2013 Just the Facts

Just the Facts  If you enjoy reading nonfiction books (contemporary issues, history, politics, biography, etc...) then this is the group for you!!!  We meet on the 2nd Tuesday of the month at 7pm at the Fishers Library.

 

Just the Facts :  2013 Schedule  January:

Turn Right at Machu Picchu:  Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams:

What happens when an unadventurous adventure writer tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu?  In 1911, Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and “discovered” Machu Picchu. While history has recast Bingham as a villain who stole both priceless artifacts and credit for finding the great archeological site, Mark Adams set out to retrace the explorer’s perilous path in search of the truth—except he’d written about adventure far more than he’d actually lived it. In fact, he’d never even slept in a tent.  Turn Right at Machu Picchu is Adams’ fascinating and funny account of his journey through some of the world’s most majestic, historic, and remote landscapes guided only by a hard-as-nails Australian survivalist and one nagging question: Just what was Machu Picchu?  

February:

When the Mississippi Ran Backwards:  Empire, Intrigue, Murder, and the New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12 by Jay Feldman:

On December 15, 1811, two of Thomas Jefferson's nephews murdered a slave in cold blood and put his body parts into a roaring fire. The evidence would have been destroyed but for a rare act of God -- or, as some believed, of the Indian chief Tecumseh. That same day, the Mississippi River's first steamboat, piloted by Nicholas Roosevelt, powered itself toward New Orleans on its maiden voyage. The sky grew hazy and red, and jolts of electricity flashed in the air. A prophecy by Tecumseh was about to be fulfilled.  He had warned reluctant warrior-tribes that he would stamp his feet and bring down their houses. Sure enough, between December 16, 1811, and late April 1812, a catastrophic series of earthquakes shook the Mississippi River Valley. Of the more than 2,000 tremors that rumbled across the land during this time, three would have measured nearly or greater than 8.0 on the not-yet-devised Richter Scale. Centered in what is now the bootheel region of Missouri, the New Madrid earthquakes were felt as far away as Canada; New York; New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; and the western part of the Missouri River. A million and a half square miles were affected as the earth's surface remained in a state of constant motion for nearly four months. Towns were destroyed, an eighteen-mile-long by five-mile-wide lake was created, and even the Mississippi River temporarily ran backwards. The quakes uncovered Jefferson's nephews' cruelty and changed the course of the War of 1812 as well as the future of the new republic. In When the Mississippi Ran Backwards, Jay Feldman expertly weaves together the story of the slave murder, the steamboat, Tecumseh, and the war, and brings a forgotten period back to vivid life.  (Presented in conjunction with Indiana’s War of 1812 Bicentennial).

March:

First Nights:  Five Musical Premiers by Thomas Forrest Kelly:

This lively book takes us back to the very first performances of five famous pieces of music: Monteverdi's Orfeo in 1607, Handel's Messiah in 1742, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in 1824, Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique in 1830, and Stravinsky's Sacre du printemps in 1913. Thomas Forrest Kelly brings to life the fascinating details of these premiere nights - the cities, concert halls, audiences, conductors, musicians, the sound of the music, and the responses of audiences and critics.  Note:  A member of the  Indianapolis Symphony will join our discussion and add their unique knowledge of music.

April:

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens:  How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford:

Though the prolific Genghis Khan fathered numerous sons and daughters, historians have dutifully recorded the foibles and follies of his male heirs while virtually ignoring the accomplishments of his female offspring. Weatherford seeks to remedy this glaring omission by providing a fascinating romp through the feminine side of the infamous Khan clan. Surprisingly, old Genghis himself seems to have been impressed enough by the leadership abilities of his womenfolk to want to reward some of them with pieces of his vast empire. At least four of his daughters became queens of their own countries, exercising power over their courts, their armies, and, of course, their families. Important linchpins in the Mongol Empire, these women supplied the balance of power necessary to appease fractious tribes and territories. Unfortunately, soon after Genghis Khan’s death, the female rulers were challenged by their male relatives, and the fragile bonds that held the Mongol Empire together quickly disintegrated.

May:

Chasing Venus:  The Race to Measure the Heavens by Andrea Wulf:

On June 6, 1761, the world paused to observe a momentous occasion: the first transit of Venus between the earth and the sun in more than a century. Through that observation, astronomers could calculate the size of the solar system—but only if they could compile data from many different points of the globe, all recorded during the short period of the transit. Overcoming incredible odds and political strife, astronomers from Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and the American colonies set up observatories in remote corners of the world, only to have their efforts thwarted by unpredictable weather and warring armies.   Chasing Venus brings to life the personalities of the eighteenth-century astronomers who embarked upon this complex and essential scientific venture, painting a vivid portrait of the collaborations, the rivalries, and the volatile international politics that hindered them at every turn. In the end, what they accomplished would change our conception of the universe and would forever alter the nature of scientific research.

June:

Midnight in Peking:  How the Murder of a Young Englishwoman Haunted the Last Days of Old China by Paul French:

In the last days of old Peking, where anything goes, can a murderer escape justice?  Peking in 1937 is a heady mix of privilege and scandal, opulence and opium dens, rumors and superstition. The Japanese are encircling the city, and the discovery of Pamela Werner's body sends a shiver through already nervous Peking. Is it the work of a madman? One of the ruthless Japanese soldiers now surrounding the city? Or perhaps the dreaded fox spirits? With the suspect list growing and clues sparse, two detectives—one British and one Chinese—race against the clock to solve the crime before the Japanese invade and Peking as they know it is gone forever. Can they find the killer in time, before the Japanese invade?  Historian and China expert Paul French at last uncovers the truth behind this notorious murder, and offers a rare glimpse of the last days of colonial Peking.

July:

Shadow Divers:  The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson:

For John Chatterton and Richie Kohler, deep wreck diving was more than a sport as they braved dangerous currents and tangled shipwrecks.  But in the fall of 1991, not even these courageous divers were prepared for what they found 230 feet below the surface, in the frigid Atlantic waters sixty miles off the coast of New Jersey: a World War II German U-boat.  No identifying marks were visible on the submarine or the few artifacts brought to the surface. No historian, expert, or government had a clue as to which U-boat the men had found. In fact, the official records all agreed that there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at that location.  Over the next six years, an elite team of divers embarked on a quest to solve the mystery. Some of them would not live to see its end.

August:

 

The Big Burn:  Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan:

On the afternoon of August 20, 1910, a battering ram of wind moved throught the drought-stricken national forests of Washington, Idaho, and Montana, whipping the hundreds of small blazes burning across the forest floor into a roaring inferno.  Forest rangers had assembled nearly ten thousand men - college boys, day workers, immigrants from mining camps - to fight the fire.  But no living person had seen anything like those flames, and neither the rangers nor anyone else knew how to subdue them.  Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force.  Over 100 firefighters died heroically, galvanizing public opinion in favor of the forests - with unexpected ramifications exposed in today's proliferation of destructive fires.

September:

Tears in the Darkness:  The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman:

This grimly absorbing history revisits the worst ordeal Americans experienced during WWII. Michael Norman, a former New York Times reporter pens a gripping narrative of the 1942 battle for the Bataan peninsula in the Philippines, the surrender of 76,000 Americans and Filipinos to the Japanese and the infamous death march that introduced the captives to the starvation, dehydration and murderous Japanese brutality that would become routine for the next three years. Focusing intermittently on American POW Ben Steele, whose sketches adorn the book, the narrative follows the prisoners through the hell of Japanese prison and labor camps.  Juxtaposed against Steele’s story are the heretofore untold accounts of Japanese soldiers who struggled to maintain their humanity while carrying out their superiors’ inhuman commands. 

October:

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler:

Its stories may be the best known in the world, but its locations have long been a mystery. Where did Noah's ark land? Where did Moses receive the Ten Commandments? Where are the lost cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? Now, in Walking the Bible, Bruce Feiler offers an unprecedented heart-stirring adventure through the landscape of some of history's most storied events.  Over several years, Feiler traveled nearly ten thousand miles through the deserts of the Middle East to the actual places of some of the Bible's most memorable events—from the heights of Mount Ararat, where Noah's ark landed, to the desert outpost in Turkey, where Abraham first heard the words of God, to the summit where Moses overlooked the Promised Land. A  landscape that nurtured the relationship between humans and the divine, breathing new meaning into stories that have been a timeless source of inspiration.

November:

The Blood of Heroes:  The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo—and the Sacrifice that Forged a Nation by Jim Donovan:

On February 23, 1836, a large Mexican army led by dictator Santa Anna reached San Antonio and laid siege to about 175 Texas rebels holed up in the Alamo. The Texans refused to surrender for nearly two weeks until almost 2,000 Mexican troops unleashed a final assault. The defenders fought valiantly-for their lives and for a free and independent Texas-but in the end, they were all slaughtered. Their ultimate sacrifice inspired the rallying cry "Remember the Alamo!" and eventual triumph. Populated by larger-than-life characters--including Davy Crockett, James Bowie, William Barret Travis--this is a stirring story of audacity, valor, and redemption.  (Presented in conjunction with Indiana’s War of 1812 Bicentennial).

December:

Polar Wives:  The Remarkable Women Behind the World’s Most Daring Explorers by Kari Herbert:

Polar explorers were the superstars of the “heroic age” of exploration, a period spanning the Victorian and Edwardian eras. In this engaging book, author Kari Herbert explores the unpredictable, often heartbreaking lives of seven remarkable women who married world-famous polar explorers.  As the daughter of a pioneering polar explorer, Herbert brings a unique perspective to these stories of polar exploration. In her portraits of the gifted sculptor Kathleen Scott; eccentric traveller Jane Franklin; spirited poet Eleanor Anne Franklin; Jo Peary, the first white woman to travel and give birth in the High Arctic; talented and determined Emily Shackleton; Norwegian singer Eva Nansen; and her own mother, adventurer Marie Herbert, Karie Herbert blends deeply personal accounts of longing, betrayal, and hope with stories of peril and adventure.

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