The swerve : how the world became modern book cover

The swerve : how the world became modern

Stephen Greenblatt

940.21 /Greenblatt
Nonfiction, History, Philosophy, Biographies

In this work, the author has crafted both a work of history and a story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it. Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius, a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. The copying and translation of this ancient book, the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age, fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson.

Candice's picture

I'm a little late to this book, but I am so glad that I am reading it (on the recommendation of Natalie Haynes, for you podcast lovers!). This book so eloquently relays an important aspect of the humanism movement--that of finding and preserving and making known again--works from the Romans and Greeks. In this case, our questing hero goes by the name of Poggio, and he re-discovers a text by the Roman thinker Lucretius, who had been heavily influenced by Greek philosopher Epicurus. It's a layer cake of scrumptious meditation on how to live, combined with juicy details of the lives of Romans and Florentines--a real treat! -Candice

The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I book cover

The Facemaker: A Visionary Surgeon's Battle to Mend the Disfigured Soldiers of World War I

Lindsey Fitzharris

OverDrive Audiobook
Literary Nonfiction, History, Biographies

From the moment the first machine gun rang out over the Western Front, one thing was clear: mankind's military technology had wildly surpassed its medical capabilities. Bodies were battered, gouged, hacked, and gassed. The First World War claimed millions of lives and left millions more wounded and disfigured. In the midst of this brutality, however, there were also those who strove to alleviate suffering. The Facemaker tells the extraordinary story of such an individual: the pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies, who dedicated himself to reconstructing the burned and broken faces of the injured soldiers under his care. Gillies, a Cambridge-educated New Zealander, became interested in the nascent field of plastic surgery after encountering the human wreckage on the front. Returning to Britain, he established one of the world's first hospitals dedicated entirely to facial reconstruction. There, Gillies assembled a unique group of practitioners whose task was to rebuild what had been torn apart, to re-create what had been destroyed. At a time when losing a limb made a soldier a hero, but losing a face made him a monster to a society largely intolerant of disfigurement, Gillies restored not just the faces of the wounded but also their spirits. .

Anne M's picture

This book is devastating and hopeful at the same time. It is a story that starts out harrowing, but after hard work and ingenuity by a few individuals, things change for the better. The Facemaker, a history of World War I facial reconstruction, sets the scene: how World War I was fought in new and horrific ways. It was industrial. There were a lot of advancements in weapons of war. (And of course, for what?) Lindsey Fitzharris describes this moment in time very well. Then there are the people put in the trenches and at sea and in the air, not to mention the civilians, facing this new weaponry. Fitzharris makes these stories personal and individual, the pain experienced both inside and out. She picks a number of individuals that came home with significant facial injuries and how they viewed their lives as over. Enter Harold Gillies, an ears, nose, and throat doctor, who is about to become the leading expert in facial reconstruction. If you love compelling histories of war or medicine, I recommend this book. As an aside, the audio version was excellently narrated. -Anne M

As it turns out : thinking about Edie and Andy book cover

As it turns out : thinking about Edie and Andy

Alice Sedgwick Wohl

BIOGRAPHY Sedgwick, Edie

"The story of model, actress, and American icon Edie Sedgwick, told by her sister with unfailing empathy, sharp insight, and firsthand observations of her whirlwind life"--

Amanda's picture

A good bit of this book focuses on the dysfunctional family dynasty that produced Edie Sedgwick, and then hyper-focuses on Edie's time with Andy Warhol. Pretty fascinating for those interested in the New York art world of the 20th century. -Amanda

American demon : Eliot Ness and the hunt for America's Jack the Ripper book cover

American demon : Eliot Ness and the hunt for America's Jack the Ripper

Stashower, Daniel, author.

364.1523/Stashower (NEW)
True Crime, Biographies, History

Stashower (Teller of Tales) traces Eliot Ness's career with a focus on the media-named Torso Murders, which shook the city of Cleveland. Over a course of three years, citizens discovered bundles of dismembered body parts. Twelve killings in all were ascribed to the unknown assailant, dubbed the Mad Butcher, and only two victims were positively identified. Ness was famous for his work in Al Capone's downfall. After some less prestigious work shutting down moonshine stills in the mountains, Ness landed a job that played to his strengths: Cleveland's safety director. Here he could modernize the police force, use his gang busting skills against the city's organized crime, and ferret out corruption within the ranks. Cleveland needed this, but what the city wanted was a hero who could stop the Mad Butcher. Stashower's Ness is a flawed do-gooder, frustrated by city politics, sullied by personal indiscretions, and taunted by postcards from the man he suspected was the Mad Butcher but couldn't prove. VERDICT Stashower was born in Cleveland, and his personal connection to the city breathes life into this well-researched and chilling account.—Terry Bosky Copyright 2022 Library Journal.

Candice's picture

Just what did Eliot Ness get up to after taking down Al Capone? -Candice

The Godmother : murder, vengeance, and the bloody struggle of Mafia women book cover

The Godmother : murder, vengeance, and the bloody struggle of Mafia women

Nadeau, Barbie Latza, author.

True Crime, Biographies

In this engrossing account, Nadeau (Roadmap to Hell: Sex, Drugs and Guns on the Mafia Coast) combines diligent research, hours of personal interviews, and vivid prose to immerse the reader in the world of Italian Mafia women. Nadeau tells the stories of those who defected and turned evidence against the mob, such as wives who betrayed their husbands, but she focuses on the unrepentant women, Assanta "Pupetta" Maresca chief among them. Born into a crime family in 1935, she married a mobster who was assassinated when she was 18 and pregnant. To retaliate, Maresca pumped 29 bullets into the man who ordered the hit and spent the next 10 years in prison, where she gave birth to her son, before being pardoned for the murder in 1965. She went on to remarry a mob underboss, but was sent back to prison in 1978 for another murder, which was overturned on appeal four years later. Maresca spent the 1980s wielding enormous influence in the crime organization, revered as the godmother and the Lady of Camorra. Even in her old age, she was celebrated as a self-made woman and was the first Mafia woman to be banned from having a public funeral due to her bloodthirsty life, when she died on New Year's Eve 2021. This look at the "feminine" side of the Mafia is a must for true crime fans. (Sept.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Candice's picture

This doesn't really need an explanation, it's just one of those slice-of-life books where that slice is so storied, all mystery and danger, and so different from our own. -Candice

Last call at the Hotel Imperial : the reporters who took on a world at war book cover

Last call at the Hotel Imperial : the reporters who took on a world at war

Deborah Cohen

070.922 /Cohen
Nonfiction, Biographies, History

"Married foreign correspondents John and Frances Gunther intimately understood that it isn't only impersonal, economic forces that propel history, bringing readers so close to the front lines of history that they could feel how personal pathologies became the stuff of geopolitical crises. Together with other reporters of the Lost Generation--American journalists H.R. Knickerbocker, Vincent Sheean, and Dorothy Thompson--the Gunthers slipped through knots of surveillance and ignored orders of expulsion in order to expose the mass executions in Badajoz during the Spanish Civil War, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, the millions of dollars that Joseph Goebbels salted away abroad, and the sexual peccadillos of Hitler's brownshirts. They conjured what it was like to ride with Hitler in an airplane ("not a word did he say to any soul"); broke the inside story about Mussolini's claustrophobia and superstitions (he "took fright" at an Egyptian mummy that had been given to him); and verified the hypnotic impression Stalin made when he walked into a room ("You felt his antennae"). But just as they were transforming journalism, it was also transforming them: who they loved and betrayed, how they raised their children and coped with death. Over the course of their careers they would popularize bringing the private life into public view, not only in their reporting on the outsized figures of their day, but in what they revealed about their own (and each other's) intimate experiences as well. What were intimate relationships, after all, but geopolitics writ small?"--

Anne M's picture

I thought this book had a slow start, but as soon as we got to Europe and in the thick of war reporting, I was hooked. Learning about Dorothy Thompson, Frances Gunther, John Gunther, H.R. Knickerbocker, and Vincent Sheean and how they reported on Europe in the 1930s and 1940s showed how important journalists are. -Anne M

Carry on : reflections for a new generation book cover

Carry on : reflections for a new generation

John Lewis


"A brilliant and empowering collection of final reflections and words of wisdom from venerable civil rights champion, the late Congressman John Lewis at the end of his remarkable life. Congressman John Lewis was a paragon of the Civil Rights Movement and political leadership for decades. A hero we won't soon forget, Lewis was a beacon of hope and a model of humility whose invocation to "good trouble" continues to inspire millions across our nation. In his last months on earth, even while battling cancer, he dedicated time to share his memories, beliefs, and advice-exclusively immortalized in these pages-as a message to the generations to come. Organized by topic ranging from justice, courage, faith, mentorship, and forgiveness to the protests and the pandemic, and many more besides, Carry On collects the late Congressman's thoughts for readers to draw on whenever they are in need of guidance. John Lewis had great confidence in our future, even as he died in the midst of one of our country's most challenging years to date. With this book, he performs that crucial passing of the baton, empowering us to live up to the legacy he has left us with his perseverance, dedication, profound insight, and unwavering ability to see the good in life." -- Publisher's description.

Victoria's picture

It's only been two years since we lost this incredible testament to the American spirit of resilience, hope and equity. It is hard to fathom that even toward the end of his life, in some of the country's darkest days, John Lewis was still full of tempered grace, light and hope for the future. This book is brimming with his vast wisdom; acquired over many decades and is a wonderful read for young adult and older readers alike. May we always be looking for "good trouble!" -Victoria

Sandor Katz and the tiny wild book cover

Sandor Katz and the tiny wild

Jacqueline Briggs Martin

j641.61 Martin
Biographies, Health, LGBTQ+

Welcome to Sandor Katz's no-desk, new-ways school! There are no tests, no rules - just happy, hungry people learning how to make fermented food. All they need are their favorite vegetables, salt, and the TINY WILD. These invisible microbes change cucumbers into crunchy pickles, and cabbages into zingy-zangy sauerkraut and kimchi.

Anne W's picture

A cookbook, a history book, a science book, and a biography rolled into one! Sandor Katz is an American food writer, DIY food activist, Jewish LGBT+ man, and haver of cool facial hair who started a school that teaches people how to ferment foods. If you're not sure what fermentation is, then you definitely need to read this book! Learn about Sandor Katz's life and inspiration, how fermentation works, why fermented foods are so healthy for you, get the instructions to try it for yourself, then grow up and start a radical commune in the woods just like Sandor! -Anne W

As a woman : what I learned about power, sex, and the patriarchy after I transitioned book cover

As a woman : what I learned about power, sex, and the patriarchy after I transitioned

Williams, Paula Stone, author.

306.768 /Williams
LGBTQ+, Nonfiction, Biographies

As a father of three, married, and holding several prominent jobs within the Christian community, Williams made the life-changing decision to physically transition from male to female at the age of sixty. Almost instantly, her power and influence in the evangelical world disappeared and her family had to grapple with intense feelings of loss and confusion. Struggling to create a new safe space for herself where she could reconcile her faith, her identity, and her desire to be a leader, Williams found that the key to her new career as a woman came with a deeper awareness of the inequities she had overlooked before her transition. In pulling back the curtain on her transition journey, Williams sheds light on the gendered landscape that impacts many in the LGBTQ+ community. She urges men to recognize the ways in which the world is tilted in their favor and validates the experiences of women who have been disregarded based solely on their gender. -- adapted from jacket and Amazon info

Candice's picture

Added by Candice

Women artists A to Z book cover

Women artists A to Z

Melanie LaBarge

jE LaBarge
Nonfiction, Picture Books, Biographies

An empowering alphabet book celebrates famous and less-represented women artists in a variety of genres who have transformed the art world, from Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe to Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Xenobia Bailey. --

Mari's picture

I was reshelving this book on the bookmobile and my eyes were instantly drawn to the bright colors of the cover and the stylistic illustrations of the female artists. I read through the whole alphabet and learned about several artists I didn't know about and enjoyed learning about art history in the context of women's role in society during each artist's time. It's also very cool how the illustrator recreated each artist's work on their page but kept the same unique style throughout. So beautiful! -Mari