News from the local libraries

Several libraries in the area have regular newsletters that you can subscribe to that tell you about new acquisitions or let you know what the most popular reads are in their area.  I just got the “Nonfiction Best Sellers” e-mail from the Worcester Public Library (see below).  If you’d like to subscribe to their newsletters the link is  Other libraries in the area that offer newsletters include Concord and Framingham


Nonfiction Best Sellers

Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War 
By Gates, Robert Michael
2014-01 – Knopf Publishing Group
9780307959478 Check Our Catalog



From the former secretary of defense, a strikingly candid, vividly written account of his experience serving Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. …More

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants 
By Gladwell, Malcolm
2013-10 – Little Brown and Company
9780316204361 Check Our Catalog



A far–and free–ranging meditation on the age-old struggle between underdogs and top dogs. Beginning with the legendary matchup between the Philistine giant and the scrawny shepherd boy of the title, New Yorker scribe Gladwell returns continually to his main theme: that there are unsung advantages to being disadvantaged and overlooked disadvantages to being “advantaged.” …More

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book 
By Muldrow, Diane
2013-09 – Golden Books
9780307977618 Check Our Catalog



Sure to bring memories and a smile, this book is a perfect gift for baby boomers, recent grads, lovers of children’s literature–or anyone who cherishes the sturdy little books with the shiny cardboard covers and gold foil spines! …More

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage 
By Patchett, Ann
2013-11 – Harper
9780062236678 Check Our Catalog



Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder, Run, and Bel Canto, examines her deepest commitments–to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband–creating a resonant portrait of a life in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. …More

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban 
By Yousafzai, Malala
With Lamb, Christina
2013-10 – Little Brown and Company
9780316322409 Check Our Catalog



I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.…More

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers 
By Perlmutter, David
With Loberg, Kristin
2013-09 – Little Brown and Company
9780316234801 Check Our Catalog



The devastating truth about the effects of wheat, sugar, and carbs on the brain, with a 30-day plan to achieve optimum health. …More

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism 
By Goodwin, Doris Kearns
2013-11 – Simon & Schuster
9781416547860 Check Our Catalog



“The Bully Pulpit,” like Goodwin’s brilliant chronicles of the Civil War and World War II, exquisitely demonstrates her distinctive ability to combine scholarly rigor with accessibility. It is a major work of history–an examination of leadership in a rare moment of activism and reform that brought the country closer to its founding ideals. …More

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics 
By Brown, Daniel James
2013-06 – Viking Books
9780670025817 Check Our Catalog



For readers of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” and “Unbroken” comes the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics. Brown draws on the team’s own journals, photos, and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream. …More

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics 
By Krauthammer, Charles
2013-10 – Crown Forum
9780385349178 Check Our Catalog



The columnist presents his reflections on everything from embryo research to entitlement reform, from Halley’s Comet to border collies, from Christopher Columbus to Martin Luther King, from drone warfare to American decline. Includes an autobiographical introduction. …More

Little Failure: A Memoir Little Failure: A Memoir 
By Shteyngart, Gary
2014-01 – Random House
9780679643753 Check Our Catalog



An immigrant’s memoir like few others, with as sharp an edge and as much stylistic audacity as the author’s well-received novels. …More

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind 
By Stossel, Scott
2014-01 – Knopf Publishing Group
9780307269874 Check Our Catalog



A riveting, revelatory, and moving account of the author’s struggles with anxiety, and of the history of efforts by scientists, philosophers, and writers to understand the condition. …More

One Summer: America, 1927 One Summer: America, 1927 
By Bryson, Bill
2013-10 – Doubleday Books
9780767919401 Check Our Catalog



In “One Summer” Bill Bryson, one of our greatest and most beloved nonfiction writers, transports readers on a journey back to one amazing season in American life. …More

The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways to Love Your Amazing Body 
By Diaz, Cameron
2013-12 – Harperwave
9780062252746 Check Our Catalog



Cameron Diaz shares her formula for becoming happier, healthier, and stronger in this positive, essential guide that is grounded in science and inspired by personal experience. …More

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair 
By Lamott, Anne
2013-10 – Riverhead Books
9781594632587 Check Our Catalog



A wise and compassionate exploration of how we can make sense of life’s chaos. …More

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel 
By Shavit, Ari
2013-11 – Spiegel & Grau
9780385521703 Check Our Catalog



Through revealing stories of significant events and of ordinary individuals–pioneers, immigrants, entrepreneurs, scientists, army generals, peaceniks, settlers, and Palestinians–Israeli journalist Shavit illuminates many of the pivotal moments of the Zionist century that led Israel to where it is today. 

Where do you start looking for non-fiction titles?

If you want to read non-fiction where do you look?  Well in the library you check out the Dewey Decimal call numbers that begin with 000 Generalities, move through 001 Knowledge all the way to 999 Extraterrestrial worlds.  (not sure what the non-fiction might be on that one)

But pretty much the world’s your oyster – if there is a subject you are interested in there is a book about it – probably an entire shelf of books.  So this month we have choices, choices, choices.

We have mentioned lots of non-fiction titles under our other categories.  Check out the archives for those titles.


What are your favorites.  Is there an author that you depend on when you want to check out a topic?  Do you find yourself browsing the shelves and finding things you never thought you were interested in that just look fascinating?


Our February meeting will be on February 22 when we will be talking about non-fiction titles – lots of them listed from our January meeting if you are looking for suggestions.  Another way to approach non-fiction is biographies or memoirs (we can talk about how much fiction creeps into memoirs).  Hope to see you there.

Feedback from the January meeting discussing books on history – real or imagined

Wide ranging historical periods and subjects discussed today.  Here is a list of most of them (titles were hot and heavy and I may have missed some of them).  I generally feel that just giving you a title without any content isn’t as helpful as we’d like to be  but there are way too many titles to provide a description.  For that, you need to come to the book group and hear people talk about why they like or dislike a book.

The Yellow-lighted Bookstore – Lewis Buzbee

Pink Chimneys: A Novel of Nineteenth Century Maine – Ardeana Hamlin Knowles

When Red is Black – Qui Xiaolong

The Bitter Sea: Coming of Age in China before Mao – Charles N. Li

The History of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma – Thant Myint-U

Where China Meets India: Burma and the new Crossroads of Asia – Thank Myint-U

The Chan’s Great Continent: China in Western Minds – Jonathan D. Spence (not recommended)

A History of China – J. A. G. Roberts (recommend the 2nd half)

Mao Zedong – Jonathan D. Spence

The Wobbling Pivot: China since 1800 – Pamela Kyle Crossley (not recommended)

The Chinese Century: A photographic history of the last hundred years – Jonathan D. Spence, Annping Chin

Wealth & Power: China’s Long March to the 21st Century – Orville Schell – John Delury (highly recommended)

The Question of Hu – Jonathan D. Spence

Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci – Jonathan D. Spence

Wild Swans  – Jung Chang

Garden of the Beasts – Erik Larson

Berlin Embassy – William Russell

Gone with the Wind – Margaret Mitchell

First with the Most – Robert Selph Henry

Hawaii and Centennial –  James A. Michener

And the Band Played on – Randy Shilts

The Sand Castle Girls – Chris Bohjalian

Good Lord Bird – James McBride

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – Dai Sijie

Killing Mister Watson – Peter Matthiessen

To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis

Books by R. F. Delderfield – God is an Englishman, Serve Them All My Days

Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay

Georgette Heyer – April Lady, The Nonesuch

A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

Claude & Camille – Stephanie Cowell

The Aviator’s Wife – Melanie Benjamin

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie – Ayana mathis

Rules of Civility – Amor Towles

Thunderstruck – Eric Larson

The Devil and the White City – Erik Larsson

The Paris Wife – Paula McLain

The Lost City of Z – David Grann

River of Doubt, Destiny of the Republic – Candice Millard

State of Wonder – Ann Patchett

Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Smoking Ears & Screaming Teeth – Trevor Norton

Ahab’s Wife – Sena Jeter Naslund

The Tapir’s Morning Bath – Elizabeth Royte

Two Years Before the Mast – R. H. Dana, Jr

In the Fall – Jeffrey Lent

At Some Disputed Barricade – Anne Perry

We Shall Not Sleep – Anne Perry

Strength in What Remains –  Tracy Kidder

The Air We Breathe – Andrea Barrett

Skeletons at the Feast – Chris Bohjalian

Stones from the River – ursula Helgi

Bird Song – Charlotte Gray, Girl at the Lion D’or, Human Traces – Sebastian Faulks

Sea Biscuit – Laura Hillenbrand

The Given Day, Live by Night – Dennis Lehane

In the Heart of the Sea, Mayflower  – Nathaniel Philbrick

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million – Daniel Mendelsohn

Marching Home – Kevin Coyne

Ghost Soldiers – Hampton Sides

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Annie Barrows

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Slacks – Rebecca Skloot

The Hare with Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal

Unbroken – Lauren Hillenbrand

People of the Book, Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks

The Warmth of other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson

Lost in Shangri-La – Mitchell Zuckoff

Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks

The Things We Cherished, The Kommandant’s Girl – Pam Jenoff

The Time in Between – Maria Duenas

The Madonnas of Leningrad – Debra Dean

The Lady in Gold – Ann-Marie O’Connor

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper – Harriet Scott Chessman

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb – Melanie Benjamin

The Glass Room – Simon Mawer

Garden of Evening Mist, The Gift of Rain – Tan Twan Eng

The Winds of War – Herman Wouk

Yellow Birds – Kein Powers

Citizens of London – Lynn Olson

Pale Battalions – Robert Goddard

The Son – Philipp Meyer

Frozen in Time – Mitchell Zuckoff

The Spy Who Loved the Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville – Clare Mulley

Hellhound on his Trail – Hampton Sides

The Black Count – Tom Reiss

The Long Way Home – David Laskin

The Avengers: A Jewish War Story – Rich Cohen

The Boys in the Boat – Daniel James Brown

The Boy on the Wooden Box – Leon Leyson

The Hot Country, The Star of Istanbul – Robert Olen Butler

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land – P. S. Duffy

The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century – David Laskin

I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

Mrs. Poe – Lynn Cullen

The Monuments Men – Robert M. Edsel with Bret Witter

Dancing with the Enemy – Paul Glasser

The Wind is Not a River – Brian Payton

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

Gone to Soldiers – Marge Piercy

The Other Boleyn Girl – Philippa Gregory

The Secret River – Kate Grenville

The Path Between the Seas – David McCullough

Cleopatra – Stacy Shciff

A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove – Laura Schenone

That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. Aldous Huxley


Do you read history to learn from it, to understand your own world better, to see a world you’ve never known?

 Wikipedia lists 44 biographies of Adolph Hitler (and that doesn’t include Springtime for Hitler).  One bookseller lists 34 titles about Winston Churchill.  This is just a tiny peek at what falls into the history category.  So how do you choose what you want to read?

 Are you especially interested in a particular time period?  Is there a location that you find fascinating?  Is it the people who fashion history that draw your attention?

 Share your choices – curious people want to know.

and now.. for something old

We often pay attention to the most recent – or most recently reviewed – books when we look for suggestions but latest isn’t always best.  Here is the history portion of The Guardian’s list of 100 best non-fiction books.


The Histories by Herodotus (c400 BC)
History begins with Herodotus’s account of the Greco-Persian war

The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon (1776)
The first modern historian of the Roman Empire went back to ancient sources to argue that moral decay made downfall inevitable

The History of England by Thomas Babington Macaulay (1848)
A landmark study from the pre-eminent Whig historian

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt (1963)
Arendt’s reports on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and explores the psychological and sociological mechanisms of the Holocaust

The Making of the English Working Class by EP Thompson (1963)
Thompson turned history on its head by focusing on the political agency of the people, whom most historians had treated as anonymous masses

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (1970)
A moving account of the treatment of Native Americans by the US government

Hard Times: an Oral History of the Great Depression by Studs Terkel (1970)
Terkel weaves oral accounts of the Great Depression into a powerful tapestry

Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński (1982)
The great Polish reporter tells the story of the last Shah of Iran

The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991 by Eric Hobsbawm (1994)
Hobsbawm charts the failure of capitalists and communists alike in this account of the 20th century

We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Familes by Philip Gourevitch (1999)
Gourevitch captures the terror of the Rwandan massacre, and the failures of the international community

Postwar by Tony Judt (2005)
A magisterial account of the grand sweep of European history since 1945

OK – when it’s cold outside you find things to do that you might not in warmer times


Bagels and Books started a year ago in October and it just happens in the months when we aren’t all outside getting our vitamin D fix but it occurred to me to wonder how many books our discussions have touched on during this series.  So I did a rough count – not eliminating the ones that get mentioned multiple times because we really like them – and it was something over 700 titles.  So it’s hard to believe that we haven’t found something you would enjoy (you can check for yourself in the archives).  Want to swell the number?  Tell us what you are reading.  

What Can You Learn About History From a Single Author?

History can be approached from a number of angles.  Mark Kurlansky is an author who looks at it through very focused lenses.  A prolific writer for both children and adults, his best known titles are SALT and COD.  In a similar vein, he has written The Basque History of the World and his latest title is Ready for a Brand New Beat.

Image SALT: A World History – Homer called salt a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. Today we take it for granted; however, as Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates in this world-encompassing book, salt-the only rock we eat-has shaped civilization from the very beginning. Its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind.

Image The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation – Straddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction—they are Europe’s oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques’ language, Euskera—the most ancient in Europe—is related to none other on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce. Even today, the Basques are enjoying what may be the most important cultural renaissance in their long existence.

 ImageCOD: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the WorldCod,Mark Kurlansky’s third work of nonfiction and winner of the 1999 James Beard Award, is the biography of a single species of fish, but it may as well be a world history with this humble fish as its recurring main character. Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could. What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack. What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod. As we make our way through the centuries of cod history, we also find a delicious legacy of recipes, and the tragic story of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once their numbers were legendary. In this lovely, thoughtful history, Mark Kurlansky ponders the question: Is the fish that changed the world forever changed by the world’s folly?

 ImageReady for a Brand New Beat: How “Dancing in the Street” Became the Anthem for a Changing America – Told by the writer who is legendary for finding the big story in unlikely places, Ready for a Brand New Beat chronicles that extraordinary summer of 1964 and showcases the momentous role that a simple song about dancing played in history.