This eclectic collection of non-fiction titles have been read and discussed by members of the Arroyo Book Club. Once a month they meet at the Arroyo Seco Branch Library, and faithfully submit an annotation about the most recently read book.
What was America like before Columbus? In this book Mann explores that question surveying the current state of archeology to paint a picture different from the one you read in your school history book. A slow but rewarding read.
Winner of the 2012 National Book Award for nonfiction, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a deftly written, creatively composed, and painstakingly researched work of narrative nonfiction that provides insight into the lives of a group of residents of Annawadi, a large, fast-growing Mumbai slum. Boo’s deference to and respect for her subjects and their stories is evident and ensures that the narrative, while often heartbreaking, is never mawkish or patronizing.
This book provides a look at the way aging and death is handled in our society, with the goal of ferreting out the practices that keep people happier and make dying more in line with what the dying person wants.
Isaacson gives us an in depth look at the many achievements of one of America’s founding fathers. This fascinating portrait reveals Franklin to be quintessentially American, a well-rounded and civically engaged man who was always pragmatic.
Considered by none other than Toni Morrison to be “required reading,” Coates' collection of essays delves into what it means to be black in American society. Intimate and personal, yet far reaching in its criticisms, this book’s unflinching honesty takes the status quo to task. Coates examines race and racism in America, both past and present, through the lens of his own full-life experience, in this open letter to his son.
The essays in this book explore concepts from astronomy and astrophysics in an entertaining and informative style which make the subjects understandable for everyone. Pick it up to recapture some of the childhood awe you experienced when seeing the night sky, or at least to learn the science behind the awe.
The emperor of all maladies is cancer. This book presents a biography of the disease, exploring it and our relationship to it from the days when it was first described up into the near future. In this excellent book you will learn all about our persistent fight against cancer, our wins and our losses.
Desmond presents a detailed and well written ethnography of some people facing eviction in Milwaukee. It provides a heartbreakingly detailed and very specific look at poverty in America.
Firoozeh Dumas uses humor to leaven this memoir of her family’s immigrant experience in America.
Leovoy outlines a “ghettoside” killing (slaying of a young black man by another) in South Los Angeles, and the dedicated detective who pursues the assailant. This book follows the case and uses it to explore larger sociological questions about crime and policing.
During and after World War II among the female human computers, who were subsumed within aeronautics, there was another group of female human computers who were submerged because they were African Americans. This book recounts the lives of some of those African American women who worked as calculators, and then as mathematicians and engineers for NASA and its precursors. This is their story, at long last revealed, as the author shines a light on the stellar work of a group of African American women, whose contributions were not fully known by enough people.
Capote explores a horrific crime in graphic detail in this book that follows the victims, the perpetrators, the investigators, and the community involved.
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, recounts one of his first cases, Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The author straightforwardly tells of his experience as a lawyer defending, among others, those on death row, those too harshly punished for crimes committed when they were children, and those victimized by a system that rewards wealth in this book making the case, in the process, for a reformation of our country’s way of dealing justice.
Geobiologist Jahren has created a memoir of a life in “big science” that started with a life as the daughter of a community college science professor in Minnesota. She worked her way up through academia in a world that is not often welcoming to women, but persevered and got her own lab. Her life story is woven between stories about the lives of trees, the plants that are Jahren’s specialty and her passion.
Orlean tells the story of the 1986 Los Angeles Central Library fire, interspersing it with chapters about the history of the Los Angeles Public Library, the future of libraries generally, and her own personal experiences with libraries. Read it for the interesting details.
Wu lays out the history of the development of the radio, movie, and telephone industries to identify a cycle found in communications businesses before analyzing how (and if) these cycles will impact the Internet. A fascinating, timely read.
In this engaging memoir, explore one woman’s life and learn how she overcame barriers of poverty, race, and illness to achieve great success.
In this book Jill Bolte Taylor tells us the tale of the stroke she suffered when she was thirty-seven-years old, and what she learned from the stroke and the recovery process. The author presents an interesting reflection on our relation to and with our brains.
Winchester brings us a tale of the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary that includes both learned men and mad men, and gives us an interesting take on what was (and remains today) an enormous undertaking.
This book, which became a movie, began as a series of newspaper articles about a Juilliard-trained, mentally ill homeless man in downtown Los Angeles. It touches on many issues prevalent in modern society from mental illness to homelessness to the power of music, and friendship to the (potential) fate of newspapers in our Internet world.
Here you will find the life story of a man who was born in Burundi, survived the genocide that occurred there, came to America where he went from homelessness in NYC to medical school, and eventually returned to Burundi to work on building health clinics. It is a book full of despair that still manages to leave you with some hope at the end.
Greenblatt tells the tale of the rediscovery in the 1400s of Lucretius’ epic On the Nature of Things and makes the argument that Lucretius’ text made an impact on the direction of modern thought. An ambitious book that has a lot of good things to say about libraries.
Officially, the screenplay for Lincoln is adapted from this very popular work. While it does not deal very much with the battle to adopt the 13th Amendment, you can learn about how Lincoln dealt with his contentious Cabinet. Lincoln needed a strong group to help him through the crisis that awaited him.
Shattered at age 26 by her mother's death and the end of her marriage, Strayed did something way out of the realm of her experience--she took a solo 1,100-mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Kingston uses folk tales, myth and the dimly remembered events of her life to tell a story of girlhood, and to reflect on what being a girl means in Chinese culture and, obliquely, in American culture.