Tag Archives: non-fiction

Non-Fiction that Reads Like Fiction: Erik Larson

Interested in trying a non-fiction read, I suggest bestselling author, Erik Larson. His narrative nonfiction vividly tells very compelling stories and reads like fiction. Larson writes at a suspenseful pace, turns key figures into fascinating characters and makes history to gripping thriller.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

devil in the white cityTwo men, each handsome and unusually adept at his work, embodied an element of the great dynamic that characterized America’s rush toward the twentieth century. Daniel Hudson Burnham, a renowned architect, was the brilliant director of works for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Henry H. Holmes, a young doctor, was the satanic murderer of scores of young women in a torture palace built for the purpose near the fairgrounds. Burnham overcame great obstacles to build his White City; Holmes used the attraction to lure women to their deaths.

Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

isaacs stormSeptember 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau, failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged by a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over 6,000 people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history-and Isaac Cline found himself the victim of a devastating personal tragedy. Using Cline’s own telegrams, letters, and reports, the testimony of scores of survivors, and our latest understanding of the science of hurricanes, Erik Larson builds a chronicle of one man’s heroic struggle and fatal miscalculation in the face of a storm of unimaginable magnitude. Thrilling, powerful, and unrelentingly suspenseful, Isaac’s Storm is the story of what can happen when human arrogance meets the uncontrollable force of nature.


thunderstruckTells the interwoven stories of two men–Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication–whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time. Set in Edwardian London, an era of séances, science, and fog, 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 crime.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

in the garden of beastsA remarkable story set during Hitler’s rise to power. The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history. Gives the reader a true sense of how Hitler and Nazism were able to survive before the world know their true nature.

(All annotations from the publishers.)

– posted by Betty, Reference Services

(some of the) Best Books of 2011

It’s that time of year…no, I don’t mean the holiday season.  It’s the time of year for the “Best Books of the Year” lists.  There’s  Amazon, Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, among others, already weighing in with what their editors believe are the most important and enjoyable books published during 2011.

Here is a sampling of some of books that are already being considered as the most noteworthy of 2011:

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht (fiction)

Struggling to understand why her beloved grandfather left his family to die alone in a field hospital far from home, a young doctor in a war-torn Balkan country takes over her grandfather’s search for a mythical ageless vagabond while referring to a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (fiction)

A baseball star at a small college near Lake Michigan launches a routine throw that goes disastrously off course and inadvertently changes the lives of five people, including the college president, a gay teammate and the president’s daughter.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (fiction)

The year is 1984 and the city is Tokyo.  A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (non-fiction)

Based on more than 40 interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues–the author offers a fascinating look at the co-founder and leading creative force behind the Apple computer company.

Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (non-fiction)

The chef of New York’s East Village Prune restaurant presents an account of her search for meaning and purpose in the central rural New Jersey home of her youth, marked by a first chicken kill, an international backpacking tour, and the opening of a first restaurant.

Don’t forget to look for the “Best Books of 2011” display located on the main floor when visiting the library during December.

– posted by Sonia, Readers’ Services

Civil War Sesquicentennial

Throughout the early days and months of 1861 the Southern States had been seceding from the Union. But it was on April 12, 1861 that the country fell into Civil War. On that day, Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

This year we commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. The National Parks Service offers  timelines, events at national parks and a database of the names of more than 6 million servicemen who fought on both sides in the war. The NPS site even has a fictional reporter named Beglan O’Brien relating day-by-day accounts of the war.

If you are interested in the causes of the war check out Apostles of Disunion by Charles DewAllegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston and the Beginning of the Civil War by David Detzer,  Lincoln President-elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter by Harold HolzerWhy the Civil War Came edited by Gabor Boritt, Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought On the Civil War by  Douglas R. Egerton.





If reading about these battles sparks an interest in seeing the battlefields for yourself, check out some of the travel books Syosset Library has to help you in planning your trip:

-posted by Brenda, Reference Services

What we’re reading now…

One of the great conversation starter questions has always been “Read any good books lately?”   R & R decided to ask the Syosset library staff about the books they are reading right now.  Below are some of the answers to that question.  Whether the books turned out to be good or not, well, you’ll have to ask the readers when you see them around the library.

Evelyn Hershkowitz, Librarian Trainee, is reading The Passage by Justin Cronin:

“First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.”- from the publisher.

Karen Leibman, Assistant Library Director, is reading “The Cookbook Collector” by Allegra Goodman:

“Emily and Jessamine Bach are opposites in every way: Twenty-eight-year-old Emily is the CEO of Veritech, twenty-three-year-old Jess is an environmental activist and graduate student in philosophy. Pragmatic Emily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley, romantic Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore.  Emily’s boyfriend, Jonathan, is fantastically successful. Jess’s boyfriends, not so much. When Emily confides her company’s new secret project to Jonathan as a proof of her love, the stage is set for issues of loyalty and trust, greed, and the allure of power.” – from the publisher.

Pam Martin, Head of Programming, is reading The Invisible Bridge” by Julie Orringer:

“Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to C. Morgenstern on the rue de Sévigné. As he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret history that will alter the course of his own life. Meanwhile, Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends the lives of Andras and his two brothers into terrifying uncertainty.” – from the publisher

Rosemarie Germaine, Senior Library Clerk, is reading “Leaving the World” by Douglas Kennedy:

“Jane Howard is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo, and she becomes pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise–but when a devastating turn of events tears her existence apart she has no choice but to flee all she knows and leave the world. The disappearance of a young girl pulls her back from the edge and into an obsessive search for some sort of personal redemption. ” from the SPL catalog.

Neela Vass, Acquisitions Supervisor, is reading “No Way Down: Life and Death on K2” by Graham Bowley (non-fiction):

“K2—the world’s second-highest mountain,has lured serious climbers for decades.  In 2008, near the end of a brief climbing season cut even shorter by bad weather, no fewer than ten international teams—some experienced, others less prepared—crowded the mountain’s dangerous slopes with their Sherpas and porters, waiting to ascend.  Finally, on August 1, they were able to set off. But hindered by poor judgment, lack of equipment, and overcrowded conditions, the last group did not summit until nearly 8 p.m., hours later than planned. Then disaster struck …” (from the publisher).

Jill Jacobson, Readers Service Librarian, is reading “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America” by Erik Larson (non-fiction):

“Bringing Chicago circa 1893 to vivid life”, this book  “intertwines the true tale of two men–the brilliant architect behind the legendary 1893 World’s Fair, striving to secure America?s place in the world; and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death.” – from the publisher

– posted by Sonia, Readers’ Services