The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Title: The Wordy Shipmates

Author: Sarah Vowell

Publisher: Riverhead Books 2009

Genre: History

Pages: 272

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Perpetual (Nonfiction Adventure); Mount TBR

To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sarah Vowell investigates what that means-and what it should mean. What she discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoebuckles- and-corn reputation might suggest-a highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty people, whose story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance.

Finally finished this book in the early morning hours. I always love a good history book where I learn something. Thankfully Vowell dives deep into the Puritans to get a good look at the people, their lives, and their beliefs. I enjoyed reading the back and forth between John Winthrop and all of his adversaries. I knew some about Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, but this book expanded my knowledge. My only issue with the book is Vowell’s deviations into current times. Those passages felt a little too long for how short this book is overall. I wanted more time in Puritan New England and less time in the 20th century…

The Daily Show: An Oral History by Chris Smith

Title: The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff, and Guests

Author: Chris Smith

Publisher: Grand Central 2016

Genre: Nonfiction – Media

Pages: 459

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Perpetual (Nonfiction Adventure); I Love Libraries

For almost seventeen years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart brilliantly redefined the borders between television comedy, political satire, and opinionated news coverage. It launched the careers of some of today’s most significant comedians, highlighted the hypocrisies of the powerful, and garnered 23 Emmys. Now the show’s behind-the-scenes gags, controversies, and camaraderie will be chronicled by the players themselves, from legendary host Jon Stewart to the star cast members and writers-including Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Jessica Williams, John Hodgman, and Larry Wilmore-plus some of The Daily Show‘s most prominent guests and adversaries: John and Cindy McCain, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, and many more.

I loved The Daily Show under Jon Stewart and was looking forward to learning more about the inner workings of the show. I liked that the book included interviews with all peoples involved and some show transcripts. Unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed that the book skipped over some big events and issues in the show’s history. The book seemed to skim over a lot. And the book would definitely not be interesting to those who did not watch at least some of the episodes.

How to Talk About Video Games by Ian Bogost

how-to-talk-about-videogamesTitle: How to Talk About Video Games

Author: Ian Bogost

Publisher: University of Minnesota 2015

Genre: Pop Culture – Media

Pages: 197

Rating: 2/5 stars

Reading Challenges: 52 Books – W38; Perpetual (NonAd)

Videogames! Aren’t they the medium of the twenty-first century? The new cinema? The apotheosis of art and entertainment, the realization of Wagnerian gesamtkunstwerk? The final victory of interaction over passivity? No, probably not. Games are part art and part appliance, part tableau and part toaster. In How to Talk about Videogames, leading critic Ian Bogost explores this paradox more thoroughly than any other author to date.

Our book club selection for October. I got a jump on the book due to the baby coming in less than a week. And I’m thoroughly disappointed in this book. Bogost personality is so very insufferable. I couldn’t stand his “gamergate” type approach to video games. I read most of this book, but I admit to skimming some chapters. I just grew so bored with his writing, assumptions, and tone. Pass.

52 books 2014 blog widget for side barnonfiction adventureSignature


Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade

51XUTVEAFpL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History

Author: Brian Kilmeade

Publisher: Sentinel 2015

Genre: Nonfiction – U.S. History

Pages: 238

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Nonfiction; 52 Books – W34

This is the little-known story of how a newly indepen­dent nation was challenged by four Muslim powers and what happened when America’s third president decided to stand up to intimidation.

When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, America faced a crisis. The new nation was deeply in debt and needed its economy to grow quickly, but its merchant ships were under attack. Pirates from North Africa’s Barbary coast routinely captured American sailors and held them as slaves, demanding ransom and tribute payments far beyond what the new coun­try could afford.

Definitely a good follow-up to George Washington’s Secret Six. I have a passing knowledge of the Barbary War, but even I can classify it as the forgotten war. I learned so much about the intricacies, people involved, and battles of the war. Stories like that of the USS Philadelphia sparked a memory for me, but it was nice to get the full story in these pages. A good random pick-up from the library shelves.

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventure52 books 2014 blog widget for side barSignature

Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick

BunkerHill-PaperbackTitle: Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution

Author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Publisher: Viking 2013

Genre: Nonfiction – U.S. History

Pages: 398

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Nonfiction; 52 Books – W33; Perpetual (NonAd)

Boston in 1775 is an island city occupied by British troops after a series of incendiary incidents by patriots who range from sober citizens to thuggish vigilantes. After the Boston Tea Party, British and American soldiers and Massachusetts residents  have warily maneuvered around each other until April 19, when violence finally erupts at Lexington and Concord.  In June, however, with the city cut off from supplies by a British blockade and Patriot militia poised in siege, skirmishes give way to outright war in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It would be the bloodiest battle of the Revolution to come, and the point of no return for the rebellious colonists.

Been meaning to pick this one up for awhile now. And I enjoyed every page of this volume. Such a great exploration of the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence focusing on the Boston area. I loved following each of the players through the few years detailed. Philbrick scores again with a great narrative history. Even with my background knowledge of the Revolution, I still learned a lot about the details of the time period. Fascinating!

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventure52 books 2014 blog widget for side barSignature

What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted by Tevi Troy

tweetTitle: What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House

Author: Tevi Troy

Publisher: Regnery 2013

Genre: Nonfiction – U.S. History

Pages: 332

Rating: 3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Nonfiction; Nonfiction Adventure (perpetual)

America is a country built by thinkers on a foundation of ideas. Alongside classic works of philosophy and ethics, however, our presidents have been influenced by the books, movies, TV shows, viral videos, and social media sensations of their day. In What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culturen in the White House presidential scholar and former White House aide Tevi Troy combines research with witty observation to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture.

An interesting collection of tidbits about pop culture and presidents. I learned a decent amount of trivia. Well, the volume is well-written, I knew a fair amount of the information presented. I especially enjoyed the chapters focusing on the presidents of the mid 20th century. Very interesting discussions on how Nixon and Reagan used pop culture.

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventure


Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

51mHLBMi0UL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Thunderstruck

Author: Erik Larson

Publisher: Crown 2006

Genre: Nonfiction – History

Pages: 463

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Perpetual (NonAd); Nonfiction; 52 Books – W30

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners; scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed; and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect murder.

Oh man. Another awesome Erik Larson book that I can’t believe took me this long to read. And it’s on a subject that I knew little to nothing about. Amazing! It took me a bit to really get into this volume, but once I did, I was hooked. Larson has an amazing way of making the reader care about the characters and keep us on the edge of our seat throughout. My favorite parts of this volume were the politics of Marconi’s business dealings. So very very interesting and complicated! The ending was a bit abrupt for a Larson book, but I was still satisfied by the story and conclusion.

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventure52 books 2014 blog widget for side barSignature

Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick

51GIpUCX5-L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Valiant Ambition

Author: Nathaniel Philbrick

Publisher: Viking 2016

Genre: Nonfiction – U.S. History

Pages: 427

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Perpetual (NonAd); Nonfiction; Popsugar – Blue Cover

In September 1776, the vulnerable Continental Army under an unsure George Washington (who had never commanded a large force in battle) evacuates New York after a devastating defeat by the British Army. Three weeks later, near the Canadian border, one of his favorite generals, Benedict Arnold, miraculously succeeds in postponing the British naval advance down Lake Champlain that might have ended the war. Four years later, as the book ends, Washington has vanquished his demons and Arnold has fled to the enemy after a foiled attempt to surrender the American fortress at West Point to the British. After four years of war, America is forced to realize that the real threat to its liberties might not come from without but from within.

Apparently I am in the middle of a huge American Revolution kick. J and I are obsessed with watching Turn on AMC and listening to the Hamilton soundtrack. Nevermind that I’ve always been a fan of history, I’ve found myself craving history books lately. I few weeks back I finished Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea and realized that he had just released a new book centered on the American Revolution. Thankfully I spied it at the library last week and immediately snatched it up. So good! In general I know how this story played out, but I was constantly fascinated by the details. It was the little things along with excerpts from letters that sucked me into the story. I was riveted from page one. Philbrick definitely has a way with narrative history. Never once did I get lost or confused by the information. I went along on the journey highlighting what would ultimately be two opposing forces: Washington and Arnold. I think I liked this one better than Philbrick’s Mayflower. Fascinating story! Now I want to run off and get the book that Turn the television series is based on. Guess I need some more American Revolution in my life.

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventurepopsugarSignature

Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents by Douglas Brode

51Gj-ma4mUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Fantastic Planets, Forbidden Zones, and Lost Continents: The 100 Greatest Science Fiction Films

Author: Douglas Brode

Publisher: University of Texas Press 2015

Genre: Nonfiction – Movies

Pages: 411

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Perpetual (NonAd); Nonfiction; 52 Books – W24

Whether you judge by box office receipts, industry awards, or critical accolades, science fiction films are the most popular movies now being produced and distributed around the world. Nor is this phenomenon new. Sci-fi filmmakers and audiences have been exploring fantastic planets, forbidden zones, and lost continents ever since George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon. In this highly entertaining and knowledgeable book, film historian and pop culture expert Douglas Brode picks the one hundred greatest sci-fi films of all time.

Picked this up from the new books shelf at the library. While J and I debated some of the choices on the Top 100 list, it was a very entertaining read. In reality, we’ve got into a few debates owing to our fairly extensive scifi movie experience. I loved all the tidbits about how the movie got made, influences, and trivia. Very enjoyable read for the past few days. Plus we’ve made a list of those movies we’ve somehow not seen before.

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventure52 books 2014 blog widget for side barSignature

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

Drunken-Botanist-Cover-low-resTitle: The Drunken Botanist

Author: Amy Stewart

Publisher: Algonquin Books 2013

Genre: Nonfiction

Pages: 400

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Perpetual (NonAd); Nonfiction; 52 Books – W23

Sake began with a grain of rice. Scotch emerged from barley, tequila from agave, rum from sugarcane, bourbon from corn. Thirsty yet?  In The Drunken Botanist, Amy Stewart explores the dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees, fruits, and fungi that humans have, through ingenuity, inspiration, and sheer desperation, contrived to transform into alcohol over the centuries.

Of all the extraordinary and obscure plants that have been fermented and distilled, a few are dangerous, some are downright bizarre, and one is as ancient as dinosaurs–but each represents a unique cultural contribution to our global drinking traditions and our history.

This fascinating concoction of biology, chemistry, history, etymology, and mixology–with more than fifty drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners–will make you the most popular guest at any cocktail party.

I grabbed this book off an endcap at the library. I bring it home and J tells me, “oh, I’ve heard that’s really good.” It’s not often J hears about a book and I don’t. Overall, I really enjoyed this deep dive into alcohol and botany. I learned some interesting tidbits. Reading this makes me wish I wasn’t pregnant so I could indulge in a few of her featured recipes. Oh well… just a few more months before I can again.

Nonfiction Challenge 2016 nonfiction adventure52 books 2014 blog widget for side bar