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July 29, 2020

6 Books of Nonfiction to Read

by Susan Roberts

One of my personal reading goals for 2020 is to read 10 or more non-fiction books. I haven't deliberately avoided non-fiction books but I haven't read many of them in the last couple of years. As of the end of June, I've read 7 so I think this is a goal that I'll be able to meet. Can you suggest other non-fiction books that will help me meet my 2020 goal?
Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review. 

The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff

The Only Plane in the Sky
Sept 2019; Avid Reader Press; 978-1501182204
audio, ebook, print (512 pages); history
Like many people, I remember where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001.  I was glued to the TV for days afterwards and I cried with the rest of the nation.  Since then, I've read many books and articles about that day but nothing that touched me like this book.  The author did considerable research and got thousands of oral history stories from people who were there - the workers and firefighters at the Towers, the families who waited for their loved ones to come home, the people at the Pentagon as well as Pennsylvania and what was going on in the White House as the continuing news brought more horror and sometimes confusion to our leaders.

"All told, 2,606 people died at the World Trade Center in New York City and another 125 at the Pentagon;  206 people died when their planes were hijacked and crashed into the centers of  America's financial and military power;  another 40 died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as brave passengers and crew wrestled control of United flight 93 back from the hijackers."  (p xix)

More than simply a collection of eyewitness testimonies, The Only Plane in the Sky is the historic narrative of how ordinary people grappled with extraordinary events in real-time: the father and son working in the North Tower, caught on different ends of the impact zone; the firefighter searching for his wife who works at the World Trade Center; the operator of in-flight telephone calls who promises to share a passenger’s last words with his family; the beloved FDNY chaplain who bravely performs last rites for the dying, losing his own life when the Towers collapse; and the generals at the Pentagon who break down and weep when they are barred from rushing into the burning building to try to rescue their colleagues.

This book was very emotional for me to read and I had to put it down many times.  I knew the story...I knew the ending but hearing about it in the words of the people who were there made it even more difficult to read.  I am so glad that I read it and think it will be a valuable book for people who were too young to remember 9/11 to understand the impact that it had on America and the entire world.

The House of Kennedy by James Patterson

"'The Kennedy Curse' is an idea that endures."  (p vii)

The House of Kennedy
April 2020; Little, Brown and Company; 978-0316454483
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); social sciences
Because of my age, I remember the history of the Kennedy family. I was in middle school when JFK was assassinated and in high school when Bobby was killed. Like many people, I cried and felt that both were the end of an era. This book stirred up all of those memories. I didn't have as much knowledge of the next two generations of the family so I found much of that information to be interesting and a bit like national enquirer in the way it was presented. Overall, this would be an interesting book for someone who knew very little about the Kennedy family - if there is anyone like that. For me, it was a trip down memory lane with very little information. Much of this book read like fiction and in my opinion, James Patterson should stick to fiction where he excels.

Buy The House of Kennedy at Amazon

The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life by Kathi Lipp

The Clutter-Free Home
Feb 2020; Harvest House Publishers; 978-0736976985
audio, ebook, print (208 pages); self help
"I wanted to just give up.
I was so tired.  Tired of living in chaos.  Tired of feeling like I needed to re-model the house every time I wanted to clean it.
Making life run with a husband and four kids took so much stuff and I had no place to put it.  I felt helpless, unable to change.  So this was the life we were doomed to:  controlled and not-so-controlled chaos." (p 7)

I'll be the first to admit that my house is a mess - it's clean but it's full of clutter.  With all of my extra time this month due to the stay-at-home orders from the coronavirus, I thought it would be the perfect time to start getting rid of the clutter.  When I saw this book, I knew that it would be a great place to help me organize my plans and it definitely was.  There is really nothing new in this book but it has things arranged in a way that makes it easy to follow.

Right at the beginning, the author explains that there are four specific steps to take to reduce clutter:
  1. dedicate
  2. decide
  3. declutter
  4. do your thing

Dedicate - go into each room and decide the top 5 things that you want the room used for.  Her example is that she wants her kitchen used for cooking, eating, connecting, working and storing food.  After you make those decisions, you need to re-shape the room to meet your goals.

Decide - You have to decide how you want each room to feel when you walk into it.  Using your five senses, decide how you want the room to look and make plans to change the room to meet your senses.

Declutter - Don't try to do too much at once.  Every day spend 15 minutes decluttering whichever room you are working on.  Once a week spend 60 minutes doing a deeper decluttering of that room.  Ask yourself these questions as you are deciding what to get rid of
  • Do I love it
  • Do I use it
  • Would I buy it again

Do your Thing - now that your room is de-cluttered, decorate it in a way that makes you happy.

She also goes into further detail about how to decide how and where to de-clutter your house.

My plan is to start with my office.  I have bookcases overflowing and piles of books on the floor.  It's also full of odds and ends that I didn't want to throw plus the lighting in the room is poor.  My first goal is to go through my bookcases and get rid of the books that I've already read or know that I'll ever read.  Some will go to friends, some to charity, and the books I keep will be re-arranged in ways that make sense to me. This is the room that I spend most of my time in and the one that will be most meaningful to get de-cluttered.

Thanks for the suggestions, Kathi Lipp.

You can also check out Donna's review of this book.

The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational Story by Brent Parrott and Bryan Renfro

The Reilly Thanksgiving Invitational
October 2019; 978-1697180015
ebook, print (400 pages); memoir
"It has taken me 71 years of life to figure out what I'm good at.  It wasn't geology, it wasn't business, nor was it as an Executive Assistant.  It is, however, that I invite people to join me on my journey through life.  I'm a successful Inviter.  I wish it paid a salary, but then, I've been paid in ways incredibly more satisfying than material stuff.  I have friends, really great friends."
(p 357)

In 1960, on the front lawn of an elementary school in North East Dallas, a tradition was born. A group of seventh-grade boys spent the free time before Thanksgiving dinner to play a game of touch football.  Fifty years later, they played their last game.  Some of the original group from the 60s played in that final game - they played a lot slower but the fun and the camaraderie was still there for them.

This book is about those football games and the friendships that formed.  The book is divided into decades and then each decade is divided into years.  There's a copy of the invitation that was sent out each year along with comments about what had happened that year in our country.  The authors talked about what was going on in their lives and about the songs and movies that were popular during each year. There are also comments from each author about what they remember from that year - about who has gotten married, gone into the Army, gotten sick, or died.

This is a heartwarming look at a group of friends and their lives over 50 years.  I  didn't understand many of the football terms but it didn't matter - the main point of the book was not football - instead, it was friendship - 50 years worth of friendship!

If you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you can read the ebook for free!

The Courage Map: 13 Principles for Living Boldly by Franziska Iseli

The Courage Map
May 2020; TCK Publishing; 978-1631610813
ebook, print (145 pages); self help
Courage can turn an ordinary life into an extraordinary adventure

I will admit that I was a bit reluctant to read this book.  I am 70 years old and it's too late to make changes in my life...was I ever wrong.  I learned several things that I have been working to change in my life to make me happier and more adventurous.  After all, you're never too old to learn new things!

"Courage is not about being fearless;  it's about making brave decisions despite fear.  Courage is a skill.  It's the ability to overcome your habitual responses to fear, and to react consciously in your best interest and the interests of others.  Courageous people stay true to themselves, take risks, face challenges head-on and lead by example." (p 4)

This book is an interesting look at challenges that people face throughout their lives with stories by the author about how she managed to make changes to her life.  Among the lessons that she mentions are:
  • Why courage is the most important life skill you need to learn (and yes, anyone can learn to develop more courage!)
  • The difference between being courageous and being fearless or reckless (and how to distinguish an impostor from the real deal)
  • How to expand your Courage Boundaries step-by-step so you can systematically grow your ability to take on new challenges and adventures in life
  • How to define the life you truly want to live, and a process you can follow for sticking to it (especially when things don’t go as planned)
  • How to develop an irresistible love for life that will draw people to you, and turn something that used to terrify you into an exciting call for adventure

I found this a very interesting book to read and have been very happy with the results of the changes that I've made because of reading it.

Buy The Courage Map at Amazon

No Rules: A Memoir by Sharon Dukett 

No Rules
June 2020; She Writes Press; 978-1631528569
ebook, print (315 pages); memoir
This memoir begins in Connecticut in 1971 when Sharon, at age 16,  decides to get out of her house filled with rules and unsympathetic parents and run away to California to join the hippie culture.  It's the story of the ups and downs of her life until she left her wandering lifestyle and started college.

"I still have much to learn and more to experience.  The challenges, like life, keep changing, but I know I am better equipped to handle them now than I ever have been.  And on most days, if you asked me, I would tell you I am happy." (p 309)

When she arrives in California she is thrown into an adult world that she isn't prepared for.  There are lots of drugs, lots of sex, and no stability to her life.  She realizes that she has to learn quickly or be left behind.  After several years of this lifestyle, she gets involved with the women's movement and realizes that she can make her own decisions instead of some man telling her what to do.  Her book is very honest and she admits she made some mistakes but who doesn't make mistakes as they grow up.  I enjoyed her honesty and her bravery at breaking so many rules along the way.   I can't relate to much of her story but I appreciate her sharing it with the world.

In this memoir Sharon reflects upon the changes that reshaped her during the 1970s women’s movement, and how they have transformed society’s expectations for girls and women today—and, through it all, shares moments of triumph, joy, love, and awakening. 

Buy No Rules at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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  1. thanks for sharing. i have read about the kennedy's since i was in my teens and they have always fascinated. i don't read a lot of nonfiction unless something really jumps out at me or its true crime
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. James Patterson wrote a nonfiction book? I didn't hear about that. I'd like to read the 9/11 book you reviewed. I was living near the Pentagon on the day of the attack so I remember it all too well. It sounds like an excellent and emotional read.