Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer (2012)

Jonah Lehrer has created a compelling and surprising book. He makes the case that moments of insight are an essential tool of the imagination, and although his science stories seem to overreach, he supports his theories with wonderful anecdotes about poets, artists, surfers, and inventors – like the one about Yo-Yo Ma relating his playing the cello to writing a mystery story “It’s all about making people care what happens next,” he said.

I got a lot out of this book about the creative process but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the controversy surrounding the author’s lack of accuracy on some things he included as factual.

And here’s an opinion on that, which I share:

“The best way to think about Imagine is as a collection of interesting stories and studies to ponder and research further. Use it as a source of inspiration, but make your own careful choices about whether to believe what it says about the science of creativity.” Christopher Chabris (a psychology professor at Union College and a co-author, with Daniel Simons, of The Invisible Gorilla, and Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us)
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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010)

Unbroken, read by Edward Hermann, is the bestselling story of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who became a bombardier in World War II, was stranded on a life boat adrift in the Pacific Ocean, and eventually captured by the Japanese. Hillenbrand, author of the bestseller Seabiscuit, is a gifted story teller who meticulously details this almost unbelievable ordeal of pain and suffering. Yes, this is truly a book about resilience, and you will find yourself riveted to your seat as you listen to this well narrated, well told, true tale.

 

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (2012)

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a work of nonfiction that reads like a well-researched novel. I was confused by the way readers are privy to the thoughts of the characters until I read the author’s note. I would suggest reading Katherine Boo's note before embarking on this intimate and moving portrait of life in a slum near the Mumbai airport that consists of ragged huts, a sewage lake, and children and adults living their lives. The people we meet are continually striving and/or scheming to better their lives although breaking through to the “overcity,” as the world of Mumbai outside of the slums is called, remains a seemingly impossible task.
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Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005)

Economist Steven Levitt’s fascinating book, Freakonomics, sets out to quantify and explain topics ranging from birth control to education, with a special emphasis on crime. The CD is read by co-author and journalist Stephen Dubner, and is exploding with so many interesting statistics that it will make your mouth water.

What makes this book special is Levitt’s unique way of taking a problem, standing it on its head, and arriving at the most unexpected conclusion. The CD goes quickly and leaves the listener wanting more. I highly recommend this title.

 

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis (2011)

As a funny follow up to his book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine which examines the causes of the U.S. stock market crash of 2008, Michael Lewis’s Boomerang takes the reader on a wild ride to all the countries hardest hit by the financial crisis

Starting in Iceland, then traveling to Greece, Lewis winds his way through several countries before returning to the U.S. to offer a view of some of the most economically precarious cities and states. Each country “when locked in the dark with a lot of money,” as he puts it, chose to spend the money in vastly different ways, and a lot of it had to do with the culture of each country.

This book, which includes an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a wonderful romp through the dramatically different problems facing countries as a result of the economic crisis. Michael Lewis is the Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods) of economics writers, and you will be pleased to walk with him through this fun tale.
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Llewellyn's Complete Book of Astrology by Kris Brandt Riske (2007)

I'm really interested in astrology, and this book was very helpful. It made it easy and fun to learn about the different signs I have according to the alignment of the planets. It also helped me with creating different character's personalities in stories. Highly recommend it!

Learn about your sign with Llewellyn's Complete Book of Astrology by Kris Brandt Riske.
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Strength Down the Middle: the story of the 1959 White Sox by Larry Kalas

Strength Down the Middle by Larry Kalas is the exciting story of the 1959 White Sox, the great players from the team, a game by game description of the season, some of the exciting events from that year outside of baseball, and a modest six month autobiography of a then eight-year-old boy living on the far southwest side of Chicago.

This book is, of course, primarily for White Sox fans but baseball fans in general should also enjoy it. People interested in Chicago history will find it enjoyable as well.

The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball by Daniel R. Levitt (2012)

This book is really for scholars of baseball, but does contain some interesting baseball history. For example: Cub fans, did you know that Wrigley Field was not built for the Cubs? It was built for a team called the ChiFeds in 1914. In 1915, the ChiFeds name was changed to the Chicago Whales. In 1913, many well-to-do men thought that baseball was a fine business and started their own Major League. This book is the story of the Federal League and makes for some very interesting reading

Improve your sports knowledge with The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball by Daniel Levitt.

King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels (2012)

This book is a true story of how a secretary in Washington, D.C. became a King in Ghana. It is a great example of how one person can make a difference! When she returns to her native village, she finds no running water, high school, or even a doctor. She also has to bury the former King, which she doesn't have the money for. During her first couple of years as King, she finds the strength to change all that.

I loved the balance of men and woman, Christianity and Paganism, modern comforts and simple living, United States and Africa.

Read King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels and get inspired.

Elizabeth the Queen by Sally Bedell Smith (2012)

The author, Sally Bedell Smith, presents an interesting look at both the private and public sides of Queen Elizabeth II in this biography. Through numerous interviews and never-before-revealed documents, she provides insight into how the second-longest reigning monarch in British history has coped with the challenges facing her country since she ascended to the throne sixty years ago. Very readable.

The queen’s diamond jubilee is being celebrated throughout 2012, with a culmination of special events in early June.

Oh No She Didn’t: The Top 100 Style Mistakes Women Make and How to Avoid Them by Clinton Kelly (2010)

You might recognize Clinton from cable TV on TLC’s What Not To Wear. His latest book has a split personality—it’s half clothing and style advice and half humor. Clinton may convince you to reevaluate some of your fashion choices. Perhaps you’re innocent when it comes to wearing denim on denim or socks with clogs, but what about wearing pastel pink, matching jewelry, or wearing all solids all the time? There’s a hilarious photo or drawing for each of the 100 big mistakes. It’s guaranteed that you will see yourself in at least one of the 100 warnings and improve your style today. For more information on Clinton’s other ventures, see his website.
Check the catalog for Oh No She Didn't and other books by Clinton Kelly.

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy (2011)

In this impressive work, there is one book and 8 CDs, so you can read and listen; I did both. Mostly I read, and then listened to catch a vocal impression of Jacqueline Kennedy.

These first of a kind conversations with Arthur Schlesinger were recorded within a year of President’s Kennedy’s death. Jacqueline Kennedy, with her strong sense of history, documented and preserved her first hand recollections of her husband’s political colleagues, friends, and events as she remembered them. They were sealed and put in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library per her wishes.

Now in conjunction with the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, the Kennedy family has released these insightful and revealing tapes. So much has been written and conjectured about this family; it is refreshing to hear the very human memories of Jacqueline.

Reversely, the life of Jacqueline and her perspective are also illuminated. She reveals so much about herself as she expresses her views of her husband. It’s fascinating.

There so many people that the average reader will often refer to the footnotes. I would also add that these are the thoughts of a young woman, steeped in shock and grief, who bravely tried to preserve her husband’s legacy.

Check here to see if the book is available now.

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love by Xinran (2011)
This is a powerful book that brings together the stories of several different women, all who gave up their daughter for adoption in China in the 1980s and 90s. The author, Xinran, deals with a terribly difficult subject with profound compassion and realism. Her love for these adopted girls and her understanding of the difficult circumstances of each mother is palpable throughout the book. I would highly recommend it.

Life Itself by Roger Ebert

Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert (2011)
Roger Ebert is one of the most well-known movie critics in the world, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967 and also famous for the television show Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. Ebert has written many books that review movies and even a biography of director Martin Scorsese. But his memoir of growing up in southern Illinois is his most impressive work yet.

Plagued for years by cancer that eventually disfigured his face and left him unable to eat, drink or speak, Ebert’s story is not depressing but rather a celebration of what a wonderful life he has had. He was able to overcome alcoholism and marry the woman of his dreams who is still his devoted partner. The book also has fun tales to tell of his close encounters with movie stars such as John Wayne and Robert Mitchum. To learn more about Ebert check out his blog.

Read Ebert’s reviews of movies currently playing at a theater near you:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/
 

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

 In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (2011)

A college professor and his family relocate to Berlin to serve as an ambassador in the years leading up to WWII. Hitler is rising. The family’s daughter befriends folk from every side of the coin. The U.S. government wants the professor to make sure Germany repays its debt. The U.S. government does not see Hitler as a threat.