Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Nonfiction

Gonzales, Laurence
2 stars = Meh
Review:

I only read half of this book. The writing style was too jumpy/jumbled for me. I felt that Laurence Gonzales was repeating the same things over and over. I did like the survival (or in some cases non-survival stories) and wished there had been more of those with the follow-up to the incident instead of so much description of the brain functions of survival. This was just an okay book for me.

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Glanville, Brandi
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Yes. I read this. I know. But, it didn't suck. It was actually pretty entertaining and the parts about her having to watch a new mother-figure enter her children's lives was downright heart-wrenching. Not bad at all.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Duhigg, Charles
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I finished this book a couple of weeks ago. It was interesting, but I can't remember too much about it now, which is why it's only getting 3 stars. I do remember the cue -> action -> reward loop that makes up habit and am half-heartedly applying it to my nail-biting habit. Just knowledge of the cues has already helped me be aware that I'm biting or am about to bite my nails. We'll see what happens. I also plan to implement the habit loop in Zoe's violin practices.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Lancaster, Jen
2 stars = Meh
Review:

Borderline 1 star. Jen Lancaster really annoys me. It could be because she writes super clever banter between herself and everyone else. Puhleeze. It's like she has a big sign on her back that says, 'Gee, aren't I witty? Don't you wish you were friends with me?'. Not really. Oh God, and the footnotes! Lame way to try to be clever. She just tries too hard. But I did finish it, but no more Jen Lancaster for me.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Harris, Sam
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For a small book, it was definitely intense. Sam Harris is a great American intellectual and advocate for reason. In "Free Will", he really brings up an issue that really makes you reconsider everything you ever thought about what drives us as human beings. It leaves you to chew on what you just read and think more about why we do what we do. He inserts in some of his sense of humor too, which helps break up the pace. I only wish he could've expanded a little bit more, and gave more insight into opposing viewpoints.

Reviewer's Name: Cassie
Batterson, Mark
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was another hit by Mark Batterson. It teaches you how to pray circles around your biggest dreams and fears. An inspiring read that I will read more than once.

Reviewer's Name: Kylee
Cullen, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Fascinating account of the Columbine massacre, the months leading up to it, and the aftermath. Very thorough analysis of the minds of the killers. I was riveted by this book. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is I'd have liked to see pictures, not of the carnage, but of the involved parties so I could easily associate faces with names. A thought-provoking book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
McCarthy, Andrew
2 stars = Meh
Review:

This book was okay. There was quite a bit of navel-gazing going on. But there was also the occasional interesting bit. Meh.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Halpern, Justin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This book is very clever, funny, and sweet. The author talks about his misadventures with girls in a very self-deprecating manner. His father even makes a showing in the book, to hilarious effect. Thumbs up!

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Guinness, Os
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

America's Suicide?

Suicide as a personal or a social phenomenon is never a comfortable conversation, as tragedy seldom is. When presented on the level of civilization itself, suicide is a challenging subject indeed, particularly when it is your own society at stake. Yet, in his 2012 volume "A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future," this is precisely what Os Guinness invites us - even commands us - as Americans, to think hard on. It is a penetrating read. It is a vital read.
As an Irish descendant of a certain beer magnate and as a self-described "resident alien" in the U. S. A., Guinness brings to his argument the presumed objective detachment of a third party looking in at America. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, is widely published in American social studies, is founder of the Trinity Forum and past member of the Brookings Institute and Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies. He is a dedicated and very empathetic observer of the contemporary American scene and is highly informed of the trajectory of American history, the foundations of our political success as an independent nation, our internal struggles to maintain our freedoms and suggests what we might do to halt our suicidal plunge into incoherence.
Guinness comes armed with the full panoply of some 200 of history's observers and participants in the rise and fall of societies, from Thucydides, Sophocles and Xenophon among the ancients, through the Revolutionaries of Voltaire, Montesquieu, Jefferson, Madison and Adams to the moderns of Keynes, Weber and Wilson. All of this collective "wisdom of the ages" testifies to the hard fact that every civilization known to history has disappeared. While foreign invasions have precipitated many of these social catastrophes, Guinness insists with volumes of evidence that it is the internal decay of societies that universally explains their devolution. It is not the "wolves at the door" that today threaten our survival, but the "termites within" that will inevitably do the job.
The footnotes should not scare off the American reader. The inevitable conclusion should. Guinness' journalistic style is aimed at the concerned citizen, not the PhD.
Guinness first establishes his baseline for understanding the current American condition with a review of the American Founding, the forceful riddance of external control begun in 1776. This was the revolutionary startup of 1776, the first stage of the three-phased cycle of freedom. The second phase was the creation of ordered freedom manifested by the constitutional structure that provided the perimeter fence against any future government tyranny and the internal "checks and balances" to prevent internal anarchy. Here the Founders combined the negative freedom from excessive government intrusion and the equally important positive freedom to believe in what we will and to act on those beliefs. This was history's first attempt at structuring a society from scratch on specific ideas and tenets. This took time, as the Constitution was only ratified in 1787 together with the original Bill of Rights. This Constitution was a "covenant" among freely consenting partners as much as it was a document, a "covenant" that manifested the Founders' understanding of how "freedom" was to be defined and commonly understood.
The third phase of Guinness' freedom is the sustaining of freedom. This has become the critical phase, a continuing one over the decades and is the principle theme of "A Free Peoples' Suicide." Simply put, Guinness pictures an American society that has disintegrated to a level of incoherence and spends most of his pages explaining why. Pick your metaphor: a physician attempting to heal his living patient; a coroner dissecting a carcass looking for clues of the cause of death. The reader might suppose that Guinness himself is unsure which one he represents.
"Freedom" alone, Guinness claims, is not an ultimate value. It is a vacuum into which we import values. Freedom is an identifiable structure, a "golden triangle" consisting of three equilateral corners, freedom, virtue and faith. Removing any one corner and the structure falls to the ground.
The virtue he proclaims is that of "personal restraint," the consensus among mature citizens that there are essential norms of behavior that can be agreed upon. This was the Jeffersonian notion of "reason" and "sentiment,"
the "aristocracy of virtue" of John Adams and de Tocqueville's "habits of the heart" that together enabled citizens to govern themselves rather than be subjected to the destructive dependancies of "monarchy" and an all-consuming government.
The faith that Guinness proclaims is one essential source of that virtue, an interdependency that results in "morality" itself. This is the Christian/Judeo faith that acknowledges something superior to the individual, something that offers guidelines of behavior that all citizens can agree on voluntarily without government dictat. The loss of this faith in the "invisible" unhappily is the "completest revolution" of the American experience since we also have no faith in anything "visible."
The challenge to the reader of "A Free Peoples' Suicide" is whether to continue with Guinness' excruciating depiction of the collapse of that "golden triangle," of American society itself, or to retreat ignominiously under his security blanket of "I can have it all" at the hands of beneficent and ever-expanding government.

Reviewer's Name: Whitney
Genres:
James, Aaron
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

If language doesn't offend you, this is one of the more thought-out, funny and smart books about certain members of our society. While reading, it seems more like entertainment, but you catch yourself noticing patterns in reality that apply. It's both fun and educational!

Reviewer's Name: Cassie
Burpo, Todd
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Good.

Reviewer's Name: Kim
Hainey, Michael
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I heard about this book from my cousin who read it in her book club. It is one of the best books I read all year. I wish I was a faster reader but I managed to finish it all the way to the end. You know exactly what the author is thinking. Its a great book!

Reviewer's Name: Karen
Sedaris, David
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This was a good way to be distracted on my runs. I didn't find it to be laugh-out-loud funny, but it was somewhat engaging, which is good enough for my needs.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Dikkers, Scott
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Very funny, especially on eAudio. I liked the Luxembourg section the best but they were all good.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Handler, Chelsea
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Let me just say that I cannot understand why anyone would want to work for Chelsea Handler. My God, I'd be in hell. It was entertaining but not hilarious until the chapter about Standards and Practices and the chapter written by her dog. This makes me want to read another book by Chelsea herself. This one was written by her cronies.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Genres:
Ackerman, Diane
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The Zookeeper's Wife: A war story by Diane Ackerman tells the story
of Polish zookeepers, Jan and Antonina Zabinski and how they saved 300 Jews in the middle of occupied Warsaw in WWII. It is a remarkable story of imagination and fierce resistance, as the Zabinskis harbored Jews in their home and on their zoo grounds, with Nazis all around them. Antonina was especially concerned that the Jews not merely survive but survive with their humanity in tact--at night the house was full of art and music for the hidden Jews. Because Diane Ackerman is the writer of this tale, she draws upon her work as a naturalist to explore the relationship between animals and humans and to explore the odd fascination that the Nazis had with questions of "pure" and "aryan" animals, which the Zabinskis exploited to gain access to
the Jewish ghettos, where they took out Jews and brought in food. A fascinating, bizarre tale. This is a perfect book for book clubs: the questions raised are many and heady.

Reviewer's Name: Roger
Genres:
Lansing, Alfred
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

An incredible true story that details the leadership, skills and experience of Ernest Shackleton and his crew as they survive daunting odds and extreme misery while attempting to cross Antarctica. While the book starts a bit slowly, a few chapters in it is near impossible to set down. It reminds us of the endless capability of man to survive in situations where death seems to be the only option available.

Reviewer's Name: Greg
Black, Lewis
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

A very funny book. I kinda was expecting an atheist viewpoint, but the author was a bit more nebulous about the existence of God. But more importantly, this was a very funny book.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Forché, Carolyn
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

The first essay opens up with a study of "why I write." From there, the editors take us through myriad teachers and experts of creative nonfiction as they explore the variety of work that is creative nonfiction. There is much to inspire writers, but the essays appeal to avid readers who want to understand the format and learn from masters of the genre. The information is deep at times, and writers will want to explore some essays for longer periods as they process their responses. The essay "why I write" alone will require some introspection and aid in the learning process. It should be required reading for creative nonfiction writers and students.

Reviewer's Name: Cindy
Genres:

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