Friday, January 17, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: Non-fiction Edition

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Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Published: October 8th, 2019 by W.W. Norton Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Essays, Memoir/biography
Format: Audiobook, 5 hours, 35 minutes, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The natural follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has attracted one of the world’s largest online followings with his fascinating, widely accessible insights into science and our universe. Now, Tyson invites us to go behind the scenes of his public fame by unveiling his candid correspondence with people across the globe who have sought him out in search of answers. In this hand-picked collection of one hundred letters, Tyson draws upon cosmic perspectives to address a vast array of questions about science, faith, philosophy, life, and of course, Pluto. His succinct, opinionated, passionate, and often funny responses reflect his popularity and standing as a leading educator.

Tyson’s 2017 bestseller Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered more than one million readers an insightful and accessible understanding of the universe. Now, revealing Tyson’s most candid and heartfelt writing yet, Letters from an Astrophysicist introduces us to a newly personal dimension of Tyson’s quest to understand our place in the cosmos.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one so much, I listened to it twice. The second time was with the family while driving up and back from Boise over New Year's. Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates his own book and it's just lovely. He breaks up the letters into categories, and they span all the way back before 9/11 to a year or two ago. His letter to his father and his description of his experience of 9/11 while in New York were especially touching. His love of science and people is inspiring and one I will probably listen to yearly!

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Avoiding Clickbait by Kristin Thiel
Published: January 15th, 2019 by Cavendish Square Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Juvenile, Critical Thinking
Format: Hardback, 64 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

As digital natives attempt to navigate news sources, media literacy is more important than ever. Understanding who is behind different forms of clickbait like posts, articles, and ads, and the motivation behind this content, is a critical part of distinguishing reputable sources of information from distorted or false information. This must-have volume examines the roots of modern clickbait in the sensationalism of yellow journalism, while guiding readers through the process of recognizing clickbait and reacting to it in savvy ways.

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G. We were able to talk about online safety and how to spot clickbait and why it happens. They go into a bit about the psychology behind it and why it happens. There is a whole series devoted to media literacy and we are on the second book. It's a great series for kids and has lots of resources to check out and learn more as well.

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Bomb: The Race to Build--And Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
Published: September 4th, 2012 by Flash Point
Genre: Nonfiction, Young Adult, History
Format: Hardback, 266 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher's Summary:

In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world's most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

Bomb is a 2012 National Book Awards finalist for Young People's Literature.
Bomb is a 2012 Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title.

Bomb is a 2013 Newbery Honor book.

My Thoughts:

I read this for Battle of the Books for G's school. I was thoroughly engaged! I enjoy getting my history from middle grade and young adult books. They know how to get the best stories and to tell the facts in an interesting way.

I had no idea about how the Russians stole the plans for the atomic bomb. We learned why people got involved with the bomb project and how the Germans were sabotaged so they couldn't make the bomb first. So many fascinating tidbits. There are some great photos inside too.

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Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
Published: September 10th, 2019 by W.W. Norton Company
Genre: Nonfiction, Science, Essays, Biology
Format: Kindle, 222 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Best-selling author and mortician Caitlin Doughty answers real questions from kids about death, dead bodies, and decomposition.

Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?

In Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?, Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans. In her inimitable voice, Doughty details lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn colors during decomposition? And why do hair and nails appear longer after death? Readers will learn the best soil for mummifying your body, whether you can preserve your best friend’s skull as a keepsake, and what happens when you die on a plane. Beautifully illustrated by Dianné Ruz, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? shows us that death is science and art, and only by asking questions can we begin to embrace it.

My Thoughts:

I read this one aloud with G last month. It was a hoot. It does go into some technical detail about the processes of death. Putrefaction. Can you put your parents' skull on your desk after they die? What about the cat?! Will she eat my eyeballs? The questions are fun and Ms. Doughty answers with clarity and humor. There are even fun illustrations throughout each chapter. This was definitely one of my favorite science books last year and one of my faves reading with G.

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Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Self-help
Format: Kindle, 432 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist's world--where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).

One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.

As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients' lives -- a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can't stop hooking up with the wrong guys -- she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.

With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them.

My Thoughts:

I loved getting inside a therapist's head. What's the training? How can I use this in my own life? How can I use this with my own therapist?! I loved how she intertwined her story, along with her own therapist, and the stories of her clients. So much info and things to think about. This is one I'll be returning to. I also want to know which show her client wrote for! OMG! It's killing me.

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They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justing Eisinger, and Steve Scott 
Published: July 16th, 2019 by Top Shelf Productions
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, History, Graphic Novel
Format: Kindle, 208 pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei's childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon -- and America itself.

Long before George Takei braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's -- and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten "relocation centers," hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei's firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother's hard choices, his father's faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

My Thoughts:

This was such a beautiful book. Gorgeously illustrated and written. George Takei knocks it out of the park with his graphic memoir. I read this one aloud with G as well over the holidays. He couldn't get enough of it and we read it until it was done over the course of just a few nights. I felt it was important to talk about the illegal detainment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. And having a first-hand experience to read and talk about made it powerful. This should be a must-read in schools.