Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Nonfiction

Hazelet's Journal
Hazelet, George Cheever
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This review is really about a spread of books I found or was able to access through PPLD. After an enjoyable visit to Skagway, AK, I became interested in Klondike Gold Rush history. Through the PPLD catalog and an interlibrary loan I accessed: Hazelet's Journal by George Cheever Hazelet: If you enjoy history from original sources, this book will draw you in as the author writes honestly about a business failure that led him to seek gold in Alaska. The arduous travels searching for gold are documented both by journal and amazing photographs. It is a slow read for someone who enjoys more of a "story." Although Cheever fails in the gold rush, as well, the stage was set for eventual successes that were instrumental in Alaska frontier development.

Journey (fiction) by James Michener: A quick read that will be more enjoyable to the reader looking for a story within the historical background of the gold rush. Four Englishmen and an Irishman push their way across Canada to Dawson City, fulfilling the image of the phrase "Mad dogs and Englishmen."

Gold! The Klondike Adventure by Delia Ray: Young Adult book that provides an easy-to-read purview with photographs of the rush, perils, commercialism, and subculture that arose between Skagway and Dawson City. Prospectors and merchants alike sought riches on the Alaskan frontier within a very short timeframe: 1897-1900.

Klondike Fever by Pierre Berton: Subtitled The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush, this book provides an exhaustive and interesting read about the gold rush from many different angles. This book was accessed through an interlibrary loan. However, the book was so old it was not pleasant to read so I am hoping PPLD will purchase a new edition. It is a very good book!

Reviewer's Name: Rita
The Secret
Byrne, Rhonda
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne reveals the science behind the Law of Attraction and how to apply it to every day life. I'm not kidding when I say this book changed my life. After discovering how I have personal power to positively change my life using the Law of Attraction just by thinking positively, everything opened up. I learned that life doesn't simply happen to us; we can make our lives extraordinary. Incredibly well written and very powerful, this book is full of inspirational quotes and success stories used to motivate you towards achieving your goals. I highly recommend this book if you want to affect positive change in your life.
Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Gillian P.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Cain, Susan
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book has me questioning whether or not I'm actually the straight-up extrovert I believed myself to be. Maybe it's a product of aging or of circumstances, but I find myself identifying with the introverts in some aspects of my life. My husband is a hard-core introvert, so this book reinforced what I already know about him. The anecdotes were very interesting and the presentation was more readable than your average nonfiction book. Good book!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Apollo 8
Kluger, Jeffrey
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

In August 1968, NASA made the bold decision to win a major battle in the Cold War by launching the first manned flight to the moon. President Kennedy's deadline of putting a man on the moon by 1970 was fast approaching, but Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders were up to the challenge to make a huge advancement in order to meat the deadline. Apollo 8 tells the full story of the mission from Mission Control to the astronauts' homes, from the test labs to the launch pad. Apollo 8 also gives a summary of the Mercury, Gemini, and the other Apollo missions and talks about the science behind the mission in an easy to understand manner. From the coauthor of the bestselling book about Apollo 13, Apollo 8 is a thrilling yer informative tale and a great resource to have. I highly recommend this book for anyone in high school or older who is fascinated by the space program or is doing a project on anything related to NASA.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Pensées
Pascal, Blaise
2 stars = Meh
Review:

While I do enjoy and appreciate the ease of which I can listen to an audiobook and absorb the content of a variety of books, there are always a few books that don’t translate well into the format. Sure, I might have my qualms about the narrator’s pronunciation, volume control, or other technical issues. However, this is the first book where the rating I’m giving applies explicitly to the audiobook version, and not necessarily to the book’s contents. The difference here is that the audiobook version of Pascal’s Pensées doesn’t allow the reader enough time to adequately absorb the content.

If I were to classify this book, I’d probably say it’s closer to a listing of complaints/observations that would work better on a multi-year “item-a-day” calendar than in an audiobook format. The majority of Pensées is a series of proverbs by Blaise Pascal, a name that most scientists will recognize. The fact that he so thoroughly analyzed the theology of the Bible and came to the conclusions that he did perhaps speaks volumes about scientific atheists today who have not done nearly as much research on their spiritual beliefs. There are plenty of gems of wisdom in this book; it’s just that the audiobook format doesn’t easily allow the reader to dwell on them for more than a moment.

Perhaps when I have a little more time to fully appreciate Pascal’s Pensées, I’ll sit down and read it. Fortunately, since it’s in the public domain, this book is free to read on Project Gutenberg. Until then, though, I can’t recommend people read the audiobook version of this text.
If I manage to physically read this book in the future, I’ll likely give it an adequate rating, but as it is right now, I only have the audiobook version to go off of.

A book of proverbs you should read instead of listen to, I give Pensées 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Blue Dreams: The Science and the Story of the Drugs that Changed Our Minds
Slater, Lauren
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book was okay. It takes the reader through the history of psychotrophic drugs. It's overall pretty dry. There are some parts that are very interesting, such as the author's struggles with psychotrophic drugs and the use of psychedelics in psychiatry, but overall I was pretty bored reading it. Maybe I'm not the target audience. Maybe it's geared more toward the academic set. But I did learn some, so I give it 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Thompson, Hunter S.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was fantastic! It takes you on a drug-fueled, depraved, whirlwind tour of Las Vegas with Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his attorney. The sheer amount and variety of drugs ingested was enough to blow my mind, not to mention the shenanigans that occur as a result. There were some instances of depravity that curled my toes, but the ride was well worth it. Gonzo journalism rocks!

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

Into the Wild is a nonfiction narrative of the life of Christopher McCandless, a man who ventured into the wilderness of Alaska to live a self-sustained life. At first, I thought this book was awfully dry, but I soon warmed up to Krakauer's writing style. In fact, Into the Wild ended up being so thrilling and intriguing that I couldn't put it down. The best part of this book is the inspiration it provides. It talks about McCandless's reasons for leaving civilization behind, and it also mentions many transcendentalist authors. I now love nonfiction adventure. Everyone should read this book.

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.
Harvey Penick's Little Red Book: Lessons and Teachings From a Lifetime in Golf
Robbins, Kevin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Harvey Penick was a renowned golf pro at the Austin Country Club who began his as a caddie. He also coached golf at the University of Texas of thirty years and worked with the likes of Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, and Betsy Rawls. Harvey Pencil's Little Red Book started as notes and observations from Harvey's lifetime in golf that only his family was allowed to read. However, Harvey decided to share his wealth of golf knowledge with the world and had this book published. This book is full of amazing tips and tricks that all players can adapt to their game. It also gives many exercises that can improve your game. Finally, Harvey gives many phrases and sayings that are easy to understand and help you to have the right mentality for playing golf and for life. Even though Harvey passed away in 1995, his teachings are still very useful today. I highly recommend this book for all players, caddies, coaches and golf pros.

Reviewer's Name: John B.
Genres:
Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl
Wilson, Nathan D.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book is an Ecclesiastes-type project. In some ways, you could say it comes to the same conclusions as Ecclesiastes. There is nothing better than to simply enjoy life, says the sage. Woven throughout this delightful commentary on the world in which we find ourselves living, runs the same thread of truth. This world is full of enough mystery and wonder to fill infinite life times; so wake up and discover it. Don't become numb to the inescapable miracles everywhere you look.

With wit and humor, you will find yourself agreeing that humanism and materialism are the most bazaar and ridiculous of all philosophies. They are too inane to even warrant serious discussion. How does Wilson deals with someone like Nietzche? "I want to ruffle his hair. I want to take the poor Lutheran boy's head in my hands and kiss his creased forehead." This is perhaps a good illustration of this book's intentions. Wilson ruffles the hair of all philosophies which turn deaf ears to the noise that all creation is loudly proclaiming: there is a creator.

One can almost imagine a serious-minded humanist bursting into laughter while reading this and realizing how deliberately closed-minded he has been all his life.

But Wilson not only opens our eyes to the wonders of God's design in creation, but tackles the mysteries of suffering, pain, and hell head on. He does not try to neatly sum it all up for us in trite sayings, but instead simply stares reality in the face. You will not find any sugar-coating in this book. An atheist once asked Wilson, "So do you really think I'm going to hell?" Wilson promptly answered, "Don't you want to? You won't have to be with God there. Whereas you would have to be with God all the time in heaven." In the end, Wilson concludes, everyone will get what he truly desires.

This is enjoyable reading, much like the book of Ecclesiastes, and at times, could be categorized with the stream-of-consciousness genre. But it was refreshing, humorous, and most of all starkly truthful. You will be enlightened and refreshed!

Reviewer's Name: Leslie Taylor
Quantum Physics for Poets
Lederman, Leon M.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Quantum Physics for Poets explains some of the most arcane quantum physics topics to readers in a form which captures imaginations and aids understanding. Mr. Lederman and Mr. Hill have managed to write a book that spans simpler topics to far more complicated topics that most will never encounter, with a poetic theme to it that speaks to readers’ artistic souls. The blending of right brain and left is exceptionally done, managing to combine a love of understanding the world around us and a love of the singularly beatific rhythm that poetry provides in one’s life. An excellent book and an enthralling albeit challenging read, I would recommend this book to anyone with a high level of interest in the sciences, particularly physics, and a large interest in exploring its greater depths.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
The Hidden Lives of Owls
Calvez, Leigh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Hidden Lives of Owls is a gripping nonfiction book that not only builds one’s knowledge of the species, but actively forges a bond between readers and the unique creatures. The book chronicles Mr. Calvez’s journeys through nature’s forests as he observes the innermost habits of owls. Mainly, Mr.
Calvez observes the owls at night, giving way to the book’s title of “Hidden Lives”, as he observes things one would not usually see in the daytime. Through its first-person narration by Mr. Calvez, a naturalist, the Hidden Lives of Owls reveals many aspects of the life of the owl about which one would never before be aware. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the mysterious creatures that are owls, and interested in searching out further facts about these beautiful, wonderful, animals than is seen on the surface.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth D
Darwin's First Theory
Wesson, Rob
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Everyone knows the name Darwin. The name is synonymous with one of the most important theories ever generated by mankind. At this point in the world, the name is less a name and more a representation of something much greater. Yet, as Mr. Welson leads us to question in his book Darwin’s First Theory, how deeply do we truly know the man who changed the face of our understanding of earth forever?

Written by leading geologist Rob Welson, Darwin's first theory explores the beginning of Charles Darwin’s quest to find a theory of the earth, and explores how his early theories helped shape his future and most famous theory of evolution. By bringing us along through well-researched narration of Mr. Darwin’s first journey on the HMS Beagle, Mr. Welson brings us to a greater understanding of the man whose theory shaped modern biology around the world. Darwin’s First Theory is an informative read. To anyone interested in Darwin, and interested in a greater understanding of biology's most influential theory, I would recommend this book.

Reviewer's Name: Elizabeth D
The Melting World
White, Christopher P.
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The Melting World, a tale of the author’s journey to Montana and beyond in order to better understand global climate change, is a powerful commentary on the state of global warming in our world today. Mr. White’s research is as fascinating as it is frightening, gripping us and emboldening readers to continue the changes in the world such that these caps cannot continue to atrophy at the rate they are. Since Mr. White traveled to Montana, and did research regarding the Rocky Mountain Ice, the Melting World hits close to home for Coloradoan readers. The book is neither overly long nor overly short, so one is left with a satisfied feeling of comprehension of the situation without being bombarded by information overload. Naturally, the Melting World is not a light book, and can be an upsetting one, but a book which is important to read nevertheless. To anyone who cares about the environment, I would recommend this gripping read.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca D
Book Review: 882 1/2 Amazing Answers to Your Questions About the Titanic
Brewster, Hugh
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

All Titanic lovers must read this. It is very straightforward and this book covered a lot of the questions I had. I recommend this book for ages 12+ because it’s a very serious book about a world-wide known tradegy and it covers sensitive topics that demand full respect. I thouroughly enjoyed reading it. It taught me more about this beautiful ship than I’ve ever known. 882.5 Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic is worth reading! I rate it 4 stars because it was truly helpful and a great read.

Reviewer's Name: Kaitlyn S
Awards:
Genres:
Book Review: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved
Bowler, Kate
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

It's been a little while since I've read this book. It's about a professor who has written and researched the 'prosperity gospel', is diagnosed with cancer, and struggles to reconcile the two. The best part about the book was the appendix which talks about what and what not to do when interacting with someone going through a trauma. I read this book while a friend of mine was dying of cancer. I wish I had the opportunity to utilize the advice in this book to comfort her.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Book Review: Hidden America
Laskas, Jeanne Marie
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Great book. Hearing about careers that normally aren't in the spotlight was an eye opening experience. Well written and neutral, the author really lets her subjects shine.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
We Bought a Zoo
Mee, Benjamin
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

"We Bought A Zoo", an inspiring story about following your dreams, is an interesting novel. Published in 2008, this book is now a major motion picture. I started reading this book about two months ago, having finished it mid-April. I am in the eighth grade, and found this book a little advanced.
It talked about terminology that is most likely aimed towards an older audience, of that including zoology and business. However, I found this book very informative and inspiring in spite of it's difficulty. This book is a personal narrative from the perspective of Benjamin Mee and his road to zoo owner. The copy I read did include some profanity (cursing), so if that is not something that appeals to you, this book may not be for you. However, if you like an inspiring read and learning new things, this book is for you.

Reviewer's Name: Siena G
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.

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