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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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Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved a Nation

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Vogel, Steve(2013)Recently Added Review
Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved a Nation

In 1814, the United States was two years into an unwise and unwinnable war. The summer after burning Washington, British forces marched on Baltimore to do the same. You know the rest of the story (or you should). There was a night bombardment of the main fort and a heavy rainstorm. And as the sun broke, a very large flag was hoisted over the ramparts. An American hostage watching from a nearby ship set his feelings to verse. Said poem was set to the melody of an English drinking song, working its way into the national consciousness. Author Steve Vogel demonstrates how close to disaster the siege of Baltimore could have been, and how poem and song despite all objections have remained with us as our National Anthem.

Reviewed by John C., Main Library

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Worn Stories

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Spivack, Emily(2014)Recently Added Review
Worn Stories

This collection on the power of memory associated with clothing is astounding. The storytellers are mostly from artistic or expressive fields, although their stories were not the most poignant: the lawyer whose parents lost everything in Hurricane Sandy, the Holocaust survivor who escaped the camp to survive a year in a forest, the Alaskan Native who relied on family and luck to fulfill a self-imposed wedding ritual. Each of the stories reveals a truth about the teller, from the ballerina who feels her identity in her leg-warmers, to the chef whose oft-replaced Converse shoes represent her journey in America. These stories will have you looking at your closet and contemplating the meaning behind that item of which you just can`t bear to let go.

Reviewed by Sarah K., Morrison Regional

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Flirting with French : how a language charmed me, seduced me & nearly broke my heart

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Alexander, William(2014)Recently Added Review
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Flirting with French : how a language charmed me, seduced me & nearly broke my heart

Combining world history, the science of neurolinguistics and self-deprecating humor, Alexander plumbs the methods and missteps of learning a new language after middle age. Alexander decides, in his 57th year, that he would like to be French. Not just speak the language and live in France, but to be French. His first step is to fully learn the language, yet the journey is not hemmed in by tutors and tutorials; it ranges from various self-guided programs (the famous yellow box makes an appearance) to online pen pals to immersion studies on two continents. Adding to Alexander`s journey is his sudden harrowing medical crises that add urgency and context to his quest. Altogether a satisfying read for fans of Bill Bryson’s travelogues or Pete Mayle.

Reviewed by Sarah K., Morrison Regional

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North of Normal: a Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both

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Person, Cea(2014)Recently Added Review
North of Normal: a Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both

Cea Person and her mother lived with Cea’s grandparents in the Canadian wilderness in tipis. Cea’s grandparents were hippies who did drugs daily, rarely wore clothes, and practiced free love - encouraging their children to do the same. When she was five, Cea and her mother moved into town and lived with her mother’s boyfriend Karl, who grew pot and robbed cabins for a living. Cea only realized how unconventional her life was when she started school. When Cea was thirteen she entered a modeling contest and won; that started a twenty year modeling career that provided an escape from her dysfunctional family life. North of Normal is a compelling memoir in the same vein as The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

Reviewed by Jessica B., Mint Hill Branch

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Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: a Memoir of Food and Love From an American Midwest Family

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Flinn, Kathleen(2014)Recently Added Review
Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: a Memoir of Food and Love From an American Midwest Family

Kathleen Flinn’s previous memoirs, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, recalled her time at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and what she did with her skills back in the US. In this memoir she explores her family history and you can see how her love of cooking and food can be traced back to generations of wonderful home cooks who expressed their love through food. Kathleen’s parents didn’t have much money when they started out, but they always had a big vegetable garden and Kathleen and her four older siblings grew up eating great homemade food. Family gatherings always centered around food and spending time with their large extended family. This is a wonderful memoir of food, family, and love.

Reviewed by Jessica B., Mint Hill Branch

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