Category Archives: Non-fiction

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann

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I can’t think of a better summer read than David Grann’s 2009 book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. This is the fascinating, page turning, nail biting true story of Percy Fawcett, a real-life Indiana Jones type adventurer who inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”, dedicated his life to finding the lost city of El Dorado deep in the Amazonian jungle, and the mystery of what became of him. The task of finding El Dorado is an unimaginably dangerous one; many hundreds have tried, and few have come out of the jungle alive, most disappearing without a trace, even as late as a 1996 expedition where none (of sixteen strong) was ever seen or heard from again. We watch this story unfold through a humorous and unlikely lens: an admittedly out of shape journalist from New York with no experience in the field deciding to go to the jungle and hunt for clues about Fawcett’s journey, 80 years later. Beginning with Fawcett’s early adventuring days hunting down legendary caves filled with gold and jewels in colonial Sri Lanka, to his days “learning how to be an adventurer” in the Royal Geographical Society, and finally to his final days trekking through the Bolivian rainforest, I could not put this book down and it sent me on a series of frenzied Google searches, my mind hungry for more information. I already plan to re-read this book and highly recommend it to anyone who loves a well written mystery with a side of history. (Submitted by Mandi)

You are welcome to borrow The Lost City of Z at Surrey Libraries!

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 coming soon: movie adaptation – DVD

 

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon

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As a fan of biographies, I was thrilled to discover this book that details both the lives of eighteenth century writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights Mary Wollstonecraft, and her daughter Mary Shelley, author of the classic novel Frankenstein. Romantic Outlaws reads like a gripping historical fiction as the remarkable storyteller and historian, Charlotte Gordon, examines both of the lives of these incredibly influential literary voices. Weaving the lives of these two women in alternating chapters, the reader is provided with a window into the social and political atmosphere of Western Europe during the late eighteenth century as Mary Wollstonecraft experiences both the glory and the terror of the French Revolution, while struggling to promote the equality of the sexes. Gordon simultaneously explores the life of Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, focusing on the romantic relationship between Mary and the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Gordon presents the reader with the lives of these women who paved the way for the future of feminism, as the themes that are present in the work of both women are still highly relevant in today’s society where women still struggle for equal representation socially, politically, and economically. This was a riveting read! (Submitted by Sarah)

Borrow an eBook version of Romantic Outlaws now!

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Come to Surrey Libraries and get a physical copy of the book

H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

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Enjoyed reading this book of nonfiction, which has three story-lines. The first storyline involves the author’s lifelong fascination with the sport of falconry, and how she comes to own and train a goshawk named Mabel. The book is also a memoir of grief: MacDonald makes the decision to purchase and train Mabel as she deals with the sudden death of her father, which leaves her lost and unmoored. Yet another storyline is a sort of mini-biography of TH White, the author best known for writing The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone. As well as these Arthurian novels, White wrote a work of non-fiction titled The Goshawk about trying and ultimately failing to train a hawk. MacDonald writes about White’s tortured life, and how his own struggles and shortcomings impacted his efforts to train his hawk. You’ll enjoy this if you like literary fiction or non-fiction, memoirs, or well-written nature writing. (Submitted by David)

Borrow H Is for Hawk  ebook now!

Get a print copy  at your local Surrey Libraries branch

If you and your friends happen to run a book club – borrow a book club kit!

This Dark Endeavour: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

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This Dark Endeavour is a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am always a bit skeptic about prequels that are written a century or more after the initial novel. Yet, this book is a pleasant surprise: it is believable (as if indeed it is the real pre-story to Frankenstein). This Dark Endeavour is like a triple-flavoured ice-cream. The novel literally has lots of layers: history, science, magic, love, integrity – just to name a few. All of these subjects are covered deeply enough to create a sense of realism, but not too deep to instill a sense of boredom. Kenneth Oppel does a marvelous job depicting 18th century Europe: I submerged into it head and toes! There is never a dull moment; the novel is always moving forward. There are three main characters: Victor and Konrad Frankenstein (twin brothers) and their cousin Elizabeth. The three of them grew up together and were happy playmates until they reached their adolescent years. Very soon, they learn too many things at once: love and friendship don’t always go together, jealousy knows no boundaries, passion and duty are often on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and there is never a good or smart way to outwit death… (Submitted by Mariya)

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Mary Astor’s Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936

mary_astor_purple_diaryThis book caught my eye because of the cover; yes I judge books by their cover. The author, Edward Sorel, is a cartoonist, illustrator, and caricaturist whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and many other magazines. Given his career he chose to do an illustrated biography on the actress Mary Astor after a serendipitous find while renovating his New York apartment in the 1960’s. I found it refreshing to read a bio where the author intersperses his subject’s life with anecdotes of his own; it gave a context to both. The fact that he illustrated it was icing on the cake. Many of the scandals we hear about in the entertainment field now are nothing new, it appears they have been around since there are been actors on stage – just a play being reworked and put back on view again for a new generation (Submitted by RZW)

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The Girl With No Name: The True Story of A Girl Who Lived With Monkeys

 

The-Girl-with-No-Name1It’s one of those books that you may wish you haven’t started reading (it can be painful to read some parts of this book), but then, all of a sudden- you can’t let go of it. It’s suspensefully captivating.

The book, written by Marina Chapman, is based on a true survival story of Marina, who was kidnapped at the age of 5, and abandoned in the jungles of Colombia. Miraculously, Marina lived on and found a ‘family’ in a troop of monkeys that she befriended. One day, everything changes and Marina returns back to civilization, yet she faces a lot of trials and great misfortunes.

Regardless of all the challenges depicted in the book, there is always optimism and something good invisibly present at all times. The beauty of this narrative is in how strong the main character turns out to be and although Marina is quite agnostic, there is a powerful presence of faith and hope throughout her life’s journey. It’s a story of not giving up, discovering the world, and building oneself from scratch. The novel reads with ease and simplicity; author’s choice of diction creates a vivid picture out of everything. (Submitted by Mariya)

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They Called Me Number One by Bev Sellars

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If you are looking to learn more about First Nations in BC, check out author Bev Sellars.  Her childhood memoir They Called Me Number One about life in a church-run residential school is powerful and easy to read.  Continue your learning with Sellars’ second book  Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival.  Price Paid is a personal view of First Nations history in Canada and helps explain the historic reasons for First Nations issues today.  Highly recommended! (Submitted by Kristen).