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Notable Books

Notable Books | Five nonfiction books

Issue: "Reassessing the genome," Oct. 6, 2012

Eat the City

By Robin Shulman

Foodies, New York City lovers, and history buffs will enjoy Shulman's exploration of New York City via centuries of foods. Shulman starts out with stories of modern beekeepers who rescue city dwellers from swarms of honeybees in search of new hives. She then winds back to an earlier period when beekeeping was illegal, and focuses on the mystery of red-tinted honey. Whether writing about beekeeping, butchering, brewing, or sugar-refining, Shulman profiles someone involved in the business, usually in its craft form, and uses that person to segue into the rich history of that food in the city. Her butcher and several other of her characters use foul language, which makes the book's entertaining history off-limits for some.

The Victims' Revolution

By Bruce Bawer

For anyone interested in what many students learn on secular university campuses, Bawer opens eyes as he opens classroom doors. He takes the reader into books that provide the foundation for African-American Studies, Women's Studies, Queer Studies, Chicano Studies, and even Fat Studies. It isn't a secret that many professors have a political agenda, but Bawer, who is gay, does an excellent job of street-level reporting as he goes to conferences and sits in on lectures. He provides specific detail on what professors teach and highlights the tragedy of first-generation college students wasting their parents' hard-earned tuition dollars to learn that Western civilization, capitalism, and straight white men are what's wrong with the world.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

By Rosaria Champagne Butterfield

When Rosaria Butterfield was 28 she declared herself a lesbian. Her Ph.D. in English Literature and Cultural Studies led to a tenured position at Syracuse University, where she advanced a leftist agenda. Then God used her desire to write a book on the religious right, and the friendship of a biblically orthodox pastor, to draw her to Christ. She became a voracious Bible reader and gradually saw that her new beliefs required her to upend her former life. It's a fascinating story—although she interrupts the narrative several times to insert speech text. Her book also shows the power of love and hospitality to soften hearts: Butterfield is now married to a pastor and the mother of four children by adoption.

An American Son

By Marco Rubio

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio traces his life, focusing on lessons he learned from his Cuban émigré parents and grandfather. He portrays himself as a mediocre student who loved to play football and cheer for the Miami Dolphins—but then he caught the political bug, became a better student, and went to law school. Rubio uses the book to get out into the open issues in his past—bad grades, party lifestyle, changing religions—and to answer accusations leveled at him during the Florida Senate campaign. The story shows why voters like him: He's smart, articulate, and rooted. It also shows that he's a young man with a very young family: It's probably good that he's not on a national ticket quite yet.

Spotlight

Philip Nel teaches children's literature at Kansas State University. In Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children's Literature (University Press of Mississippi, 2012), Nel traces the careers and private life of husband/wife duo Johnson and Krauss. Johnson is best known as the author and illustrator of Harold and the Purple Crayon—and Krauss wrote A Hole Is to Dig, which gave Maurice Sendak his big break.

For those interested in children's books, Nel spends too much time on their later years when Johnson was a painter of mathematical concepts and Krauss a feminist poet. The most interesting sections describe the left-wing political and social milieu in which Johnson and Krauss worked. (Many blacklisted writers, including Syd Hoff, found a welcome in the children's book publishing world.) Nel also explains the outsize influence Johnson and Krauss had on future generations of kid lit writers.

Listen to Susan Olasky discuss these nonfiction titles on WORLD’s radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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