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Five True Stories I Would Definitely Recommend

One of my disappointments about struggling to write reviews is that I haven’t gotten to tell you about some of the great nonfiction I’ve read over the last couple of months. It’s been so great! Instead of waiting until my review mojo comes back, I’m just going to share briefly about each of these in the hopes of enticing you to pick one or more of them up.

leaving orbit by margaret lazarus deanLeaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean

I got on a bit of a kick with space books after finishing Commander Chris Hadfield’s memoir An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, and Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean was an absolutely perfect follow up. Dean isn’t an astronaut or expert, she’s just a curious space enthusiast. In the book, Dean offers a history of American spaceflight while also chronicling the last three shuttle flights before the program was shut down. She looks to previous writers on space – Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, and Oriana Fallaci most deeply – and writes about the experiences of other NASA employees and space fans. It’s really a wonderful, slightly meandering but also very engaging book. Dean asks good questions, looks to many sources for answers, and isn’t afraid to deeply engage with her subject. I loved this one. Good job again, Graywolf Press.

thank you for your service by devil finkelThank You for Your Service by David Finkel

I read this book over Memorial Day weekend, at a time when I was already thinking about sacrifice and the impact that war can have on people and families. In the book, journalist David Finkel follows several soldiers returning home from a tour of duty on the frontlines in Baghdad. Many of them are suffering from PTSD or other physical and mental injuries, and their struggle to adjust and reintegrate affects their families and the other professionals trying to help them. It’s a really compelling portrait about the sacrifices we ask from soldiers, and the less obvious sacrifices that a deployment can ask from others. I was just blown away at the honesty and depth of this book. While there were moments when Finkel relies on some linguistic flourishes that I didn’t think were necessary, overall this was a compelling, sobering, important book I’d definitely recommend.

the skies belong to use by brendan koernerThe Skies Belong to Us by Brendan Koerner

I picked this book up on a whim because I was feeling grumpy and I wanted some nonfiction that was just going to be fun. And boy, was this book perfect for that. The Skies Belong to Us chronicles the peak of skyjacking (hijacked planes) in the United States, from about 1968 until the mid-1970s. At the time, airline security was nonexistent and airlines implemented policies of compliance for hijackers. The whole crazy facade came tumbling down after “a shattered Army veteran” and “a mischievous party girl” managed to pull off the longest-distance hijacking in history. There are so many bonkers anecdotes in this book, it’s really just fun to read. I thought the end lagged just a bit, but overall it was a perfect book to pull me out of a grumpy reading slump.

missoula by jon krakauerMissoula by Jon Krakauer

There are two things that struck me as really important about this book. First, Jon Krakauer goes into every story about a rape victim assuming that she (all of the victims in this book are women) is telling the truth. That shouldn’t be remarkable… but it is. Second, Krakauer doesn’t fall prey to the temptation that you need a “sensational” rape to tell a compelling story about the way the criminal justice system can potentially mishandle a sexual assault (see: Rolling Stone magazine). I listened to this one on audio book and while it was good, I wish I’d had the print copy on hand to get a better sense of sourcing for different conversations and allegations. The reporting in this book matters immensely, and I don’t feel confident I understand how the book was made as well as I want to in order to be able to discuss it intelligently.

bibliotech by john palfreyBiblioTECH by John Palfrey

I’m on the board for my local public library, and we’re currently in the middle of a process to think about what our library of the future could look like. I picked up this book because I thought it could provide some useful information about the role of libraries in the Internet age. John Palfrey, an editor and technology expert, offers some sound advice on how libraries can adapt their core model – providing access to information – to a time when information is plentiful but understanding and skills for access are lacking. I wouldn’t recommend this to every reader, but it’s certainly an interesting book if you’re curious about the future of libraries in a digital world.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Shannon @ River City Reading June 4, 2015, 6:45 am

    I’m so happy whenever I see someone has read The Skies Belong to Us! It’s such a great, totally off-the-wall story that is everything I love in nonfiction…and that paperback cover is fantastic!

    • Kim Ukura June 7, 2015, 8:17 am

      I know! I read the hardcover but the paperback cover is better. Comparing airline security from then to now is so interesting and weird.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) June 4, 2015, 7:59 am

    I want to read them all! I just picked up Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County – the author calls it a blend of nonfiction and memoir – and thought of you when I did.

    • Kim Ukura June 7, 2015, 8:17 am

      I have that one too! I saw it in the Harper newsletter and immediately felt like it was a book up my alley. I’m hoping to start it soon.

  • Leah @ Books Speak Volumes June 4, 2015, 9:03 am

    I would like to put all of these in my brain, please. That is all.

    • Kim Ukura June 7, 2015, 8:20 am

      Oh, for more hours in the day to read 🙂

  • C.J. @ebookclassics June 4, 2015, 3:03 pm

    I really appreciate the non-fiction recommendation you make. I always get overwhelmed trying to pick something good. Your library board project sounds intense, but important. Good luck!

    • Kim Ukura June 7, 2015, 8:19 am

      Thank you! I think nonfiction can sometimes be hard to dive into — style and subject matter quite a bit when you’re trying to grab something engaging. All of these are very readable.

  • Christy June 4, 2015, 7:05 pm

    I’m already on my public library’s waiting list for Missoula, but Thank You For Your Service sounds also like a must-read. Thanks for the recs!

    • Kim Ukura June 7, 2015, 8:20 am

      It really is. I’m as guilty as anyone of not thinking about the sacrifices made by families during and after a deployment. And now that soldiers are coming back with more serious mental health issues, the impact on women and children is even greater. That’s something we need to talk more about.

  • Becca June 4, 2015, 7:39 pm

    If you ask me, you did a great job of writing some short reviews! You have made me add some new nonfiction to my list!

    • Kim Ukura June 7, 2015, 8:20 am

      Thank you, I hope you enjoy them!

  • maphead June 4, 2015, 9:02 pm

    I LOVED The Skies Belong to Us! It will probably make my year-end Best of List.
    Here’s a link to my review:

    • Kim June 7, 2015, 8:21 am

      Thanks for the link!

  • Jennine G. June 5, 2015, 7:37 am

    Oh, the Biblio Tech one catches my eye! I’ve wondered about libraries and newspapers as time goes on and technology advances.

    • Kim June 7, 2015, 8:22 am

      One of his points that I think is relevant is that there’s more information available, but less time spent teaching people how to access it or making sure that everyone has access. That’s a niche that libraries can fill, but how you actually do that is a challenge.

  • Sarah's Book Shelves June 6, 2015, 10:59 am

    The impact on the families of returning soldiers was my favorite part of Thank You For Your Service…I hadn’t gotten deep into that perspective before.

    And, I’ve had The Skies Belong to Us on my TBR for awhile now…glad to hear it’s good! Your comments just moved it up higher!

    • Kim June 7, 2015, 8:23 am

      It’s a delight! I think it’s a great beach read — absorbing story, fun anecdotes to share, and easy to read.

  • Trisha June 8, 2015, 8:47 pm

    What a great list of books! Seriously I need to read all of them.