Featuring book recommendations at the end--Just like Always!
A year ago, I checked out Stealing Lincoln's Body by Thomas J. Craughwell from the library. The book was really interesting, but I lost it somewhere in my house.
The irony of the fact that I can't find a book called Stealing Lincoln's Body is not wasted on me.
Really, I hunt for it, but it is apparently buried under many, many other books.
I blame this on it being a non-fiction book. I don't get along with non-fiction.
For many years, my father and I would try to talk about books. While we were both dedicated readers, this was difficult. I read whatever was made up--preferably with witches and talking animals. He read about religion, philosophy, and history. No novels. Ever.
The Bible was the one book we both read. We viewed it very differently.
I read novels followed by still more novels. In college, I was a wildly indifferent student--becaues I was reading piles of novels I'd secured from the bookstores in the neighborhood. Books were much cheaper then.
I suppose I finally began reading "real life" books because I kept running into people with opinions. I read to be able to argue better--even if it was just to persuade myself that I knew what I was talking about.To this day, I can barely read a page of "social science." I read history--if it has a strong story, like Sex Lives of the Roman Emperors or Sleeping with Kings.
In Library School, I had to read Library School textbooks--a strange genre and not one distinguished by fine writing.
NOT a Library School Textbook ↑
Library School is a strange version of grad school. You are graded on how well you look things up. As a result, I can find books on any subject I'm interested in, like sex lives of the Roman Emperors.
Just About Every Non-Fiction Book That Doesn't Suck:
1. Is There No Place on Earth for Me by Susan Sheehan. The story of female schizophrenic: her life, treatment attempts, and her thought processes when treatment failed.
2. Rivethead: Tales from the Assembly Line by Ben Hamper. Hamper was a friend of Michael Moore, the activist/film-maker. This book is Hamper's life story--born in Flint to GM workers, he grew up and went to work in the factory and had a life-long love-hate relationship with the Company. Unfortunately, it seems to be his only book.
3. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. I haven't read it for 25 years, but I remember that it explained a lot of things about my mother's generation--and why they were so pissed off.
4. Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America by Lerone Bennett. First published in the sixties by Ebony Magazine, this book is a readable and fascinating history-- focusing on how African Americans had fought a losing battle for economic stability as well as political equality.
5. The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward and William S. McFeely. There are numerous editions of this book, but any of them is worth reading. Hair-raising and thought-provoking.
6. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. Every time I have a teenager come in and ask for a copy of this book, I shiver. Read it. It is the story of a white journalist who took an experimental pill to darken his skin and travelled in the deep segregated South (1959) to see what life was really like for black people.
7. Focusing by Eugene Gendlin. This is one of the few self-help books I ever could take seriously. The author, a philosopher/psychologist on the faculty of the University of Chicago, studied how people in "talk" therapy got better. He broke down how change happens for these people --and describes the process so that you and I can learn it and do it, too.8. Wodehouse at War by Iain Sproat. P. G. Wodehouse spent time in WWII in the hands of Nazis--captured by them in the South of France, where he had been living. While a prisoner, he wrote some radio broadcasts that were broadcast by the Germans for English audiences. Wodehouse was widely considered a traitor for his part. How that opinion gradually died out forms a good part of the book.
9. The Years with Ross by James Thurber is one of my all-time favorites. Thurber wrote about his friend and editor and the rest of the New Yorker staff, that peculiar set of eccentrics who wrote for, edited, and cartooned for The New Yorker in its first years.
10. Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel. The Holocaust by an Auschwitz survivor. Brief and heartfelt.
11. Groucho and Me by Groucho Marx. Read it for the anecdotes, wildly exaggerated anecdotes.
12. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This is a very suspenseful account of a catastrophic climbing accidents on Mount Everest. There is also a documentary of the same events, but I prefer the book.
See--Lincoln read to his kid! I hope it was an exciting story!