Don’t miss these superbly written books that combine intriguing history with memorable real-life escapades.
We tend to think of William Styron as a novelist—and rightly so, given the enduring power of such works at The Confessions of Nat Turner and Sophie’s Choice. Yet Styron, who would have been 90 years old on June 11, was also a prolific and gifted writer of nonfiction, as the doorstop-sized new collection, My Generation, makes plain. This gathering of essays, journalism, book reviews, memoirs and occasional pieces, written over 50 years, offers a congenial glimpse into this eminent American writer’s life and mind.
From a bicycle trip through Chile and Argentina to a South African journey to report on Nelson Mandela’s final days, former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw had no intention of slowing down as he celebrated his 73rd birthday in February 2013. What he didn’t count on was a cancer diagnosis a few months later that would transform the next 16 months of his life into one in which cancer became “the scrim through which all of life is viewed.”
Three books following unconventional lives make great picks for reading groups this month.
Multitasking at work through texts and emails, pumping breast milk for your baby, then grabbing a decaf latte solo as a treat afterward: Is this you? It turns out our collective drive for greater efficiency is leading to lower productivity, reduced immunity and general malaise.
Robert L. O’Connell’s Fierce Patriot: The Tangled Lives of William Tecumseh Sherman includes a photograph of the celebrated Civil War general with his staff. While the other men strike classic poses and gaze into the middle distance, Sherman sits slightly slumped, legs crossed, jacket unbuttoned, glittering eyes focused directly on the camera. It fits with the popular notion of Sherman, the man who invented “modern war” and whose soldiers burned a path of destruction through the American South.
Whether it’s from high school or university, graduation is a milestone that’s certainly cause for celebration, but with it can come a new set of concerns—big-time worries about how to make the grade in college or in the real world. Whether your grad needs direction or already possesses a five-year plan, three new books offer plenty of inspiration, encouragement and practical advice.
Sometimes things happen in life that change one’s perspective. Literally. For Gail Caldwell, hip surgery made her five-eighths of an inch taller. It was a new view, and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.
It’s hard to know whether to call Boyd Varty’s Cathedral of the Wild a memoir, a true adventure story or a self-help book. All I know is that it made me cry with its hard-won truths about human and animal nature, distilled by Varty from his experiences living on Londolozi, the game reserve his family runs in South Africa.
African Americans have been struggling for independence, equality and respect from the moment they were brought to the New World in chains. As that struggle continues today, it’s instructive to look back on our turbulent history to learn from the past and hopefully improve on the future. The five books featured here can help us to do just that, examining historical themes that serve as milestones on the journey of progress.