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Non-Fiction Book Reviews

Listed below are our most recent book reviews for Non-Fiction books. To view additional book reviews, choose a subcategory from the list on the left.

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Book of My Lives

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Hemon, Aleksandar(2013)Recently Added Review
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Book of My Lives

The Book of My Lives, by award-winning Aleksandar Hemon, is a literary scrapbook album masterfully arranged, bridging divergent existences across two continents, with a command of English both unique and precise. He describes his Sarajevan childhood as rather idyllic, fueled by soccer and western music. No more subversive than the average University of Sarajevo student, Hemon was challenged to navigate early adulthood in an unraveling post-Tito Yugoslavia. Stranded in 1992 during the early days of the Balkan conflict, he applied for political asylum, making Chicago his home, where he and his family both endure and thrive. The last essay in this collection, “The Aquarium,” published in the New Yorker, is both painful and brilliant.

Reviewed by Lydia T., Main Library

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A Mad Catastrophe : the Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire

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Wawro, Geoffrey(2014)Recently Added Review
A Mad Catastrophe : the Outbreak of World War I and the Collapse of the Habsburg Empire

The Austro-Hungarian Empire of the early 20th century was a polyglot mix of ethnic and linguistic minorities which somehow worked because of overarching imperial institutions such as the Emperor, the bureaucracy and the armed forces. At least that’s what they wanted you (and themselves) to believe. As Geoffrey Wawro, middle European historian show us, the description of “ramshackle” to the state of this empire, especially the military, is being kind. So why in 1914 would this government want to start a war? In the end the reader will want to reach back in history, grab the perpetrators by the throat and scream “What were you thinking?”

Reviewed by John C., Main Library

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In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette

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Sides, Hampton(2014)Recently Added Review
In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeanette

The USS Jeanette set out in 1879 through the Bering Strait to the Arctic Ocean with hopes of reaching the North Pole by water. Hampton Sides introduces the men and women of this story and discusses nineteenth-century geographical knowledge in the first third of the book, which makes for interesting and informative reading. The narration of the actual voyage begins at that point and is indeed `grand and terrible,` as the subtitle promises. The crew survive extreme conditions and physical and mental stress thanks to great leadership and ingenuity. Don`t skip to the end to see how it turned out: you`ll want to experience the full emotional impact of this story as presented by a masterful author.

Reviewed by Tom C., Main Library

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Ghost Soldiers: the Forgotten Epic of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission

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Sides, Hampton(2001)Recently Added Review
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Ghost Soldiers: the Forgotten Epic of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission

Hampton Sides reconstructs the experience of American POW’s in World War II from diaries, letters, memoirs and interviews of the inmates of the Cabanatuan camp in the Philippines. They experienced extreme deprivation and abuse at the hands of their Japanese captors. The survivors found small ways to endure and hoped for deliverance. US Army Rangers and Filipino insurgents eventually launched a raid on Cabanatuan, and Sides tells their dramatic story with similar attention to detail and respect for eyewitness accounts. He provides context by including Filipino and even Japanese perspectives. Readers of Unbroken will appreciate Ghost Soldiers for its psychological depth. It also shows group cohesion and the heat of battle in a way that readers of Band of Brothers will enjoy.

Reviewed by Tom C., Main Library

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A Wolf Called Romeo

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Jans, Nick(2014)Recently Added Review
A Wolf Called Romeo

In the winter of 2003 Nick Jans encounters a lone wolf near his Juneau, Alaska home. Having seen wolves in the wild before, but only rarely, he is amazed at how much human and canine interaction this wolf seems to seek out. Over the next six years many other Juneau residents have encounters with Romeo, as the lone wolf is called. All too soon though Romeo’s story takes a tragic turn. Jans intersperses Romeo’s story with facts about wolves that show just how unique this situation was. He also explores the unfortunate history of human interaction with wolves in both Alaska and the continental US. This is a unique story about how a lone wolf impacted a community in Alaska.

Reviewed by Jessica B., Mint Hill Branch

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