Category Archives: Non-fiction

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).

 

 

 

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast

Many of us in our `middle ages` are dealing with aging parents in various stages of decline.  Roz Chast, the writer and New Yorker cartoonist, uses the graphic novel format to document her journey through this challenging time in her memoir, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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From first noticing that things seem to be `falling apart`, to realizing that she must take control of the uncontrollable, and then on through moving her parents into care, and experiencing their passing, Chast weaves her story with humour, grace, and brutal honesty.

The most important messages I took from this endearing memoir are that:

  • we are not alone,
  • having a sense of humour is a survival skill, and,
  • in the midst of complicated family relationships and challenging situations there is still, always, love.

(Submitted by KS).

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Pass the Masala: vegetarian Indian cooking made simple by Bharti Saincher

Image result for pass the masala book coverIn Pass the Masala, Surrey local Bharti Saincher gives us Indian recipes that she has perfected for decades. She has also included a few favourite recipes from China, Thailand, and Mexico. Unlike traditional Indian cooking, she has made an effort to reduce the amount of butter and/or oil to the minimum needed to make the dish delicious and she embraces using modern kitchen conveniences if it makes cooking more efficient or effective.

I enjoyed this cookbook because Bharti Saincher also educates us on the history of foods in certain regions, different techniques for cooking, and the parts of a traditional Indian meal. She gives quick tips on how to adjust if a dish is too salty/dry/runny/etc. The book includes an in-depth reference guide and very thorough instructions that make Indian cooking less daunting to those of us who may not have cooked Indian dishes. My mouth is watering! (Submitted by Meghan).

Meet Bharti Saincher in person at Authors Among Us: Foodie February at Guildford Library tomorrow, Wed, Feb 15 at 6:30pm. Call 604-598-7366 to save your spot!

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Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

Image result for hillbilly elegyHillbilly Elegy offers a fascinating look into the lives of white rural Americans. Author J.D. Vance uses his own personal experiences to describe and illuminate current social issues among working-class Americans. It is a quick, engrossing read, especially in light of the current political situation in the United States. I would recommend this book for anyone wanting to get an insight into the lives and hopes and dreams of those who feel so let down by their failure to achieve the “American Dream.” (Submitted by Claire).

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Furiously Happy: a funny book about horrible things by Jenny Lawson

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I listened to this book as an audiobook. The subtitle describes the book perfectly – it is both very funny and very sad. Lawson suffers from depression and various other mental and physical issues. The title comes from her deciding to be “furiously happy” and live life to the fullest during the times when she’s able. I found the funny and horrible to be mixed very well–a serious chapter about depression followed by something bizarre about taxidermy raccoons.

Lawson isn’t for everyone; she has a very odd sense of humour and a rather foul mouth and is very frank about depression. But if you enjoy quirky humour and live with depression yourself or in a loved one, this is a great listen. Lawson is a true advocate for mental illness and she provides a very real look at depression – I was particularly interested in her description of how people with mental illness just don’t have the same amount of energy as “normal” people (she calls it the “spoon theory”) and how it is not treated like a disease–sufferers are told to get over it or just be happy while we would never say such things to people with physical ailments.  I laughed a lot and I really admire her philosophy of being furiously happy, I plan to try it myself! (Submitted by Gayle).

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