Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Nonfiction

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:
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
Love, Lucy
Ball, Lucille
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball is an amazing depiction of the iconic bombshell actress, Lucille Ball. It is an autobiography and describes her early life, family dynamics, acting career, marriages, and divorces. I found the story to be quite inspirational and it is now one of my favorite books. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about what her life was like. In her early career, she wasn’t considered to be an exceptional actress and was told that she was untalented and would not be hired. Amazingly, she is now one of the most iconic female comedians of all time for her work on the show “I Love Lucy”. I have a newfound respect for her and her work after reading this book.
This book really speaks to the dreamers. If you’ve ever had someone tell you that you’re not good enough at the thing you love to do it professionally, read this book! One of the most interesting parts of the book is when Lucille depicts going to an acting school in New York City. After the first term, she was kicked out because she “didn’t have what it takes”.
As we all know, she ultimately proved them wrong. Her story is one of success when barely anyone believed in her.
I would recommend this book for ages 10+. It did not have an swearing in it and the book was easy to read. It is 286 pages which might be a little long for the younger readers.
The autobiography “Love, Lucy” by Lucille Ball is an amazing and inspirational story about the immensely talented actress who defied early critics to become a leading lady in American television.

Reviewer's Name: Sophie L.
I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories From the Stacks
Sheridan, Gina
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Of course I loved this book since I too work in a public library. Most of the stories, I have experienced from time to time. And could probably add a few! But I am so glad, that no one has ever taken off their shoe and asked me if their foot was inflamed or infected!! LOL! Now that I have said this, it is probably going to happen. But anyway, this is a great book for anyone who wants to know what it is like to work in a public library. Along with the crazy, funny stories, there are some nice ones where someone's life was changed for the better because of the library. That makes the job at the Reference Desk worth it!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Genres:
'Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind'
Kamkwamba, William
2 stars = Meh
Review:

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkawamba and Bryan Mealer is a nonfiction book or biography that describes William Kamkwamba's rise to fame. He undegoes a transformation from being a poor farm boy to emerging as a creative, and intuitive inventor. The book exceeds at telling not about the facts of William Kamkawamba's, but rather, telling the reader about his story. In times of need, William decides to build a windmill to provide electricity for himself and his family. This gives him something to do and learn, as he is prohibited from going to school, thanks to poverty. The book then proceeds to tell the reader about inventions and ideas that have no impact on anything, and just seem like filler content. William then becomes famous and gets to go to school. Through the story, the book fails by providing no depth to any of the characters or real plot. While the book also tries to insist that the theme is about one bright idea lighting up the world, there is no evidence or real example of William influencing people. He just gets some money and gives electricity and better conditions to his
fellow townspeople. Overall the book is exciting at first, but once the creation of the windmill is over, the book becomes dry and dull. I can not
recommend this book to anyone else, as it was really a boring read.

Reviewer's Name: Steven L
Awards:
The Great Escape
Brickhill, Paul
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The nonfiction book, The Great Escape, by Paul Brickhill informs the reader of life in a German Prisoner of War (POW) camp during World War II. Through many incidents, hundreds of POWs are collected and imprisoned in the camp Stag Luft III, but they eventually move to other camps. The book succeeds, as it feels like a fiction, adventure novel and doesn't bore you with facts.
It makes the reader feel as though they are with the prisoners and their captors, including Roger Bushell and the "Artful Dodger." Throughout the story of the prisoners, they make many attempts to escape, such as clipping through the prison wire and digging multiple tunnels. The POWs evasive tactics do eventually pay off, and the book describes how they escape and suffer through the horrible German torture methods for recaptured prisoners.
Overall, the book has been one of my favorite books, and I feel that people who like adventure will like The Great Escape.
Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name: Steven L.
Genres:
King Leopold's Ghost
Hochschild, Adam
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Adam Hochschild brings to light an important part of history that is largely ignored in relations to the horrors of the colonization of Africa. Hochschild follows, in detail, the formation of the Belgium colony in the Congo. His descriptions and the information he puts forth draws the readers in and highlights the travesty that King Leopold let loose on this part of Africa and its people. The details that Hochschild puts into his book reveals hidden intrigues that keep the readers engaged. And the history that Hochschild relates to the development of this colony allows readers to see the bigger picture. This book addresses key topics, like racism and slavery, that develop readers understanding of this time and the need to prevent similar situations in the future.
(Reviewer Grade: 12)

Reviewer's Name: Lynzie M.
A Colony in a Nation
Hayes, Chris
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Chris Hayes, a journalist on MSNBC, wrote this book after his experience reporting in Ferguson, Missouri after the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in 2014. In the book, he posits that we treat people of color in this country the same way that King George treated the colonists in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War: by enacting a police state that exploits the few for some sort of economic gain. We exist as two entities in this country: the Nation, which is concerned with upholding the law, and the Colony, in which we're more concerned with creating order.

This was a quick, excellent read. I'm usually not a fan of using personal anecdotes to make a point, but Hayes does that effectively here: most noticeably because he then will follow an anecdote with data to back up whatever it is he's saying. The anecdotes, though, make the book particularly interesting, especially because they are often presented as a "what if" thought experiment as to how Hayes' experience might have been different had he been a person of color. Part history lesson, part social justice treatise, A Colony in a Nation is a book that's not to be missed, particularly by those that are concerned with issues within the criminal justice system, and the egregious civil and human rights violations that are enacted upon citizens of color in the United States. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Toy figurines of Mayflower pilgrims and their boats
Vowell, Sarah
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This book takes a look at the lives of the early Puritans that crossed over to make a better life for themselves in America. While that topic doesn't immediately scream, "Read me!" I was forced to read it for school, and I actually really enjoyed myself. The author, Sarah Vowell, has this dry sense of humor that makes her long explanations about the technicalities of the religion and of how society worked back then interesting while still informing you of the topic and the message she is trying to put across. I think whether I would recommend this book depends on who wants to read it. If you are someone who is looking for a non-fiction novel that gives a different perspective to what is generally taught in history classrooms, I say go for it. If not, you might still enjoy it simply because the author is hysterical, but that might not be the case if you are not interested in learning about the actual topic.

Reviewer: Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
Awards:
The Things They Carried
O'Brien, Tim
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

In this book, Tim O’Brien gives a very blunt and realistic view
of the Vietnam War, not only including stories from when he served himself, but also explaining what happens to the soldiers when they finally do get to go home. I honestly would recommend this book to anyone who is willing to read it. While we love and respect our military for saving our country, I think it is very important to also learn about what actual happens out on the battlefield, about the little decisions that can change everything in the heat of battle, and most importantly the guilt that comes with killing your fellow man. My father served in the military for 25 years and to me this book is just so important, it tells stories of war that do not always have a happy ending, or stories that do not necessarily end with the good guys triumphing over all evil.

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
Rumors of Another World
Yancey, Philip
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Having been a Christian for some time, I was familiar with the name Philip Yancey. I knew he often wrote books about Christianity and how those of us in the faith should examine some of the more challenging topics of our belief.
When I picked up Rumors of Another World from a friend, I was expecting an examination of the afterlife promised us in God's Word. Part of me was planning to use this book as a bit of research for my own fictional writing, or at least to give me ideas on how to incorporate a heavenly realm into it.
In the end, this book was not what I expected.

It has been a long time since I've read any Yancey, but I don't think this is his strongest work. My primary issue with it is that it tries to speak to too many audiences. If it either focused on trying to convince atheists and other scientific-minded individuals that there is a heaven and a hell or helping believers enforce their apologetics on the topic of the afterlife, it could have worked. Instead, it (almost ironically) sits in the middle of these two worlds, never diving deep enough to make a solid point about anything.

Furthermore, while I appreciated the anecdotes and quotes from other authors, many of them were reused throughout the book, making the whole narrative seem repetitive and redundant. I mean, I get it: C.S. Lewis is an excellent writer with a ton of great quotes, but there are other Christian authors out there as well. In the end, Rumours of Another World provides a few thinking points for Christians and non-Christians alike, but it never really challenges our deeply held beliefs or leads us into startling, life-changing revelations.

An OK book that breaks down some reductionist arguments, I give Rumors of Another World 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Valkyrie
Boeselager, Philipp Leopold Antonius Hubertus, Freiherr von
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I first gained awareness of “Operation Valkyrie” when the film starring Tom Cruise, Valkyrie (2008), was first released. It makes logical sense to me that not all Germans involved in the war were Nazis, and not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s tactics. It is then the logical conclusion that some of them would attempt to assassinate the leader who had brought their country into a sweeping, global conflict. While this assassination attempt failed, I was still curious about the inner-workings of the plot and the people who would go so far as to try and kill Hitler.

My expectation of this book was for it to be an in-depth analysis of the many facets of the operation. From Hitler’s security concerns to the backgrounds of the lives of the individuals involved, I was expecting this book to be a non-fictional examination of the assassination that never succeeded. Instead, I was a little surprised to read the personal account of one of the conspirators of the assassination. The whole narrative was quite short (not even four and a half hours long), and left me wanting more. While this first-person account was entertaining, it wasn’t quite enough to satiate my desire for knowledge.

Because this book was only the translated account of Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager, there were plenty of details about his life and the life of his brother, but not much else. I was hoping his story would be the structure on which a deeper narrative would develop, but it remained the pure and unadulterated memoir of this single individual. I can’t fault the book for being the simple story of a German who wasn’t going to stand around and let Hitler ruin his country, but if there were a historical “wrapping” added to it, I probably would have gotten a lot more out of the book.

A simple story about a failed assassination attempt, I give Valkyrie 2.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Maus
Spiegelman, Art
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Maus is a two-part graphic survival story of World War II in Auschwitz. It is a true story of Art Spiegelman's father, who was a Polish Jew and was put into Auschwitz, one of the biggest concentration camps in Nazi Germany.
The comic book style is an amazing way to learn history, as it enforces themes through images and tells a story rather than spitting facts, like some history books do. The author portrays different nationalities as different animals, which stands as an ongoing theme in the book: The Jews are the mice and the Nazis are the cats. This makes for an easy relation between the two (cats hunt mice). I am not a huge fan of learning history for the sake of learning history, but I adored this book. I found it intriguing on a very personal level, but also extremely informative. I strongly recommend Maus.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Sabrina J.

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