Adult Book Reviews by Genre: Nonfiction

Into the Wild
Krakauer, Jon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

September 1992, a young man named Chris McCandless is found dead in the Alaskan Wilderness and Jon Krakauer is determined to sniff out every clue as to why. Into the Wild follows the life of Chris McCandless, a young man who dropped everything and took to the road, and how he even ended up in Alaska in the first place; and although he is dead, the trail and influences he left behind live on in those he met. The story jumps around occasionally, but it is just extraordinary to me how a single young man was able to travel almost all of the United States by foot and hitchhiking, and then end up in Alaska where he lived in the Wild until August 1992. Krakauer interviews the people who Chris has interacted with, and all of them say that Chris changed their life for the better, even those who he only shared a car ride with. I personally enjoy this book because it makes you feel as if what he did was amazing and if you, too, need an adventure like that in your life. I definitely recommend this book to all readers since every single person can take something from this book, negative or positive.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Joe T.
Stitches
Small, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.

This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!

Reviewer's Name: Will
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Schumer, Amy
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

For whatever reason, I've read a lot of comedian/actor memoirs in the last few years, and this one has pretty similar fare as to what you'd find in, say, a Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey offering. For me, it's in the middle of the pack in terms of quality (Bossypants > Lower Back Tattoo > either of Kalings's books), but was still an interesting, funny listen. It's part anecdotes, part advice, part social commentary, and part random page filler. For instance, one chapter is her fictional funeral rider, which, while it was kind of funny, was mostly a waste of my time. In this book, Schumer's at her best when she's a little raw - telling a sad/funny story and just letting it be what it is.

Even though I mostly enjoyed the book, the editing was not so great. Schumer calls part of the female anatomy by the wrong name for the entirety of the book. I can't believe that no one noticed that. Also, she was constantly saying "remember earlier in the book when" which you know, yes, we do remember, we're capable of basic memory recall. The persistent references to earlier chapters made me think that she maybe thought this book was going to be read by 8-year-olds or something when they were clearly not the target audience.

I mean, if I learned anything from this book about Schumer herself, it's that she's kind of a ridiculous person. For example, in one chapter, she talks about her "genetic predisposition" to black out whilst drinking, and then she lists the drinks she would normally have on a night out in college:

2 beers while pregaming followed by
4 vodka martinis straight up or a little dirty
Various other drinks

It's not genetics, Schumer, it's the martinis.

With that being said, I do admire her courage in telling stories that were real and painful for her, especially since those stories might offer some solace for people in similar situations, or may help young women avoid those situations entirely. I also like that she's found a cause (gun violence, particularly as it pertains to women), and she isn't shy about sharing the facts or her opinions in the book. Overall, I found the book to be an enjoyable listen, and it helped pass the time on a longish car trip. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Under the Banner of Heaven
Krakauer, Jon
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Wow. If there was anyway to just completely rile me up, it was to read this book. Which means the book was really good. I've known just a little about Mormonism from some kids I went to school with and such, but the fundamentalist side of it was alien to me (aside from polygamy). I really makes me wonder about the human condition and the types of religion it accepts, even if it seems like it's being accepted blindly. Great book, and written with more of the facts in mind, rather than a bias.

Reviewer's Name: Cassie
Awards:
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)
Lawson, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Jenny Lawson’s memoir is heart wrenching and laugh-out loud funny, especially if you have been touched by friends or family dealing with mental health challenges. I listened to it in the car and nearly drove off the road laughing.
Jenny knows she has problems and this is her story of how they carved out the details of her life – from her taxidermist father to Victor, her husband, and everything in between. Her stream of consciousness storytelling style is perfect. I could relate to, and actually picture, the absurdity of many of her stories. It was enlightening to see life through the eyes of the person dealing with the severe anxiety, depression and other quirks, and not just from an outsider’s viewpoint, thinking “What’s WRONG with you?”
I felt better knowing there are others that are dealing with the same mental health issues and that my family and I are not alone. You will probably put your family back on the normal and sane spectrum after reading this. I didn't care for some of the language that was strewn through the book, but it is part of the culture.

Reviewer's Name: Robin
Awards:
Hidden America
Laskas, Jeanne Marie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I really enjoyed this book! I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, but Jeanne Marie Laskas kept me interested in all of the stories of Hidden America. I learned so much. I have to admit, I never really think about how my fresh fruit gets to me, but after reading the chapter on migrant workers, I am not sure I will look at my daily apple the same way. Also, I thought she did a great job when she went to Yuma, Arizona to the gun shop. That story didn't turn out like I expected it to. But the best chapter is about our trash and the people who tend to it. I just thought a landfill was a place where our garbage went to never be seen again. But there is a lot that goes into landfills and garbage. This was such a fascinating book! A great read and a really good book for a book group. So much to discuss!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa M.
I Like You Just the Way I Am: Stories About Me and Some Other People
Mollen, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

By far the funniest book I have ever read. I laughed out loud throughout the entire book. I can not wait to read her new book and also watch her upcoming series about this book. Hilarious!!!!!!

Reviewer's Name: Shannon
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Strayed, Cheryl
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

I finished this book about 3 weeks ago so my review is clouded by the passage of time. This book is written from the perspective of an inexperienced hiker embarking on a harrowing adventure. I often found myself wondering why she didn't just give up; how she could possibly have survived hiking in the snow and ice without succumbing to hypothermia or sustaining injury; how she could continue hiking on severely damaged feet; or how she could have hiked for an extended period of time without encountering the powerful thunderstorms so prevalent in the high country. Also, it was a bit long for my taste. Still it was very good and I recommended it especially to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
Buck, Rinker
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Have you ever daydreamed about what it was like to cross the American West in a covered wagon during the 1800s? Well, I have, and apparently Mr. Buck and his brother Nick have too. The idea to "See America Slowly" was planted by their father, who took them on a covered wagon trip from New Jersey to Pennsylvania which ended up being featured in LOOK magazine in 1958. Before setting out on their epic journey, Buck gives the reader fascinating background on wagons (it's not a Conestoga!), mules and their unsung contribution to America's development, and getting cheated (just like the early pioneers) by outfitters who sell inappropriate equipment at outrageous prices. The cast is filled out by three mules - Jake, Beck and Bute - and a filthy Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, our merry band will experience many of the hardships encountered by travelers in the nineteenth century (storms, lack of water, and dangerous terrain) and some new ones (semi trucks, miles of fences, and inferior truck stop coffee). Buck also gives the reader lively background sketches of the many colorful characters who made their way over the trail originally and the contemporary controversy over the LDS church's efforts to re-brand the route as the Mormon Trail. So hop aboard, partner, and let's go "see the elephant! You'll have a great trip.

Reviewer's Name: Alan
Awards:
Genres:
Night
Wiesel, Elie
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I’ve always loved learning about the holocaust and people’s stories. Elie Wiesel's story is the best one I’ve heard yet. He puts so much emotion into his story and his writing and it makes you feel like you’re in the holocaust. Elie starts his story off by talking about his religion and the church he went to. His instructor, Moshe the Beadle had been gone for so long, and when he returned he had a story of a near death experience with the Nazi's. Of course, no one believed his “story” and they carried on with their lives as normal. One night they got real news that the Nazi's were coming the next morning and that’s when everything bad started happening.
All the walking, traveling, and suffering he went through was very interesting to read. My teacher read this book to the whole class in 8th grade and I instantly fell in love with it.
Reviewer Grade: 9

Reviewer's Name: Layla P.
Awards:
Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism
Hooks, Bell
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

The history behind feminism is deeply engraved into this book. Being a passionate feminist myself, I loved reading this book because it gives me a different look on society and how society treats black women. Bell Hook's purpose was to educate her readers and show how black women were treated with disgust during the times of slavery and further more. The writing is bold, strong, powerful, unapologetic, and true. This book is not just for black women, but for everyone to read and be taught how life really was back then. You will learn so much from this book and hopefully have more respect for those around you. She really stresses on how dehumanizing, sexist, and poisoning people were to black women. An 11/10 read.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Jade D.
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided
Guerrero, Diane
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Diana Guerrero is a well known actor for her features in Orange is the New Black. Wanting to know more about an actor's background is what a normal person loves to find out, but Guerrero's family background is lonely and sad. Brave isn't the only word you can call Guerrero because she is more than that. Only being 14 when her family was deported, she had to live her life without any care from other people. This book isn't about her funny and stern character in Orange is the New Black but about how real the world actually is. She breaks down the wall most people don't see and shows her audience how tragic the world actually is. She wants to fight and succeed. She wants everyone to know that each individual is human and we all have feelings. She wants justice for her family.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Jade D.
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
Grogan, John
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Marley and Me is an amusing nonfiction novel that captures all of the adventures of John Grogan as he gets his dog Marley: a canine intent on misbehaving and causing as much destruction as he can. Marley raided the trash, stole and swallowed a gold necklace, closed a public beach, got kicked out of obedience school, and was the Grogans' best friend. Marley and Me is filled with humor, compassion, and love for the chaotic and affectionate dog. It's a very well-written book, and now I feel better about my own dog, who enjoys chewing the couch.

Reviewer's Name: A.M.
Awards:
A Work in Progress
Franta, Connor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A Work in Progress is an inspiring and well thought book for his targeted audience. Connor Franta is a well known YouTuber and this book is a memoir of his life. It goes in depth about his past, present, future, fears, etc. Connor is trying to find himself and he tells his readers to do the same. The concept of this autobiography is beautiful because he reaches out to the viewers and audience who have the same or similar struggles like him and helps the people who are having a hard time finding themselves in the world. Reading this book rethinks how you want to live your life and reach for your goals.
Reviewer Grade: 12

Reviewer's Name: Jade D.
Walchak, Shelley
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

A fishing book about an incredible woman fly fisherman.

Reviewer's Name: Paul Castenholz
Navy Seal Dogs
Ritland, Mike
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This was a great book. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in how k9s are used in the military or who is just interested in how special operations forces work in general. The author shares his story of why he joined the military and became a navy seal. He then started his own company that trains dogs for use in the military. You get to read some of his stories from in the military and how amazed he was at what dogs are capable of doing and how many lives they have saved. You will also pick up some dog training tips that you could use to train your own dog. Overall, this was a great book and I really enjoyed it and I think that you will too.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kai K.
Skyfaring
Vanhoenacker, Mark
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This book was one of the best books I have read this year. I
would strongly recommend this book to anyone who would be interested in working in the travel or airline industry. This book really does make you see how it is like to fly a plane through the eyes of a pilot. The author explains it almost poetically and nicely splits the book into nine chapters that all compare flying to the name of the chapter. These chapters are: Lift, Place, Wayfinding, Machine, Air, Water, Encounters, Night, and Return. You will really realize that flying is an almost completely different experience for the pilot than it is for the passenger. For example, he points out that as a passenger, you spend the entire flight looking out a small window in the side of the plane but as the pilots, you get a different experience as you are looking out the front and have a better view of the earth. All in all, I thought that this was one of the best books I have read this year and I am sure you would enjoy it too.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: Kai K.
Awards:
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Krakauer, John
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

John Krakauer, author of Under the Banner of Heaven, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air, brings his literary non-fiction style to addressing the topic of rape and sexual assault at the University of Montana, which is located in the titular city, Missoula. Krakauer examines the assaults of five young women with ties to this university during the period of 2008-2012. These case studies examine the culture of sexual assault and how these cases are dealt with by the criminal justice system and the university. Readers should be warned that this book does have some graphic content due to the nature of this topic.

Readers of Krakauer who enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven will find a similar style of reporting found in this work. Krakauer champions the stories of the five women whose assaults he details as he works to debunk many of the myths surrounding the topic. Most interesting to this reviewer is the research that he presents that not many men commit sexual assault, but those that do tend to be repeat offenders. And many of these perpetrators fail to even realize that their actions are criminal.

Krakauer thoroughly takes to task members of the criminal justice system who oversee the charging and prosecution of these crimes. Other reviewers have found his treatment of those officials to be harsh and one-sided, claiming this to be a departure from Krakauer’s normally unbiased reporting style. This reviewer found that the critical lens Krakauer uses when discussing the many missteps of the criminal justice system to be warranted. He also is critical of the football culture of the area that strives to protect its athletes even if they have harmed others. We see how university officials try to navigate bringing offenders to justice in this type of culture. This book is really more about the culture of sexual assault than it is about Missoula. While it is an emotionally challenging read, it is a worthwhile read and it will hopefully bring more attention to sexual assault and ways that we as a society can prevent these crimes.

Reviewer's Name: Deb
Awards:
Grunt
Roach, Mary
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Mary Roach covers military science in a way that seemingly only she can: by covering the weird, little known aspects like genitalia injuries, shark repellent, military fashion, and, of course, diarrhea. The result is an interesting, engaging and very accessible non-fiction read.

I listened to this book, and I think that was probably a mistake. Mary Roach tends to jump around from topic to topic even within a larger topic (in a chapter about shark repellent you may jump from sharks to polar bears pretty abruptly), which can be fun to read, but was hard to listen to. Zone out for a minute, and you'll find yourself completely lost. My listening enjoyment was also hampered by the insane amount of acronyms used by the military. I had a lot of "wait, what does that stand for again?" moments, and in an audiobook, there's not really a way to go back and check, and its not like I'm going to google whilst driving. Oh yeah, and the narrator was not to my taste. Her voice just didn't do it for me.

But overall, it managed to be both informative and funny which is not an oft found combination. I really enjoyed it, and I'll be booktalking this one in the fall.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: a Hmong child, her American doctors, and the collision of two cultures
Fadiman, Anne
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

An insightful look at intercultural conflicts in the medical field. This book follows the case of a young Hmong girl named Lia Lee, the daughter of refugees, who presented with epilepsy in her infancy. The author, Anne Fadiman, follows both the parents and the doctors involved in the case, interviewing the key parties and untangling the miscommunication that led to Lia’s eventual brain death. The author is respectful to both sides and manages to explore the conflict that arises over the medical care without placing blame, instead asking what both sides viewed as good medicine, what they hoped to accomplish, and why they were unable to communicate their ideas to one another and agree on how to handle Lia’s treatment. The edition I read also had a helpful afterword in which the author updated readers on where the people she interviewed are now, some 20 years later, and how the hospital in Merced (and other hospitals throughout the country) are starting to change how they train their staff to interact with a multicultural community that might have very different ideas about what good medical care looks like. This book always makes top non-fiction lists, and now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it I can say that for me it lived up to the hype.

Reviewer's Name: Lauren

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