Tag Archives: nonfiction

Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland: A month-by-month growing guide for beginners (2013)

fearlessfoodThe Peterson Garden Project, which is based in Chicago, has created a simple, yet informative, guide for growing vegetables and herbs in your backyard or patio. What better way to connect with nature than eating food grown from your own garden! Check out Fearless Food Gardening in Chicagoland—and check out seeds from our Seed Library to get started.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson (2003)

devilwhitecityErik Larson takes an unusual approach in The Devil in the White City and ends up telling a tale of two men who played a role in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago in this classic true crime book. Architect Daniel H. Burnham’s story focuses on the building of the impossible, creating an extravaganza in spite of time, budget, personnel, and weather constraints. It was the showcase of technology that ushered in the 20th century and still has remnants in Chicago to this day. On the other hand, serial killer Herman Mudgett’s story is filled with terror and gruesome details of the killings that went on in the background of the wonder of the World’s Fair.

Larson masterfully balances the sick cruelty of Mudgett with the financial and architectural details of the creation of the fair along with interesting tidbits of Chicago history to tell the story. Just when the reader cannot take the unspeakable horrors any longer, he changes gears to the most minuscule detail of the fair planning or statistics of attendance. It doesn’t create confusion, but rather makes the reading bearable. And it is a story that needs to be read.

Vanished Smile: the Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa by R. A. Scotti (2009)

vanishedsmileOn August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. R. A. Scotti’s Vanished Smile is a fascinating book about the investigation, leads, and suspects. Pablo Picasso’s apartment was even searched. The history of the Mona Lisa from when Leonardo painted it to when it arrived at the Louvre is intriguing. The painting was finally recovered in 1913. Did the thief act alone or was there a conspiracy?

In December 1962, through the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy, the Mona Lisa left the Louvre for the second time and was exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Now France has a law forbidding her from leaving the country.

If you are interested in reading similar books, see True Crime: Lost and Stolen Art.

The Road to Character by David Brooks (2015)

roadtocharacterDavid Brooks uses the case method to illustrate how character is achieved, but helps the reader in prologue by contrasting resume from eulogy values as well as citing Genesis for the two characters of Adam flowing from the creation. A wide variety of individuals from Frances Perkins to Dwight Eisenhower and St. Augustine to Dorothy Day are examined to show how their characters grew over the course of their days. The Road to Character shows how one may choose virtues such as honesty, loyalty, courage, and faithfulness over wealth, fame, pride, and status.

Check out a Sunday Book Review from The New York Times.

Panda Cam: A Nation Watches Tai Shan the Panda Cub Grow (2006)

pandacamEnjoy close-up photos and read about Tai Shan, an adorable giant panda at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., from birth through seven months. Watch him grow from a blind, nearly hairless, helpless newborn into a black and white furred, curious, growing young panda. This short book with cute captions will delight adults and children alike. Some of the highlights of Panda Cam include interacting with his mother, rock climbing, and experiencing snow for the first time.

Tai Shan (peaceful mountain) was the first baby panda born at the zoo since efforts began in 1972 after President Nixon’s trip to China. The photos in this book are selections from a webcam set up in the Giant Panda Habitat to continually capture and monitor Tai Shan’s progress.

Tai Shan turned ten in July 2015. Watch his birthday celebration and other videos on youtube.

Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal by Jenny Rosenstrach (2014)

dinnerplaybookThis book has changed the way I use cookbooks. Dinner: The Playbook was super inspiring for me because it was made by someone who understands that not everyone has bajillions of hours in the day to be able to whip up a ten course meal. Jenny Rosenstrach is someone with a life outside of cooking, which makes her recipes far more relatable.

The recipes are separated into two categories: Go-To Weeknight Meals and Keep the Spark Alive Meals. The Weeknight Meals are neither stressful nor time intensive so you’re able to complete them after you get home from a busy day of working. She also provides tips what can be done ahead of time to make it go by even faster. Keeping the Spark Alive contains meals meant for when you have a day off and you feel like making something special for yourself and/or loved ones.

So far, I’ve tried three of her Go-to Weeknight meals (shrimp rolls, mac and cheese, and zucchini fritters)—and all three have been successes! A personal observation about the zucchini fritters: save them for a day you have more time than usual. While the recipe is simple, you have to dry the grated zucchini with towels (paper or cloth) before cooking it. It took what felt like forever (at least the effort was worth it!) but definitely not a meal when you just want to go straight to bed after eating. Out of the recipes I tried, the shrimp rolls by far were my favorite. Simple and quick, but absolutely delicious!

Check out this cookbook if you’re looking to spice up your everyday meals!

Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News by A. Brad Schwartz (2015)

broadcasthysteriaWe’ve all heard the stories: in October 1938, Orson Welles adapted the classic alien invasion novel The War of the Worlds for radio and the broadcast was so realistic that it made people flee from their homes in terror. Or maybe you’ve heard that it was all a myth, that newspapers made the whole thing up to try to discount the new medium of the radio. Like most stories, the truth is somewhere in between. Orson Welles’s broadcast really did frighten listeners, and some people did leave their homes, but the panic was not as dire as history would remember—nor was it as simple.

In Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz uses newspaper articles, Princeton research, and first-hand accounts to examine the many factors that made the War of the Worlds broadcast such a sensation, including the Nazi rise to power, previous radio-based panics, the use of fake news bulletins, and much more. You won’t believe how intricate this web can be—or how much it has influenced media today.