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Old 03-01-2016, 09:53 PM   #1
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Non-Fiction Nominations • March 2016

Help us select what the MR Literary Club will read in March 2016!

The nominations will run for four days until 5 March. Then, a separate voting poll will begin where the month's selection will be decided.


The category for this month is:

Non-Fiction


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:


Orwell's Victory by Christopher Hitchens - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour- Bookpossum, WT Sharpe, Bookworm_Girl, bfisher


Called in the US Why Orwell Matters


From Kobo:

In this widely acclaimed biographical essay, Christopher Hitchens assesses the life, the achievements, and the myth of the great political writer and participant George Orwell. In true emulative and contrarian style, Hitchens is both admiring and aggressive, sympathetic yet critical, taking true measure of his subject as hero and problem. Answering both the detractors and the false claimants, Hitchens tears down the façade of sainthood erected by the hagiographers and rebuts the critics point by point. He examines Orwell and his perspectives on fascism, empire, feminism, and Englishness, as well as his outlook on America, a country and culture towards which he exhibited much ambivalence. Whether thinking about empires or dictators, race or class, nationalism or popular culture, Orwell's moral outlook remains indispensable in a world that has undergone vast changes in the fifty years since his death. Combining the best of Hitchens's polemical punch and intellectual elegance in a tightly woven and subtle argument, this book addresses not only why Orwell matters today, but how he will continue to matter in a future, uncertain world.Christopher Hitchens, one of the most incisive minds of our own age, meets Orwell on the page in this provocative encounter of wit, contention and moral truth.


In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour- Bookworm_Girl, Bookpossum, bfisher, sun surfer


From Bookworm_Girl:

This book was the winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Nonfiction, an annual US literary award. The tragedy of the whaleship Essex was the inspiration for Moby Dick.


From Goodreads:
Quote:
In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex—an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.

In the Heart of the Sea tells perhaps the greatest sea story ever. Philbrick interweaves his account of this extraordinary ordeal of ordinary men with a wealth of whale lore and with a brilliantly detailed portrait of the lost, unique community of Nantucket whalers. Impeccably researched and beautifully told, the book delivers the ultimate portrait of man against nature, drawing on a remarkable range of archival and modern sources, including a long-lost account by the ship's cabin boy. At once a literary companion and a page-turner that speaks to the same issues of class, race, and man's relationship to nature that permeate the works of Melville, In the Heart of the Sea will endure as a vital work of American history.


A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro - Fully nominated
Spoiler:
In favour- bfisher, Bookworm_Girl, Bookpossum, fantasyfan


Shapiro's book won the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in 2006.


The Goodread's blurb:

Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.


Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana - 3
Spoiler:
In favour- fantasyfan, Bookpossum, sun surfer


From fantasyfan:

It is an extraordinary description of the experience of an educated and fairly well-to-do 19th century young man who decided to see what it was like to live as a common seaman. There is an extensive description of the book and a profile of Dana himself in Goodreads. TYBTM was selected for inclusion in The Harvard Classics.

The book is easily available for free or at a very moderate price on Amazon, Project Gutenberg or in the Mobile Read library.


Historia Calamitatum (aka The Story of My Misfortunes) by Pierre Abélard - 3
Spoiler:
In favour- sun surfer, WT Sharpe, Bookworm_Girl


From sun surfer:

I've nominated the Abélard before in tandem with the letters of Abélard and Heloise because they're both rather short and related, but for this go-round I'm nominating only the Historia. It's around 100 pages and colourfully (if also haughtily) tells about his remarkable life including his forbidden love affair with the nun Heloise and the calamities that befell him.


From Goodreads:

In this classic of medieval literature, a brilliant and daring thinker relates the spellbinding story of his philosophical and spiritual enlightenment--and the tale of his tragic personal life as well. Peter Abélard paints an absorbing portrait of monastic and scholastic life in twelfth-century Paris, while also recounting the circumstances and consequences of one of history’s most famous love stories--his doomed romance with Heloise.


The Tongue Set Free by Elias Canetti - 1
Spoiler:
In favour- sun surfer


From sun surfer:

The Tongue Set Free is unfortunately not available as an ebook as far as i can tell. It recounts Canetti's Jewish childhood in various European cities up until around 1920, including his relationship with his parents, his schooling and his love for learning and literature.


From Goodreads:

Elias Canetti, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature, was one of the major intellectual figures and polymaths of the twentieth century. A master of many genres, he is known especially for his novel, Auto da Fe, and his great work of social theory, Crowds and Power. But Canetti's genius is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the three volumes of his autobiography. This first volume, Tongue Set Free, provides a searching portrait of the author's personal background and creative development as it presents the events, personalities (especially Canetti's mother), and intellectual forces that shaped the growth of the artist as a young man.


The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal - 1
Spoiler:
In favour- WT Sharpe


From WT Sharpe:

Consisting of equal parts philosophy and science, The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal is fascinating.


From Amazon:

In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within. Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution.

For many years, de Waal has observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food. Now he delivers fascinating fresh evidence for the seeds of ethical behavior in primate societies that further cements the case for the biological origins of human fairness. Interweaving vivid tales from the animal kingdom with thoughtful philosophical analysis, de Waal seeks a bottom-up explanation of morality that emphasizes our connection with animals. In doing so, de Waal explores for the first time the implications of his work for our understanding of modern religion. Whatever the role of religious moral imperatives, he sees it as a “Johnny-come-lately” role that emerged only as an addition to our natural instincts for cooperation and empathy.

But unlike the dogmatic neo-atheist of his book’s title, de Waal does not scorn religion per se. Instead, he draws on the long tradition of humanism exemplified by the painter Hieronymus Bosch and asks reflective readers to consider these issues from a positive perspective: What role, if any, does religion play for a well-functioning society today? And where can believers and nonbelievers alike find the inspiration to lead a good life?

Rich with cultural references and anecdotes of primate behavior, The Bonobo and the Atheist engagingly builds a unique argument grounded in evolutionary biology and moral philosophy. Ever a pioneering thinker, de Waal delivers a heartening and inclusive new perspective on human nature and our struggle to find purpose in our lives.


The War that Ended Peace: How Europe Abandoned Peace for the First World War by Margaret MacMillan - 1
Spoiler:
In favour- fantasyfan


From fantasyfan:

Goodreads has an excellent description of the book. MacMillan takes a less Balkan-centred approach than Clarke in his famous study.

It is available in Amazon and Kobo. TWTEP is nearly 800 pages long and on the pricey side hence some might like to get it through OverDrive or a library.

Last edited by sun surfer; 03-05-2016 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 03-01-2016, 10:39 PM   #2
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I would like to nominate Orwell's Victory, called in the US Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens. From Kobo:

Quote:
In this widely acclaimed biographical essay, Christopher Hitchens assesses the life, the achievements, and the myth of the great political writer and participant George Orwell. In true emulative and contrarian style, Hitchens is both admiring and aggressive, sympathetic yet critical, taking true measure of his subject as hero and problem. Answering both the detractors and the false claimants, Hitchens tears down the façade of sainthood erected by the hagiographers and rebuts the critics point by point. He examines Orwell and his perspectives on fascism, empire, feminism, and Englishness, as well as his outlook on America, a country and culture towards which he exhibited much ambivalence. Whether thinking about empires or dictators, race or class, nationalism or popular culture, Orwell's moral outlook remains indispensable in a world that has undergone vast changes in the fifty years since his death. Combining the best of Hitchens's polemical punch and intellectual elegance in a tightly woven and subtle argument, this book addresses not only why Orwell matters today, but how he will continue to matter in a future, uncertain world.Christopher Hitchens, one of the most incisive minds of our own age, meets Orwell on the page in this provocative encounter of wit, contention and moral truth.
Although I certainly don't agree with everything Hitchens has had to say, I am interested to read this book because I do tend to agree with everything Orwell had to say!

Last edited by Bookpossum; 03-02-2016 at 06:49 AM. Reason: Extract was taken from Kobo, not from Goodreads.
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Old 03-01-2016, 10:54 PM   #3
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I nominate In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick. This book was the winner of the 2000 National Book Award for Nonfiction, an annual US literary award. The tragedy of the whaleship Essex was the inspiration for Moby Dick.

From Goodreads:
Quote:
In the Heart of the Sea brings to new life the incredible story of the wreck of the whaleship Essex—an event as mythic in its own century as the Titanic disaster in ours, and the inspiration for the climax of Moby-Dick. In a harrowing page-turner, Nathaniel Philbrick restores this epic story to its rightful place in American history.

In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage for whales. Fifteen months later, in the farthest reaches of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew, fearing cannibals on the islands to the west, made for the 3,000-mile-distant coast of South America in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, the survivors clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.

In the Heart of the Sea tells perhaps the greatest sea story ever. Philbrick interweaves his account of this extraordinary ordeal of ordinary men with a wealth of whale lore and with a brilliantly detailed portrait of the lost, unique community of Nantucket whalers. Impeccably researched and beautifully told, the book delivers the ultimate portrait of man against nature, drawing on a remarkable range of archival and modern sources, including a long-lost account by the ship's cabin boy. At once a literary companion and a page-turner that speaks to the same issues of class, race, and man's relationship to nature that permeate the works of Melville, In the Heart of the Sea will endure as a vital work of American history.
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Old 03-02-2016, 06:51 AM   #4
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That sounds terrific! Second In the Heart of the Sea. (And what's more, my library has a copy - hooray.)
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Old 03-02-2016, 08:56 AM   #5
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Non-Fiction Nominations • March 2016

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bookpossum View Post
I would like to nominate Orwell's Victory, called in the US Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens. From Kobo:



Although I certainly don't agree with everything Hitchens has had to say, I am interested to read this book because I do tend to agree with everything Orwell had to say!

If Hitchens' faults and virtues were placed in a balance they would probably equal each other, but two things are undeniable: he was unafraid to put his money where his mouth was, and he was an interesting writer. Politically, he and Orwell were 180° opposed to each other, but I imagine that would make for an even more interesting book.

Seconded.
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Old 03-02-2016, 01:18 PM   #6
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I will third Why Orwell Matters.
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Old 03-04-2016, 06:19 PM   #7
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Wow, a slow month for nominations.

I'll fourth Orwell's Victory by Christopher Hitchens

I'll third In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

I nominate A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro.

Shapiro's book won the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction in 2006. The Goodread's blurb:
Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.
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Old 03-04-2016, 07:46 PM   #8
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I'll nominate Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. It is an extraordinary description of the experience of an educated and fairly well-to-do 19th century young man who decided to see what it was like to live as a common seaman. There is an extensive description of the book and a profile of Dana himself in Goodreads. TYBTM was selected for inclusion in The Harvard Classics.

The book is easily available for free or at a very moderate price on Amazon, Project Gutenberg or in the Mobile Read library.
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Old 03-04-2016, 08:08 PM   #9
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I will second A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 by James Shapiro. I was actually thinking of nominating it. Been on my TBR for a long time!
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:21 PM   #10
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I have two separate nominations to throw into the ring:

Historia Calamitatum (aka The Story of My Misfortunes) by Pierre Abélard

&

The Tongue Set Free by Elias Canetti


I've nominated the Abélard before in tandem with the letters of Abélard and Heloise because they're both rather short and related, but for this go-round I'm nominating only the Historia. It's around 100 pages and colourfully (if also haughtily) tells about his remarkable life including his forbidden love affair with the nun Heloise and the calamities that befell him.

From Goodreads:

In this classic of medieval literature, a brilliant and daring thinker relates the spellbinding story of his philosophical and spiritual enlightenment--and the tale of his tragic personal life as well. Peter Abélard paints an absorbing portrait of monastic and scholastic life in twelfth-century Paris, while also recounting the circumstances and consequences of one of history’s most famous love stories--his doomed romance with Heloise.

-

The Tongue Set Free is unfortunately not available as an ebook as far as i can tell. It recounts Canetti's Jewish childhood in various European cities up until around 1920, including his relationship with his parents, his schooling and his love for learning and literature.

From Goodreads:

Elias Canetti, winner of the 1981 Nobel Prize in Literature, was one of the major intellectual figures and polymaths of the twentieth century. A master of many genres, he is known especially for his novel, Auto da Fe, and his great work of social theory, Crowds and Power. But Canetti's genius is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the three volumes of his autobiography. This first volume, Tongue Set Free, provides a searching portrait of the author's personal background and creative development as it presents the events, personalities (especially Canetti's mother), and intellectual forces that shaped the growth of the artist as a young man.


We have about a day left for nominations.
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:22 PM   #11
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I third A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599.
I second Two Years before the Mast.

That's my four votes. C'mon team, let's get a few more books fully nominated before we run out of time!

(Sorry sun surfer - we crossed in the mail. The Canetti sounds interesting too.)
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:43 PM   #12
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Part of my reading challenge this year is to read Moby Dick soon (by the end of March is the goal, though I'm not sure if it's going to happen that quickly at this point), so I'm not sure whether reading In the Heart of the Sea this month would be a great companion read, a bit of overkill, or a little of both. Whichever, I see it's thankfully not as long as Moby Dick itself so I'll fourth it.

(And no problem Bookpossum. )

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Old 03-04-2016, 10:45 PM   #13
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Okay, I'll nominate one I'm currently reading. Consisting of equal parts philosophy and science, The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal is fascinating.

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In this lively and illuminating discussion of his landmark research, esteemed primatologist Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but instead comes from within. Moral behavior does not begin and end with religion but is in fact a product of evolution.

For many years, de Waal has observed chimpanzees soothe distressed neighbors and bonobos share their food. Now he delivers fascinating fresh evidence for the seeds of ethical behavior in primate societies that further cements the case for the biological origins of human fairness. Interweaving vivid tales from the animal kingdom with thoughtful philosophical analysis, de Waal seeks a bottom-up explanation of morality that emphasizes our connection with animals. In doing so, de Waal explores for the first time the implications of his work for our understanding of modern religion. Whatever the role of religious moral imperatives, he sees it as a “Johnny-come-lately” role that emerged only as an addition to our natural instincts for cooperation and empathy.

But unlike the dogmatic neo-atheist of his book’s title, de Waal does not scorn religion per se. Instead, he draws on the long tradition of humanism exemplified by the painter Hieronymus Bosch and asks reflective readers to consider these issues from a positive perspective: What role, if any, does religion play for a well-functioning society today? And where can believers and nonbelievers alike find the inspiration to lead a good life?

Rich with cultural references and anecdotes of primate behavior, The Bonobo and the Atheist engagingly builds a unique argument grounded in evolutionary biology and moral philosophy. Ever a pioneering thinker, de Waal delivers a heartening and inclusive new perspective on human nature and our struggle to find purpose in our lives.
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Old 03-04-2016, 10:49 PM   #14
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I second Historia Calamitatum by Pierre Abélard.
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Old 03-05-2016, 03:40 AM   #15
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I second Historia Calamitatum by Pierre Abelard.
And I will third it.
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