Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

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The true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.

I won’t say much more than that simple one-sentence synopsis and a heart-felt plea to PLEASE READ this fascinating account of a group of dedicated African American female mathematicians known as “human computers” who used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. After you’ve read this phenomenal story I would implore you to also watch the film–a fantastic adaptation starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. Highly recommended.

Favorite New-ish Audiobooks: Nonfiction

Listening to nonfiction books as opposed to reading the print has always been more effective for me. The narrator keeps the pace moving and if the wording is dense I find it simpler to understand it as a listener. There have been many exceptional audio productions of recent nonfiction bestsellers. Here are a few of my favorites:

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Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him written by David Henry & Joe Henry, read by Dion Graham David and Joe Henry bring Richard Pryor to life both as a man and as an artist, providing an in-depth appreciation of his talent and his lasting influence, as well as an insightful examination of the world he lived in and the influences that shaped both his persona and his art.

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Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America written by Jill Levoy, read by Rebecca Lowman Jill Leovy, crime reporter for the LA Times, examines why the homicide rates for blacks in America are so much higher than any other ethnic group.

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The Gene: An Intimate History written by Siddhartha Mukherjee, read by Dennis Boutisikaris A magnificent history of the gene and a response to the defining question of the future: what becomes of being human when we learn to ‘read’ and ‘write’ our own genetic information?

 

Endurance by Alfred Lansing

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I have been drawn to the unbelievable story of Ernest Shackleton and his 27 member crew since middle school. If I was able to choose the person or topic I wanted to write about I inevitably picked the near-miraculous journey by Shackleton and a skeleton crew through over 850 miles of the South Atlantic’s heaviest seas to the closest outpost of civilization. I still return to Alfred Lansing’s account of the heroic expedition every 5 or so years. Not to be missed.

For more true life adventure stories, check these out:

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

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“Through sloppy usage and low standards on the internet, in email, and now text messages, we have made proper punctuation an endangered species. In Eats, Shoots & Leaves , former editor Lynne Truss dares to say, in her delightfully urbane, witty, and very English way, that it is time to look at our commas and semicolons and see them as the wonderful and necessary things they are.” –A perfect description from the publisher of this fabulous little book whose subtitle says it all, A ZERO TOLERANCE APPROACH TO PUNCTUATION. 🙂

For more books on the wonder of language, check these out:

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

The Story of Ain’t: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published by David Skinner

Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language by Ruth Wajnryb

Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby

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A collection of ten years worth of Nick Hornby’s monthly column–“Stuff I’ve Been Reading”–for the McSweeney’s publication: Believer.  Each column begins simply with lists of “books bought” and “books read” but the essays themselves are vintage Nick Hornby–playful, incisive, and witty; Hornby makes reading about what someone else is reading interesting and fun.

For more books about books, check out these titles:

My Reading Life by Pat Conroy

Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books by Maureen Corrigan

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch