For an Italian, and especially a Milanese like I am, Leonardo da Vinci is kind of the ultimate cultural symbol. It’s true that he was born in Florence and spent part of his life there, but he also lived for multiple years at different points of his life in my hometown of Milan. While in Milan, under the protection either of the Sforza family or the conquering French, Leonardo had a significant impact on the city, from it’s canals to its artistic heritage.
Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs has been gathering dust on my shelf for a while now (I’ll get to it eventually), but when I learned he had published a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, I immediately felt drawn to reading it. The biography was wonderful (full review below) and it was such a great coincidence that I finished it just ahead of my yearly summer trip to Milan. You pretty much can’t round a corner in Milan without happening upon a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit or one of his works. I’m sharing some images from the Leonardo3 exhibit I attended a few days ago that featured spell-binding re-imaginings of some of the designs Leonardo left us for machines he envisioned.
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The topic for Week 4 of Nonfiction November is Nonfiction Favorites, and the hosting blog is Doing Dewey. Instead of answering the provided questions, I decided to put together a list of my Top Ten Favorite Nonfiction Books to date.
The ten titles I selected easily fit into four overarching categories or types of nonfiction: Sweeping Histories, Atypical Memoirs, Memorable Royal Women and Medical Investigations. I reflected further on why I was drawn to each category and title below. In doing so, I realized that the elements I always look for in nonfiction are:
- Either a book that effectively summarizes a really long span of time, or one that focuses on a really weird and unique experience
- Highly personal writing in either case that always ties back the narrative to individual experience
- Conciseness in the writing – no droning on aimlessly
- To feel that I am learning something new.
Today is also the first official day of the #ThanksgivingReadathon ! If you haven’t published a Sign-Up post yet or posted your reading intentions on social media, make sure to do so today!
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Every month, I pick 5 nonfiction and 5 fiction books being released that month that sound like good reads to me, based on my personal preference in topics and genres, as well as advance reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
In this month’s list, I’m definitely most excited about Prairie Fires on the nonfiction side and Artemis on the fiction side. I’ve already requested both on Net Galley and have reviews scheduled for later in the month. Other picks from this list that are still available for request on Net Galley (for the bloggers out there) are Little Broken Things and The Story Of Arthur Truluv.
Hopefully you find something here that catches your eye!
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This post came about through one of those cases in which you read a book that leads you to another title, and then another. After reading Andrew Morton’s biography of Diana this summer (Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words), I realized that as much as Diana was an interesting and polarizing figure, what I really wanted was to learn more about the life of Queen Elizabeth II.
Maybe The Crown also had a little effect on this. It’s startling to watch a TV series set in the 40s and 50s (for Season 1 at least) and realize that the protagonist is still alive today and has lived through 9 decades of history, social change and economic upheavals. My research on biographies of the queen led me to Sally Bedell Smith’s book Elizabeth: The Queen, and when Bedell Smith mentioned Alan Bennett’s novella on the queen – The Uncommon Reader – I knew that I wanted to pick that up as well.
I’m planning more similar fiction to nonfiction book pairings in the future. Hope you enjoy this first take on a new feature on the blog!
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It’s not the happiest occurrence on which to end my blogging break, but today is the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana on August 31st 1997 in Paris. The horrific crash that killed the princess and its aftermath epitomized the issues inherent in Diana’s relationship to the British crown and their treatment of her.
I remember finding out about the crash while standing in my family’s kitchen in Milan, watching a newscast. I think it was the day after the crash, possibly in the evening, and I remember feeling upset and shocked at the news despite being 12 at the time (the same age as Prince Harry). I didn’t know much about Diana beyond her marriage and then divorce to Prince Charles, and her public persona as a benefactress of many causes, including the battle against AIDS and the efforts to ban and remove land mines in areas of conflict.
A few weeks ago, I watched the HBO documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy, in which Prince William and Prince Harry speak candidly about their relationship with their mother growing up and their experience of her death and funeral. I realized I didn’t know much about the background of Diana’s life and decided to search for a good biography of the princess. Once I discovered that Andrew Morton’s take had been recently updated and was primarily based on taped interviews with the princess herself, I knew it was the right choice. I wasn’t disappointed – the book feels highly personal to the princess thanks to the inclusion of her actual words describing the circumstances of her life. Read my review below.
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So you may have noticed things have been a bit quieter around the blog these past few weeks than normal. I haven’t had as much bandwidth for blogging after work and on the weekends because I just started out at a new job. It’s an amazing opportunity and super exciting, but like any new situation takes more mental and physical energy than normal. My time at home these days has been mostly spent sleeping and reading.
This has had the positive result of putting me in the position at the moment to be way ahead on my reading schedule, but behind on actual reviews. I have a lot of books to cover over the next few weeks that I’ve already read. I’m hoping to get back to a more regular schedule, but in the meantime thanks for understanding that things may be a bit slower than normal around here for a little while longer.
Being able to read everyone else’s posts and reviews has kept me in the book blog loop, however, which I’m very thankful for. Here are some of my favorite posts from this week.
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