Archive for the 'Nonfiction' Category

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore


Genre:  Non-fiction

# of pages:  239

RAC:  Yes

Wes Moore was born in a tough neighborhood in Baltimore and eventually ended up in military school where he went on to become a very successful Rhodes Scholar.  Meanwhile, another Wes Moore, born in the same neighborhood mere months apart from Wes ended up in jail for life for murder.  These two Wes Moore’s do not meet until adulthood when their lives and futures are already set, but when the author of this book learned of the other Wes Moore’s existence he felt compelled to visit him in prison and get to know him better.  He writes this book to ask what factors sent one Wes Moore down one path and the other Wes Moore down another.  Family support?  Opportunities?  Personal choices?

This story follows both Wes Moore’s lives as they make decisions to ultimately change their paths in two very different directions despite many similarities in the circumstances they were born into.  Both Wes’s grew up without a father, but for very different reasons.  Both Wes’s had chances to escape the life of crime and drugs their surroundings provided.  Both had hard working mothers who tried their best to raise them alone.  How then did one end up a war hero while the other ended up in jail for life?  This book asks difficult questions at a time when too many headlines focus on terrible things that have happened to kids from tough neighborhoods and home lives.  The story can get a bit confusing at times as many characters are introduced quickly, but the plot is interesting and many students will enjoy the honesty present in the text and subject matter.

The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington

** Student Review** by Tommy Blank

Genre:  Non-fiction, History

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is a book that examines the cultures, viewpoints, and interactions between all cultures and religion in the world. It is a look at the world post cold war and post communism. The book examines prior relationships between cultures and makes predictions for relations in the future.  The author looks a lot at the interaction between Western Cultures and Muslim Eastern cultures.  He says cultures and religious differences will be the new source of conflict.  This book helped me understand more about world conflicts and how different cultures can cause conflict.   He breaks up the entire world into eight different civilizations and looks at how they interact. Samuel P. Huntington wrote this book in 1996 and he attended both the University of Harvard and Columbia.  The book is divided into five parts and the intended audience is those who possess a higher understanding of world politics and cultures.

Overall I found the book to be both boring and interesting. At times it was difficult to understand and comprehend. At times though the book was very interesting and informational.  I feel I have a broader and better understanding of world politics and how civilizations react.  However, this book was written almost 15 years ago before the War on Terror or 9/11 ever happened.  I think the book would have been very different if the author had written it now instead of 1996.  Huntington does do a very good job of explaining his thesis and providing facts to go along with it.  Unless you are looking for a detailed report on the world and cultures interacting, I would not recommend this book.  If you want a good book on world politics and world relations then I encourage you to read this book.  At times this book will be a hard read but if you stick with it, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order is a very interesting and captivating book.


The Republic by Plato, Translated by W.H.D. Rouse

**Student Review** by Caitlin Timmins

Genre:  Nonfiction

Written in 380 BCE by Plato, a forerunner of Western development, The Republic systematically loosens the ties binding man to his preconceived notions of justice and government. In doing so, the protagonist Socrates introduces ideologies that prove to play significant roles in philosophy thereafter. In a ten part chronicle, Socrates questions fellow Athenians on their stances regarding the function of morals, government, and the soul. Plato implements the Socratic Method in his writing, requiring critical thinking of the story’s characters as well as the reader. Readers approaching The Republic should understand that in order to thoroughly comprehend and appreciate the subject matter, they must continuously reassess their own viewpoints throughout the extensive logic-fueled debates.

Even clear wording is clouded by the complex concepts presented by this Socratic dialogue, yet Plato’s attention to detailed analysis manages to believably lead even Socrates’ most adamant opponents to eventually agree with his beliefs. Plato’s carefully conceived maze of logic and underlying bias will undoubtedly impress anyone interested in philosophy, debate, or human manipulation. Throughout the book, Socrates leads his associates through personal and moral evaluations, often arriving at surprising conclusions. Frequently however, such conclusions are not overtly stated or are refuted by seeming contradictions. Regardless, The Republic does an excellent job of appraising traditional institutions long before society began to question their value. Readers not deterred by the book’s considerable length or antiquated language will find themselves drawn into man’s timeless and insatiable quest for clarity.

The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

**Student Review** by Charlie Schurman

Genre:  Non-fiction

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince as a dedication to Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, to gain the favor of the Medici, the ruling family of Florence, in the early 1500s. The Prince is a political treatise written in the style of a Mirror for Princes, detailing the ways a Prince ought to and not ought to act in both political and military matters. Machiavelli forms each chapter around a specific issue that a Prince (ruler) must deal with and provides specific and current (to the pre-Renaissance Italians) examples of other princes and how they dealt with the issues he asserts. Machiavelli goes into detail on these issues and specific examples by pointing out what these true to life princes either did correctly or incorrectly. Machiavelli closes each chapter with a brief summary of these issues and the way a Prince with virtue and skill would handle the situation. At the end of the book Machiavelli points specific current issues with Italy, and proposes a specific plan of how to make the Medici of Florence great, in hopes they would reward him for his genius. Some of Machiavelli’s suggestions, however, at the time seemed quite radical and his efforts to impress the Medici were in vain. The Prince is now renowned as one of the first pieces of modern philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. Many of Machiavelli’s ideas are now quite common place in today’s political world, such as the ways a ruler must interact with his/her people, it is for these reasons that Niccolo Machiavelli and his work The Prince survive to the present day.

The Prince is a very interesting book, however it is a very dry read. For its purpose, which was to instruct the ruling powers of Italy during the 1500s, it exceeds in all areas, for entertainment value it gets a zero. The Prince reads more like a text book or a self help book more than anything else, outlining specific issues, giving examples, and showing solutions to problems. However, Machiavelli’s command of language and philosophy make it unusually clear and understandable for a five hundred year-old book on war and politics. It is unnaturally clear for a book of its type because Machiavelli spends much time dissecting each problem and providing a plethora of examples that both disprove and prove his theories. Machiavelli carefully weighs each and every solution against each other to find the clearest and most obvious solution to the problems he presents, even if it is not the easiest or most popular solution. Despite his lengthy discussions on certain topics, The Prince is a very quick read, only about one hundred pages long. For me this book was an inside look into the politics and thought of the Renaissance era, and was very intriguing. If you are a politics lover this book is a must, and if you are looking for a quick educational read give it a try, but if all you want is a good story, this book isn’t for you.


The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

** Student Review** by Simon Sheaff

Genre:  Non-fiction

Any history textbook will tell you that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, then Magellan made it all the way around, proving the world not flat, as was once believed, but round. This was a shocking discovery in 16th century Europe, but today, with satellite technology and intense physics, we can prove the world round in any number of ways.

So why would a book, written in the twenty-first century, when the roundness of the earth has been proven beyond doubt, be titled: “The World is Flat”?  And why, on earth, would it become a New York Times best-seller? Has the whole world gone mad?

The title is merely the beginning of a very compelling argument about what kind of a world we live in and how that world operates. Thomas L. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and syndicated New York Times columnist, shows us through examples and reason how our world has been fundamentally changed. His basic argument is that we no longer live in a world where interaction is limited to those in your immediate vicinity. With the advent of the internet, cell phones, 3G, 4G, and cable television, our interactions are now unlimited and our business and personal relationships are long-distance by nature.  Our world, he argues, is fundamentally different from any other time in human history. We have changed the we do business, make friends, interact socially and so much more, using technology as our basis. Friedman refers to this as a leveling (or flattening) of the playing field known as geopolitics.

While the facts, reason, and examples are all interesting and convincing, this book may not appeal to the casual reader. It is not light-reading, but rather and in-depth and comprehensive piece of professional literature. It is not an everyday novel, but a case study of how the world around us is shaped.  This book has story-lines, plot and characters, but most only appear for a page or two and don’t compel the reader to read much further. If you are the type of reader, however, who enjoys learning as you read, or enjoys a fact-based and systematic approach to society, this book is one you should look more closely at. I immensely enjoyed it and hope others will too.

Happy reading,

Simon Phillip Thomas Sheaff

The Year We Disappeared by Cylin and John Busby

Genre:  Nonfiction

# of Pages:  329

RAC Book:  Yes

2010 Iowa High School Award Winner

In this father-daughter memoir Cylin and John Busby tell the story of how John was targeted and shot on his way into work in 1979 and the course of their lives changed forever.  It was not an accidental shooting and John was in fact targeted for a recent arrest he had made.  John did not die from the multiple gunshots to his face and underwent multiple surgeries in order to restructure his face, learn to eat, and learn to talk again.  Meanwhile, the family was under intense police protection because it was unclear if they were safe from any subsequent attacks.  The overall stress of John’s injuries and their virtual imprisonment in their own home takes a toll on all of them.

The story is told in alternating chapters between Cylin and her dad.  This format really helps the reader to understand the situation from multiple perspectives.  The fact that it is a true story will interest young readers because it seems so outlandish that something like this could happen in any community.  There are some gory descriptions of John’s injuries, but most students will not mind this.  Overall, many readers will find this a page-turner and will want to recommend it to their friends.

We Beat the Street by The Three Doctors

Genre:  Nonfiction

Age Level:  12 and up

# of Pages:  183

RAC Book: Yes

Awards:  Iowa Teen Award Winner 2009-2010

This true story follows three young men as they grow up in tough neighborhoods and through sheer luck manage to escape big trouble with the law.  They find themselves at an informational meeting about a program that helps inner city kids become doctors.  The three make a pact to see it through to the end.  There are many times when one or another wants to quit and the other two have to remind him of why he wants to be a doctor.   The story tells of some of the trouble these boys got into as young kids and why it is so difficult to even go to college from where they come from.

This story does try to tell the story as accurately as possible.  The neighborhood friends and scrapes with the law are all mentioned in vivid detail, but in each instance they somehow manage to escape unscathed.  There are many young men out there who are not so lucky.  The pact was a good way to keep each other motivated and it is unlikely that all three would have succeeded without the other two.  Readers who liked Hole in My Life will like this one, but the writing is not as sophisticated as that one and often details are glossed over in order to move the story along faster.  An interesting story for those who like nonfiction.