Lately, the best seller lists seem to be chock full of biographies auto-biographies and memoirs. There's Life, Keith Richard's tell-all; Washington, Ron Chernow's bio of the father of our country; A Mickey Mantle biography called The Last Boy by Jane Leavy; Condoleeza Rice's memoir of her parents entitled Extraordinary, Ordinary People; and the very long awaited (100 years) first volume of Mark Twain's autobiography, just to name a few. And don't forget our beloved W's soon to be released tome he's dubbed Decision Points (sounds apt for "The Decider"). But if those heady titles aren't enough to satiate your true-story jones, here are five brand new alternate non-fiction books for all of you history buffs, travel aficionados, science geeks or just plain bad news bears.
- Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) tells the fascinating and inspiring story of Louis Zamperini, a hell raiser turned Olympic athlete, who, during World War II, was captured by the Japanese. His tale of enduring strength confirms Louis as a true American hero. Hillenbrand has enjoyed nothing but raves for her sophomore effort.
- Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff re-examines the legacy of the most infamous Queen of Egypt. The Pulitzer prize winning Schiff spends considerable effort debunking Cleo's whore-queen persona, focusing on the Macedonian's ample accomplishments during her difficult reign. Schiff, one of the premier historians writing today, paints an illuminating portrait of a much maligned and notorious figure, an enigma shrouded in myth, who until now we knew so little about.
- Griftopia is the wonderfully snarky Matt Taibbi's scathing indictment of Goldman Sachs, Alan Greenspan, and the Tea Party, among others, in the what he describes as "the long con that is breaking America". Taibbi's usual jokey tone turns bitingly serious in this latest tract. He's written a caveat for the financial well being of not just the government and private sector, but for the rapidly vanishing middle class in this great nation.
- Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier relates the author's adventures across the vast expanse of Russia's Siberian tundra. Frazier discovered the region through friends of his and has journeyed there five times over the last twelve years; this book is the chronicle of those journeys. The author's curiosity and love for the country transform an ordinary travel guide into an elucidating work of history and social commentary.
- The Mind's Eye by neurologist/author Oliver Sacks is a investigation into the neurological disorders that effect our vision. Sacks uses case studies to illuminate the pathologies of conditions like "word blindness", the inability to recognize even simple words by sight. The book becomes deeply personal as Sacks relates his own experience with a cancerous tumor lodged behind his eye. As usual, Oliver Sacks, engrosses the reader, going beyond the mere physiological, delving into the psychological and social aspects of the anomalous mind.