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general non-fiction

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Understanding Orlando

In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 12, gunman Omar Mateen opened fire inside a gay nightclub, Pulse, in Orlando, FL, killing 49 and injuring 53. When violence like this happens, many people sit in front of their TVs or computers, asking themselves, “What can I do to help?”

The Huffington Post has several suggestions on how to help Orlando shooting victims and their families. They include:

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel

I enjoyed listening to the women’s perspective of the Space Race and early days of NASA. This is the entertaining story of the wives of the heroes of the Mercury missions through the Apollo moon walks. These mostly military wives were transformed overnight into American celebrities. Pressured to conform to an ideal of “perfect American housewife,” these very human women had to deal with stresses of intense media attention - two families even went so far as to build their dream homes with no front windows.

The Weather Experiment by Peter Moore

It’s hard to imagine a world without a weather forecast. Or a time when the vagaries of nature were considered solely the mysterious purview of the Divine. Modern climate models are indescribably complex. They combine advanced mathematics, Newtonian physics, thermodynamics, radiative transfer, particle microphysics, chemistry and biology to create forecasts that can them be projected on to increasingly tiny squares of the earth to suggest how the climate might evolve in the years ahead. All the formulas are processed by supercomputers.

The Wright brothers by David G. McCullough

It’s hard to imagine looking up into the sky and not seeing an aircraft speeding to some unknown destination. But a little over a century ago the only things in the sky were clouds, birds, and the occasional balloon. On a December day on the Outer Banks  of North Carolina two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio changed all that with the flight of the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. This is Orville and Wilbur (and sister, Katherine) Wright’s story as only two-time Pulitzer prize winning David McCullough can tell it.

New York Times Best Books of 2015

It's that time of year when we all add to our reading lists. Yesterday the editors of The New York Times Book Review released their top ten favorite books from 2015. Read their reviews here. Click on the jackets below for an annotated list with links into the library catalog.

Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss

This book sounds like it could be a very dry diatribe against the processed food industry, but I listened to the audiobook version and with the exceptional voice talents of Scott Brick (who also narrates Clive Cussler and Steve Berry thrillers) it is not only interesting, but extremely compelling. The author has extensively researched major companies, including Kelloggs, General Foods, and Coca-Cola, and lays out how they have become reliant on salt, sugar and fat.

National Book Awards Announced

Yesteday, November 18, the National Book Awards were announced. Founded in 1950, these awards are intended to celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of great writing in America.

The top winners in each category are:

Sea of Thunder by Evan Thomas

There has never been, and may never again be, a war at sea on the scale of the one that climaxed at Leyte Gulf in October 1944. It should be remembered for its individual acts of heroism and defiance, but more so for the blunders and misunderstandings that are inherent in war.

American Warlord by Johnny Dwyer

The true story of the son of infamous Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. Born while Taylor was going to college in Boston, Chucky’s mom moved him to Florida in high school to get him out of some bad circles in Massachusetts. At the age of 17 he visited his father in Liberia during the fighting that preceded Charles’ assumption of the Liberian presidency and went from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. He led a murderous militia and was charged with the personal security of his father, which included running a clandestine torture and execution camp.

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Did you enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point? Every wondered how to get people to remember things you tell them? Just tired of everyone looking at you like one of the adults in a Peanuts cartoon (wah wah, wah wah wah wah….)? There is a very good reason this book has been translated into more than two dozen languages and been names one of the top business books ever written. While a lot of what is contained within this book will strike you as common sense, it is clearly a common sense that we all routinely fail to employ. I recommend listening to the audiobook version of this book, as I did.

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