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At the Library: Nonfiction titles to reflect upon at the Captiva Memorial Library

By Staff | Aug 12, 2015

“Voices in the Ocean: a Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins”

by Susan Casey

Since the dawn of recorded history, humans have felt a kinship with the sleek and beautiful dolphin, an animal whose playfulness, sociability, and intelligence seem like an aquatic mirror of mankind. In recent decades, we have learned that dolphins recognize themselves in reflections, count, grieve, adorn themselves, feel despondent, rescue one another (and humans), deduce, infer, seduce, form cliques, throw tantrums, and call themselves by name. Scientists still don’t completely understand their incredibly sophisticated navigation and communication abilities, or their immensely complicated brains. While swimming off the coast of Maui, Susan Casey was surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins. It was a profoundly transporting experience, and it inspired her to embark on a two-year global adventure to explore the nature of these remarkable beings and their complex relationship to humanity. Casey examines the career of the controversial John Lilly, the pioneer of modern dolphin studies whose work eventually led him down some very strange paths. She visits a community in Hawaii whose adherents believe dolphins are the key to spiritual enlightenment, travels to Ireland, where a dolphin named as “the world’s most loyal animal” has delighted tourists and locals for decades with his friendly antics, and consults with the world’s leading marine researchers, whose sense of wonder inspired by the dolphins they study increases the more they discover. Yet there is a dark side to our relationship with dolphins. They are the stars of a global multibillion-dollar captivity industry, whose money has fueled a sinister and lucrative trade in which dolphins are captured violently, then shipped and kept in brutal conditions. Casey’s investigation into this cruel underground takes her to the harrowing epicenter of the trade in the Solomon Islands, and to the Japanese town of Taiji, made famous by the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” where she chronicles the annual slaughter and sale of dolphins in its narrow bay. Casey ends her narrative on the island of Crete, where millennia-old frescoes and artwork document the great Minoan civilization, a culture which lived in harmony with dolphins, and whose example shows the way to a more enlightened coexistence with the natural world. No writer is better positioned to portray these magical creatures than Susan Casey, whose combination of personal reporting, intense scientific research, and evocative prose made “The Wave” and “The Devil’s Teeth” contemporary classics of writing about the sea. “In Voices in the Ocean,” she has written a thrilling book about the other intelligent life on the planet.

“Between the World and Me”

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all, but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men-bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? ‘Between the World and Me’ is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son-and readers-the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, ‘Between the World and Me’ clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.” *

“The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion”

by Tracy Daugherty

“Joan Didion lived a life in the public and private eye with her late husband, writer John Gregory Dunne, whom she met while the two were working in New York City when Didion was at Vogue and Dunne was writing for Time. They became wildly successful writing partners when they moved to Los Angeles and co-wrote screenplays and adaptations together. Didion is well-known for her literary journalistic style in both fiction and nonfiction. Some of her most-notable work includes ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem,’ ‘Run River,’ and ‘The Year of Magical Thinking,’ a National Book Award winner and shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize, it dealt with the grief surrounding Didion after the loss of her husband and daughter. Daugherty takes readers on a journey back through time, following a young Didion in Sacramento, through to her adult life as a writer interviewing those who know and knew her personally, while maintaining a respectful distance from the reclusive literary great. ‘The Last Love Song’ reads like fiction; lifelong fans, and readers learning about Didion for the first time will be enthralled with this impressive tribute.” *

“The Storm of the Century: Tragedy, Heroism, Survival, and the Epic True Story of America’s Deadliest Natural Disaster: the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900”

by Al Roker

“In this gripping narrative history, the beloved NBC weather personality vividly brings to life the Great Gulf Hurricane of 1900, the deadliest natural disaster in American history. On the afternoon of Sept. 8, 1900, 200-mile-per-hour winds and 15-foot waves slammed into Galveston, the prosperous and growing port city on Texas’s Gulf Coast. By dawn the next day, when the storm had passed, the city that existed just hours before was gone. Shattered, grief-stricken survivors emerged to witness a level of destruction never before seen: 8,000 corpses littered the streets and were buried under the massive wreckage. Rushing water had lifted buildings from their foundations, smashing them into pieces, while intensive winds had upended girders and trestles, driving them through house walls and into sidewalks. In less than 24-hours, one storm destroyed a major American metropolis-and awakened a nation to the terrifying power of nature.’The Storm of the Century’ brings this legendary disaster and its aftermath into brilliant focus. No other natural disaster has ever matched the havoc caused by the awesome mix of winds, rains, and flooding that devastated this bustling metropolis and shocked a young, optimistic nation on the cusp of modernity. Exploring the impact of the disaster on a rising nation’s confidence-the pain and trauma of the loss and the determination of the response-Al Roker illuminates both the energy and the limitations of the American Century, and of nature itself.” *

“Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London”

by Mohsin Hamid

“Mohsin Hamid’s brilliant, moving, and extraordinarily clever novels have not only made him an international bestseller, they have earned him a reputation as a “master critic of the modern global condition” (Foreign Policy). His stories are at once timeless and of-the-moment, and his themes are universal: love, language, ambition, power, corruption, religion, family, identity. Here he explores this terrain from a different angle in essays that deftly counterpoise the personal and the political, and are shot through with the same passion, imagination, and breathtaking shifts of perspective that gives his fiction its unmistakable electric charge. A “water lily” who has called three countries on three continents his home-Pakistan, the birthplace to which he returned as a young father; the United States, where he spent his childhood and young adulthood; and Britain, where he married and became a citizen-Hamid writes about overlapping worlds with fluidity and penetrating insight. Whether he is discussing courtship rituals or pop culture, drones or the rhythms of daily life in an extended family compound, he transports us beyond the scarifying headlines of an anxious west and a volatile east, beyond stereotype and assumption, and helps to bring a dazzling diverse global culture within emotional and intellectual reach.” *

“100 Essential Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know About Math and the Arts”

by John D. Barrow

“A mathematician illustrates the intersection between math and the arts in 100 fascinating and amusing examples, including the golden ratios in Mondrian’s rectangles, Jackson Pollock’s fractal-like splatter paintings, ballerinas defying gravity and the calculations needed to determine how many guards should staff an art gallery.”

* Book jacket/publisher description

-Senior Librarian Ann Bradley is branch manager Captiva Memorial Library.