View Single Post
Old 03-01-2013, 12:28 AM   #1
sun surfer
sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.sun surfer ought to be getting tired of karma fortunes by now.
sun surfer's Avatar
Posts: 3,064
Karma: 38483830
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: somewhere beyond the sea
Device: kindle voyage
Non-Fiction Nominations • March 2013

Help us select what the MR Literary Club will read for March 2013!

The nominations will run for three days until March 4. Then, a separate voting poll will begin where the month's selection will be decided.

Note - We no longer aim for a certain number of fully nominated works; rather, we now aim for a certain length of time for nominations (three days).

The category for this month is:


In order for a work to be included in the poll it needs four nominations - the original nomination plus three supporting.

Each participant has four nominations to use. You can nominate a new work for consideration or you can support (second, third or fourth) a work that has already been nominated by another person.

To nominate a work just post a message with your nomination. If you are the first to nominate a work, it's always nice to provide an abstract to the work so others may consider their level of interest.

What is literature for the purposes of this club? A superior work of lasting merit that enriches the mind. Often it is important, challenging, critically acclaimed. It may be from ancient times to today; it may be from anywhere in the world; it may be obscure or famous, short or long; it may be a story, a novel, a play, a poem, an essay or another written form. If you are unsure if a work would be considered literature, just ask!

The floor is now open!


Nominations now closed. Final nominations:

The Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming - Fully nominated
In favour - issybird, fantasyfan, desertblues, Billi

The blurb from Goodreads:

On 25 September 1513, a force of weary Spanish explorers cut through the forests of Panama and were confronted by an ocean: the Mar del Sur, or the Pacific Ocean. Six years later the Spaniards had established the town of Panama as a base from which to explore and exploit this unknown sea. It was the threshold of a vast expansion.

The Conquest of the Incas, John Hemming's masterly and highly acclaimed account of one of the most exciting conquests known to history, has never been surpassed. From the first small band of Spanish adventurers to enter the mighty Inca empire to the execution of the last Inca forty years later, it is the story of bloodshed, infamy, rebellion and extermination, told as convincingly as if it happened yesterday.

The 2012 e-book edition includes an extensive revision and update of the text, bibliography, notes and other end-material, to report the latest theories and discoveries. It also has a new appendix about recent finds of Inca ruins in Vilcabamba.

The Amazon blurb cites several reviews:

“Distinguished by an extraordinary empathy, a feeling of one’s way into the minds of the sixteenth-century Spaniards and Indians . . . Provocative.” — New York Times

“An extraordinary book. Combining rigorous historical research and profound analysis with stylistic elegance, this work allows the reader to appreciate the tragic and fabulous history of the Incan empire in all its richness and diversity. It reads like the most skillful novel.” — Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature

In 1532, the magnificent Inca empire was the last great civilization still isolated from the rest of humankind. The Conquest of the Incas is the definitive history of this civilization’s overthrow, from the invasion by Pizarro’s small gang of conquistadors and the Incas’ valiant attempts to expel the invaders to the destruction of the Inca realm, the oppression of its people, and the modern discoveries of Machu Picchu and the lost city of Vilcabamba. This authoritative, wide-ranging account, grounded in meticulous research and firsthand knowledge and told from the viewpoints of both protagonists, “keeps all the complex issues to the fore . . . the deeper wonder of the conquest and the deeper horror of its results” (Washington Post).

“The bible for historians and archaeologists studying the final days of the Inca. For the past thirty years, The Conquest of the Incas has remained the most influential book for Inca scholars. There is no other book which is even in the same class.” — Brian S. Bauer, professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, leading archaeologist of the Inca

Arabian Society in the Middle Ages by Edward Lane - Fully nominated
In favour - fantasyfan, issybird, desertblues, Billi

It can be found in the Mobile Read library here:

Doitsu the formatter gives the following description:

"When Edward William Lane (1801-1876) translated the "1001 Nights" he often added long notes at the end of the stories. His grandnephew Stanley Lane-Poole (1854-1931) basically recycled these footnotes for this book. Of course he continued the family tradition by adding his own elaborate footnotes.

The title is somewhat misleading, because even though the book contains many quotes from medieval Arab writers, Lane often interspersed his notes with entertaining anecdotes from his years in Egypt.

The book contains 11 chapters: Religion, Demonology, Saints, Magic, Cosmography, Literature, Feasting and Merrymaking, Childhood and Education, Women, Slavery, Ceremonies of Death.

IMHO, it's a treasure trove of Arabian trivia. Not only will you find out about the prophet's favorite drink and fruit, you'll also learn about naked saints and why Muslims aren't supposed to pray in bath houses."

fantasyfan has the Lane translation of the 1001 Nights in three volumes and can testify to the quality and interest of those utterly wonderful footnotes and thinks that this book is far more interesting than the title perhaps indicates.

Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves - Fully nominated
In favour - Bookpossum, fantasyfan, sun surfer, paola

Possibly an interesting companion piece to Sassoon's war poems.

From Kobo:

In 1929 Robert Graves went to live abroad permanently, vowing 'never to make England my home again'. This is his superb account of his life up until that 'bitter leave-taking': from his childhood and desperately unhappy school days at Charterhouse, to his time serving as a young officer in the First World War that was to haunt him throughout his life.

It also contains memorable encounters with fellow writers and poets, including Siegfried Sassoon and Thomas Hardy, and covers his increasingly unhappy marriage to Nancy Nicholson. Goodbye to All That, with its vivid, harrowing descriptions of the Western Front, is a classic war document, and also has immense value as one of the most candid self-portraits of an artist ever written.

South by Sir Ernest Shackleton - Fully nominated
In favour - fantasyfan, Billi, Bookpossum, paola

By the legendary Anglo-Irish explorer.

The book is of great historical interest, literate, exciting and accurate. Shackleton himself was a remarkably charismatic leader. As time has gone on his star has risen while that of his great rival, Scott, has dimmed.

Here's the review by Susan Paxton on Amazon.

"Although there have been a number of new books and reprints recently focusing on the Endurance expedition, this is the one book everyone should read, Sir Ernest Shackleton's own story of the tragedy he turned into a triumph. Shackleton fully covers the expedition from its inception, through the loss of the Endurance, the stranding of the men on desolate Elephant Island, the majestic small-boat journey in search of rescue to South Georgia, the many attempts to evacuate the men from Elephant Island, and the little-known story of the Ross Sea Party of the expedition, who established a base on the opposite side of the Antarctic continent to lay depots for the planned Antarctic crossing and in spite of horrible deprivation caused when their ship was swept out to sea in a storm, managed to complete all their work laying the groundwork for a trip that never happened. After rescuing his men on Elephant Island, Shackleton had to rescue this party as well, something pretty much ignored in most modern books about the expedition. Very much worth reading. . . . "

And here's an extract from the preface to give you an idea of his style. He discusses the attempt to cross the Antarctic continent:

"We failed in this object, but the story of our attempt is the subject for the following pages, and I think that though failure in the actual accomplishment must be recorded, there are chapters in this book of high adventure, strenuous days, lonely nights, unique experiences, and, above all, records of unflinching determination, supreme loyalty, and generous self-sacrifice on the part of my men which, even in these days that have witnessed the sacrifices of nations and regardlessness of self on the part of individuals, still will be of interest to readers who now turn gladly from the red horror of war and the strain of the last five years to read, perhaps with more understanding minds, the tale of the White Warfare of the South. The struggles, the disappointments, and the endurance of this small party of Britishers, hidden away for nearly two years in the fastnesses of the Polar ice, striving to carry out the ordained task and ignorant of the crises through which the world was passing, make a story which is unique in the history of Antarctic exploration."

It's in the public domain and available right here in the Mobile Read Library.

Engineers of the Soul by Frank Westerman - Fully nominated
In favour - desertblues, sun surfer, Bookpossum, issybird

Review Random House:

Engineers of the Soul is the riveting story of two journeys — one literal, one imaginary — through contemporary Russia and through Soviet-era literature.Travelling through present and past, Frank Westerman draws the reader into the wild euphoria of the Russian Revolution, as art and reality are bent to radically new purposes. Writers of renown, described by Stalin as ‘engineers of the soul', were encouraged to sing the praises of canal and dam construction under titles such as Energy, The Hydraulic Power Station and Onward, Time! But their enthusiasm — spontaneous and idealistic at first — soon becomes an obligatory song of praise. And as these colossal waterworks lead to slavery and destruction, Soviet writers labour on in the service of a deluded totalitarian society.Combining investigative journalism with literary history, Westerman examines both the landscape of ‘Oriental despotism' and the books — and lives — of writers caught in the wheels of the system. ‘It is easy to die a hero's death,' wrote Konstantin Paustovsky, ‘but it is difficult to live a hero's life.'Engineers of the Soul sweeps the reader along to the dramatic dénouement: the final confrontation between writers and engineers that signalled the end of the Soviet empire.

(desertblues couldn't find it as ebook, but asked Amazon to provide it as such. Won't be in time for the reading...).

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo - Fully nominated
In favour - Synamon, sun surfer, desertblues, Hamlet53

It's available as an ebook and at libraries via Overdrive. It won the National Book Award in 2012.

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century's great, unequal cities.

In this brilliantly written, fast-paced book, based on three years of uncompromising reporting, a bewildering age of global change and inequality is made human.

Annawadi is a makeshift settlement in the shadow of luxury hotels near the Mumbai airport, and as India starts to prosper, Annawadians are electric with hope. Abdul, a reflective and enterprising Muslim teenager, sees "a fortune beyond counting" in the recyclable garbage that richer people throw away. Asha, a woman of formidable wit and deep scars from a childhood in rural poverty, has identified an alternate route to the middle class: political corruption. With a little luck, her sensitive, beautiful daughter--Annawadi's "most-everything girl"--will soon become its first female college graduate. And even the poorest Annawadians, like Kalu, a fifteen-year-old scrap-metal thief, believe themselves inching closer to the good lives and good times they call "the full enjoy."

But then Abdul the garbage sorter is falsely accused in a shocking tragedy; terror and a global recession rock the city; and suppressed tensions over religion, caste, sex, power and economic envy turn brutal. As the tenderest individual hopes intersect with the greatest global truths,the true contours of a competitive age are revealed. And so, too, are the imaginations and courage of the people of Annawadi.

With intelligence, humor, and deep insight into what connects human beings to one another in an era of tumultuous change, Behind the Beautiful Forevers carries the reader headlong into one of the twenty-first century's hidden worlds, and into the lives of people impossible to forget.

From the Hardcover edition.

France: The Dark Years, by Julian Jackson - Fully nominated
In favour - issybird, paola, Billi, Bookpossum

From Amazon:

This is the first comprehensive study of the German occupation of France between 1940 and 1944. The author examines the nature and extent of collaboration and resistance, different experiences of Occupation, the persecution of the Jews, intellectual and cultural life under Occupation, and the purge trials that followed. He concludes by tracing the legacy and memory of the Occupation since 1945. Taking in ordinary peoples' experiences, this volume uncovers the conflicting memories of occupation which ensure that even today France continues to debate the legacy of the Vichy years.

From Reviews in History:

Julian Jackson’s monumental history of Vichy is a powerful contribution to the historiography. No one knows more about this subject than he: every book, article, memoir and dissertation on it seems to have been located, analysed and woven into this account. Despite the thickness of the work it is also a pleasurable read: judicious, well crafted, always with an eye for the telling quotation or anecdote.

The Elephant's Journey by José Saramago
(nomination withdrawn, fiction)

A book of the Nobel prize winner of 1998.

Review from

History attests that in 1551, an elephant made the journey from Lisbon to Vienna, escorted first by officers of King João III of Portugal, then by officers of the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Solomon the elephant and his mahout had already made a long sea voyage from Goa and spent a couple of years standing about in a pen in Lisbon, before setting off for Valladolid as a present from the king to the archduke, who travelled with him to Italy by ship and across the Alps to Vienna. In the novel, Solomon and his mahout Subhro (whom the archduke renames, with true Habsburg infelicity, Fritz) proceed through various landscapes at an unhurried pace, attended by various functionaries and military men, and meeting along the way with villagers and townsfolk who variously interpret the sudden enigma of an elephant entering their lives. And that's the story.

(Currently his collected novels (including the Elephant's journey) for Kindle are on sale at Amazon for $6.60, which is an excellent bargain.)

Just Kids by Patti Smith - 3
In favour - Hamlet53, Asawi, sun surfer

In Just Kids, Patti Smith's first book of prose, the legendary American artist offers a never-before-seen glimpse of her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the epochal days of New York City and the ChelseaHotel in the late sixties and seventies. An honest and moving story of youth and friendship, Smith brings the same unique, lyrical quality to Just Kids as she has to the rest of her formidable body of work--from her influential 1975 album Horses to her visual art and poetry

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - 1
In favour - JSWolf

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues--Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple's hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote - 2
In favour - paola, Hamlet53

From Amazon:

The chilling true crime 'non-fiction novel' that made Truman Capote's name, In Cold Blood is a seminal work of modern prose, a remarkable synthesis of journalistic skill and powerfully evocative narrative published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Controversial and compelling, In Cold Blood reconstructs the murder in 1959 of a Kansas farmer, his wife and both their children. Truman Capote's comprehensive study of the killings and subsequent investigation explores the circumstances surrounding this terrible crime and the effect it had on those involved. At the centre of his study are the amoral young killers Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock, who, vividly drawn by Capote, are shown to be reprehensible yet entirely and frighteningly human.

Last edited by sun surfer; 03-04-2013 at 01:00 AM.
sun surfer is offline   Reply With Quote