Monday, November 28, 2016


Week 5: (Nov 28 – Dec 2) – (Lory
New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Nonfiction November was a lot of fun! I wish I had read more nonfiction this month. I managed to listen to Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and I read We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, two books I've been meaning to read for a while.

There were so many great nonfiction books highlighted around the blogs. Here's a few that I managed to take note of, including where I read about it

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren @ doing dewey

When Breath Becomes Air by by Paul Kalanathi @ Lakeside Musings

Bad Feminist, Missoula, and Tiny Beautiful Things. @ the paperback princess

Lindy West’s Shrill, also Tiny Beautiful Things @ rivercityreading

 by  Rebecca Traister (I can't remember where I saw this one, I think I saw it in several places)

As You Wish by Cary Elwes @ kelly at The Written World

Thanks for all the hosts who kept this month of nonfiction all organized. Hope to see everyone next year again.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Week 4: (Nov 21 – 25) – (Julz

Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I'd like to do all three but I'll just stick to being the expert. I'll have fun visiting all the other posts and get my recc's on a topic from that. Which will then cause me to make a list of books on a topic I'd like to read.

I teach high school physics and one of my favourite sections to teach about is space and universal gravitation. It's the chapter I am in the middle of right now, so these books are on my mind. Here are some very readable books about space.

The Planets by Dava Sobel

Sobel takes each of the planets and writes a chapter from a different aspect of popular culture - mythology, music, history, poetry, astrology. Wonderful book!

How I Killed Pluto and Why it Had it Coming by Mike Brown

The scientific process at its best: new information comes to light, makes scientists look at the model, and adjustments are made. Mike Brown found the planet that caused the definition of planet to be looked at and ultimately caused Pluto to be demoted to 'dwarf planet'. 
The Quirks and Quarks Guide to Space: 42 Questions (and Answers) about Life, the Universe and Everything by Jim Lebans

Nice guide to space, with each of the 42 questions (get the reference?) getting an answer. For example: Where does space begin? (100km above Earth) Can I run fast and jump into orbit? (theoretically, but not really) What moons are worth visiting? ( Jupiter's Europa, and Saturn's Titan might be very interesting) and How fast are we moving through space? (it's all relative to what else is moving, but pretty fast)

Bonus topic: 
Smart, Feminist Memoirs is topic that I expect someone else will mention. These three books kind of go together, written by funny television women. I listened to all three of these books and can highly recommend the audiobook versions of these books. All are read by the authors, and are smart and funny women from relatively stable childhoods. 

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Yes, Please! by Amy Poeler

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Sunday, November 20, 2016

BOOKS: Boys! on audio

There was a theme to the titles of a number of the books I downloaded for YA Sync this summer...

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan ( 6h 1 min)

An imagined ideal world, where LGBT kids in high school are accepted and take an active role in school life and culture. So the star quarterback can be Infinite Darlene, a trans girl, the cheerleaders ride motorcycles, and everything is positive. Within that, regular high school angst - friendships having trouble, trying to find the new boyfriend, problems with parents. The full cast recording is well done.
From my experience in as a high school teacher, at my school, openly gay students have been elected to student council and the trans kids are visible and involved. This is not to say that everything is smooth or perfect, but gay couples go to prom together with seemingly little stir, from the teacher's perspective. We are on our way...

The Boy Born Dead: A Story of Friendship, Courage and Triumph by David Ring
Ring is a Christian motivational speaker who also has severe celebral palsy. The story is told from his friend David Widemark's point of view when they meet in high school. Tolerance, looking beyond the superficial, and accepting people for who they are - lots of good in this book.  I can respect their born-again Christian lifestyle, but it isn't always what I want to read about. There were some disturbing aspects to Ring's home life and he was routinely bullied, but his ability to overcome the obstacles in his life and to remain a decent guy is admirable.

This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff

A memoir of a troubled teenage life by an author. Wolff was one of the first memoir books that started the memoir craze in the 1990s. This was also made into a movie in 1993 starring Leonardo diCaprio and Robert deNiro. I'm not too sure what I thought of this one. I listened to it intermittently, and didn't feel the need to listen continuously. A teenage boy and his mother move cross country to the Pacific Northwest be with her new boyfriend, who was horrible. His other brother lived with their father, which was weird. Nobody was very good. Wolff gets in all kinds of trouble, lies to get into a private school, gets out of trouble all the time. Just not my demographic (Wolff was born in 1940s) and I didn't get any great life lesson from it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish and this week's topic is a Movie Freebie -- If we make TBR lists for books, how about a To-Be-Watched list of movies? I really don't watch a lot of movies so it was a little tough. I broke it up into two categories -  movies and documentaries, but it turns out nearly all of my movies are based on true stories. (Bridget feels real to me though!)

Movies I Wanted to See

The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.

Saving Mr Banks
Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen.

Bridget Jones's Baby
Bridget's focus on single life and her career is interrupted when she finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch ... she can only be fifty percent sure of the identity of her baby's father.

The Imitation Game
During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.

Florence Foster Jenkins 
The story of Florence Foster Jenkins, a New York heiress who dreamed of becoming an opera singer, despite having a terrible singing voice.

In honour of Nonfiction November, and after a perusal of Netflix, here are some documentaries I would like to see:

Hoop Dreams
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

An in-depth look into the exploding subculture of sneaker collecting and the widespread influence it has had on popular culture around the world.

Adopted from South Korea, raised on different continents & connected through social media, Samantha & Anaïs believe that they are twin sisters separated at birth.

Trophy Kids
The growing obsession of parents in the scholastic athletic competition of their children is the focus of this installment in HBO Sports innovative documentary series.

Monday, November 14, 2016


Week 3: (Nov 14 – 18) – (Sarah

Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Here are two books I listened to this year that have Russia in common. I haven't read many books set in Russia, but they ones I have always make me realize that Russia is a very different country. So different. I read a lot of books from a British/North American background which informs my life experiences. Even books set in Africa are more relatable for me, which may be due to colonial influences. 

But Russian books, and this started for me with Edward Rutherford's Russka, and the people depicted are just foreign. Obviously, the more I read the less different they seem, but it always stands out to me.

Both books (and probably all Russian books) deal with the Communist regime, and the fall out from those policies. The level of totalitarism needed to maintain the government provides so much content - both fiction and nonfiction.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad - MT Anderson (YA Sync audiobook)

Most WW2 books I've read are set in France during the Occupation, or maybe London during the Blitz (I've read a lot of those!) so reading about the long three years when the Germans and the Russians were frozen in Leningrad was eye-opening. 

The book tells the story of a famous composer, Shostakovich and his love of Russia and the Russian people. He wrote commissioned songs for the government, but he also tried to appeal to the people. He was beloved by common Russians.

The stories of how people survived (or didn't) during the siege are horrific. Starvation is not pretty, and of course, as I learned watching Titantic, there are many ways to die in a disaster.

Telling the story of the siege through one famous person's experience was a nice personal touch to make the history come to life.

The Tsar of Love and Techno - Anthony Marra (audiobook)

I listened to this back in March and quite enjoyed it. I am partial to short stories, and this book was even better - short stories that are connected, but you don't realize they are connected until all of a sudden, a character shows up that you've already met. I realized it was going to be that kind of book. Awesome. 

The timeline is from 1930s Leningrad all the way through to present day, with much of it in Chechyna and covering some war times. Generations dealing with the years of KGB and Lenin and Stalin. 

Also, isn't the cover pretty?

(I copied the following summary of the stories from LT to help me remember this book)

An artist responsible for removing people from history.
Two ballerinas separated by a generation.
A quietly defiant man in love with a scarred and blind woman.
Two Russian prisoners of war.
Two young brothers living in a forest of metal.
A woman who was responsible for the execution of her own mother.
Young men seeking to avoid the war, and a father who will save his son by any means.

These are the characters that make up these stories.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat

It's that time of the year, November, when I get around to reviewing some of the nonfiction books I read or listened to this year. Here's a Canadian classic from March.

Never Cry Wolf - Farley Mowat (audiobook 4h, 52 min)
Adam Sims narrator

While there has been some criticism of Mowat's nonfiction writing, I won't let that get in the way of a great tale. 

In the 1960s, Mowat gets sent to the north to study the wolf, but mostly to gather information to support the removal of the wolf. Mowat lives near the wolves and discovers that they aren't vicious and they aren't eating the caribou. Turns out, the wolf is a social, interesting animal.

The writing felt a little dated to me, with some of the terminology and the style. But Mowat is a Canadian legend for a reason and this book is humorous and enlightening about the wolves. 

Also try: Owls in the Family, the story of Mowat's childhood in Saskatchewan, and his adventures with a pet owl. Perfect read aloud to children.

Friday, November 11, 2016

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

It's that time of the year, November, when I get around to reviewing some of the nonfiction books I read or listened to this year. This one is from February!

Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton

Beaton is from Cape Breton and started her comics online. Her blend of literature and historical figures, plus Canadianism fit right in my wheelhouse. Some of these were very funny.

Laura Secord, Jane Eyre, Nikola Tesla, (and you know how I enjoy him); even Tycho Brahe with his fake nose get mentioned. The references come fast and furious and there were many I certainly didn't get. But if you enjoy irreverent humour from a vast range of sources, this might be for you. 
Each comic is short (3-4 panels) but is jam packed with ideas.

Sometimes an idea gets a series of comics. There was a whole section of guessing the content of a book based on the cover and title. I might have enjoyed this more if I were more familiar with many of the books, but this might be the point. Many of these seemed obscure and were chosen due to their terrible covers! Then Nancy Drew gets the treatment all for herself with the cover and a short synopsis. Then, imagine a Victorian sitcom. 

My take after this book is that Kate Beaton is a very well-read person with a broad range of knowledge and interests. Speaks well to one of our small Maritime universities, Mount Allison, her alma mater. Also, she should be more famous, in Canada, and elsewhere. (Comics are posted here and archived. You can even buy a print if you want)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I've Added to My (nonfiction) TBR List Lately

This week's theme from The Broke and the Bookish people is Top Ten Books I've Added to my TBR list lately. And since this is Nonfiction November, only nonfiction will be allowed! (just for me)  This is actually quite perfect, as I noticed a large number of nonfiction books at the GoodReads poll of best books of 2016, and I hadn't heard of very many of them!

Canada by Mike Myers
I am so pumped about this book! I am asking for this one for Christmas. Mike Myers raving about why he loves Canada? perfection

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich
I think this is a book that was mentioned in Moonwalking With Einstein. About a guy with amnesia who was very studied

Grunt: The Curious Story of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Can't go wrong with Mary Roach, but I still haven't read Gulp, and that one looks really good!

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Looks like a good book looking at the role of women

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
Women in science, and the unknown women who didn't get the notice

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero by Timothy Egan
I'm not even sure what this one is about, but I do like Irish history 

Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
One of my all time favourite TV shows. Very seldom does a day go by that a Seinfeld episode is not quoted in our house

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Hillbill Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance
This might be a little too American for me, but I'll give it a try.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes
I'll be waiting for the audiobook version of this one, for sure!

Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness
Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness by Nathanael Johnson
There is so much more to cities than steel and concrete

Monday, November 7, 2016

NONFICTION NOVEMBER: Choosing Nonfiction

Week 2: (Nov 7 – 11) – (Rachel

What are you looking for when you pick up a nonfiction book? 

I like a wide variety of books and learning about new things. I also want the writing to be enjoyable. Sometimes a narrator I like is enough to make me pick up an audio NF book.

Do you have a particular topic you’re attracted to? 

I lean to science books of many kinds, including social science. There have been several books I've read in the last few years that have to do with brain research - the amygdola for example, was a common thing in books for me one year. The brain is fascinating. I also like biographies or memoirs from famous people or even interesting unfamous people. But a well written book on any topic is the main thing. 

Do you have a particular writing style that works best? 

Narrative nonfiction, nonfiction that tells a story within the information tends to appeal to me the most. Strict science info can get deadly, but throw in some anecdotes and I'm interested. If there can be some humour as well, I'll probably love it.

When you look at a nonfiction book, does the title or cover influence you?

Yes. A clever title will draw me in. Like How I Killed Pluto, and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown or We Need to Talk About Kelvin are two scientific titles that I noticed, and then the book was worth while as well.

If so, share a title or cover which you find striking

All of the Dava Sobel titles are gorgeous. The gold not coming through on the blog, but have a look for any of her titles - all beautiful. Plus, her books are really good too!
Check out the covers for Galileo's Daughter, Longitude, Planets, and A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos

The colours attract me, and the Memory Palace idea is a big concept in the book. I looked at this one at my library for a long time, mostly because I liked the rows of colours.

How could you not love this cover?