I’m writing this really late so I’m bummed to not have written some of my thoughts immediately after reading. But here’s what I read in July
Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant – This one wasn’t quite profiles of “originals” as more of the regular business-y self-help type of book with specific examples or “case studies” along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink. As I become more politically engaged, I particularly enjoyed learning about the strategies used by Serbian political activist Srđa Popović, leader of the student movement Otpor! to remove Serbian president Slobodan Milošević. Many tactics were adopted from Gene Sharp‘s writings on nonviolent action and Popović continues to help others organize political uprisings. The book lost me a bit on birth order –first born vs. the baby kind of analysis that really didn’t pique my interest– but otherwise I found it all interesting and a very quick read.
Miss Ex-Yugoslavia: A Memoir by Sofija Stefanovic – She is producer of the wonderful NYC-version of the worldwide show Women of Letters on which I’ve been honored to take part twice*. I really loved her memoir / history lesson. Her family left Serbia for Australia during Slobodan Milošević’s reign and the subsequent student movement Otpor! and civil war which I had just learned a lot about from the previous book. I had no idea that both would cover this topic and was taken by surprise at the coincidence. She was an immigrant without a true place to call home. She came of age while learning English while trying to retain her original identity and language, fit in at schools, have a *place* and *sense* of belonging…it really shed light on the difficulties faced by immigrant children. The title comes from her entering a beauty pageant for ex-Yugoslavians. She entered with the intent to use it as a paper for college, but it became much more. It was a really great read and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs.
*BRAGGY BRAG BRAG: I’m only one of two performers who’ve appeared on Women of Letters twice. The first time I performed on the show, the lineup included Molly Ringwald. Kathleen Turner was in the audience and, after my set, turned to the producer and said, “Now, I *liked* that!” Then at the after party Ms. Turner and I chatted up and I was completely gobsmacked by her presence. I love her.
The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto – In discovering my Dutch roots –my maternal great grandmother Ola Mae Newkirk is descended from the original van Nieuwkirks of Flatbush (n/k/a Brooklyn) and Wiltwyck (n/k/a Kingston), New York. Newkirk Avenue and Newkirk Plaza in Brooklyn? Named after my 9th great grandfather. Bam! What does that get me? Not a damn thing. Maybe some super specific talking points to someone interested in the Dutch roots of NYC and the American Colonies? Anyway, the book is great. It covers
Girl Walks Out of a Bar: A Memoir by Lisa F. Smith – I recommended this title to the NYPL a couple of years ago. I got an email alert that the library purchased the title so I felt obligated to read it. It was good! It’s especially great for anyone who is thinking of quitting drinking. Hers isn’t a story of lost jobs, horrific embarrassments, DUIs or anything like that. She just gradually morphed into someone who drank very heavily and did coke. Something that is all too easy to do in NYC with easy access, home delivery and the fast-paced lifestyle that comes with New York. It’s definitely not as gritty –she’s got a great job, doesn’t hang out in seedy neighborhoods or visit crack dens– but I think that’s what makes it worth reading.
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley – A writer for the Atlantic, thoroughly researched and very fascinating. She takes a good, long look at disasters like tsunamis, stampedes, fires, plane crashes and includes studies on why humans behave like they do. There didn’t seem to a lot of Eureka! moments as to why those who survive do –only a few examples like one man in the Virginia Tech mass shooting playing dead (a natural instinct that also sometimes serves and sometimes hurts rape victims) and a bus boy taking control / authority during a horrible fire and saving many lives as a result. I’m shortening this wildly but it’s
Grant by Chernow (2nd half) – Sobbed like a baby when it was over. I can’t wait to go visit his tomb and give him a big H.U.G.
Other books and lots of historical research included:
Invading Paradise, Esopus Settlers at War with Natives, 1659, 1663 –
Ulster County Probate Records
History of Kingston
Click here to read my May Booklist
Click here to read my April Booklist
Click here to read my March Booklist
Click here to read my February Booklist
Click here to read my January Booklist