2014 Just the Facts

Just the Facts

Book Group

2014

The Just the Facts Book Group is the one for you if you love discussing nonfiction. Read the book, or just come for some fascinating conversation!

When:  2nd Tuesday of every month
Time:  7:00 pm
Where:  Fishers Library

For more information: Contact Hayley in the Adult Services Department at 579-0307.

 

January 14

 Birth: the Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy            

                From evolution to the epidural and beyond, Tina Cassidy presents a lively, enlightening, and impeccably researched cultural history of how and why we are born the way we are. Women have been giving birth for millennia, so why is it that every culture—and every generation—seems to have its own ideas about the best way to get a baby born? Among the topics that Tina Cassidy looks at are: why birth can be so difficult (blame our ability to walk on two legs, for instance), where women deliver, how the perception of midwives has changed (they were once burned as witches), the lives of some famous obstetricians, and the many ways childbirth has been deadly (lots of blame to go around). Birth is full of quirky details, startling facts, and tales both humorous and disturbing—from men disguised as women to get into delivery rooms to a news flash about a woman giving herself a C-section.

February 11

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffith 

                In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line.  Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man.  His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

March 11

 Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice by Mark J. Plotkin    

                For thousands of years, healers have used plants to cure illness. Now Western medicine, faced with health crises such as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer, has begun to look to the healing plants used by indigenous peoples to develop powerful new medicines. Nowhere is the search more promising than in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical forest, home to a quarter of all botanical species on this planet—as well as hundreds of Indian tribes whose medicinal plants have never been studied by Western scientists. For more than a decade, Dr. Plotkin has raced against time to harvest and record new plants before the rain forests' fragile ecosystems succumb to overdevelopment—and before the Indians abandon their own culture and learning for the seductive appeal of Western material culture.

April 8

Opportunity, Montana by Brad Tyer

                In 2002, Texas journalist Brad Tyer strapped a canoe on his truck and moved to Montana, a state that has long exerted a mythic pull on America’s imagination as an unspoiled landscape. The son of an engineer who reclaimed wastewater, Tyer was looking for a pristine river to call his own. What he found instead was a century’s worth of industrial poison clotting the Clark Fork River, a decades-long engineering project to clean it up, and a forgotten town named Opportunity. In the twenty-first century, Montana’s draw is no longer metal but landscape: the blue-ribbon trout streams and unspoiled wilderness of the nation’s “last best place.” To match reality to the myth, affluent exurbanites and well-meaning environmentalists are trying to restore the Clark Fork River to its “natural state.” In the process, millions of tons of toxic soils are being removed and dumped—once again—in Opportunity. As Tyer investigates Opportunity’s history, he wrestles with questions of environmental justice and the ethics of burdening one community with an entire region’s waste.

May 13

The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan

                Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires—sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control—with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, we have also done well by them. So who is really domesticating whom?

 

Summer Break: June-August

 

September 9

 When Miners March by William C. Blizzard

                Chronicling the West Virginia Mine Wars of the 1920s, this first-hand account of the coal miners' uprisings offers a new perspective on labor unrest during this time period. Complete with previously unpublished family photographs and documents, this retelling shares the experiences of Bill Blizzard, the author's father who was the leader of the Red Neck Army. The tensions between the union and the coal companies that led up to the famous Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest open and armed rebellion in United States history, are described in detail, as are its aftermath and legacy. Addressing labor issues in contemporary times, this historical narrative makes clear the human costs of extracting coal for electricity.

October 14

 The Colony by John Tayman

                Beginning in 1866 and continuing for over a century, more than eight thousand people suspected of having leprosy were forcibly exiled to the Hawaiian island of Molokai -- the longest and deadliest instance of medical segregation in American history. Torn from their homes and families, these men, women, and children were loaded into shipboard cattle stalls and abandoned in a lawless place where brutality held sway. Many did not have leprosy, and many who did were not contagious, yet all were ensnared in a shared nightmare. Here, for the first time, is the complete history of the Molokai settlement and its unforgettable inhabitants. It's an epic of ruthless manhunts, thrilling escapes, bizarre medical experiments, and tragic, irreversible error.

November 11

 Dancing in the Streets: a History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich

                Drawing on a wealth of history and anthropology, Barbara Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. From the earliest orgiastic Mesopotamian rites to the medieval practice of Christianity as a "danced religion" and the transgressive freedoms of carnival, she demonstrates that mass festivities have long been central to the Western tradition. In recent centuries, this festive tradition has been repressed, cruelly and often bloodily. But as Ehrenreich argues in this original, exhilarating, and ultimately optimistic book, the celebratory impulse is too deeply ingrained in human nature ever to be completely extinguished.

December 9

 At Day’s Close: a Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch                     

                Bringing light to the shadows of history through a "rich weave of citation and archival evidence" (Publishers Weekly), scholar A. Roger Ekirch illuminates the aspects of life most often overlooked by other historians—those that unfold at night. In this "triumph of social history" (Mail on Sunday), Ekirch's "enthralling anthropology" (Harper's) exposes the nightlife that spawned a distinct culture and a refuge from daily life.
Fear of crime, of fire, and of the supernatural; the importance of moonlight; the increased incidence of sickness and death at night; evening gatherings to spin wool and stories; masqued balls; inns, taverns, and brothels; the strategies of thieves, assassins, and conspirators; the protective uses of incantations, meditations, and prayers; the nature of our predecessors' sleep and dreams—Ekirch reveals all these and more in his "monumental study" (The Nation) of sociocultural history, "maintaining throughout an infectious sense of wonder" (Booklist).

 

11/13

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