End of year Nonfiction Reviews
Unfortunately, I have not been able to review as many books as I would have liked this year- this is mainly due to a heavy workload at the Library that I work for, as well as a bout of illness that kept me from reading all of the great books that have been sent to me from publishers. This is a remedy of sorts, where I put all of the books that I have not reviewed yet into one big article.
The following are the remaining Nonfiction titles that I have not reviewed as of yet. I of course left out those that I felt were unworthy of review, because life is short, and I only have time for good books. Beacon Press has supplied the bulk of my favorite NF titles this year, as you can see- my hats off to them for publishing some very fine books. That said, rest assured that these five books are definitely worthy of your time. As always, comments are encouraged.
One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York
by Arthur Browne
Beacon Press (2015)
One Righteous Man is a Bio that has been in the works for decades, starting with the first draft by none other than Langston Hughes. In this present incarnation, the first to actually be published, the slow integration of African Americans into New York’s civil service ranks is closely inspected.
Being the first Black NYC police officer was no easy task, and Samuel Battle was up against many obstacles-all of which he hurdled with poise. This is an important book in many respects; in addition to race relations and equal rights, this story offers a social history of NYC in the first half of the 20th century. Highly recommended.
Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I
By Charles Spencer
Bloomsbury Press (2015)
Charles Spencer offers a concise history of the regicide of the 17th century English Monarch king Charles I by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. The story is told in an easy to follow style that recounts the events that led to the trial and execution of Charles I, as well as the far reaching consequences of Cromwell’s actions.
Our Grandchildren Redesigned: Life in the Bioengineered Society of the Near Future
By Michael Bess
Beacon Press (2015)
Going beyond medical hot topics, such as bionics and stem cell research, Bess delves into the biotechnologies that will boost human capabilities through pharmaceuticals, advanced technologies and genetic modifications that will be able to produce “superhuman” capabilities. Society of the Near Future is not primarily about those new technologies, although much time is spent explaining the new advances in medical science that will enable humans to outperform their ancestors. Of the utmost importance here, are the changes in society that these breakthroughs will produce- such as the expanding gap between the rich and poor.
As with all technology, it is usually the rich that benefit from such advances, while the poor languish in the background, relegated to witness status. This may be one of the most important books of 2015, in that it is an early warning to us all, and it would benefit us to pay close attention. If you thought that our obsession with plastic surgery is out of control, try to picture people changing their bodies out in the same way that they trade in old Smartphones for new ones.
Outlaws of the Atlantic : sailors, pirates, and motley crews in the Age of Sail
By Marcus Rediker
Beacon Press (2015).
An intriguing series of essays pulled together to tell the story of the age of tall ships, mainly from the point of view of the lower echelons of the seafaring class. Tales of forced labor aboard ships, pirates, scoundrels and slave traders, with the occasional voice from the landed gentry . This is a highly entertaining and educational read for those who are interested in the era when the seas were a playground for the world’s most lawless seafarers. This is one of my favorite Nonfiction books of 2015.
Population Wars: A New Perspective on Competition and Coexistence
By Greg Graffin
Thomas Dunne Books (2015)
Being an old Hardcore Punk Rock fan from way back, I have followed Greg Graffin’s academic career, as well as his successful musical career for many years. In addition to being the frontman for one of the longest running punk bands, Bad Religion, Graffin also holds a Phd in Evolutionary Science, and teaches at Cornell University.
In his new book, Population Wars, Graffin asserts that the human race would do better to cooperate, rather than compete with each other. His ideas concerning the assimilation of vanquished enemies into the victor’s society, rather than their destruction is certainly interesting, although I think that after thousands of years of history, this may seem easier said than done. Graffin has written a highly thought provoking work, and it is clear that he has done his homework, I just wish he presented it in a more concise, and less confusing manner.
Not a bad book at all-there are many excellent ideas explored here, although I think that there is room for improvement, particularly in his delivery. Definitely worth a read by anyone interested in Evolutionary Science.
Stay tuned for The Thugbrarian Review’s Fiction Roundup for 2015 which will be live any day now.