Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Nevermore: Dark Money, Running With Scissors, Alligator Candy, Shiloh Autumn, Houses of Civil War America

This week, our readers kicked of Nevermore with Dark Money:  The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer.  A profound and insightful piece of literature, Dark Money offers a glimpse into the skewed political climate and economic inequality of the United States and explains how “a network of exceedingly wealthy people with extreme libertarian views bankrolled a systematic, step-by-step plan to fundamentally alter the American political system.”  Our reader said it was very well written with pages and pages of notes in the back, detailing Mayer’s resources; however, she also said it was one of the more depressing books she’d ever read.  The subject matter was frustrating, because it detailed many of the outrageous inequalities inflicted on the American public by individuals like David and Charles Koch, who created organizations to influence everything from academic institutions to Congress.  She admitted that she had to stop a few times in order to take a breather from such frightening and disheartening material.

Next, our readers looked at a memoir by Augusten Burroughs:  Running with Scissors.  At the tender age of twelve, Burroughs came to live with his mother’s psychiatrist, a startlingly unorthodox guardian who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus and provided few, if any rules, for the young ward in his care.  A harrowing and sometimes hilarious account of one boy’s struggle for survival in a new, eccentric household, Running with Scissors is a strange but incredibly memorable book.  According to our reader, Burroughs’ memoir is “one of the most bizarre books I’ve read in a long time,” but she praised it for its depth and its originality.  Another reader chimed in, saying, “It’s so weird,” but she too had enjoyed it when she finished her own copy.  Both highly entertaining and incredibly unusual, Running with Scissors was a big hit at Nevermore and received excellent reviews—and it quickly traveled to the hands of another reader, who was extremely excited to read it.

Nevermore also took a look at another memoir, Alligator Candy by David Kushner.  Kushner, an award-winning journalist and contributor to popular magazines like Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, among others, has written a poignant memoir about his childhood in the 1970s Florida suburbs—and the day his older brother, Jon, disappeared.  On the inside cover, it reads:  “Every life has a defining moment, a single act that charts the course we take and determines who we become.  For Kushner, it was Jon’s disappearance…”  Kushner, intent on discovering something new about his brother’s disappearance, returns to his hometown as a reporter and investigates that “defining moment” in the hopes of capturing something he lost long ago.  Our reader was intrigued by Kushner’s book; however, she discovered she wasn’t a big fan.  Although she finished reading Alligator Candy, she said it was a bit of a downer and not quite what she wanted to find this week.

Next, Nevermore took a look back at the Great Depression with Shiloh Autumn by Bodie and Brock Thoene.  Even in the heart of the Great Depression, the Canfield and Tucker families live peacefully in Shiloh, Arkansas—until the cotton market collapses in Memphis on October 1, 1931.  Based on the lives of Bodie Thoene’s grandparents, Shiloh Autumn is a “really wholesome [book], but it was really good,” according to our reader.  She said she was initially interested in the book because of the title, thinking it was a book about the Civil War and the Battle of Shiloh; however, she was surprised to find a very different story—and very surprised to find she enjoyed it.  While Shiloh Autumn was her typical fare, she found she was fascinated by the historical detail Bodie and Brock included in their novel and she said the story was particularly compelling.

 Product Details
Last, Nevermore went even farther back into history to take a look at the Civil War, specifically the architecture in Houses of Civil War America:  The Homes of Robert E. Lee, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, and Others Who Shaped the Era by Hugh Howard.  The title was a bit of a mouthful, but our reader really enjoyed reading Howard’s collection on Civil War era houses.  He said it was fascinating, calling it “a marvelous thing.”  Houses of Civil War America offered a comprehensive and insightful look into the houses of notable individuals involved in the civil war, offering both historical documents and a photographic tour of each of the homes.  It has lots of “super pictures” and history, which he enjoyed—and he especially enjoyed reading about Longwood (otherwise known as “Nutt’s Folly”) in Natchez, Mississippi.  An old antebellum mansion, Longwood was a house designed by Samuel Sloan with the unique occupants in mind, combining Italianate architecture with an octagonal design to create a truly unique residence; however, with the start of the Civil War, the Nutt house was never finished and has remained unfinished for the better part of 150 years.  It’s a wonderful coffee table book, our reader enthused.  He highly recommended it to everyone.

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