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All Book Reviews by Genre: Nonfiction

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Alda, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

While miscommunication might be the source of conflict for romantic comedies, it’s a much more significant problem in the real world. If people aren’t able to efficiently and accurately communicate with their fellow man, then we all have room for improvement. Scientists and doctors are often the worst offenders, even though their ideas need to be communicated to the world for the advancement of society. Alan Alda has spent years trying to figure out why people are unable to communicate, and he has also figured out what we can do to improve this situation. As a scientist and writer, I feel many of his insights have merit.

I grew up watching Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers, so I know how often he has interacted with scientists. His conclusions that we can all become better communicators through empathy and understanding of our audience makes sense. I dabbled in improvisational theatre a little in college as I was studying to earn my Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Having first-hand experience of successfully improvising, I always touted its benefits for technical professions. Now I know why. When we synchronize with others, our message has a much better chance of being communicated.

As if to prove his point, this book is not necessarily a scientific account of the research, but merely a personal (and relatable) set of anecdotal stories that should open people’s eyes to the potential communicators trapped within each of us. We all have to communicate on some level, whether it’s orally or written, so if we can all improve our communication skills by learning to empathize with others, maybe society could one day be able to hold civil and vigorous debates without instantly devolving into mud-slinging contests.

A must-read for anyone who communicates (i.e., everyone), I give If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
I am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

"I Am Malala" was a pretty great book, and is now one of my personal favorites. It did not take me long to read and is good for anyone ages 12+.
This book does contain some sensitive contents and might not be great for younger kids, unless the parents are okay with harsh and sad topics in the Middle East. The book does not contain a whole lot of content on what goes on in that area of the world, and it mostly focuses on Malala and her story.
Malala is a young teen from the Swat Valley in Pakistan. She was raised peacefully, but the Taliban soon started to take over the area. The Taliban started like a little seed, but grew into a giant weed that basically controlled everything. They eventually made it so girls were not allowed to go to school, and women were not aloud out of their house unless they are accompanied by a male relative. Malala would not put up with this, for she has a desire to learn and know answers to her questions. She is the daughter of the principal of her school, and grew up admiring the students that attended. After surviving a bullet to the head, months in the hospital, and a move to England, Malala becomes activist and stands up for girl's rights and her belief that everyone has the right to go to school. I liked this book because Malala is a great role model and author. She really provides a strong figure for any girl growing up in this hectic world. This is definitely one of the best books I have read and I am sure I will read it again in times to come. Any girl (or boy) can relate to Malala because she described herself as being an ordinary girl that wanted to see change in the world. She shows that anyone can adjust their view on the world if they just use their voice to speak out. I absolutely suggest this book to someone if they are looking for a fairly quick read!
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Ella S.
The Innocent Man
Grisham, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A harrowing story of murder, deception, lies, and the struggle of a broken man to gain his life back, The Innocent Man is an incredible novel.
It's exemplary qualities are highlighted because everything in the book happens to be true. The story follows the tale of Ron Williamson, a baseball prodigy who, after his life begins to fall apart after he loses a career with the Yankees, is wrongly accused of a murder. It then describes his experiences in prison and the things he had to do to prove his innocence.
John Grisham's attention to detail and research is impeccable and top-notch, and the book is riveting for it. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes nonfiction novels, or anyone who likes murder mysteries.

Reviewer's Name: Peter C
Holidays on Ice
Sedaris, David
1 star = Yuck!
Review:

I listened to this book, most of which was read in a nasally, whiny voice. The initial stories about working as an elf at Christmas-time had tears of laughter pouring out of my eyes, Unfortunately, the book rapidly went downhill. This satire started out funny, but it kept going too long as if the author didn't know when to end the story. There were also some disturbing images that added absolutely nothing. The stories were sarcastic, but the bitterness in them really turned me off. Can't recommend it.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
So You Want to Talk About Race
Ijeoma, Oluo
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

We white people all need to read this book. Especially if you DON'T want to talk about race.

Reviewer's Name: Dory
Into the Wild
Krakauer, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I was required to read Into the Wild for English class and normally I’d be procrastinating to get into those books but I enjoyed this one a lot. In 1990, based on real life events, a wealthy boy named Christopher McCandless, fresh out of college from the East Coast, abruptly decided to donate all of his money to charity, sever contact with his parents, and set out for the great Alaskan wilderness. He journeyed all over the West Coast traveling around California, New Mexico, and Arizona and even held a job at a farm in South Dakota, eventually renaming himself Alexander Supertramp. Alexander picked up new skills and information such as how to skin a moose, different camps he might stay at, what weapons he needed, etc. from all of the individuals he met. For years, he remained in the continental United States but his goal was always to live off the earth in Alaska - he thought there was more to life than the money and fame his parents treasured. What I enjoyed most about this book was that there were actual accounts of Alexander’s journey either from his personal journal or the friends he encountered that allowed the readers to sympathize with Alexander and understand his goal despite his unfortunate fate. The problem with the novel was that I think Alexander was portrayed to be more conscientious and experienced than he truly was due to the fact the author, Jon Krakauer, outright states he idolizes him in the foreword. This concept can also be emphasized by the epigraphs at the beginning of each chapter that provide quotes from famous adventure novels including The Call of the Wild and White Fang as if trying to ensure that Alexander was the hero Krakauer thought he was. However, I did find Krakauer’s bias easier to support the claim that Alexander was naive. Why else would the author be trying so hard to prove he was not? Slow-paced at some parts, but I do think this is an interesting telling of what so many individuals are afraid to do.

Reviewer's Name: Isabella W.
Oedipus Rex
Sophocles
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The hero isn’t always epic and won’t always have a happy ending, sometimes he may face a tragic event and meet his downfall. Sophocles Athenian tragedy Oedipus Rex, or Oedipus the King, is a phenomenal play written and first performed around 430 B.C. The play follows the story of Oedipus, a man who became the King of the city Thebes by solving a riddle and defeating a sphinx that was threatening the city and then marrying the queen of Thebes, Jocasta. One day, when Thebes is suffering from a catastrophic plague, Oedipus sends his brother-in-law Creon to an oracle to find out how to stop the plague. Creon returns telling Oedipus that the plague will cease if the killer of the previous king, Laius, is found and exiled. Little does Oedipus know, he is Laius’s killer. Before Oedipus was born, a prophecy was told to Jocasta that her son would kill his father and marry his mother, and so she sent her son out to be killed in the mountains. That boy was Oedipus, and as the prophecy stated, he has returned to Thebes unknowingly to fulfill that prophecy. I love this Greek play by Sophocles because it is one of the first pieces of literature that tells the story of the “tragic hero” and his downfall. I recommend this play to all, but more advanced readers as the translation is also a bit complex.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
The Book of Mormon
Smith, Joseph
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The greatest book of all time.

Reviewer's Name: Brennan
The Invisible Wall
Bernstien, Harry
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Harry is a small boy living in a war torn part of England. His street is divided by an invisible wall… a wall divided the Jews from the Christians.
There is an unspoken hatred of the other side, and any possible relationship between the two sides is crushed. But what happens when a Jew and a Christian fall in love? Harry’s elder sister begins to love a Christian boy, and is treated horribly for it. She is beaten by her drunken father and shamed by her family and friends. Harry is forced to choose between what he knows to be right and what he has been raised to accept is right.This book is nonfiction.
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was wonderfully written and I loved the author’s narration. Although, I felt like nothing good ever happened. It seemed like the author was just choosing the most terrible, most horrendous things and depicting that as the everyday life. Who knows? Maybe that’s how it actually was.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Jordan T
Beowulf
Heaney, Seamus
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The mighty hero triumphs over evil and saves the people from utter destruction. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it’s the basic plot line of the cliche hero’s tale that everybody knows. However, all of these tales most likely spawned from Beowulf, the oldest surviving English poem written in Anglo - Saxon around the 11th Century A.D. Beowulf is an epic poem that begins with Hrothgar, King of the Danes. Hrothgar’s people live in peace when they are attacked and threatened by a monster named Grendel, who kills off the Danes everynight in their mead-hall, Heorot. So in comes Beowulf son of Ecgtheow, a mighty warrior from Geatland who promises to defeat Grendel and bring prosperity back to the Danes. Beowulf is an amazing poem as it not only tells the classic tale of the epic hero and his journey, but contains hidden meanings aside from literal. Beowulf has no known author, but contains elements of factual history, which tells us this may be a tale describing actual events. This piece of literature is a traditional master piece and should be preserved as an example of how words and tales can evolve over decades. Reviewer Grade 12.

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride
Elwes, Cary
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

While I love audiobooks for their capacity to let me mindlessly absorb books while I’m driving to or from work, much of the story comes down to the narrator and their inflections. Sometimes these narrators can be annoying, or incomprehensible, or vary their volume too much. It is a rare treat to find an audiobook that fully capitalizes on the medium, either by adding music and sound effects or (in this case) using the voices of actual people to narrate the story. As You Wish is just such an audiobook, and I would even go so far to say it is the superior version of this book, even without “reading” it for myself.

As one of the most frequent and common of quotable movies, The Princess Bride (1987) is an odd little film that just works. It’s fantasy, it’s comedy, it’s family-friendly. It’s all these things and more. But what about the people who made it happen? There have been horror stories of narcissistic directors or difficult actors making successful films, even despite their personalities. Fortunately, this most beloved of classics was not like that at all. All the behind-the-scenes stories helped to add an understanding and depth to The Princess Bride that should appeal to both diehard fans and those unfamiliar with the film.

Cary Elwes does a fantastic job of stringing these stories together while also exploring the backgrounds of all the characters (and the actors who played them). While the other actors do get their say in this audiobook, it’s Elwes’ impersonations of many of the individuals that was hilariously on point. He takes a humble and even-handed approach to storytelling that brings the listener into the midst of the filmmaking process without letting his personality get in the way of recounting historical events. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or a fan of audiobooks, his book is absolutely worth a listen.

A superb audiobook that everyone should listen to, I give As You Wish 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Book Review: Rules for Radicals
Alinsky, Saul
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Rules for Radicals is a complicated book and yet one i find myself applying more and more to my everyday life as time wears on. It was written by a lifelong political organizer and social reformer and is a guide he wrote on these topics when his health started to fail. The title may sound extreme and certainly some of its content is, the majority of its pages are simple and can be applied to much of one’s life in the form of philosophy. It covers topics from government to culture and how they should operate, how to tell if they are corrupt, and when corrupt if they should be reformed or replaced. In an age of vast political change I see this easily being applied to many facets of life.

Reviewer's Name: Jaydon K.
Genres:
Fast Food Nation
Schlosser, Eric
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I picked this book to do for a book report on non-fiction American novels because of all the talk that "fast food is going to kill everyone" going around. According to the book that may be true. Eric Schlosser talks about the issues in the food industry today and how it is going to affect people in the long term. He gets his evidence first hand from interviews of all kinds of people involved with fast food production and the stories of past openings of these restaurants. The encounters take place with French fry distributors, McDonald's employees, old fashioned ranch owners, parents of children who have died form food borne illnesses, and food engineers. The book gives the story of the start of processed food and what it has evolved into today and real world examples and facts of what is happening to the population and what will continue to happen in the future if it is not stopped. The book was very enjoyable as secrets and interesting facts were revealed that would make me think twice before heading to another fast food restaurant but it also gave perspective to those running the business and what their daily life is like. Eric Schlosser also discusses the past productions of food along with the present to show how little the industry has done to improve and the little interest they have in their consumers and employees. Childhood obesity is also addressed in the novel along with the tricks used against children to put processed food into their systems early and for as long as possible to make a profit. The solution mentioned is to abandon all processed foods and return to the old ways of nutrition, only eating the foods we can produce ourselves without the help of machines or chemicals. The characters in the book are everyday people that anyone can relate to in their struggles just to get by or enjoy life without the hassle of thinking about what they should eat or feed their families that night. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in food production or interested in nutrition and what is best to fuel our bodies.
Reviewer Grade:11

Reviewer's Name: Madison G.
Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Skloot, Rebecca
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is a powerful narrative detailing one of the most revolutionary scientific and medical discoveries of the 20th century: HeLa cells. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951 when she was 31 years old. During a surgery to remove some of her tumor, one of her surgeons took a sample of that tumor for testing in his lab. As he had tested many other cancerous cells, he expected Henrietta's cells to die within a few hours. They never did. Her cells continued to reproduce, and still do to this day. Henrietta's family, however, was never notified that her cells were taken. They discovered this in a news article years after the fact. The book not only tells Henrietta's story, but her family's as well. Rebecca Skloot worked for years with the Lacks family to ensure that justice was done, and Henrietta was not lost to history. I enjoyed the personal perspective that Skloot used to tell the story. It had the full potential of being written like a scientific journal, but Skloot told it as a beautiful narrative. Henrietta, her husband and children, and even Rebecca herself were characters and there was emotion on every page. It reads like a novel. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in medicine and its history.

Reviewer's Name: Hannah H.
Book Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Sedaris, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

David Sedaris truly does not disappoint in his autobiography, When You’re Engulfed in Flames. The way that he is able to express himself while being true to his own story is amazing. He takes a normal self-discovery story and adds enough detail and personal insight, that it makes it one of the most entertaining books that I have ever read. I can see, however, that this is not the book for everyone. It uses quite a bit of vulgar language, discusses about adult topics, and talks about multiple controversial subjects (political subjects in our nation). It has a very liberal feel, and would most likely not appeal as much to strict conservatives. But, nonetheless, a book is a book, and this one was extremely well written and hilarious. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud in quiet environments. The wit that David Sedaris has is impeccable and one of a kind and constantly present throughout the book.
I initially picked up this book because it was given to me as a gift. The gift giver had not read the book but had just seen the exquisite artwork on the cover and knew it was going to be good. Since then, I have recommended this book to so many who want a quick, funny, uplifting read. And that is why I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading self narratives with a humorous twist.

Reviewer's Name: Emma K.
Awards:
How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Foster, Thomas C.
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Ever wonder how your English teachers and professors read literature? I don't mean how they actually read the words, but how they view and process what they read. Like when we read “ and a rainstorm appears” all we see is a rainstorm, but English teachers and professors view it as symbolism for depression, purity, or a cleansing ritual. In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster comically and entertainingly introduces readers to literary basics that show us how to make reading more enjoyable. He explains literary trends and jokes such as how every single novel has aspects of another novel, why snow and rain aren’t just snow and rain, and why “It’s all political.” I recommend this book to those reading at a higher level; I actually read this for my AP Literature class and it’s extraordinarily funny because it makes fun of the literary norms of English teachers. Reviewer Grade = 10

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Awards:
Genres:
Hidden Like Anne Frank
Prins, Marcel
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I really enjoyed this book. It is true stories of kids who survived the Holocaust. All of the stories have sadness in them and, all are incredible. I recommend this book to everyone who hasn’t read it yet. It is a great (and easy) read. If you looking for a good non-fiction book for school or just for fun, this is the book for you!

Reviewer grade: 8th

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth C.
Genres:
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Trevor Noah's autobiography, which focuses on his childhood in South Africa, gives audiences a funny yet insightful look into life in South Africa before and after apartheid. The book is also a compelling mother-and-son love story. Noah's astute and comedic storytelling makes "Born a Crime" is a very smart and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Melina
Awards:
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement that Defied Adolf Hitler
Freedman, Russell
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Russell Freedman's book chronicling the White Rose Resistance Movement is a brief but enlightening overview of the resistance to the Nazi's in WWII that will sure to spark interest in history for teens and adults. Freeman's work is always well researched, well written and he includes many interesting historical photos as well as an index, notes and a great selected bibliography for further exploration. Spoiler alert to parents, readers will encounter gruesome facts about the execution of the movements members, so parent pre-reading is advised. For ages 12 - 18.

Reviewer's Name: Barbara
Gentle Discipline : Using Emotional Connection-Not Punishment-to Raise Confident, Capable Kids
Ockwell-Smith, Sarah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Gentle Discipline seeks to provide an alternative approach to the mainstream philosophy regarding the disciplining of children. I appreciated many of the tips and suggestions found in this book. It is very helpful to remember how immature a child's brain is, and just because they can understand adult language, does not mean a child has adult responses or even the ability to think like an adult. It is also helpful to remember that to discipline is to teach, not to punish. Disciplining children gently is not an instant fix, but is a long-term approach to changing kids' behavior as well as our own. We can start wherever we are with our kids and we don't have to be perfect, because NO ONE is.The narrator is nauseatingly calm and peaceful, so much so, that I almost didn't listen to the book.

Reviewer's Name: Robin

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