Tuesday Top Ten

top ten history

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week’s challenge was to pick a particular setting and then list our favorite books in that setting.  Since my book choices tend to be all over the place I chose to list my favorite books that take place in the past, that have some type of historical setting.

  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Masterfully crafted (in case I haven’t said it enough!) story that takes place in Germany during WWII.
  2. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys – Moving story about a Lithuanian family taken by the Russians during WWII.
  3. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – I loved the characters in this novel that takes place in French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950.
  4. Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra – Beautiful yet horrible story about the wars in Chechnya.  OK, so much of the story does not take place too far back in history (1994-2004), but there is much to be learned about the history of the area through this novel.
  5. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty – A great look at the early twentieth century as Cora becomes a chaperone to the young Louise Brooks in New York City before she becomes a silent film star.
  6. A Good American by Alex George – An epic novel following three generations of a family beginning with their immigration in 1904.
  7. Thieves of Book Row by Travis McDade – An amazing story of a ring of book thieves during the Great Depression.
  8. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power  by Jon Meacham – One of my favorite figures in American history and a engrossing portrait of his life.
  9. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick – A masterful work of art and a touching novel which travels back and forth between New York City in 1927 and Minnesota in 1977.
  10. Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman – A gritty detective novel set in 1960’s Brooklyn by one of my favorite mystery authors.

Top Ten Tuesday

toptennonfiction

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers create their own lists based on the chosen topics and post links to our lists. It’s a way of all sharing our thoughts and our love of books.  And who doesn’t love lists??

So this week the challenge was to make any list we wanted.  So, in honor of my friend Nate, lover of all things non-fiction, I decided to make a list of my top ten favorite non-fiction books.  They may not be ones that he would like, but it goes to show that I do read and enjoy non-fiction now and then!

  1. Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder – My geekiness comes out here, part of me will always be an engineer and I loved this story of a group of brilliant and dedicated engineers at Data General as they design and build a new computer in just one year.
  2. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham – Thomas Jefferson is probably the figure from American history that I most admire and this biography was engrossing and enlightening.
  3. Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough – Although the task is daunting and the statistics sometimes overwhelming and depressing, the story of the work that Geoffrey Canada is doing for literacy and learning through the Harlem Zone is inspiring.
  4. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall – McDougall provides an engrossing story about ultra-runners, from scientific research to the natives in an isolated part of Mexico that run hundreds of miles, to a race between those very natives and the world’s best ultra-distance runners.  Makes me want to run and fell the wind in my hair and the earth beneath my feet…
  5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand The story of Louis Zamperini’s life, from his delinquent childhood to the Berlin Olympics to harrowing experiences during World War II and his recovery upon returning home, is an amazing tale of perseverance and faith.
  6. Ghost in the Wires by Kevin MitnikNow the dork in me comes out again… For years Kevin Mitnik was the most elusive computer hacker in the world, and hacking was a game to him, a cross between a puzzle and a con.  This story of his escapades, his run from the authorities, and his ultimate capture is an amazing thrill-ride.
  7. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – A fascinating biography about a fascinating man – a jerk and a genius, one inseparable from the other in his pursuit of absolute perfection.  A technological revolutionary who connected art and technology and consumers as never before.  This story of his life is well-balanced and interesting (and the geek in me loved to read about the development of some of the most famous products in technology history), providing an unbiased glimpse into the life of a unique man.
  8. Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls – I found Jeanette Walls’ memoir, Glass Castles, to be compelling, but I absolutely loved this story of her grandmother, a tough, no-nonsense woman who was breaking horses when she was six, travelling along to an isolated town to teach when she was fifteen, learning to fly planes and running a vast ranch through both personal and natural disasters. A truly captivating story about an amazing woman and her life.
  9. Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma – I love to read with my kids, and although I do try, we don’t manage to make it every night.  In fourth grade, Alice and her father decide that they are going to read together for at least ten minutes every night for 100 nights.  After the 100 nights are over, they keep going, reading together every night until Alice goes to college.  This book tells the story of their relationship through the stories that they shared together, making me hope that the stories I have shared with my children will have an impact as well.
  10. The Outermost House by Henry Beston – For years my husband and I would take the kids and stay for a week in a small ramshackle cottage on the dunes of Cape Cod on the National Seashore.  Henry Beston’s descriptions of his solitary year spent there are beautiful and captivating; they always take me back to one of my favorite places to be.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

Much to the chagrin of some of my more loyal followers, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction.  I like the idea of non-fiction, but unfortunately, for me, it is too rarely done really well.  I am a storyteller and a lover of stories, reading a book that feels like a textbook, a research paper, or a treatise on someone’s personal opinions (often supported by their own personal interpretation of facts) just doesn’t work for me.  In this week’s top ten I talked about 1776 by David McCullough and how I didn’t like it as much as I had hoped.  I wanted to be told the story of 1776, I did not want to read a research paper on 1776, and while it was a well-written and well-researched book, it still felt like a research paper to me.  Being a fan of Thomas Jefferson (how can you not like a guy who donates 47,000 books to the Library of Congress?), I approached reading this book with some trepidation – I did not want to read a textbook about Jefferson, I wanted to be told his story, and I was not disappointed.

“I cannot live without books.” – Thomas Jefferson

jeffersonJon Meacham tells the story of Thomas Jefferson brilliantly; while it is well-researched it is never dry, engrossing you in the world, ideas, and actions of this amazing and complex man.  Through his time as a lawyer, author of the Declaration of Independence, governor of Virginia, minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and President Jefferson understood the delicate balance between philosophy and politics, that big dreams do not become reality on their own.  He knew how to work “the system” to achieve his desired ends, working through both his friends and enemies to achieve his vision for the country.

 “He dreamed big but understood that dreams become reality only when their champions are strong enough and wily enough to bend history to their purposes.” 

Meacham brings forth the complexity of the man, the conflict that sometimes existed between his actions and the beliefs he expounded.  In spite of these beliefs, Jefferson as a politician accepted and understood the realities of the offices he held, mastering the art of power to achieve the ends he desired.

“Our greatest leaders are neither dreamers nor dictators: They are, like Jefferson, those who articulate national aspirations yet master the mechanics of influence and know when to depart from dogma.” 

As a person, Jefferson was well-educated and well-read, interesting and interested in numerous subjects, congenial and kind, a lover of all things French, devoted to his family, friends, and country.  However, Jefferson is certainly not portrayed as flawless, his inability to manage his personal finances, the contradictions between his words and his actions, his hypocrisy on the issue of slavery, are all addressed and show the many sides of this complex and fascinating figure.  Regardless of his flaws, he ultimately worked tirelessly to leave the world better.  He is a man who I would’ve liked to meet, to share a glass of his French wine, to sit and discuss philosophy and art and science and politics, leaving more enlightened and inspired for my time with him.

Title: Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Author: Jon Meacham
Genre: Non-Fiction/Biography
Pages: 800
Publication: Random House, November 2012