Category Archives: Adult Non-Fiction

Books from the New York Times Best Seller’s List January 2014

  How Lucky You Can Be by Buster Olney

Where can you find a good book when you are looking for one?  The library has hundreds of books, but which one should you choose?  One option is to read reviews (like this one) or to wander through book lists, like the New York Times.  This will give you a good idea of what books are being read and enjoyed by others.  Our club decided to pick books from some of these lists.

​The book How Lucky You Can Be was written by Buster Olney, an ESPN announcer.  It is subtitled “The Story of Coach Don Meyer.”  Coach Meyer is the most famous coach that you never heard of… but other basketball coaches around the country know about him.  He devoted himself not only to his teams but also to teaching the art of coaching to anyone interested in the game he loved.  This is much more than a sports story.  It is the story of a dedicated man who at times neglected his family to achieve greatness in his field, passing the legendary Bobby Knight in career wins with over 903 victories, the most by any coach in history at that time.  It took a tragedy for him to express the love he had for his family — wife, children, and his players.

​ Don Meyer had been a college player at Northern Colorado and a head coach for years at David Lipscomb College and Northern State University.  His success was tremendous, but this story really begins on a lonely stretch of two-land road in South Dakota.  While leading a caravan of cars, taking his players on a team-building retreat, Meyer fell asleep at the wheel.  His car veered into an oncoming tractor-trailer truck.  The Coach was crushed, and it was feared that he would die from his injuries.  At the hospital, doctors prepared his wife because they were certain he would not make it through the surgery.  After five hours, Meyer survived but lost part of a leg, his spleen, and had numerous other injuries.  Meyer said that the accident was the best thing that could have happened to him.  He equated it with an angel providing him with a message.  The doctors found that Meyer had terminal cancer.

​ The story describes how this driven coach, who did not want to give up coaching basketball, rose to face the greatest challenge of his life.  He reassessed his life and his relationships.  His three adult children describe the changes that he under went.  Meyer now expressed himself, particularly his emotional self.  He did not hold back telling his children, his wife, or his players how much he loved them.  This tragedy actually has made their family even closer.  This is the story of a man who’s belief in God, his religion, his family, and his team— both coaches and players– gave him the strength to come back to coaching and to fight the lose of a leg and the cancer.  This would be the toughest battle of his life.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly, not only for basketball fans, as an inspirational story of a man fighting to overcome tremendous odds.  (5 of 5)

Other books from book lists rated by different club members:

Mr. Ives’ Christmas by Oscar Hijuelos

Part love story, part meditation on finding spiritual peace in the midst of crisis.  It is a beautifully written, tender and passionate story of a man trying to put his life in perspective.  (4 of 5)

  Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A funny, informative nonfiction book with excellent examples of misused punctuation. (5 of 5)

  The Hundred Year-Old Man by Jonas Jonasson

The story spans the 20th century with a character similar to Forest Gump.  (4 of 5)

 The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

Multiple story lines and strong women tell the story of World War II.  (5 of 5)

    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

Thought provoking historic novel about women being held back by authoritive men.  (4 of 5)

     Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published in 1932, a thought  provoking novel anticipates developments that have profoundly changed society.  (4.5 of 5)

 The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

This tale shows how we do get second chances to fulfill our deepest hopes and dreams, especially during the season of miracles.  (5 of 5)

 God is not Mad at You by Joyce Meyer

A book that explains the relationship between God and man.  (5 of 5)

     Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews

‘Tis the season to be jolly – a funny novel with a heroine who rounds up stray animals of all sorts as well as a killer.  Duck the Halls! (5 of 5)

    Nighttime is My Time by Mary Higgins Clark

A riveting novel of psychological suspense that depicts the mind of a killer. (4 of 5)

The Club Members rating these books:

Pat Gombita, Mona Herrell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, Julie Shultz, Bill Simmons, Deb Stewart, Barb Swanson, Linda Troll, Patti Tullis and Rae Ann Weaver


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Filed under Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Crime, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Historical, History, Humor, Inspirational, Inspirational, Murder, Mystery, Personal Insights, Religion, Sports, Sports/Entertainment

Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer–America’s Deadliest Serial Murderer

green river running redby Ann Rule

 Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club

            We all have a book on a bookshelf that is collecting dust.  It calls to us, and we want to pull it   down and read it.  A variety of reasons keep it on that shelf.  We have been too busy, we have to read something else, or we are just too tired to read right now… maybe tomorrow.  Our club decided to dust off those books and share with others what we finally found.

Ann Rule is famous for writing about true crime.  Her two most well known books tell of her work with the police in her backyard of Seattle, Washington.  Her personal knowledge and contact with the serial killers in both cases makes her books very personal accounts.  This book presents the facts and emotions around the “Green River Killer,” perhaps the most prolific serial killer in history.  He is serving 48 life sentences in prison.  This serial killer recently took part in an interview with the media admitting that he has killed nearly twice as many women as are now credited to him over a period of nearly two decades.

The author dedicated a large portion of the book to the young women that the Green River Killer murdered.  This means that the reader must spend a great deal of time learning about dozens of the Green River victims.  Rule describes their lives, included the rejection, the abuse, and often the sadness that drove most of them to prostitution.  A missing or murdered prostitute does not create as much urgency in a community that another type of murder might.

Although the book jumps back and forth between the victims, creating accounts that are somewhat confusing, the author deals with each individual–both victim and perpetrator—fairly.  It is sad and amazing that such a horrible killing machine actually existed.  This book is eye opening in many ways and an interesting true crime read.  I would recommend it.  (4.5 of 5)

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books, Mystery, Tragic Events

The House at Sugar Beach

the house at sugar beach

by Helene Cooper

Reviewed by The Fourth Tuesday and Mystery Book Club    

The author of this autobiography is Helene Cooper, the White House correspondent for the New York Times.  She was born in Monrovia, Liberia, and lived in a privileged class.  Her home was a 22-room mansion at Sugar Beach.  Living by the sea, with her parents, her sister Marlene, and her foster sister Eunice, provided an idyllic existence of wealth and privilege.  Their fall from grace occurred when President Tolbert and his entire cabinet were executed, and the government was seized in a coup.  The author’s class, called the “Congo” class, was now on the run.  Her family fled to America for safety.  Eunice, her foster sister and close friend, belonged to the Bassa tribe and chose to stay behind.  Cooper went from high school to college, fell in love with journalism, and developed a career in which she traveled and reported on everything, except Africa.  Although she missed the sister they left behind, she made no attempt to contact her.

            The first part of the book talks about the history of Liberia and Cooper’s own family history.  It also introduces her family and friends, explaining how her view of the world changed when the coup took place.  Her mother, Mommee, was a strong figure in her life.  Mommee had “gumption” and helped her family survive the roving bands of soldiers, or more correctly thieves and rapists.  Her mother made a deal with a gang, allowing the soldiers to rape her if they would allow her daughters to be left in safety. 

Cooper then describes coming to America and her experience in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1980.  This was the first time she attended a public school system, and she was “the girl from Africa.”  Eventually, her father got an accounting job in Greensboro, North Carolina.  She became involved in her school Journalism class after being inspired by reading “All the President’s Men.”  At first she wrote reviews of TV shows.  She also became involved in the school’s “High IQ Team,” similar to current Scholastic Quiz teams.  She was accepted at the University of North Carolina in 1983, and, of course, majored in journalism. 

Throughout her new life in America, her family maintained their ties with Africa.  Her father, who had a drinking problem, experienced a difficult time making it here, so he headed back to Africa where he would be “a bigger fish in the small pond of Liberia” rather than “trying to swim upstream in the United States.”  Cooper, however, did not go back.  She would not communicate with her sister, Eunice.  It took a near-death experience while she was reporting on the Iraqi War to make her realize that she had unfinished business in Liberia.  The last part of the book describes her reunion with Eunice and with her family’s culture.         

Key Ideas from different club members

 Tells about the history of Liberia, interesting that it was settled by American slaves; Interesting story of the family’s struggle during the civil war; Very informative; Her language was a bit difficult to understand; Horrific and deplorable living conditions seen through the eyes of a young girl; Not easy to get into this book; Disappointed; Some parts were just boring; Thought there would be more about her life as a reporter; Slow; Easy to put down and not pick back up.

The Club Members Rating of this Book: 

Linda Bowman, Pat Gombita, Mona Herell, Pat Kuna, Lee Ann Schrock, William Simmons, Helen Skalski, Barbara Swanson, and Linda Troll

 Club’s Average Rating: 2.5 of 5           Rating Range:  2.5 to 4   

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Fourth Tuesday Book Club Books

Dream Team

By Jack McCallum

Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2012

1992 seems like a lifetime away, and I guess it was if you are 20 years old. For those of us who can actually remember 1992 and were basketball fans even then, “Dream Team” is a treat.

Sports journalist Jack McCallum doesn’t chronicle everything about the ’92 Olympic basketball team and their games and victories. This is not a transcript of the play by play. What he does is give us is insight into how the Dream Team came to be, from getting the go ahead to allow professional athletes to play in the Olympics to the attainment of gold. In addition we get a glimpse of the past and present of those stars and we learn a little about what they are up to now. Jack kind of gives us a little basketball version of VH1’s behind the music. He provides us with the backstage access to one of history’s greatest basketball teams which included Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, John Stockton, Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, Christian Laettner, and Coach Chuck Daly

Now, there has been a recent claim by one Kobe Bryant that the 2012 incantation of the U.S. Basketball team could defeat the 1992 Dream Team. My only response to that is a gut busting laugh, because he must have been joking. Michael Jordan laughed as I did, and while admitting that the new guard may have a physical edge, they aren’t as smart. I would also venture to guess that there are few players today who are as competitive as the ’92 squad. Jordan, Bird, and Magic took competitive to a whole other level. Today’s players only care about personal stats and money; winning is secondary to the other two goals. I’ve read quite a bit about Bird (one of my favorite athletes of all time) and Magic, and through their words and this book I have come to a grudging acceptance of Jordan’s greatness. These three together just had a head for the game, they learned how to work as a team, they had a killer instinct, and they never shrunk from the big moment.

Basketball experienced a complete renaissance in the 80’s early 90’s and it culminated with the Dream Team. The Dream Team proved to be a boon for international competition, bringing the game to a worldwide audience and creating new basketball fans and players in far off lands. No matter how good players get, I find it highly improbable that any proceeding team could ever be as good as that one. This is a great read for the Basketball fan and historian.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Sports/Entertainment

Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage

By Hazel Rowley

Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Copyright © 2010

Franklin and Eleanor: and Extraordinary Marriage? A fascinating look behind the scenes at a political marriage, but I don’t know that I would call it “extraordinary.”

Hazel Rowley recaps the chronological history of the Roosevelt’s as a couple. She gives us glimpses into the physical and mental makeup of these two people who would change the 20th century for the better and describes who their marriage operated and how the Franklin and Eleanor felt about each other. She does all of this within its historical backdrop and context very nicely.

What this book does not do is show us how “extraordinary” their marriage was. Of course this all depends on your definition of the word “extraordinary,” as it can have a broad meaning. I personally think of extraordinary as meaning unusually excellent; however it can also mean something that is unusually strange or even having a special purpose. If you prefer that latter as your definition then by all means Franklin and Eleanor’s marriage certainly meets the criteria. If the former, my view of the word, fits your definition, then the Roosevelt’s fall far short.

The Roosevelt’s marriage was special because of the way they used their marriages to further their agenda’s. Franklin wanted to be president; he wanted the power which he felt he could use to help people and to make the nation stronger. Eleanor wanted to help people as well and she used their marriage to further her social agenda. Nothing wrong with having these ambitions I guess, but in the context of having an “unusually excellent” marriage it doesn’t fit. Franklin was a philanderer and he was flirtatious, betraying his wife to the end. Eleanor in turn was often pushy, unfeeling, and dabbled in lesbian relationships as well as relationships with younger men. While physical romances are not proven outright the emotional romances are proven, and one usually leads to the other unless health issues make that impossible. This was likely the case later in Franklin’s life. I understand that no marriage is perfect but the extraordinary marriages are built on love and affection and two people trying to grow closer to one another despite the obstacles. Franklin and Eleanor instead chose to remain married, but in essence live separate lives. The bond these two had was undeniable, but it was born out of familiarity and necessity for the furtherance of their interrelated and concurrent agendas.

All that being said “Franklin and Eleanor…” was enjoyable to read as a behind the scenes of history book. It was interesting to read what was going on in FDR’s personal life as he made his meteoric rise to political power and dealt with the issues of the nation. I just would have changed the title from “… An Extraordinary Marriage” to “A strange Marriage” or “A Marriage for a Special Purpose.”

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, History, Romance/Love

The Happiness Project (Must Read)

The Happiness Project

By Gretchen Rubin

Published by Harper

Copyright © 2009


“The Happiness Project” is Gretchen Rubin’s ode to happiness. Have you considered your happiness today?


I don’t usually read self-help books. Actually, I loathe them.  I hate it when people who have never been where you are, try to tell you how to get where you should be, even when they can’t get there themselves. I know that there are many people who feel the same way I do. That being said, I want everyone to know that Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project” is not a self-help book.


Gretchen, a former Supreme Court Clerk turned writer, has taken the time to study the subject of human happiness. This book isn’t a recitation of facts, statistics, and hard and fast rules for happiness.  Gretchen has presented us with a view into her life which includes how and why she implemented certain findings from her happiness research.


As I began to read this book I was instantly struck with the thought “what can a woman with a stable Midwestern upbringing, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice O’Connor, who followed her dream and became a writer, who along with her husband probably pulls down a six figure income, and who professes to have had a pretty good life teach me about being happy?” While my life isn’t terrible, from the sounds of it, I would bet that I have probably experience more suffering and want than she. In addition, I’m not currently impoverished, but I am what might be considered sub-lower middle-class. My wife and I together have never pulled down anything resembling six figures unless you count the numbers after the decimals.


Gretchen confronts this. She recognizes that she has had a good life. She isn’t really trying to tell people how to live or how to be happy. She also informs her readers several times that this book is not for the depressed. Depression is a serious issue that should be handled by qualified professionals. Gretchen’s goal was, basically, to find out if a generally happy person could maximize her happiness, and to determine if it is useful to give consideration to one’s own happiness. While she encourages others to start their own happiness project she flatly admits that each person’s happiness project will not be the same. We all lead different lives and have different family situations, and we all have different joys, pains, likes, and dislikes.


Did this book make me want to start a happiness project of my own? No. I am a relatively happy person already with little time or energy left to try to plan a way to spend a year making myself happier. I know it sounds snarky, but it is what it is. That being said there were quite a few thoughts in “The Happiness Project” that were useful and could be incorporated into my daily life without much fuss.


I have actually reflected and applied some of her useful already. They were commandment #9 “Lighten Up” and splendid truth #3 “The days are long, but the years are short.”


The day after finishing the book I had a great opportunity to apply these thoughts. I was making breakfast for my 2 year old son who was out in the living room watching “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot about That.” When I went out to get him for breakfast I found a little surprise. He had snuck out and grabbed a box of tissues and proceeded to pull out every tissue from the box leaving them in a large pile that spilled from a chair to the surrounding floor. My normal inclination would be to speak and act in an exasperated manner, but I didn’t. I stopped and realized how funny it was and just laughed. Then I ran to get the camera so that I could take pictures. I had lightened up because I took the time to realize that the situation was funny, and sooner than I would like my son will be all grown up and I would reminisce on that very scene.


So needless to say, I resolved simply to make a list of the main points I appreciated from her book and to post them in a spot where I would look at them frequently. I guess some might call this a happiness project; if so it is the low-effort happiness reminder project.


So, while I might be slightly envious of the life Gretchen Rubin leads, I can’t take away the fact that “The Happiness Project” is thought provoking and fun read. I believe that anyone who reads this book can find at least one useful thought to take away that will actually make them just a little happier for at least one moment.


Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Memoir, Personal Insights

Tuesdays with Morrie

By Mitch Albom

Published by Doubleday

Copyright © 1997

For years I have been hearing female library patrons tell me how good “Tuesdays with Morrie” is. I resisted the urge to read it; I told myself that if that many women liked the book then it had to be a “Women’s” book. I just knew it would bore me to death. This book was published in 1997. It is now 2012, 15 years later, and I’m still hearing how good the book is. So, after all these years of ignoring people I finally broke down and read the book…

Morrie Schwartz was a child of Russian immigrants who ended up becoming a professor of sociology at Brandeis University near Boston, MA. One of his favorite pupils was Mitch Albom, who after losing contact with him for nearly 20 years decides to visit him when he finds out that Morrie is dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Mitch and Morrie renew their friendship, and in turn their student/teacher relationship. Eventually Mitch decides to visit Morrie every Tuesday as they did in college, to discuss life, death, and everything that comes in between. Through this final “class” with his mentor, Mitch is able to evaluate his own life and the direction that it took, and Morrie got to enjoy his passion in life which was to enjoy the company of others and to help them as much as he could.

Anyone who reads the first page of this book knows that the ending for Morrie Schwartz is not a good one. He is going to die. Some people when faced with the inevitability of a terminal disease just give up or get bitter, others, like Morrie, decide to live and love as long as they can. While this book tells the story of Morrie’s road to death, death is not what Morrie’s focus is. The intent of Morrie’s last class is to teach Mitch (and by extension others) how to live. He said: “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” In this small book Albom presents Morrie’s unconquerable spirit. Even in the face of certain death he has a zest for life. He squeezes every last drop purpose and feeling out of his life that he could.

“Tuesdays with Morrie” is not a “Women’s” book; it is a book for people. It is a book bent for reflection. As I read this Mitch’s narrative I found myself wanting to be Morrie. No, not the Morrie he was only weeks away from certain death, but the Morrie who had lived his life in such a way that he did not fear it. I wanted to be the Morrie who had a happy life; the one who loved to read, talk, teach, swim, walk, and even dance.

Then of course, I wished that I was Mitch. To have such a profound and loving individual to teach me and call me his friend would be so uplifting. I am actually happy to say that I do have friends like this. Maybe not as well educated and profound as Morrie, but mentors none the less, who take a positive view of life; people who love me and who motivate me to be a better person.

Whether you have such a mentor or not, read this book. There are so many lessons in it that I know, or have heard before, but sometimes we need a good quick reminder. “Tuesdays with Morrie” is just such a reminder.

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Filed under Adult Non-Fiction, Biography, Inspirational, Tragic Events