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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.

Biography

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Author: Emma Brockes

The author embarks on a physical and psychological journey to uncover her mother's early life in South Africa. When the story begins, Brockes' mother is dying and makes an attempt to reveal a dark past to her daughter, but neither is ready for the confession. After her mother's death, Brockes, with the few pieces of the puzzle she has-vague knowledge of a shooting, a court case, and family abuse- goes to South Africa to meet with her mother's siblings and friends from the past. What she discovers explains her mother's unwavering loyalty to her siblings, her fierce protectiveness of her daughter, and her courageous attempt to start over by emigrating to England in her early 20's. Brockes is able to reveal her mother's sordid family life with honesty, humor, and compassion. She learns the details that not only shaped her mother's life, but her own as well.

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Author: Ben Carson

This is one of the most moving stories about an inner city kid that was able to overcome the adversity of being a child in a one parent family. His mother instilled in him the merits of hard work, study, honesty and faith to achieve goals that most of us do not think possible. His accomplishments at being able to learn whatever he put his mind to allowed him to be the best in any endeavor that he set his mind to. He overcomes the racial bias exhibited toward him and becomes one of the most reknowned pediatric neurosurgeons in his field and his brother becomes an accomplished engineer. This book will bring tears to your eyes at the amazing feats that he is able to accomplish. This should be a must read book for all students in all schools to realize the potential that they can achieve if only they apply themselves.

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Author: Lydia Farmer

Summary

This book chronicles the lives of sixteen famous and infamous Queens throughout history and around the world to the time of its third printing in 1927.

Opinion

As I have been reading several historical fiction books that referenced or fictionalized several famous queens, I thought that this book might give me a factual understanding of these queens' lives. Unfortunately, this book (originally copyrighted in 1887) was not what I was looking for. Written with the overly descriptive style of the time period, it is difficult to determine what is fact or fiction, despite this being categorized as a biography. For example, "Every tree in that dark forest seemed to the terrified queen's fancies an armed foe, seeking the life of herself and child. Suddenly, as the moon broke through the obscuring clouds, she perceived a gigantic man advancing towards her. For a moment her heart stood still for very horror, but with the danger came also courage; and filled with a sudden inspiration of sublime action, she advanced with calm majesty to the outlaw . . ." The entire book reads like this, and serves only to confuse the reader rather than enlighten. My only hope is that future editions of this book (I read the 1927 version) did a better job at portraying information than this one did.

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Author: Rebecca Skloot

Very interesting and disturbing at the same time. Good book, especially for book club. We had stimulating discussion.

Originally posted in: APL Picks

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

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Author: Walter Isaacson

Benjamin Franklin was the first famous American. Long before he helped to draft the Declaration of Independence or became America’s most important diplomat, Franklin had achieved worldwide distinction for his experiments in electricity, his inventions (the Franklin stove, bifocals, the lightning rod), his business success, his civic improvements, and his witty essays and aphorisms. Less well known is Franklin’s somewhat messy personal life. For example, he fathered an illegitimate son, who fathered an illegitimate son, who fathered an illegitimate son. Franklin’s son was also the royal governor of New Jersey just as the elder Franklin was calling for America to toss out the King. It was a family break that never healed. In this book, Walter Isaacson offers a Franklin of great cleverness and charm, but also one with great disappointments and human frailties.

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Author: Gail Levin

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) was a talented abstract expressionist who married Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) in 1945. Pollock was considered to be the most famous abstract expressionist and he was known for his “drip” paintings. Levin has written a detailed biography starting with Lee’s childhood as number six out of seven children born to Russian Jewish emigrants. Krasner’s artwork was inspired by the Hebrew letters she learned as a child. Krasner studied at the Women’s Art School of Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design in New York City. Krasner and Pollock were artists for the New Deal’s Federal Art Project. Their relationship was often tumultuous and Levin’s book portrays this painful fact in a respectful fashion.

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Author: John Szwed

Alan Lomax was an American folklorist and ethnomusicologist who was considered to be the most active and influential collector of music in the world. He got his start in the early 1930s while traveling around the country with the purpose of making field recordings at prison farms in the Yazoo Delta with his father, John Lomax. His worldwide recordings cover over 200 cultures. He rubbed elbows with Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, Pete Seeger and the legendary Leadbelly. The cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead, welcomed Lomax into her inner circle. Lomax was under investigation during the Red Scare. This is an interesting account but some may be put off by the minute details. Not a page turner but recommended for someone willing to make their way through a dense account of a one-of-a-kind individual or for research purposes.

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Author: Jeffrey Meyers

Norma Jean Baker endured a tragic childhood with an absent father and mother and grandmother committed to insane asylums. She was sent to a children’s home and endured foster care and dropped out of school in 10th grade. Yet she went on to become an American iconic figure, as the Hollywood-created Marilyn Monroe starring in movies such as Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch. Her marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller and affairs with JFK, RFK, Frank Sinatra, and others, are described along with her numerous film projects with a variety of famous directors. Sadly, she committed suicide at the age of 36 on August 5, 1962.