Nonfiction

Book Review: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures

Priceless : How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
Author: 
Wittman, Robert K.
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Are you a fan of true crime novels? Do you just love the excitement, the suspense of solving mysteries? Or do you like art and the masters like Leonardo de Vinci? This book is for you. Well on the outside this book might just seem like another true crime story it is really different. I always liked crime novels and tv shows and I was and still am interested in the work organizations like the FBI do to prevent crime. This book has a different approach to your classic true crime novel by not just focusing on how the FBI solves murders but by focusing on how one man (the author) went undercover in the FBI to help recover some of the world's most famous stolen art pieces. It centers around his life and shows other things than just his cases, like how he was suspected of killing his friend. It also tells the story of how he founded the FBI's Art Crime Team. Well this book may not be for everyone if you like a good true crime book this book may work for you. It is slow in parts but makes up for that by telling stories that seem absurd to realize actually happened.

Reviewer's Name: 
Emily

Book Review: Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio

Small steps: the year I got polio
Author: 
Kehret, Peg
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

In this amazing autobiography, Peg tells the story about how she got polio and cheated death. When Peg found out she had polio her life changed. When she got to the hospital, she was terrified! When Peg meet her roommates, she realized that this was not the end of the world. She fights her battle with polio and wins it with the help of doctors therapists and her family. This book will entertain with ages from 6 to adult! I defiantly recommend this to read is your looking for a short great read.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name: 
Estella

Book Review: Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for Meaning
Author: 
Frankl, Viktor E.
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Man’s Search for Meaning gives a rare perspective on life during the Holocaust. Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was forced into four different labor camps during WWII, and ultimately survived, while his family members were all slaughtered. Most books from the Holocaust are centered around horror stories from prison camps, and the sheer brutality of one of human history’s most devastating genocides. Frankl gives the psychiatrist’s view on life after camp and works to answer one essential question - how do we move on from grief? He recounts the moment he was free to leave as confusing - almost more shocking than freeing. What do you do after your entire family is killed? Where do you go after being released from a death camp hundreds of miles from home?

The book’s storytelling is devastating and beautifully crafted, and its exploration of humanity’s search for lives worth living - lives significant for the individual - has become one of America’s most influential pieces of literature. The book is heartbreaking, but so is any story worth telling. It has everything to be expected from such a terrifying chapter in our history, but what makes it so unique is the way it addresses life after the terror ends. Anyone wanting to search for meaning in their own lives, or at the very least get a new perspective on the Holocaust, needs to read this.

Reviewer's Name: 
Malachi

Book Review: Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe

Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Author: 
Bryson, Bill
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

Over time, I've found Bill Bryson's books are hit-or-miss for me. I enjoyed his memoir about childhood, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid , and it was A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail that introduced me to Bryson in the first place. However, since then, I've struggled to find something that's lived up to those two books. At Home: A Short History of Private Life came close, but I was really turned off by I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away. Ultimately, I hoped Neither Here Nor There would fit the bill, but it disappointed me once again.

Perhaps Bryson's travels in Europe weren't interesting to me because I haven't been over there myself. Most of the details in this book felt like they would only be understood by someone who knew what Bryson was talking about because they had experienced the same thing. I did appreciate the dueling retrospective look at Bryson's life between his younger days to when he was older and wiser, but most of the focus seemed to be on remembering when he was a young man (and all the negative foibles that come with it).

In the end, Neither Here Nor There doesn't really have anything to say. The author went to Europe and visited the same places twice. That's it. For those looking for some deep philosophical examination of Europe or a comparison of how it's better/worse when compared to the United States, you might end up being disappointed. Sure, there's some of that in here, but it's so light that it merely glances off the main plot of the literal traveling of Europe. It probably doesn't help that much of the humor in this book hasn't aged well either.

Bill Bryson's travel log from his trips to Europe, I give Neither Here Nor There 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Author: 
Alda, Alan
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

After reading If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? , I decided to add some other Alan Alda books to my reading list. Months later, I finally got around to listening to the audiobook for Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. I appreciate that Alda was the narrator, as he already has such a great voice for narration. That being said, there are a few aspects of this book that were likely lost in the translation to audiobook format.

As a celebrity, Alan Alda was invited to speak at many graduation ceremonies for many decades. This book is a collection of some of the speeches he gave at these events. While there are certainly gems of wisdom spread throughout this book, many of the same points are reiterated from speech to speech, making it slightly repetitive after a while. Also, if you don't happen to agree with some of his political views, you might not find some of the speeches particularly interesting. Despite all this, if you can glean some useful advice out of these speeches, then it was worth the read.

One thing I had trouble distinguishing in the audiobook version was where the speeches started and ended and where Alda's reflections and asides started. I would occasionally notice an echo in the recording, which likely indicated that it was one of his speeches. I think the echo was trying to replicate the sensation of listening to Alda in a large space (like the ones used for graduations), but it was so faint as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the book. I appreciate the attention to detail, but it could have been a little stronger.

Some useful graduation advice from Alan Alda, I give Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer

The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer
Author: 
Kotler, Steven
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

As the title would suggest, "The Art of Impossible", by Steven Kotler, prescribes a regime for achieving what he calls the "Infinite Game". In other words, achieving goals to continually improve, even in ways that might be considered impossible. Kotler depicts what top performers do on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis, and even adapts such habits into ways the average reader can understand and implement them. And while he does so in a systematic and understandable fashion, he also goes in-depth into the science behind each of the things he says. Although it sometimes gets deeply analytical, it never stops being intriguing. There are some parts that aren't completely family friendly, but the content remains solid.

Reviewer's Name: 
Noah

Book Review: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
Author: 
Kamkwamba, William and Mealer, Bryan
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

This book is one of the most inspirational stories I've ever read. The journey put forth, following William, is truly a gem that makes you think about what could've happened if something had been different. I loved reading it because I felt every details of William's journey to develop his windmill that put him on fame. His determination to prove that science is 'real' and can make a difference, especially during a time and in a culture that rejects it, shows his character and his want for a better life in his land. He perseveres through the struggles of drought and hunger, and overcomes the ridicule thrown from all sides to be able to rise up and rise above, and make his visions come true. A really inspirational story, that shows a hero's journey in a way not usually thought.

Reviewer's Name: 
Evelyn

Book Review: Dave Barry's Greatest Hits

Dave Barry's Greatest Hits
Author: 
Barry, Dave
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Dave Barry’s slapstick comedy has never been funnier than it is in Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits. It is filled with the funniest columns of his career, and they are certain to please. Barry’s style of humor will make even the sternest of audience chuckle, and it is sure to brighten your day. I enjoyed this book very much, and it has helped me through some stressful times. I would recommend it to anyone in need of a pick me up, or just looking to have a couple laughs.
Reviewer's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison

Book Review: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Question
Author: 
Munroe, Randall
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

What If? by Randall Munroe is an amazing series of completely impossible and extremely strange scientific questions that are answered with complete scientific accuracy, and a bit of humor. Munroe takes questions people ask over the web and applies physics, chemistry, and other sciences to answer the questions. One of my favorite hypotheticals is what would happen if everybody pointed a laser pointer at the moon? Munroe approaches this by slowly increasing power, until the moon’s surface explodes, and it propels itself away from earth. The hilarious and entertaining questions can provide fun for anyone with an interest in science, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s thought of an impossible hypothetical question.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison

Book Review: Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
Author: 
Sheinkin, Steve
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is a must-read for history buffs everywhere. It features the history of nuclear science, including the first nuclear reactors and the building of the initial Manhattan Project team. It follows the progress of the Manhattan Project, while also detailing US and Soviet efforts to prevent German bomb development. It speaks of the heroism of commandos destroying enrichment facilities, and the long nights pulled by sleep-deprived scientists, as well as the fantastic power of the first Trinity tests. I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in nuclear or WWII history.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: 
Harrison

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