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Welcome to Books R Us, a recommended reading blog from InfoSoup librarians and users and home to A Year of Listening Dangerously, the 2014 InfoSoup Reading Challenge! Find a great book to read next, add your own reviews, and check out our book related resources such as NoveList and BookLetters.

Nonfiction Like Fiction

Living on the Edge

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Author: Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl needed to change her life. Her mother, the anchor of her world, died when she was in her early twenties. She'd married for love and yet she couldn't remian faithful to her vows. She decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, which she read about. She embarked on her journey without proper training, knowledge, or gear. Through all of her struggles and hardhships she grew stronger and foumd what she had been searching for. 

This book speaks to my own fears that I am not strong enough to face my everyday trials. After finishing this book I am inspired to try things that are hard, things that I feel I'm not strong enough to do. This memoir was inspirational.

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Author: Jeanne Nolan

Jeanne Nolan knew she wanted to change the world, so she joined a commune, where people lived in harmony with nature. After becoming a parent, the rules of the commune no longer rang true so she left and returned to her parent's suburban home near Chicago. Adjusting to life after the commune was difficult. Jeanne turned to the skills she had learned as an organic gardener and gained a position to design and grow the organic garden of the Lincoln Park Zoo. She also started the "Organic Gardener", a business that helps suburban families plan, plant and maintain organic gardens.

This author is part of the movement that is sweeping across the country to grow your own food. I found her story facinating, moving, and fun to read. The information about gardening was very educational. You definately want to put his book on your reading list before you plant your next garden!

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Author: Gene Logsdon

Partway thru this book I began to feel as if I had read it before. Logsdon does repeat some of the same points throughout the book, but also generally mentions which chapter he had previously discussed them. It's possible he's made these same points in previous books. In general, his teaching on sustainable living & forestry is low key, and his pitch for changing our dependence on fossil fuels is not as strident as many other books on the subject. In fact, he comes across as a friendly neighbor, so enamored of his love for trees that he can't help but share his enthusiasm. He encourages woodsowners to take the long view and let their trees manage themselves rather than feeling obliged to spend time thinning and pruning. Sounds like good advice to someone as lazy as I am. I do heat with wood and agree that this is the best security as our society experience more electrical outages.
I am uncomfortable with his promotion of grazing animals in woods because I love the woodland flowers so much. He acknowledges that years of sheep grazing in some woods has meant no flowers, then relates how they have come back after the grazing was ended as if there were no longterm consequences. Yet he can't understand why he's had little luck getting goldenseal to grow. My point is that the rare plants (and birds) are rare because they cannot tolerate the disturbed conditions in working woods and we need to ensure some wild forests remain.

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Author: H.G. Bissinger

This true story of how football reigns supreme in West Texas has been on my to-read list for years. My newfound interest in the TV series based on the movie based on the book brought me back to the book. And- I loved this book.

I'm not even mad about the time it took me to pick up the book (I had to put some time between the present & when I actually lived in West Texas). This is a great companion to the TV series because you can see how the Hollywood drama isn't so, errr, dramatic. Watching the series I found myself saying, the booster club wouldn't have a say in money spent on school budgets- wrong I was! Bissinger's well-written non-fiction piece is so much more than football, it's about education and racism, politics, and a quick and interesting read. I even enjoyed the football part of it. I loved Bissinger's sports writing and use of metaphor.

If you like the series (on Netflix or at the library), you will be as engrossed in the book as I was.

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Author: Laura Schroff

This book shares the true story of a woman who, when asked for spare change by a young panhandler in New York City, first passes him by, as she usually does.  But the story begins when she turns around, goes back to him, and offers to buy him a meal at a nearby McDonald's.  The serendipity of that one moment becomes life-changing for both the woman and the young boy she returns to.  I loved reading this book...feeling the depth of our true capability to change lives by making small decisions...makes me feel all the more optimistic about the power of love, and the invisible threads that connect us all, and drive us to help our fellow man.

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Author: Wendy Lawless

This true story that reads like fiction was penned by the daughter of a very mentally ill mother.  Despite the incredible weath that surrounds her,  mom is not satisfied.  It falls to Wendy to watch out not only for herself, but for her younger sister as mom smokes, drinks, abuses drugs, and attempts suicide multiple times.  One stable influence in Wendy's life is the housekeeper/nanny who cares for the children deeply and tries to protect them from what is going on around them.  Unfortunately, in a fit of anger, she is fired and the children are left without the one stable adult in their lives.  Mom's story is also a sad one of being dropped off at an orphanage and then being adopted and being thrilled to be chosen amongst all the children to finally have a home.  However, the fantasy soon turns to a nightmare on the very same day she is adopted.  How this influences her life choices later and her coldness and hugely negectful approach to her children is covered.  This book is hard to read in that it will touch you deeply as you feel the wretched life these children have, despite having the money to buy anything they want.  However, money can't buy love. 

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Author: Dan Baum

New Yorker staff writer Dan Baum was sent to New Orleans to cover hurricane Katrina. He became so absorbed in the place it became his home for awhile. He met a lot of Orleanians doing his work for the New Yorker and eventually an idea for a book was born. Baum covers the lives of nine people from the time of hurricane Betsy in 1964 through the aftermath of Katrina. The cast of characters cover the wide spectrum of New Orleans society. It is fascinating to follow these lives - obviously, Katrina was a major event in these people's lives, but they were hardly strangers to adversity and the effects of being from New Orleans before that disaster. Readers will also get an idea of how the things that make New Orleans unique among American cities is also the reason why it's barely surviving today. If you are at all interested in New Orleans, this is a must read.

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Author: Jennet Conant

Alfred Loomis was full of enigmas, and is an almost unknown character except to historians. He loved science and studied physics, as well working very successfully as a financier. In a brief time he made his fortune in public utilities and he managed to keep it despite the crash of 1929 and his expensive lifestyle. At the peak of his financial career, he suddenly quit the financial world to build a private laboratory in his stone castle at Tuxedo Park, hiring scientists from around the world, and asking them to work on his ideas and projects.

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The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

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Author: Luis Alberto Urrea

The Devil’s Highway is a trapezoid of land bound by 1-19, the Colorado River, 1-8, and Mexican Rt. 2. This is a collection of stories covering the harrowing journey of the undocumented entrants and the hazards they face as they attempt to start a new life in the United States. Raw and engrossing.

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Author: Philip Gulley

The author is a Quaker minister. In a short story format, he talks about different small town happenings and ends each section with a thought. The title comes from his belief that we'd all be better off if our homes had front porches where families and neighbors could talk. Very easy reading and thought provoking.