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Newsletter Nonfiction Reviews

Hello, and welcome to our January/February 2023 Nonfiction Reviews!

Spare Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593593806
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Published: Random House - January 10th, 2023

Available in Hardcover Now

When this book came out, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it...  As a huge Royal Family Fan (I distinctly remember my Mom waking me up to watch Princess Diana's wedding live), I didn't think this book would be something I could enjoy.  I was wrong!  First and foremost, it is excellently written by the ghostwriter who wrote Shoe Dog (the Nike story) and Open (Andre Agassi's story), and I was sucked into the story with the Prologue.  I think its important to remember that these stories and memories are Harry's, and while what really happened might vary depending on one's perspective, these memories helped shaped Harry's thinking and actions.  We are left with no doubt that while being a Royal comes with many privileges, it also comes with many challenges.  Harry and the rest of his family definitely live in a gilded cage.

The book is divided into three parts: Harry's life before and just after his Mom's death, his time in the military, and finally the beginning of his life with Meghan Markle and exit from senior Royal status.  The pervasive theme in the book is the loss Harry felt after his Mom's death and the lack of help he received in handling that situation. Understandably so, this has had a profound impact on his life and his life choices.  While William was in the same position, as this book shows, William and Harry's personalities and thus coping skills are very different.  The book was full of examples of sibling rivalry-- some of which seemed real and some of it seemed just perceived-- but all of it is impactful on Harry's life today. 

This book, told from the perspective of an actual Royal-- not a Royal watcher or an "expert"-- was fascinating and certainly gave this Royal Family Fan new things to think about with respect to the Family, their lifestyle, and especially their relationships.

Reviewed by Julie Harms-Muth

Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim O'Connell's urgent mission to bring healing to homeless people Cover Image
ISBN: 9781984801432
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Published: Random House - January 17th, 2023

Available in Hardcover Now

Jim O'Connell seems like a person who is too good to be true, but he's for real. After his medical residency he was talked into spending a year treating the homeless in Boston. For Jim, a year became a lifetime. With the help of other very compassionate individuals, he set up medical clinics for the homeless as well as apartments, shelters and a van that reaches out to those who will not or cannot come get any and all kinds of help. The work is exhausting, often ungratifying, but Jim and his team are so inspiring. The title of Kidder's book is a term people in the know use to describe those homeless people who live out of doors.

Tracy Kidder also spends part of Rough Sleepers describing in detail a handful of homeless people. The reader sees rough sleepers as individuals with a history, not just a lump under a blanket. Like his excellent work of nonfiction, Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kidder proves that one person can make a difference.

Reviewed by Nancy Randall

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374600846
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Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 13th, 2022

Available in Hardcover Now

Selected by The New York Times as one of the five best works of nonfiction in 2022, Strangers to Ourselves presents six case studies of individuals suffering from mental illness. One of the examples is the author herself, who was hospitalized for anorexia when she was six years old. These studies present people of different genders, races and socio-economic status, all with different severe forms of mental illness.

If you are interested in the subject matter, and I am, Strangers to Ourselves is an interesting, sometimes fascinating other times perplexing read.

Reviewed by Nancy Randall

Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story Cover Image
By Bono
ISBN: 9780525521044
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Published: Knopf - November 1st, 2022

Available in Hardcover Now 

Whether you are a fan of Bono and the musical group U2 or not, Bono's memoir, Surrender 40 Songs, One Story is worth a read! As a longtime fan, I knew I fully expected to enjoy the book, but I was surprised by how much my admiration and respect for Bono would grow. From the very first dramatic page, a crisis grabs your attention and the beauty of Bono's writing is stunning. From the early days of struggling to get their start to their worldwide success and the deeply meaningful activism this enabled, you are given a private view into Bono's passionate heart. Surrender is so much more than a story of how the band evolved. There are so many amazing stories I want to tell you, but I will let you discover them for yourselves. What a pleasure it was to get to know this complex man, shaped by the early loss of his mother, to whom relationships are crucially important and activism is a way of life. 

Note - I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this book on! Check it out!

Reviewed by Amy Morrison