Top 5 Memoirs At The Library

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Memoirs tell us the personal experiences of other people. They allow us to see how someone else has lived, thought, and learned. The library has several memoirs on our shelves; here are 5 of the best-written and most checked out memoirs. Click the links to see where the books are located in the library.

*Book descriptions are from the publishers, c/o the library catalog

 

Reading Lolita In Tehran: A Memoir In Books by Azar Nafisi

This is the story of Azar Nafisi’s dream and of the nightmare that made it come true. For two years before she left Iran in 1997, Nafisi gathered seven young women at her house every Thursday morning to read and discuss forbidden works of Western literature. They were all former students whom she had taught at university. They were unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, but soon they began to open up and to speak more freely, not only about the novels they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Nafisi’s account flashes back to the early days of the revolution, when she first started teaching at the University of Tehran amid the swirl or protests and demonstrations. Azar Nafisi’s tale offers a fascinating portrait of the Iran-Iraq war viewed from Tehran and gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women’s lives in revolutionary Iran.

 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Here, for the first time, Michelle Obama describes the early years of her marriage as she struggles to balance her work and family with her husband’s fast-moving political career. She takes us inside their private debate over whether he should make a run for the presidency and her subsequent role as a popular but oft-criticized figure during his campaign. Narrating with grace, good humor, and uncommon candor, she provides a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of her family’s history-making launch into the global limelight as well as their life inside the White House over eight momentous years–as she comes to know her country and her country comes to know her.

 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and to do it alone.

 

Full of Heart: My Story of Survival, Strength, and Spirit by J.R. Martinez

This book tells the story of an inspirational journey from tragedy to triumph. In 2003, at age nineteen, the author was on a routine patrol in Iraq when the Humvee he was driving hit an antitank mine, resulting in severe injuries and burns. Out of that tragedy came an improbable journey of inspiration, motivation, and dreams come true.

 

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

In this powerful and provocative memoir, Kiese Laymon fearlessly explores what the weight of a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a black body, a black family, and a nation teetering on the brink of moral collapse. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of living in a country wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been. Read Olivia Chin’s review here.

 

 

Book Review: “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon

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Heavy by Kiese Laymon is the painfully honest story of a Southern black man’s experiences growing up and going to college in Mississippi. This memoir is a quick but emotionally heavy read (as the title aptly suggests).

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Heavy gets right:  This book says everything you’ve never wanted to hear and everything you’ve needed to hear about racism, sexism, addiction, abuse, and hope. Heavy has been the most impactful and deeply sad book that I’ve read in 2020. Right from the beginning of the book, Laymon dives into his personal experiences with painful stories of his childhood. None of it is easy to read about, and yet I couldn’t put this book down because Laymon’s writing was excellent and I wanted to know the messages he was revealing through all of the stories.

In his writing, Laymon is not afraid to explore his own shortcomings (particularly with romantic relationships) and I found his honesty refreshing. Laymon is angry about the racism and abuse he suffers, and he also recognizes the ways in which he personally has failed to avoid falling into the same vices as his mother. Heavy is actually written as a long letter to his mother, who is addressed as “you.” It’s a personal way to talk about the things that have been long buried or brushed over in their lives.

What Heavy gets wrong: Honestly, nothing. I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. Heavy is probably the most honest memoir I have ever read. As a white woman, I don’t know and won’t experience all of the struggles that Laymon faces, but reading Heavy helped me understand them better and opened my eyes to his perspective.

Who should read Heavy: Readers who want to learn more about black experiences in the United States, and in particular the South, from firsthand accounts.

Who shouldn’t read Heavy: Heavy is best for more mature audiences due to its intense descriptions of physically and emotionally damaging events.

 

Heavy is available at the library in our U.S. history section.

Content note: racism, sexism, abuse, eating disorder, addiction, rape, language.

Most book reviews on this blog are written by Olivia Chin and reflect her personal opinions of the books, not the library’s view as a whole.

Top 5 Faculty Development Books

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Professors use books in the Faculty Development section for research, teaching advice, college statistics, personality theory, leadership, and more. This section is located on the library’s second floor. The following 5 books have been checked out the most from the Faculty Development section in the past 2 years.

*Book descriptions are provided by the publishers c/o the library catalog

 

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon

From a passionate and talented chef who also happens to be an Episcopalian priest comes this surprising and thought-provoking treatise on everything from prayer to poetry to puff pastry. In The Supper of the Lamb, Capon talks about festal and ferial cooking, emerging as an inspirational voice extolling the benefits and wonders of old-fashioned home cooking in a world of fast food and prepackaged cuisine.

 

The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron

Witty and filled with stories, this book allows you to peek inside each of the nine Enneagram types, keeping you turning the pages long after you have read the chapter about your own number. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you will also start to see the world through other people’s eyes, understanding how and why people think, feel, and act the way they do.

 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life.

 

Writing and Developing Your College Textbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Textbook Authorship and Higher Education Publishing by Mary Ellen Lepionka

Includes chapters on the college textbook industry, writing to reach your true audience, and more!

 

The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives by Dallas Willard

Dallas Willard, one of today’s most brilliant Christian thinkers and author of The Divine Conspiracy, presents a way of living that enables ordinary men and women to enjoy the fruit of the Christian life. He reveals how the key to self-transformation resides in the practice of the spiritual disciplines, and how their practice affirms human life to the fullest. The Spirit of the Disciplines is for everyone who strives to be a disciple of Jesus in thought and action as well as intention.

 

 

Featured Book: “Complete Guide To Gardening And Landscaping”

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Time Life’s Complete Guide to Gardening and Landscaping is a tome. It’s a how-to guide, an encyclopedia, an almanac, and an advice column all rolled into one. Pretty much anything you can think of regarding plants- zoning, irrigation, houseplant care, troubleshooting- is not only written about in detail but illustrated for the reader.

Check out the Complete Guide to Gardening and Landscaping if you want to learn how to:

  • make a garden for the first time
  • properly care for your houseplants
  • start growing vegetables
  • landscape your property
  • fight bugs and other pests that are bothering your plants
  • identify various kinds of flowers, trees, succulents, and more

 

This thorough, comprehensive book is available at the library. Look around the “SB” section for more books on plants, gardening, landscaping, and nature.

Book Review: “The Curated Closet” by Anuschka Rees

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If you’ve ever found yourself staring at your closet in confusion, you’re not alone. The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees is a guide to finding the right clothes for you, donating clothes that don’t work for you, and practicing sustainable fashion. It’s almost a workbook at times, and if you follow the instructions and answer the questions in the book, you will soon have an organized, specific-to-you capsule wardrobe.

What The Curated Closet gets right: This is a great book for anyone who “loves simplicity” as Rees says. If you are more of an “abundance lover,” you will probably not be as interested in paring down your wardrobe.

You will learn about the pros and cons of various fabrics, see examples of color palettes, and get tips on how to shop while on a budget. If you follow the prompts in The Curated Closet, by the end of the book you will be on your way to having the organized wardrobe of your dreams.

What The Curated Closet gets wrong: Obviously this approach isn’t for everyone. Some people will feel limited by having a capsule wardrobe or by only sticking to natural fabrics.

Who should read The Curated Closet: Readers who want to update and cull items from their closet and who use rules and regulations to simplify their lives.

Who shouldn’t read The Curated Closet: Readers who do not like having rules for what they wear and don’t want to put limits on which patterns and colors they have in their wardrobe.

 

The Curated Closet is not currently available at the library, but you can request it through Interlibrary Loan when physical books are allowed to re-circulate, and you can look for it at your local public library.

Top 5 Nonfiction eBooks To Read At Home

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You’re at home, practicing social distancing, and you really need something new to read. Maybe you’ve read all of the books on your shelf, or maybe you just want to read something on a screen. Have no fear: the library has thousands of eBooks for Union students and employees to access while at home. Here are just a few of our nonfiction eBooks for you to start reading!

*book descriptions are from the publishers c/o the library website

 

Online Learning: A User-Friendly Approach For High School And College Students by Leslie Bowman

In every online class, some students are wildly successful, some earn average or slightly below-average grades, some barely pass, some fail, and some drop out. Whatever a student’s age, situation, or lifestyle, everything needed for successfully completing an online class is right here in this book. Each chapter covers a specific element of online learning and provides the new online student with practical strategies and how-to information so that any student can go into an online classroom prepared to succeed. This book has strategies and tips that every online professor wants students to know.

 

The Plenitude: Creativity, Innovation, And Making Stuff by Rich Gold

Lessons from the creative professions of and for art, science, design, and engineering: how to live in and with the “Plenitude,” that dense, knotted ecology of human-made stuff that creates the need for more of itself.

 

Invisible Women: Data Bias In A World Designed For Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

Data is fundamental to the modern world. From economic development, to healthcare, to education and public policy, we rely on numbers to allocate resources and make crucial decisions. But because so much data fails to take into account gender, because it treats men as the default and women as atypical, bias and discrimination are baked into our systems. And women pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives. Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates the shocking root cause of gender inequality and research in Invisible Women- diving into women’s lives at home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more.

 

The Bible On Leadership: From Moses to Matthew: Management Lessons for Contemporary Leaders by Lorin Woolfe

Moses on vision; John the Baptist on communication skills; Queen Esther on political know-how: great leaders from the Bible have powerful lessons to teach today’s business leaders.

 

When Chicken Soup Isn’t Enough: Stories Of Nurses Standing Up For Themselves, Their Patients, And Their Profession edited by Suzanne Gordon

This title brings together personal narratives from a wide range of nurses from across the globe. The assembled profiles in professional courage provide new insight into the daily challenges that RNs face in North America and abroad.

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: “Educated” by Tara Westover

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Educated took the book-loving world by storm when it was published in 2018. It’s also been consistently checked out from the library since we ordered it. In this powerful memoir, Tara Westover describes her unconventional upbringing and how finally gaining access to formal education changed her life.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What Educated does right: Westover’s story is heartbreaking, but it needs to be told. You’ll learn about the horrors of family violence, abuse, undiagnosed mental illness, and willful ignorance in this book. However, you’ll also learn about the power of education and the hope for a better tomorrow. The times I teared up from the book were not because of the sad situations (although there were many), but because of how proud I was of Westover for doing well in school, in spite of all odds.

What Educated gets wrong: This is not a critique of the book (it’s hard to critique memoirs from a content standpoint anyway), but more of a warning for readers: this one will hurt you. My student assistant, Mya, warned me that I would be angry while reading this book, and she was 100% right. There’s a lot of misinformation and injustice regarding Tara Westover’s family and upbringing.

For example (spoiler): the Westovers survive a bad car wreck but don’t go to the hospital due to their distrust of the “medical establishment,” which results in serious trauma and long-term injuries. So what do they do the next time they’re driving on a long trip? They let the dad take the wheel; he drives super fast to prove a dumb point; and then they have ANOTHER deadly car wreck in which, guess what, they don’t seek medical attention AGAIN. It’s infuriating to read this through the lens of a brainwashed child who knows something isn’t quite right, but who can’t articulate what it is and defends her father even though he constantly endangers her life. It’s even sadder when she’s old enough and educated enough to know that her family is not treating her the way they should, but she still reaches out to them and tries to help them even as they destroy her.

Who should read Educated: Fans of true stories. Family members who have lived with and understand serious mental illnesses. Teachers of rural children. Anyone who wants to know how NOT to raise your child (like, living in a rural area is totally fine, but throwing scrap metal at your child is not).

Who shouldn’t read Educated: If your blood pressure goes up every time you read about children in danger (like mine does), think twice before picking this one up. The negligent and downright abusive way that these children were raised is mind-blowing.