Often, serendipity plays a role in putting the perfect book in my hands at just the right time. That is the experience I had last week, when I happened to be finishing Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu on the same day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on two cases related to same-sex marriage. In the book, Chu, a journalist who grew up in California and now lives in New York, sets out on a year-long pilgrimage to ask tough why so many people who read the same scriptures and follow the same God can end up at radically different conclusions on issues of faith, the church and homosexuality.
At the end of World War II, more than 75,000 people lived and worked in the makeshift town built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The bus system to take the thousands of workers from the hastily-built barracks, trailers, and homes was one of the 10 largest in the United States. There were 163 miles of wooden sidewalks, 300 miles of roads, and 17 cafeterias. The compound consumed more electricity than New York City, but didn’t show up on a single map.
No one outside Oak Ridge knew what was going on at the facility. And for the most part, no one inside knew either. But they weren’t supposed to know, and weren’t supposed to think or talk about their work at the end of the day. As a sign outside the facility gently reminded them: “What you see here. What you do here. What you hear here. When you leave here. Let it stay here.”
At the end of World War II, the newly-created United Nations was on the hunt for a headquarters. Well, sort of. The leaders of the United Nations were trying to figure out how to make their organization work. A headquarters was low on their priority list. But enthusiastic government officials, business leaders and citizens from cities around the United States recognized that, eventually, the United Nations would need a to find a headquarters.
In Capital of the World, history professor Charlene Mires tells a story of how differing visions for the Capital of the World threatened to undermine the goals of the United Nations before they even had a building and the diplomats who worked to hold the organization together.
On the whole, however, Big Data is a deeply interesting book that give a clear overview about the risks and rewards of a world built on information. Although it’s not at all clear what the implications of this transformation will be, Big Data provides the perfect level of information for readers unfamiliar with the concept but hoping to understand more.
On November 14, 1889, 25-year-old intrepid reporter Nellie Bly left New York city on a steamship heading for England, hoping to set a record for the fastest trip around the world and Phineas Fogg’s fictional trip in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Hours later, 28-year-old journalist and literary critic Elizabeth Bisland left New York by train toward San Francisco, intending to race Bly around the globe. In Eighty Days author Matthew Goodman follows these two remarkable journalists on the endeavor, which for 70 odd days captivated the world.
Based on that description, I’m sure you can understand why I’m writing about this book. There’s pretty much no way I was going to let a book about two adventurous lady journalists get away from me — there really isn’t a more promising premise for a book. And happily, Matthew Goodman didn’t disappoint in the least. Eighty Days is a page-turning travel adventure, sprinkled with the kinds of historical tidbits that make up the best narrative nonfiction.
Outlaw Platoon is one of the most difficult and most addictive books I have read in a long time. Although it is not as philosophical or analytical as other war memoirs I’ve read (Karl Marlantes’ What It Is Like to Go to War? comes to mind), Outlaw Platoon is effective as a snapshot of what war is like for soldiers today who haven’t yet had time to look back or process these experiences fully.
In One Hundred Names for Love, author Diane Ackerman writes about the five years after Paul’s stroke — his daily struggles to make himself known, the challenges an illness that takes away language does to a relationship built on words, and the process of designing a new life in the wake of a condition that all but destroys what used to be.
If you need an example of how individual recommendations sell books, the way I came to read The Revolution Was Televised is a perfect example. Sometime last November, my favorite pop culture critic, Linda Holmes, tweeted about how great this book was. I looked it up on Barnes & Noble, saw the topic and price, and bought it immediately. Last month, a trusted book blogger, Florinda (The 3R’s Blog) posted a review and recommended I start it right away. So I did.
“Friendfluence,” writes journalist Carlin Flora, “is the powerful and often underappreciated role that friends — past and present — play in determining the shape and direction of our lives.” Studies have shown that our friends help shape our identities and, as adults, subtly shape our beliefs, values and physical and emotional health. Our friends are both the most stable and the most flexible relationships we have, yet friendships are not nearly as well-studied or well-recognized as our relationships with our families and our spouses.
In 1973, Tracy Kidder was a young freelancer, looking for his first assignment at the prestigious The Atlantic Monthly in Boston. Fortuitously, Kidder was paired with editor Richard Todd to guide his story about a murder trial — a story Kidder naively thought of as the next In Cold Blood but other editors were ready to dismiss — from early drafts to publication.