book straight through.  However, I did find it to be a most interesting and enjoyable read when taken in small doses at a time.

 

 



Last Edited on: 1/31/13 7:38 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/31/2013 5:48 PM ET
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Lots of great reading going on for this challenge!  Donna, I have At Home on my TBR, and I keep moving it to the front.  When the book first came out I took it out from the library and read the first 50 pages or so, but I had the same experience you did, I couldn't just sit down and read it straight through.  I couldn't renew it at the time because it had been recently released and was in demand, so I figured I'd start over again when I finally got a copy of the book.  I really want to start it soon, I enjoyed the portion I read--and just the description of a big old English house is so appealing to me!

I read my first NF of the year, The Knife Man, by Wendy Moore.  It's about John Hunter, who is considered a pioneer in the field of surgery.  He worked during the second half of the 18th century, before anesthesia, antiseptic techniques, and all the other things we take for granted today.  His main contribution to medicine (which wasn't recognized until after his death) was his rejection of the status quo, his desire to experiment, learn new things, try new ways of doing surgeries even though these things were considered sacreligious.  He also bucked the establishment by suggesting that species evolved over time and that all life on earth was interrelated and had characteristics in common.  He was well known for his museum full of preserved specimens--human, animal, normal anatomy as well as abnormalities.  I had to skim over several paragraphs throughout the book that described his experiments on animals (I just can't read fiction or nonfiction about animals in pain, it haunts me later).  On the other hand, I found the sections about "body-snatching" to be fascinating, I knew about it but didn't realize quite how frequent it was in London (the book makes it sound like the only bodies that remained in their graves were the very wealthy who could hire bodyguards to stand over thier graves until enough time had passed by that the decay would have made thier bodies useless to anatomists).

Good book, I can't imagine living in a time when there was no anesthesia--and if you lived through the shock of being operated on without anesthesia, you usually died from the infection, since there were no antibiotics or aseptic technique.  It's kind of hard to understand how the human race survived at all!

Diane

 

Date Posted: 2/13/2013 9:57 PM ET
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Just finished Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him Author: Luis Carlos Montalvan, Bret Witter

It is about a veteran of the Iraq war who suffers from PTSD as well as physical injuries, and how a therapy dog helps him start living again.  Get the tissues handy!  At least the dog doesn't die in the end.  crying

Date Posted: 2/16/2013 7:06 PM ET
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Finished Body Piercing Saved My Life: Inside the Phenomenon of Christian Rock Author: Andrew Beaujon

Here is my PBS review:

Up until Junior High, I was not allowed to listen to "secular" music, so this book was really interesting to me. Andrew Beaujon interviews Steve Taylor, discusses Stryper, Petra, DC talk, and other Christian artists I remember. In addition to giving a competent history of Christian music, Andrew Beaujon also takes a reader on a tour of the current Christian Rock scene, which has become much more diverse. Apparently Christian Rock no longer sucks as much as it did when I was growing up.

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