"The books were the background of my little world, and seeing them carted away by friends and relatives was like watching someone dismantle the sky."
~ from Lev Golinkin's A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka
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A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir by Lev GolinkinIn this eye-opening and affecting debut, author Lev Golinkin recounts his Jewish family's desperate flight from Soviet Ukraine in the late 1980s, when he was only nine years old. He also explores what it was like growing up as a Jew in the Soviet Union (where religion was forbidden) and discusses his personal quest, years later, to retrace his family's journey from the Soviet Union through Austria and eventually to the United States, in order to thank the strangers who helped them -- and to come to terms with his past. This "hilarious and heartbreaking" (New York Times) memoir is one that readers won't soon forget.
You're Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck: The Further Adventures of... by Bill HeaveyIf you need a good laugh, pick up Bill Heavey's latest witty essay collection; pick it up even sooner if you love fishing and hunting. Not only is this book entertaining, but it's well-written: The Wall Street Journal calls Heavey, who writes for Field & Stream, "one of the best magazine writers in America." Vividly detailing events from his life and his incredible outdoor adventures hither and yon, Heavey includes experiences that are both difficult (the death of his daughter) and fun (occasionally things go his way), and all are told with the warmth of an old friend, which fans of Bill Bryson should appreciate.
Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn JohnsonIf Indiana Jones is the only archaeologist you know, prepare to be enlightened -- and to have a good time. Like bestselling author Mary Roach, Marilyn Johnson writes astute, entertaining books about intriguing subcultures. In Lives in Ruins, she takes on archaeology, a field many of us have just a surface understanding of. Traveling to diverse locales, including the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, Peru's Machu Picchu, and the Mediterranean, Johnson attends field-training school, goes to numerous field sites (including an underwater one), talks with dozens of people (including many contemporary archaeologists), and shares what she's unearthed in this "delectable" (Salon) book.
There Was and There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate and Possibility in Turkey... by Meline ToumaniOne hundred years ago this year, Ottoman Turks began systematically killing one million or so Armenians; many modern Turks say this never happened, while many modern Armenians want official recognition that it did. Needless to say, the two groups don't get along. Meline Toumani, an Armenian American raised in New Jersey who was taught to hate the Turks, examines the legacy of the genocide of 1915 by spending four years in Istanbul -- a place she once thought she'd never set foot. Excellently blending memoir, travelogue, history, and reportage, this nuanced portrait of Turkey examines what she discovered there and how it transformed her.
Books You May Have Missed
Wish You Happy Forever: What China's Orphans Taught Me About... by Jenny BowenWhat could a Hollywood screenwriter/independent filmmaker who spoke no Mandarin possibly do to help China's thousands of orphans? Plenty, as it turned out. In 1997, Jenny Bowen and her husband had adopted a two-year-old Chinese daughter; sick and emotionally distant at first, the girl was the picture of health and happiness a year later. Seeing what love and attention did for her own child, Bowen immediately set out to transform China's entire orphanage system by starting the Half the Sky Foundation -- and she's succeeded. Detailing her perseverance and unwavering commitment to her cause, this emotional book, like Conor Grennan's Little Princes, shows that one person can make a difference in the lives of children, even if they live halfway around the world.
Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation by Elizabeth PisaniThough many people know little about it, Indonesia is actually the fourth most populous country on Earth (only China, India, and the United States have more citizens). It’s also incredibly diverse: more than 360 ethnic groups speaking 719 languages live across 13,466 distinct islands. To paint a loving portrait of this varied land and its hospitable people, including soldiers, nurses, priests, and farmers, genial author Elizabeth Pisani visited as many out-of-the-way places she could, traveling mostly by boats and rickety buses. The result is this delightful travelogue, which, in a review for the Wall Street Journal, bestselling author Simon Winchester calls "one of the very best travel books I have read."
The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt's Past and Present by Toby WilkinsonRenowned Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson uses his travels in and around the Nile River to vividly describe Egypt's long history. The river has played a central and necessary role in Egyptian life for millennia, creating land fit for agriculture as well as moving goods and people. In following its path from Aswan to Cairo, Wilkinson shares fascinating histories and details about ancient life, historical peoples and their gods, and much more. And in addition to illuminating the past, he discusses contemporary Egypt, including the start of the Arab Spring in Cairo. This rich, engaging narrative will captivate anyone interested in the Nile or in understanding Egypt.
A Window on Eternity: A Biologist's Walk Through Gorongosa National Park by Edward O. Wilson; photographs by Piotr NaskreckiJoining forces with nature photographer Piotr Naskrecki, biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edward O. Wilson takes readers on a lavishly illustrated tour of Mozambique's 1,500 square mile Gorongosa National Park, documenting the region's natural history as well as the devastation wrought by a 16-year civil war that destroyed much of the park's biodiversity -- including 90 percent of its megafauna. Wilson also describes Gorongosa's gradual rebirth, a collaborative effort between scientists and philanthropists whose goal to restore the area to its former glory proceeds at a slow but steady pace. For a moving, yet ultimately hopeful story of conservation against the backdrop of one of the world's most beautiful and valuable ecological treasures, don't miss A Window on Eternity.
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