Saturday, December 21, 2013

Book Reviews - NonFiction

One of my goals this year is to post a short review of each book I read, so today I'm sharing my thoughts on six non-fiction books I completed over the past few months.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking was one of the choices for the library book club. It is a fascinating look at introverts and their impact on our world. I especially enjoyed the insights on how our school systems favor extroverts and what can be done to help introverts thrive. There are so many insights in this book that I highly recommend it for everyone, especially teachers and parents of introverts. For a quick look at what the book is about, check out the author Susan Cain's Ted talk here.

I read Outliers: The Story of Success as part of an online book discussion for Continuing Professional Education credit. This is the first book I've read by Malcolm Gladwell, and I thoroughly enjoyed his look at the various circumstances and reasons behind why a person is successful - where he's from, when during the year he was born, his culture and family background, etc. It's extremely thought-provoking and another one that I highly recommend.

After enjoying Outliers, I checked out Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking from the library. In this book, Gladwell takes a look at how quickly we make judgments and what types of information we can learn from just a small section of time. I was actually reading this book the morning we had to make a trip to the emergency room (because Robbie inadvertently sliced a little piece off the end of his finger and we couldn't stop the bleeding). Knowing there might be a wait in the ER, I grabbed the book. The attending physician (who successfully staunched the bleeding) noticed and commented that he had read it in medical school. There's a whole chapter on how you can determine which doctors are the most likely to be sued just by watching a few seconds of silent video of patient/doctor interaction. This is another thought-provoking book that I highly recommend.

I first read The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother when I was teaching at a junior college the year before I met Robbie. I'm not sure how I came across it, maybe someone recommended it or I just picked it up at a bookstore. I remember when I was reading it because one of my students, a young white lady, was seriously dating a black man. One day after class she mentioned to me that he wanted to get married, but she had reservations particularly because she had two white children at the time. (I realize in this day and age that this concern may seem unfounded as there are many mixed marriages, however I do live in the deep south where prejudices can still surface at times so her concerns were probably well-founded.) I thought this book was a wonderful look at how James McBride, a black man, expressed his love and admiration of his white mother while also acknowledging the difficulties associated with a mixed-race family. Something (I can't remember what) made me think about the book recently, however I couldn't remember much about the book itself (although I remembered all this other stuff).I must have given my student the copy of the book I had because I had to check this one out at the library so I could re-read it.

We've had Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal in our personal library for several years - Robbie purchased it and read it soon after it was published in 2001. When Cheri was here visiting earlier this year, we attended a one-hour discussion at the library about healthy eating. The librarians provided a list of recommended books to learn more about healthy eating and the issues that have led to so much obesity. This book was on the list, so I pulled it from the bookshelf one day to read. I don't know how many changes have been made in the fast food industry since this book was published, but I hope there have been a lot based on the information about how fast food has shaped our nation, the number of injuries and unsafe working conditions that exist within the meat packing industry, and the effect this has all had on our diet here in American (and worldwide).

Somewhere I had seen a quote from Stephen King'sOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and had added this book to my to-read list. The first part of the book is a memoir with short stories about Stephen King's life, from the first stories he wrote for the neighborhood newspaper his brother printed in their basement to his first bestseller. In the following sections, he discusses the craft of writing including that writers are also avid readers, grammar is important, and the many tools that a writer needs in his toolbox along with the determination to spend hours writing. He was in the midst of writing this book in 1999 when he was hit by a van while he was walking along a country road near his home. The last section of the book tells about his months of recovery and how writing helped him in the healing process. A very interesting book (although it contained more profanity than I thought was necessary - an issue that he actually addresses in the book).

I'm in the midst of a 700+ page book right now that I plan to finish before the end of year, so I'll be back with one more book review roundup post soon. Do any of these books sound interesting to you? Have you read any of them? I'd love for you to share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Both the Malcom Gladwell books are on my to-read list. I loved The Color of Water. I read it just after it came out, and I also enjoyed King's On Writing. Our book group read it in conjunction with one of his novels several years ago. I'm always glad to read your book reviews!

  2. I've read the Stephen King one and found it had lots to think about - I passed it on to TTO to give him some pointers on his writing too

  3. I read Blink a long time ago. And agree that a lot of judgments about people are based on a very small amount of information that we process and synthesize with all our other experiences to form conclusions. I have Quiet on the end table now. Bought it after it was recommended by someone - I think Stacy Julian? But finding it a very slow, tedious read. And being a born introvert, there isn't anything in there that has surprised me at all!

  4. I've read and enjoyed the Susan McCain although as an introvert it wasn't a surprise to me. Both Blink and Outliers are on my to read book as is the Stephen King. I'd not heard of the colour of water - but it sounds interesting. Fast Food Nation is another I've heard of, I hope things have improved too.


Thanks so much for your comment - it's like a ray of sunshine in my day!