Did the FBI go too far …

oppie1.jpg … in 1954?  The FBI amassed a huge file over many years in their investigation of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  Much of the information they gathered – including illegal wiretapping of conversations between Oppenheimer and his lawyer – was used against him at his security clearance hearing.

Twenty-seven years in the making, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J.  Sherwin details – sometimes in excruciating minutia – Oppenheimer’s fantastic, complicated life. The title, which refers to the god who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind only to be tortured and shamed for his efforts,  reflects the feeling that many people share about Oppenheimer’s treatment after he helped develop the atomic bomb in time for it to be used during World War II. His story is ripe for controversy and conflicting opinions.  Did the U. S. use the bomb against a nation prepared to surrender? Why was Oppie treated so badly by the government he so willingly served? Was his trial fair, or even legal? This biography doesn’t provide answers, but it sets forth many a valid question. For more informaton about the authors journey with their subject, you can read a series of question and answers, originally published online in 2005. Or for more about Oppie, view a centennial exhibit developed by UC-Berkeley.

Fields of Blood and Sacrifice – Christian Fleetwood and his brothers in the Black Regiments of the Civil War

 uncommon-valor.jpgUncommon Valor: a story of race, patriotism and glory in   the final battles of the Civil War, by Melvin Claxton.   Christian Fleetwood was a 23 year old free-born black man living Baltimore when the recruiters of the 4th US Colored Infantry began assembling their forces.  He joined the ranks on August 17th 1863 and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Major (the highest noncomissioned ranking) just 4 days later.  He became one of the earliest black Medal of Honor recipients in 1864.  By all accounts Fleetwood was a gifted officer and inspired leader of men. 

Continue reading “Fields of Blood and Sacrifice – Christian Fleetwood and his brothers in the Black Regiments of the Civil War”

Healing the Mind

nevergiveup1.jpgStroke. Brain Damage. Strong words we hear more of these days, with an aging population and engagement in a difficult war with injured soldiers returning to everyday life. Words that call up terrifying images of darkness and loss, for both the injured and their loved ones. Images of diving into the healthcare system like entering a second level of reality, cocooned from the outside world, caught up in the processes of treatment and healing. Once one has stepped into it, a facination takes hold, a seeking for ways to understand the experience. If you have recently gone through such an experience, or know others going through it, two recent compelling first hand accounts can be found in the library collection.

Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery & My Return to the NFL by Tedy Bruschi with Michael Holley would never be called high literature, but it is a sincere heartfelt account of Bruschi’s unusual stroke-he was a healthy Continue reading “Healing the Mind”

The Romans are here: are you ready?

Where would you stay if you were able to visit ancient Rome, say in 200 AD? What would you have for dinner? Where would you go for entertainment? What tips would help you survive on those mean, mean, streets? Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak purports to be a travel guide for back then, not for use in touring today’s Rome of ruins and broken monuments. Of course, it really does help us understand current Rome’s glorious past and fallen stones by providing context for this era’s readers. Full of travel advice for ancient tourists and loaded with chatty suggestions about local customs, this humorous guide is a fun way to learn about life in the ancient city, and should be an great read for history buffs and for fans of historical mysteries in the Steven Saylor or Lindsey Davis line. Fine illustrations, many in color, show views from that toga-clad world.

Working the same turf but in a much more straightforward and serious way is Rome by James H. S. McGregor. This guide looks at the many historical versions of Rome that are layered on top of each other Continue reading “The Romans are here: are you ready?”

Nonfiction book discussions

ellis.jpgBook groups may occasionally select a biography or a nonfiction title to discuss, but few — except the Nonfiction Book Group here at the Library — are devoted to exclusively reading and discussion nonfiction titles. New members are always welcome! The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month at noon on the 8th Level of the Central Library. We read and discuss non-fiction books with a strong focus on biography.  Check out our upcoming selections: 

March 18His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis
April 15: My Invented Country by Isabelle Allende
May 20: Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
June 17: Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
July 15:  Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
August 19:  Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy.