Tag Archives: nonfiction

My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago: A Celebration of Chicagoland’s Startling Natural Wonders by Mike MacDonald (2015)

chicagojourneyA paean to the wild beauty of Chicagoland’s nature preserves, prairies, and wetlands. Mike MacDonald’s stunning photos and beautiful prose will inspire readers to visit the natural areas highlighted in his book, and to learn more about the plants and animals that inhabit the wilds of Chicago.

Watch an interview with the author and photographer on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight to learn more about My Journey into the Wilds of Chicago.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015)

deadwakeIn his acknowledgments, Erik Larson reveals his own enjoyment in researching and writing the account of this final voyage. In Dead Wake, the reader is allowed to share by introduction to this great ship, some of the passengers and crew, and then reading along with them about this 1915 Atlantic crossing. Even though there has been reports of German submarine activity, Captain Turner is reassuring as he speaks of the ship’s great size and speed. No one seems afraid but the reader knows what to expect. Sometimes the narrative departs the ship to see how President Wilson is doing after his wife’s death, how the British secret service is using information gained from breaking the German code, or what Churchill might do to bring America into the war.

The reader sees both sides as he rides along with Kptlt (Captain) Schwieger of the German submarine service on entering British waters looking for targets but avoiding British warships. Although deadly, these early submarines are slow and most incommodious for the crew as compared to surface vessels. Back on the Lusitania, lifeboats are uncovered as it enters Irish waters. And then nearly 100 years later, scuba diving archaeologists voice respect for the lost souls down below.

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.