Are you seeking great nonfiction books to start out 2019? I have some interesting suggestions for you.
“The Boys in the Cave: Deep Inside the Impossible Rescue in Thailand,” by Matt Gutman. For two weeks in June 2016, the world watched while scores of people tried to rescue 13 soccer boys and their coach stranded in a cave filling quickly with water. Gutman, an ABC news correspondent, covered this harrowing story and was asked to write a book about the rescue. He interviewed all the major players to unfold the politics, egos, dangers, and finally the triumphs of this perilous cave-dive rescue. Even though I knew the rescue was successful, Gutman’s writing of the details kept me on the edge of my seat. I could not put this book down, and I bet you won’t either.
“Priceless,” a memoir by Robert Wittman, the only undercover FBI agent assigned to recover stolen art nationally and internationally. It was through a tragedy early in his FBI career that Wittman took up a hobby of collecting unique baseball cards and selling them at a profit when he moved into Civil War memorabilia. Wittman took an art course that not only advanced his work at the FBI but led him to his career in recovering stolen art. It’s a personal journey, a multi-layered lesson in history, art history, and the reasons behind the people stealing art, and how he honed his skills to play to the egos of the thieves allowing him to get into their circle. It’s compelling, well-written, draws you in and keeps you there.
“The Library Book,” by Susan Orlean. She writes compellingly about the Los Angeles Library fire in April 1986. Most of us never heard about this as the fire happened the same day as the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant meltdown. This old and glorious building, loaded with safety violations, was in the last stage of being approved for remodeling and brought up to date and code when the fire alarm went off. Staff and patrons, used to many false alarms, figured the firemen would give the all-clear to go back inside soon. Instead, they discovered their beloved library was engulfed in a fire that would burn for over seven hours requiring nearly all of Los Angeles’ fire equipment and firemen, reached sustained temperatures of 2000 degrees, and that the tinder of millions of books and the oxygen surrounding their literary treasures was stoking the ghostly, light-blue fire. You want to savor every word she writes about the fire and the logistics of the firemen who fought it, the librarians, the books lost, the thousands of volunteers who went in after the fire to salvage the water-soaked and smoke damaged books. Orlean writes a beautifully woven story that introduces you to an array of characters—library staff, L.A. Library directors over the years, patrons and how all have impacted the library as well as being impacted by the library, that a library more than a repository for books, that it is as necessary as food and oxygen for people. This extremely well-researched book is worth the journey.
Nancy Huber, OLLI Member