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Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

When the Baseball Hall of Fame opened in 1936 Ty Cobb was the first inductee. Baseball royalty. By far the most thrilling player of his era many argue that he was the greatest to play the game. He was also one of its most controversial. Noted for fights both on and off the field, an aggressive style (he attempted to “create a mental hazard” for the opposition), he was a fierce and fiery competitor. And after his death in 1961 something strange happened to his reputation: he became a virulent racist, who hated women and children, and was in turn hated by his peers.

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

Alexander von Humboldt was one of the last polymaths. He died at a time when scientific disciplines were hardening into tightly fenced and more specialized fields. Largely forgotten in the English-speaking world, at one time he was the most famous scientist of his age. His portrait was placed in the Great Exhibition in London and hung in palaces as remote as that of the King of Siam in Bangkok.

Reckless by Chrissie Hynde

The lead voice of the Pretenders waited for her parents to die before telling this story about her early years. Born in Ohio and a student at Kent State when the students were shot by the National Guard in May, 1970, Hynde was a flower child who hung out with scary bikers then moved to London and was tight with the burgeoning punk movement, almost marrying Syd Vicious (to help with her legal troubles). I listened to this as an audiobook, read by Rosanna Arquette, and thought it was wonderful.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Macdonald’s life is in ruins - her father has just died. Some deep part of her is trying to rebuild itself and its model is standing right there on her fist: a goshawk she names Mabel. The hawk is everything she wants to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life. And yet, Mabel also helps her to remember what happiness feels like. This poignant memoir describes a poetic transformation. Coming to see her own hawk for who she really is, Macdonald comes to see herself more clearly too.

Skyfaring: a journey with a pilot by Mark Vanhoenacker

A superb chronicle of his career as an airline pilot, Vanhoenacker makes jet travel seem uncanny and intriguing all over again. He finds delight in clouds, airports, rainstorms, fuel loads, sky gates, fragments of jargon, lonely electric lights on the plain, suns that rise and set four times in a single daylong journey and the fanciful names of waypoints on flight maps.

Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson

Abruptly evicted from their apartment in the city, the author and her husband scramble to find a home for their growing family out in the country. A departure from “The Lottery,” the dystopian short story for which Jackson is best known, Life Among the Savages tells the true story of Jackson and her patient, somewhat oblivious, husband raising four young children in rural Vermont.

George Marshall : A Biography by Debi and Irwin Unger with Stanley Hirshson

While Patton, Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery, MacArthur, Nimitz and a host of field commanders were waging war across the world, George C. Marshall was running it, overseeing logistics, training and personnel as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1939-1945. Marshall’s achievements were summed up by an admiring Harry Truman: “he won the war.” Churchill called him the “Organizer of Victory.” But in this fascinating and fair biography Marshall’s legacy is critically reviewed and found wanting. Even the “Marshall Plan,” for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize, was not authored by him.

Elephant Company by Vicki Constantine Croke

The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save lives in World War II.

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough

The story of an extraordinary family, a vanished way of life, and the unique child who became Theodore Roosevelt

The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills

The world of Atticus Finch, a small town Southern lawyer, is part of literary history. In 1960, Harper Lee published the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, still one of the best-loved American books and required reading in 70 percent of U.S. school systems. By 1965 she had refused interviews and never wrote another book, a one-hit wonder, until it was just announced on February 3 that a second book, a pre-quel will be published this coming summer.

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© 2011 Thomas Crane Public Library

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