Genna’s April Recommendation

It’s What I Do:  A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

it's what i do

Genna says:  “Woah, this girl is a rock star!  Addario is an award-winning photojournalist (Pulitzer Prize winner and MacArthur Fellow) who covered much of the war, conflict, and injustices in Iran, Afghanistan, Haiti, the Congo, and Darfur.  Addario was kidnapped for six days in Libya along with other New York Times photographers.  Even after the incident she still got back into the field.  Addario’s passion for photographing the world is apparent, and her unflinching strength and courage is inspiring.  Her memoir recounts the struggles trying to stay in touch with family while living across the world, her difficult romantic relationships, and the discrimination she faced in other countries being a woman.

This memoir is very well-written and straightforward.  Her story is very inspiring, plus the book itself has photo-quality pages so turning the book is a treat.  Tucked away on some of the pages are her amazing photographs.  A great read!
Fun fact:  Steven Spielberg bought the rights to produce this memoir into a movie and Jennifer Lawrence will play the lead.”
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Dana’s April Recommendation

Destiny of the Republic:  A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard

destiny of the republic“Millard (The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey) presents a dual biography of the 20th U.S. President and his assassin. James A. Garfield and Charles Guiteau were both born into hardscrabble Midwestern circumstances. While Garfield made himself into a teacher, Union army general, congressman, and President, Guiteau, who was most likely insane, remained at the margins of life, convinced he was intended for greatness. When he failed to receive a position in Garfield’s administration, he became convinced that God meant him to kill the President. At a railway station in the capital, Guiteau shot Garfield barely four months into his term. Garfield lingered through the summer of 1881, with the country hanging on the news of his condition. In September he died of infection, apparently due to inadequate medical care. Millard gives readers a sense of the political and social life of those times and provides more detail on Guiteau’s life than is given in Ira Rutkow’s James A. Garfield. The format is similar to that in The President and the Assassin, Scott Miller’s book on President McKinley and Leon Czolgosz. VERDICT Recommended for presidential history buffs and students of Gilded Age America.” – Library Journal

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Dark Horse:  The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield by Kenneth Ackerman

The First American:  The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H. W. Brands

Rebbe:  The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History by Joseph Telushkin

Claudia’s February Recommendation

The Boys in the Boat:  Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

boys in the boatClaudia says:  “Nine young Americans from the University of Washington rowing team won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  This very personal story is set against the backdrop of the Depression and the carefully orchestrated and filmed images of Nazi Berlin.”

Does this sound interesting?  Click here for a sample!

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Saving Italy:  The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis by Robert M. Edsel – “Alongside the Allies’ push north against the Nazis, there was another war fought in WWII Italy, a battle to preserve the country’s rich cultural contribution to Western civilization. With Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic The Last Supper nearly demolished by a bomb, protecting the nation’s art became an urgent task, requiring hundreds of paintings and sculpture to be hidden throughout the country (Michelangelo’s David was entombed in brick). The group assigned to save the art in Italy was made up of 40 American and British ‘Monuments Men.'” – Booklist

Luckiest Man:  The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig – “Lou Gehrig famously announced to the world at his 1938 Yankee Stadium tribute that he was the luckiest man in the world. Not so. He was dying in his late thirties from ALS, a disease that remains incurable to this day. Eig, a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal, interviewed hundreds of people and spent hundreds of research hours inside the archives of baseball’s Hall of Fame, but the touchstone of his research is more than 200 pages of correspondence between Gehrig and the world, mostly regarding the progress of the disease.” – Booklist

Seabiscuit:  An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand – “There have been numerous biographies of famous horses, but this one is the best by open lengths, partly because Hillenbrand expands the scope of her project to include owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard, whose boom-and-bust and boom-again careers are fascinating in themselves. But Seabiscuit’s rags-to-riches story is unparalleled in a sport known for its longshots.” – Booklist

Magdalena’s January Recommendation

The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

family romanovMagdalena says:  “I’d like to recommend The Family Romanov:  Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming.  This book describes the lives–and the tragic deaths–of the last tsar and his wife and children, but it also explains the details of the poor economic conditions and political events that led to the downfall of the Russian autocracy.  Fleming does an excellent job of portraying the extreme hardships of the common people’s lives under the tsar’s rule without demonizing Nicholas II or the Romanov family.  The Family Romanov is an enjoyable read for anyone who is interested either in the personal lives of the Romanov family or in twentieth-century Russian political history.”

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Sugar Changed the World:  A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science by Marc Aronson – “As the title suggests, this stirring, highly detailed history of the sugar trade reaches across time and around the globe.  Framed by the authors’ family connections to the subject, the chapters move from New Guinea, where humans are believed to have first cultivated sugar cane 10,000 years ago, to its spread across the ancient world.” – Booklist

Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie – “In this commanding book, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs’ lives:  Nicholas’s political naïveté, Alexandra’s obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis’s brave struggle with hemophilia.  Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history—the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.” – Publisher’s description

The Lost Crown by Sarah Elizabeth Miller – “The Russian Grand Duchesses, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1918 along with the rest of their family, have become something of a literary mainstay.  This thoroughly researched novel brings the four young women to readers in their own voices. In alternating chapters (each with a small photo of the narrator), Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia report on their lives and their relationships and slowly but surely reveal the perilous situation in which they find themselves.” – Booklist

Sue’s January Recommendation

The Answer to the Riddle Is Me:  A Memoir of Amnesia by David McLean

index.aspxSue says:  “I just finished The Answer to the Riddle Is Me:  A Memoir of Amnesia by David McLean. I had listened to his 2010 award-winning essay on NPR’s This American Life about the harrowing experience of losing his memory while in India as a result of taking an anti-malarial medicine. No money, no passport, no identity.  The 2014 book expands upon on his essay to fill in the details of how he came to be in India (completing a Fulbright scholarship) and the difficult, painful year he endured trying to recover his memory and figure out his ‘true’ psyche.  A compelling read!”

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I Forgot to Remember:  A Memoir of Amnesia by Su Meck – “Just twenty-two years old, Su Meck was already married and the mother of two children in 1988 when a ceiling fan in the kitchen of her home fell from its mounting and struck her in the head. She survived the life-threatening swelling in her brain that resulted from the accident, but when she regained consciousness in the hospital the next day, she didn’t know her own name. She didn’t recognize a single family member or friend, she couldn’t read or write or brush her teeth or use a fork–and she didn’t have even a scrap of memory from her life up to that point.” – Publisher’s description

The Day My Brain Exploded by Ashok Rajamani – “In this frank and witty account of his own brain ‘explosion,’ Rajamani describes in vivid detail the circumstances leading to the injury, and its devastating aftermath on both his family and himself, including chronic epilepsy and a freak form of blindness affecting the left-side of each eye.  With disarming drollery, the author also recounts his racism-ringed upbringing as an Indian American in white-dominated suburban Chicago.  Shedding much-needed light on a little-known medical trauma, Rajamani’s sharp-edged prose is both informative and inspiring.” – Booklist

Little Failure:  A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart – “… a memoir of an immigrant family coming to America, as told by a lifelong misfit who forged from his imagination an essential literary voice and, against all odds, a place in the world.” – Publisher’s description

Lisa’s December Recommendations

As Maureen Corrigan, Gatsby lover extraordinaire, points out, while Fitzgerald’s masterpiece may be one of the most popular novels in America, many of us first read it when we were too young to fully comprehend its power. Offering a fresh perspective on what makes Gatsby great-and utterly unusual-So We Read On takes us into archives, high school classrooms, and even out onto the Long Island Sound to explore the novel’s hidden depths, a journey whose revelations include Gatsby’s surprising debt to hard-boiled crime fiction, its rocky path to recognition as a “classic,” and its profound commentaries on the national themes of race, class, and gender. – from publisher’s summary
Similar Titles: 
What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton – Over 130 essays in all, What Makes This Book So Great  is an immensely readable, engaging collection of provocative, opinionated thoughts about past and present-day fantasy and science fiction, from one of our best writers. – summary
Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Bartlett Churchwell – Proclaimed the “crime of the decade” even as its proceedings dragged on for years, the Mills-Hall murder has been wholly forgotten today. But the enormous impact of this bizarre crime can still be felt in The Great Gatsby, a novel Fitzgerald began planning that autumn of 1922 and whose plot he ultimately set within that fateful year. Careless People is a unique literary investigation: a gripping double narrative that combines a forensic search for clues to an unsolved crime and a quest for the roots of America’s best loved novel. – summary

“Little black dresses. Fake pearls. Jersey knit. Blazers. Ballet flats. Today–and for nearly the last hundred years–we all see some version of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel every time we pass a woman on the street. But few among us realize that Chanel’s role in the events of the twentieth century was as pervasive as her influence on fashion, or how deeply she absorbed and then brilliantly reimagined the historical currents around her. Here, with unprecedented detail and ambition–and through fascinating, thoroughly researched portraits of Chanel’s lovers and friends–Rhonda Garelick shows us the Chanel who conquered the world.” – publisher summary
Similar Titles:
All We Know: Three Lives by Lisa Cohen – In All We Know, Lisa Cohen describes these women’s glamorous choices, complicated failures, and controversial personal lives with lyricism and empathy. The profiled women are Madge Garland, Mercedes de Acosta, and Esther Murphy.
Fashion: The Defininitve History of Costume and Style – From simple to sophisticated, elegant to excessive, what we wear says who we are. “Fashion” is the ultimate visual guide to everything ever worn. From the extravagance of Ancient Egypt, through the legendary fashion houses of Chanel and Dior, to the latest cutting-edge labels, this gorgeous collection of costume and dress shows how fashion reflects people and places, and captures the times in which they lived.

Sophia’s December Recommendation

Tupac: Resurrection, 1971-1996 by Tupac Shakur and Jacob Hoye

Sophia says:
“This biography is a first hand account of life that most middle class people of any race, don’t know much about. Reading this biography of Tupac Shakur’s life, I was touched by his insights, hopes, fears and inspiration.
Great artists live with contradiction: They must be vulnerable and authentic and yet at the same time they must create a mask that serves as both protection and identity. So it was with Tupac. God bless him, may he rest in peace.
I found myself rethinking my assumptions and conclusions. Removing them from the context of politics and placing them where they belong – in the context of human caring and human feeling. May the gift of his life inform us with compassion for each other whatever our circumstance may be.”
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Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation by Jeff Chang – Based on original interviews with DJs, b-boys, rappers, graffiti writers, activists, and gang members, with unforgettable portraits of many of hip-hop’s forebears, founders, and mavericks, including DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Chuck D, and Ice Cube, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop chronicles the events, the ideas, the music, and the art that marked the hip-hop generation’s rise from the ashes of the 60’s into the new millennium.
Whatever You Say I Am: The Life and Times of Eminem by Anthony Bozza – Author Anthony Bozza broke the Eminem story nationally with a 1999 cover story for Rolling Stone and has since enjoyed a level of access to Eminem unique among journalists. Eminem is the hottest, most discussed, and most controversial figure on the current musical and pop cultural scene.
The Soiling of Old Glory: The Story of a Photograph That Shocked America by Louis P. Masur – April 5, 1976. As Boston simmered with tension over forced school busing, one photo made headlines. Examine the power of photography and the iconic value of the flag, as it opens a dramatic window onto the turbulent issue of race in America.