Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Non-Fiction I've Enjoyed Recently

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami (originally published in Japanese in 2007; english translation by Philip Gabriel published 2008) -- A journal Murakami kept while preparing to run in the 2005 New York Marathon. Interesting in that it's both about running and writing, as he frequently talks about both similarities and interactions between his running and writing.

Serve It Forth by M. F. K. Fisher (1937) -- Fisher was one of the finest writers about food and eating of the past century, and this was her first book, a collection of essays (as almost all of her books were) originally published in 1937. Fascinating reading.

The Gashouse Gang: How Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher, Branch Rickey, Pepper Martin, and their Colorful, Come-from-Behind Ball Club Won the World Series -- and America's Heart -- During the Great Depression by John Heidenry (2007) -- The story of the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals team, focusing particularly, although not exclusively, on Dizzy Dean and the ups and downs of the '34 season -- including Dean's two personal strikes against the Cardinals -- a season culminating with the Cardinals defeating the Detroit Tigers in a fight-to-the-last-minute seven-game World Series. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Close Calls with Nonsense: Reading New Poetry by Stephen Burt (2009) -- A collection of essays about over two dozen individual contemporary poets and how to approach their work, as well as more general introductory essays on how to approach reading contemporary poetry. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in current poetry.

A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution by Carol Berkin (2002) -- A good brief (~200 pages) introduction to the Constitutional Convention and the shaping of the Constitution.

Decision In Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 (1986) by Christopher Collier and James Lincoln Collier -- A more detailed account of the convention and the process by which the Constitution was shaped.

(NOTE: I have also just obtained Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution by Richard Beeman (2009), an even more detailed and quite scholarly account of the Constitutional Convention; and Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack Rakove (1996), a study of the intellectual bases of the Constitution; I'm looking forward to reading both in the near future.)

James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski (2006) -- The story of Madison's efforts to insure the ratification of the Constitution despite serious opposition, especially that of Patrick Henry. Madison had originally opposed the idea of a Bill of Rights as part of the Constitution but came to realize that a promise to amend the Constitution with such a Bill would be the only way to secure the Constitution's ratification. But he found himself confronting extreme opposition -- orchestrated by Henry -- in being elected to the First Congress and faced a series of uphill battles in order to gain election so he could propose such a bill. I had no idea of the complex political situation that existed at the time, nor of the violent opposition to the Constitution as drafted that almost led to its failure to achieve ratification. For me, the story was remarkable; I have a far greater appreciation of what Madison and his allies went through to gain ratification than I ever had before.


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