Jacques Cousteau by Bradford Matsen

Jacques Cousteau: The Sea King by Bradford Matsen (2009)
Fast reading and informative book about Jacques Costeau's 20th century inventions and discoveries. It is startling to learn that the undersea explorations and diving equipment inventions were due to Cousteau's desire to dive deeper and search the world's oceans.

There is enough information in this book to learn about ocean explorations in the 20th century without getting too detailed. Every person should read this book to understand that ocean exploration and space exploration are equally important and that space was done by countries' funding and ocean was done by a few good, curious adventurers! Very interesting insight into the personal life and personality of Jacques.

Learn more about this famous oceanographer and read the Seattle Times review.

American Buffalo by Steven Rinella

American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella (2008)
When adventure writer Rinella wins a lottery to hunt and kill one buffalo in the wilds of Alaska, the story begins. Rinella has long had a fascination with the American Buffalo. As the story of his hunt proceeds, he stops along to the way to inform us on the natural history of the buffalo, its meaning in Native and European American culture, and its current existence. The adventure aspect of Rinella’s story is amazing. What some people will go through and call it fun! The history of the buffalo and the parallel history of America were fascinating. This is for anyone who likes adventure or natural history written for the interested lay person.

Read the USA Today review and learn more about the author and his adventure.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)
This is an enjoyable read about successful people and how they used skills and learning to take advantage of certain opportunities. The reader learns how timing and circumstances influence success. Gladwell provides reasons for why some succeed and others do not. Surprisingly, technology and the opportunities it offers for an individual to succeed are not as accessible in the U.S. or elsewhere as one would think. Hopefully, this book’s premise will encourage change in thoughts and actions. I now understand why Bill Gates' foundation helps put computers in classrooms.

Visit Gladwell's Outlier website and watch Gladwell discuss his book on YouTube.com.
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Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005)
A chronicle of a year of grief as Didion’s husband, John dies at the same time their daughter undergoes a life-threatening illness. A story of grief intertwined with a tribute to marriage and motherhood.

Enjoy an NPR interview with the author and read The New York Times review.

The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford

The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens' a Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford (2008)
Great fun to read about the astronomical success of Dickens' stories. This is an easy read which covers the career of Charles Dickens as well as the history behind The Christmas Carol . The book was published the same year Disney made the story into a great movie.

Learn more about the Christmas Carol and read The New York Times review.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (2006)
Yes, this book is by the same author as the "Big Read" book, The Devil In the White City – the story of the Chicago's World's Fair of 1893, chief architect Robert Burnham, and infamous murderer H.H. Holmes.

In Thunderstruck, Larson takes us to Edwardian England and intertwines the stories of William Marconi and his invention and development of the radio, and Hawley Crippen, an accused notorious murderer. For most of us, Marconi was merely the answer to a question in history class. Yet this was a real man and his story is an exciting as he must struggle with his invention,  competitors, family and himself. Larson shows us what a dramatic change the radio made to peoples’ lives.

And what of the connection between Marconi and Crippen? Hawley Crippen was no H.H. Holmes in that he was only accused of a single murder, but his story was sensationalized by the press of the 1900s. The story of the murder, the policeman who "solved it," Crippen's flight on the high seas, how the radio was used in his subsequent capture and arrest, his trial and the aftermath make this a great read.

Listen to the author read an excerpt and read the New York Times review.

Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber

Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber (2008)
This inspiring review of new developments in the war on cancer will give readers hope. The author is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of  Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He writes about the research he has collected in a very readable way.

 Visit the author's website amd read the New York Times review.

Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper (2009)
A 3-week-old cat had surgery to have his eyes removed because they were infected. He was abandoned until a lady named Gwen adopted him to care for and love him. Homer was playful with his other sibling cats and Gwen taught him how to move around to find his food. He grew quickly with a giant heart and learned to be friendly with other people. Homer was known to be fearless.

Read an excerpt from the book, visit the author's website and watch the author discuss this amazing cat on YouTube.

There are No Children Here by Ales Kotlowitz

There are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz (1991)
Being born in public housing among gangs, drugs, guns and death does not allow for a childhood – thus the title which tells the lives of those children who survived living in Chicago's Roseland community. The boys portrayed in the book were kids who lived in the public housing and they shared their methods of survival. An enlightening read.

Read a Time magazine article discussing this important book and visit the author's website.
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Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert by Timothy M. Gay

Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: the wild saga of interracial baseball before Jackie Robinson by Timothy M. Gay (2010)
The title is somewhat misleading as I did not find the book to be very wild. Nevertheless I believe most readers would consider this book a good introduction into the lives Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, and Bob Feller and to interracial baseball in the 1930s and 1940s. I was already pretty familiar with Satchel Paige and Dizzy Dean, but I knew very little about Bob Feller. After reading this book, I am going to do some more reading about Bob Feller.

If you are unfamiliar with one or more of these men you will certainly be tempted to read more about them. You should at least read the last paragraph of page 277 and the first three paragraphs of page 278. I was laughing out loud after I did. And readers should also appreciate Satchel's rules for staying young found on page 280. I thought there were too many stories about individual games. (It was like reading 50 pages of box scores at times. Interesting at first, but after a while it just seems too repetitive.) But if you read the book a few pages at a time you will get a lot out of it.

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco (2009)
How can we take time to learn from the past during a dire and urgent emergency? As both war journalist and cartoonist, Sacco depicts the bleak existence of Palestinians living in the Gaza strip with incredible skill. He documents his interviews and the situation in contemporary Gaza while trying to piece together the events of a massacre in 1956.

The entire investigative tale, with its demolished homes and weathered inhabitants, is illustrated in jaw-dropping, painstaking detail. Sacco captures the omnipresent grief, pain and anger, along with occasional moments of humanity and levity.

Read the New York Times review and watch the author interview.

Over 400 pages long, this is not a mere comic book. This is a hefty, eye-opening read that will tug at your heart.


Reading with Oprah by Kathleen Rooney

Reading with Oprah: The Book Club that Changed America by Kathleen Rooney (2007)
The author Kathleen Rooney worked at Anderson's Bookstore in Naperville. The author's experience of customers flocking into the store for each Oprah Book Club (OBC) selection led to the book's title. Whether you have read some or none  of the Oprah's Book Club titles, the author's discussion of this book selling phenomenon is very interesting. From Rooney's personal experience and her extensive research of the OBC, she explores Oprah's Book Club cultural impact of getting people to buy & read books or even for the first time! Regardless of your opinion of the OBC, you'll like the book for revealing the 21st century impact of the OBC.

Rooney interviewed authors of the OBC selections who gave interesting opinions about the Club. Readers will like Rooney's perspective on the OBC selected books she liked and didn't like.

Visit the publisher's website to learn more about this book and author.
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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers: the Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (2008)
If you read Gladwell's The Tipping Point or Blink, be sure to read Outliers. Gladwell looks at icons of our time: Bill Gates, star basketball players, The Beatles, Oppenheimer and more and comes up with the theory that brains and talent will only take you so far. It's often being born at a certain time, luck, and luck-of the draw opportunities, which allowed these greats to be "great."

Gladwell's provocative ideas don't convince me that he's looked at all the angles of "success" and backed them with enough analysis. But as usual, this Gladwell book is entertaining and interesting to read.

Check out the author's website and watch his YouTube video.

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How Not to Look Old by Charla Krupp

How Not to Look Old: fast and effortless ways to look 20 years younger, 10 pounds lighter, 10 times better by Charla Krupp (2008)
This former beauty director for Glamour has advice on how women of a certain age can improve their looks. Not all the information will apply to everyone, but there are plenty of ideas to choose from to become more young and hip: cut some bangs, stop wearing athletics shoes with jeans and shorten your outdated long skirts. Every woman could use a little update to their hair and makeup routine, and most will admit to a multitude of unflattering outfits hiding in their closets.

Visit the author's website and read an interview with this fashionista.

How Not to Act Old by Pamela Redmond Satran

How Not to Act Old: 185 Ways to Pass for Phat, Sick, Hot, Dope, Awesome, or at Least Not Totally Lame by Pamela Redmond Satran (2009)Glamour magazine columnist Satran aims to drag baby boomers into the 21st century with both humor and infinitely practical guidance. Did you realize that counting out exact change and telling otherwise competent adults to wear a sweater or hurry up makes you look just plain old? Filled with witty and practical info about how not to become the subject of ridicule by younger generations, the advice from this fast read may just change your life and boost your mood with its laugh-out-loud observations.

Read an excerpt and visit the website for more advice on how to not act old.