Friday, September 11, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.4

I have finally, finally made it to the end of my library book stack... for now. I'm happy to have some extra desk space but I know in a few days I'll miss the pile of literature waiting for me. This latest set has been particularly good, and I had the chance to read a few of this year's most popular nonfiction reads.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3

Image via ABC News
16. A book that made you cry - Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Ashley's War - the true story of a group of women who in 2010 joined the US Army's Cultural Support Team in Afghanistan - was one I picked up on a whim at the library, never anticipating the impact it would have on me. The Cultural Support Team is a newly created group of female soldiers who work in connection with Special Operations; the women work to protect the women housed in compounds and question them about locations of insurgents and weapons, a task the men are unable to perform due to social barriers. Ashley's War goes through the creation of the group, the challenges the women faced as they went through training and and talked through some of the operations in Afghanistan. Most importantly, the book gave the individual perspectives of many of the women on the original team and really brought out their real-life personalities. I don't want to give away the ending, but I cried my way through the final few chapters. By the end it had hit me hard that these were real stories about real women, and I haven't had a war story hit me this hard in years.

Image via
17. A book that became a movie - One Day by David Nicholls

I read this on the indirect recommendation of a friend - she suggested I watch the movie but I went for the book - and I was surprised at how good the novel is. One Day follows Dexter and Emma, two university students with very different life paths, from the start of their friendship on July 15, 1988 to each July 15th for the next twenty years. Though it's clear from the start the two will end up together, the story is pieced together so authentically that it's worth the wait. Each person's character is completely revealed with their faults fully explored, yet they are written so endearingly that you can't help but root for them.

Image via PBS
18. A book based on or turned into a TV show - Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

I've never seen the PBS adaptation of Cranford - I'm more familiar with Gaskell's popular North & South - but as N&S was so good I took a chance on Cranford. My expectations were set too high, I think, because even though Cranford is good I was disappointed by it. Originally published as a serial, Cranford explores the eccentricities of a small town populated almost solely by women and the activities with which they occupy themselves. Though there are a few surprising moments, it's primarily a slow-moving tale, offering a realistic view of the English countryside in the 1830s.

Image via Barnes & Noble
19. A nonfiction book - How Music Got Free: The End of An Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy by Stephen Witt

After seeing Witt's book on the shelves of every airport and train station during the last two months, I caved from sheer exposure and checked it out from the library. Posing the question "what happens when an entire generation commits the same crime?", Witt traces the history of digital music piracy, starting from the creation of the mp3 to the compact disc leaks from a North Carolina manufacturing plant to piracy websites to the role of the biggest exec in the music business. How Music Got Free chronologically compares the two sides of the story - that of the "pirates" and that of the music business. The first few chapters are a little dull as Witt builds up the history and importance of the piracy movement, but once the scene is set the book is hard to put down.

Image via AV Club
20. A book published this year - Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari, most known for his role as Tom Haverford on Parks and Recreation, is perhaps not the obvious choice for a nonfiction book on the modern dating world, and yet I was pleasantly surprised at how in-depth Modern Romance is. Ansari teams up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to tackle how the dating game has changed in the last fifty years, looking into things like online dating profiles, texting, Tinder, and cultural differences, while backing up their findings with data from real life experiences. While the material itself can be a little thick at times, Ansari's comedic insight makes Modern Romance a hilarious, fun read.

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