Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Riveting Stories, Amazing Research, and Passionate Authors

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Do you read non-fiction?  There's really nothing as fabulous as a well-written, well-researched true story that simply comes to life on the page.


I recently had the complete joy to interview Kate Moore, who wrote The Radium Girls. It's the story of the young women--some as young as 11--who were hired to paint the radium on the little numbers on watches and aeronautics dials. 

My mother, even, used to tell me stories about them. That they licked their little brushes, dipped them into the radium (which most people had no idea was deadly, and many even thought was beneficial) and then painted. Kate Moore describes the practice in heartbreaking detail...lip, dip, paint. Lip, dip, paint. And of course, each time, they were slowly poisoning themselves. We know most of the girls died horrible deaths. And even now are radioactive in their graves.

Kate writes this story as a suspense thriller, a medical mystery, a workplace horror story, a cautionary tale about greed, and even a romance. It's terrific. It's a complete page-turner. It's haunting. 

It's enraging.

Kate told me she feels as if she knows each girl as a friend. (And makes us feel that, too.) She travelled from London  (where she lives) to Orange, New Jersey and Ottowa, Illinois where two of the companies were, to walk in the girls footsteps, and see where they lived and worked.  She talked to their families. She read court documents. She devoured the transcripts of the girls' court testimony, sometimes, given from their deathbeds.

Sourcebooks says: "And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of Americas early 20th century and in a groundbreaking battle for workers rights that will echo for centuries." 


She posted their photos in her study as she wrote, sometimes with tears streaming down her face. Now, she sees herself as the person keeping the girls alive. And I can absolutely see them in heaven, too, giving her a standing ovation. 

And then Jonathan and I went to a reading by Laurie Gwen Shapiro (no relation, mores the pity) who wrote an other terrific non-fiction saga--called  The Stowaway. It's the story of a New York teenager who stowed away on Admiral Byrd's expedition to Antarctica in the late 1920's. Can you even imagine the--audacity? And of course he was discovered, and then...well, you have to read it.

And again, the connection of the author with her subject is what's so especially poignant.  Laurie traveled to Antarctica--she said: how could I do a book about Antarctica without going there? So she took most of her advance (her husband was not completely thrilled, as she tells the story) and left on a six-week expedition.  

She shared the ship with--among others--the penguin expert who was the consultant for  the movie Happy Feet.  She said it was so cold she can't even describe the cold. And that the whole place smells like penguin feces.

Simon and Schuster says:  "The spectacular, true story of a scrappy teenager from New York’s Lower East Side who stowed away on the Roaring Twenties’ most remarkable feat of science and daring: an expedition to Antarctica.

It was 1928: a time of illicit booze, of Gatsby and Babe Ruth, of freewheeling fun. The Great War was over and American optimism was higher than the stock market. What better moment to launch an expedition to Antarctica, the planet’s final frontier? There wouldn’t be another encounter with an unknown this magnificent until Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon."

But she, too, feels a deep connection with her subject. She said she needed to go to touch the huge ice barrier Billy touched. She had to travel in a zooming little Zodiac, in super-frigid temperatures to get there. And when she finally, freezingly, got there, when she put her big multi-layered be-gloved be-mittened hand flat on the same place Billy had so many years ago, she, also, started to cry.  (Kind of dangerous in Antarctic weather.) 


Both authors talked about discovering the real story of history. And making sure the stories are never lost. And when we read them, we help them in that quest.  I am proud to be part of it.

How about you, Reds and readers? Are you non-fiction fans? What can you recommend?




74 comments:

  1. There’s something quite special in making certain an important story is never lost. Both “The Radium Girls” and “The Stowaway” sound like the kind of stories that help preserve that history . . . .

    What non-fiction book can I recommend? Robert Kurson’s “Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon” . . . an amazing can’t-put-it-down book filled with all the details no one knew when these three astronauts made the first trip to the moon . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I love space exploration stories—-Such brave people facing new frontiers , and all inside info there’s no way we could have known. It also shows how talented the writer has to be, Right? To take an incredible amount of complicated stuff and make it fascinating.

      Delete
  2. Radium Girls was wonderful. I lived in NJ not far from where the plant was located and heard stories of the women who worked there (although generations removed). We had a bedside clock with radium numbers and my father used to regularly remind us not to touch the numbers (they were covered by a clear face so the caution was strictly cautionary).

    I do enjoy non-fiction, mostly biography, and fiction based on historical characters. It reminds us that those who came before had a human face. Hopes, dreams, tragedies, and loves. Lives well lived. Too often what we learn in school is dry and rushed. Non-fiction reading gives it dimension.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And Kait, The amount on each clock was infinitesimal, and would not have hurt you… and radium doesn’t really care about a glass cover :-) It’s just that the girls put it in their mouth, over and over and over and over.
      And you are so right about school! I often think it should be taught through books like this.

      Delete
  3. I'm sure it is to my detriment, but I don't really read all that much non-fiction. Once in a great while I might read a biography on a coach (Jerry Tarkanian or Bill Belichick) or a musician (Warren Zevon or Bruce Dickinson) that I like but that is about it.

    I'm far too involved in reading the many and varied fiction books I like to add yet more books to my TBR list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, gang, what books should we give Jay? How about Upton Bell’s Present at the Creation, about the beginning days of the NFL? Riveting! Or Boys on the Boat?

      Delete
    2. "Friday Night Lights" by H.G. Bissinger!

      Delete
    3. Sweet Judy Blue Eyes, by Judy Collins.

      Delete
    4. Ingrid, after watching the TV series based off the book/movie there's no way I could read the book.

      Hank, you are a troublemaker by providing book titles. I like to stick with fiction because I have to deal with the real world enough as it is. I want to be entertained during my downtime from "life".

      And Karen, I will add that Judy Collins book to the list that Hank is practically forcing me to make now.

      Delete
  4. I turn to non-fiction when I've begun to get my fill of genre fiction. How many bodies and/or happy endings can I stomach in a month, after all? I'm currently reading "What It's Like to Be a Dog," by Gregory Berns, but other non-fiction reads that have caught me up recently are "Blood at the Root," by Patrick Phillips, and "Ice Ghosts," by Paul Watson. Not sure I'm brave enough to read "The Radium Girls." I saw a bit about it on TV and was horrified.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gigi, I’ve never heard of those books! What are they about? And you are right to be tentative about radium girls, although it is completely worth it.

      Delete
    2. "What it's like to be a Dog" is about new research in neuroscience and animal cognition. "Blood at the Root" is about ethnic cleansing in the American south after the Civil War--not pretty, but important to know. "Ice Ghosts" is about the lost Franklin expedition, and how modern archaeologists found the ships by listening to native people tell their oral histories.

      Delete
  5. I enjoy non-fiction, especially as a way to catch up on all the history I didn't learn in school!
    The Radium Girls sounds horrifyingly important, so I will give it a try. And I am on my second read of Katherine Graham's autobiography Personal History; it's detailed and fascinating about her life and work with The Washington Post. I keep Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States along side it, so that I can dip into more details of the moment in time that Katherine Graham is describing - for example, during the Pentagon Papers. This approach takes more time than I have during the school year, so I wait for the summer months to do this at the cottage - great indulgence and great fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh when we saw The Post, I knew I had to read the Graham bio— everyone says it is wonderful. So you agree?

      Delete
    2. Yes, absolutely. Really interesting story of a woman evolving fully into herself. Plus all that journalism! Swoon-worthy.

      Delete
  6. That's a very disciplined way to read Amanda! I prefer fiction, but my second love is memoir. While we were on our trip I read Ruth Reichl's My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life, combining memoir with another love--food!

    I had to laugh at Laurie spending her advance on traveling to Antarctica. I spend what I got for my second book, A BURIED LIE, to enter and play in a professional-amateur golf tournament. Sometimes you can't make it up, you do really need to be there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! And it was exactly the right thing to do, right?

      Delete
  7. We grow up learning sanitized history. I think my first exposure may have been when I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown when it was published in 1970.

    I read a fair amount of non-fiction. I enjoy well-done biographies, but my shelves are filled with natural history. There are so many wonderful writers, but I always enjoy Barry Lopez and John McPhee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John McPhee is one of my all-time favorites! I am reading his new collection of essays, Draft number 4, right now!

      Delete
  8. Several years ago I read about the Radium Girls and I've always wanted to know more. Now is my chance. I do read non-fiction, mostly biographies and memoirs. Looking forward to both of these books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes nonfiction is intimidating, right? You somehow think it is going to be… Forgive me… Difficult. But then it is so riveting!

      Delete
  9. I probably enjoy nonfiction as much as any fiction--all books tell a story of some kind. I like to read a lot of science/medical books--one of the best recently was Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity by Steve Silberman and Oliver Sachs. History--I found some great books on WWII--my dad fought in New Guinea and the Philippines--so anything in that line. The Ghost Mountain Boys by James Campbell is well-written (MacArthur's power-crazed idea to send his Red Arrow division over the spine of New Guinea's mountains); it also gave me my first clues to the battles my dad was involved in. A similarly titled Ghost Soldiers by Martin Mitchell--about a thrilling rescue of an entire prison camp under the noses of the Japanese captors. Biographies--cookbooks--memoirs--gardening--humorous essays--almost anything (except political commentary) will get me to take a look.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am always in awe of the extensive research, aren’t you?

      Delete
    2. The research is awe-inspiring, Hank, but stories like The Radium Girls do more. I feel like my life is a patchwork quilt of experiences and events--lived moments--and running through that quilt are the books that opened my mind to new insights into the marvels and the dangers lurking in this world--past, present, future--moments of intense sorrow for historical events I can't rectify but can share the humanity of being touched--moments of outright hilarity--of awe and joy and love. I encourage the boys to read widely--read outside your 'boxes'--you never know what will blossom inside you, how you might grow.

      Delete
  10. I'm with Gigi: just reading Hank's description of Radium Girls, and Kate's experiences while writing it, had me in tears. What a heartbreaking story. To think of the sacrifice of those poor women, and so many others like them, is horribly sad.

    I do love autobiographies, including the Katharine Graham book Amanda references. Madam Secretary, by Madeleine Albright, is a favorite, as is Hillary Clinton's Living History. Other personal stories I've enjoyed were written by Judy Collins and Diane Keaton, both of whom have had complicated lives, and personal trauma on their way to (and through) fame. Another riveting book is Dyan Cannon's Dear Cary: My Life With Cary Grant. Wow, I had no idea what a complicated person he was.

    Jon Krakauer has written several incredible nonfiction books, including the fascinating Under the Banner of Heaven, about a Mormon sect. Homer Hickam hasn't written anything for a while, but his stories of growing up in a coal mining town are engaging and wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Jon Krakauer is amazing— when I was writing Say No More I bought Missoula for a reference… but then I couldn’t read it because I was afraid it would seep into my consciousness too much! Afterward, when I got finished, I found it fascinating and terrifying. Something is nagging at me about it now, did it turn out to be not true or something? Anyone remember? Is my brain trying?

      Delete
    2. Jay should read "Into Thin Air" if he hasn't. That's one of my favorite non-fiction books.

      Delete
    3. I'm pretty sure my dad read that one Ingrid and Hank. He was the one who loved to mix his reading between fiction and non-fiction. He'd read cookbooks, tech manuals, Tom Clancy and then add in stuff like Krakauer and other non-fiction reads like biographies on presidents (Calvin Coolidge was one he read about that I recall).

      Delete
  11. THE STOWAWAY sounds fascinating, and I read THE RADIUM GIRLS when it was reviewed in the NYT, soon after it came out. I do remember radium dials and the cautionary tales my mother told me. If she knew, why didn't the manufacturers know? Yeah, right. Welcome Kate and Laurie. Grab a chair and stay a while.

    I read a fair amount of non-fiction, maybe a 1:5 ratio. Most recently I've read NINE CONTINENTS by Xiaolu Guo, mind blowing memoir of a prominent Chinese writer, REWRITE YOUR LIFE, by Jess Lourey, heartbreaking in places and hysterical in others, A BRIEF HISTORY OF EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED, by Adam Rutherford, which is a must for all of you who've sent your DNA off to 23 and Me. Presently I'm rereading A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, by Stephen Hawking, and it's slow going again, as it would be for anyone with no education in math or physics. Still, it is as if I were watching Leonardo paint. How many geniuses do I get in one lifetime?

    If you can read only one or two non-fiction books in your lifetime, I recommend THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, by Rebecca Skloot, and THE EMPEROR OF ALL MALADIES, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Both these books were life-altering for me in my understanding of illness and disease, not to mention many of us owe our lives to Henrietta Lacks, starting with everyone of us who escaped polio.

    I assiduously avoid anything to do with politics, in print as well as the evening news. And I'm fairly sure all history is revisionist. Per Sir Winston, "History is written by the winners." Except now, I'm uncertain that the winners exist.

    I do love natural science, especially anything about knowing your dog or cat. Self-help I avoid like the plague although at one time in my life I did engage in psychotherapy by best seller. And you've no idea how little I care which president slept with which hooker or how much she got paid. Pftt. I've done it for dinner and a movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am so woefully behind— and embarrassed I have not read Henrietta Lacks. :-( Will do.

      Delete
    2. It reads like a novel, Hank. You'll be fascinated.

      Delete
  12. Thanks for introducing us to these fascinating books and writers, Hank! I'll read anything by Mary Roach ("Bonk" "Stiff" "Grunt") or Mark Kurlansky ("Salt" "Cod") or John McPhee ("Coming into the Country" "Assembling California") or Jill Lepore ("The Secret History of Wonder Woman" "Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin") And the nonfiction pieces in The New Yorker always lead me to find the books they're excerpted from.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, agreed! And the New Yorker is a great way to find new books! As if we needed to do that :-)

      Delete
    2. Mary Roach! I also read anything she comes up with. It satisfies something in me, not sure what!

      Delete
  13. I'll read non fiction if someone recommends, and of course I devour travel books... Anything by Bill Bryson!
    When I was writing For the Love Of Mike, one of the early Molly books, I read everything I could on the Triangle Fire, and the plight of those girls moved me. Now I have to read the Rafium Girls

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do, Rhys. It's incredibly parallel--the mortal danger they were subjected to by their working conditions, and then changes that their deaths caused.

      Delete
    2. Yes, to Bill Bryson!

      Sidebar: Bryson grew up in the Midwest of the US, so it was disconcerting to hear him speaking in narration--with a British accent! He's lived in the UK far longer than his own native country, with an English wife and children.

      Delete
  14. I'm a big reader of People's Lives in all forms: memoirs, autobiographies, diaries, letters, travel journals. I love getting a front row seat to other times and places, and other people's adventures and struggles and victories, or even just their day-to-day events.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly, Susan, a front row seat. With everyone's perspective.

      Delete
  15. BREAKING NEWS! Well, I posted it yesterday here, but we can't stop applauding! YAY RHYS for willing the Lefty for Best Historical for IN FARLEIGH FIELD! YAY!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I LOVE nonfiction. It's my favorite audio book genre, and I'm currently listening to THE OREGON TRAIL, the story of both the historic trail and two brothers recreating the crossing in an actual covered wagon with mules. It's good. Before that: HILLBILLY ELEGY (thought-provoking) and before that MARRIAGE AND OTHER ACTS OF COURAGE by Kate Braestrup.

    As you can see, I tend to run several years behind actual publication dates when it comes to non-fic. But since I avoid trendy diet/business/self-help books, it all works out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really enjoyed Kate Braestrup's "Here If You Need Me." I'll have to check out her others.

      Delete
    2. I read Hillbilly Elegy--my people are hillbillies, too--then passed it along to the urban black teenage girl I mentor. I'll be interested to hear what she has to say.

      Delete
  17. Great post!

    I'm big into history, so I read more non-fiction than fiction. The old saying is indeed correct: Truth IS stranger than fiction. Some of the things that actually happened are so crazy that I wouldn't include them in a novel because no one would believe it.

    On the history side, some great authors are H.W. Brands, William Manchester, Barbara Tuchman, Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, and Cornelius Ryan.

    Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side, Money Ball, Liar's Poker, The Big Short, and many others, has a tremendous ability to explain complex topics in ways that are understandable and interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes yes—I am such a fan of Michael Lewis! What a skill he has—and you come away feeling so smart!

      Delete
  18. I read a lot of non-fiction. Essays, bios, memoirs, and poetry in particular. Right now I'm reading Kayleen Schaefer's Text Me When you Get Home, The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship. Excellent!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Non-fiction? Maybe I'd have time for that if there weren't so many amazing mysteries calling my name.

    Okay, in all seriousness, I do tend to stick with fiction because I can get bogged down in non-fiction at times. It has to be something I'm really interested in to get me to read and enjoy it.

    Having said that, last month I did read As You Wish, Cary Elwes' book about the filming of The Princess Bride, which I loved. But I think that was my first non-fiction book in well over a year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OK, you all, what can we suggest for Mark?

      Delete
  20. I usually read one fiction book and one business book or memoir at the same time. So currently reading Richard Branson's 'Finding My Virginity' and Chris Cleave's 'Everyone Brave is Forgiven.'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you enjoying them? I am afraid to read the Chris Cleave--that it'll be too sad.

      Delete
    2. I am enjoying Richard Branson he is one of the few business people I admire. Chris Cleave describes the ordinary so beautifully,like a London fog. Not too sad yet but only half way through it. The prejudice is a bit hard to take but it is an intrical part of the story line, of British society back then.

      Delete
  21. I'd never heard of the Radium Girls. How sad.

    I'm always fond of a well-written non-fiction that takes history out of the dry, dusty realm and makes it live.

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, absolutely! ANd it's so sad that real life gets turned into dry and dusty--what a tragedy.

      Delete
  22. I am not drawn to non-fiction, but I decided about a year ago to become more intentional about integrating some into my reading, just because I feel like it will be good for me. And I have occasionally read biographies or memoirs and ended up enjoying them a lot. So last year I read HILLBILLY ELEGY and THE BOOK OF JOY: LASTING HAPPINESS IN A CHANGING WORLD which is a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. This year, I'm planning to read BORN A CRIME (Trevor Noah's biography) and at least one other. I'd actually LOVE to find a good World War II non-fiction that was as compelling as all the WWII-based fiction I've been stumbling across lately. Can anyone recommend one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, by coincidence I was just emailing with the amazing Jim Benn (who writes WW2 historical mysteries), and he recommends "Les Parisiennes, by Anne Sebba, a terrific new book on about French women during the Occupation and Liberation of France." Sounds great, huh? .
      Les Parisiennes, by Anne Sebba, is a terrific new book on the subject.

      Delete
    2. Thanks! Just added it to my TBR list!

      Delete
  23. Do Cookbooks count?I like to read about the history of food. My most recent read was A Taste of Country Cooking; 30th ed. by Edna Lewis. For my spiritual side I read a lot of Buddhist philosophy.
    Dewey divided the world into 9 categories. According to this plan fiction is only .11%
    of all available knowledge. It is nice to dip into the other 89 % from time to time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of COURSE they count! ANd that Dewey stat is pretty thought-provoking.

      Delete
  24. If I have a reading regret, it's that I don't usually get to the non-fiction books I want to read. I have Radium Girls waiting in my stack though, and I do plan to read it. I've decided to start a practice of reading a non-fiction slowly while I read my fiction faster. The book I've started with is Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson, published Oct. 2017. What prompted my interest in this book was the episode on The Crown where in 1952, the great fog/smog lasted five days and resulted in thousands of Londoners' deaths (I think the total was somewhere around 12,000). It's a fascinating account of that time, with the culprit being coal burned in homes and businesses, and the additional story of a serial killer who, although he had started his killing years before, was active during this period.

    One of my favorite non-fiction books of all my reading is In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World it Made by Norman Cantor. Cantor focuses on the fourteenth century plague (there was another one in the 17th century, later 1600s) in Europe and particularly England. His narrative style is easy to read and understand. "Professor Cantor’s style is easy—no jargon. He is far beyond just knowing his period; he understands it and so he can explain, without oversimplifying, the variety and complexity of this great section of the West’s past” (The New Yorker). He was a well-known historian of the Middle Ages, so the reader can relax and know that everything Cantor writes is based on much research and knowledge.

    For Christmas, included in the books I bought for myself (my Christmas tradition, hehehe), is the non-fiction book American Wolf:A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee and The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport and Bellevue:Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky. The first one of those about wolves is the true story of the O-Six, one of the Yellowstone wolves brought in to replenish the wolf population. The Romanov Sisters was bought because I have a long-standing obsession with the Romanovs, especially the daughters. The Bellevue book plays on my interest in the history of mental institutions (although that's not the sole purpose of Bellevue) and the archaic practices that we thankfully have gotten rid of. Also, the Bellevue book is by David Oshinsky, who won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2006 for his 2005 book Polio:An American History. I should have listed Polio:An American History as a favorite non-fiction, too, as it is the most readable, and yet informative, book on the subject. Polio is another of my non-fiction interests.

    And, last, but certainly far from least, I'd like to say a grand congratulations to Rhys on her Lefty win! Hip, hip, hooray!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Oh, the SMOG! Tell us all about it--I agree, I thought that was fascinating! SO weird.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I do read non-fiction, usually something historical or biographical, and I also find travel and food books relaxing. I have two excellent big ones waiting for the next long car trip- Chernow's Hamilton and Stacy Schiff's Witches (Salem witches - I read a long excerpt in New Yorker) I did read Katherine Graham's autobiography when it first came out - seriously, it was an honor to get to know her. And here's one that will not change your world but may make it a little warmer- When Books Went to War, by Molly Gupthill Manning. About the role that special GI editions of books played in winning World War II. Really. A true story to love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So Triss, are you reading them on audio book? ANd aw,the Manning book sounds wonderful, too!

      Delete
    2. Nope, I don't like to be read to. I read myself so much faster! I can read in a moving car, so a car trip is the perfect time to put serious hours into a serious book.

      Delete
    3. Triss, I have had When Books Went to War for quite a while. I think I need to finally get to reading it.

      Delete
  27. So many new ones to add to my list! I have a few to offer as well:In the Garden of the Beasts, by Eric Larson, about William Dodd, the mild US Ambassador to Germany in 1933 and his efforts to convey to the pols back home that something VERY STRANGE AND WRONG is happening in Berlin. I also loved At Home, by Bill Bryson, which I read while buying my first house a few years ago. Then there's The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, about the huge cholera outbreak in London, 1854 and how the source of the infection was eventually identified--science, detection, and more! And for American history, Sarah Vowell is always great and so very funny! I recently finished her Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, but my top favorite of hers will always be Assassination Vacation. Did you know that one of Lincoln's sons was present for THREE presidential assassinations? His father, McKinley, and Garfield. History, ah.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melanie, I don't know how I left Sarah Vowell off of my list of favorites. One of my favorite books is Unfamiliar Fishes, recounting the United States dishonest acquisition of the Hawaiian Islands.

      Delete
  28. Melanie! So fascinating… I had no idea. Looking those books up this very instant! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete