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Published on March 30th, 2011 | by Greg


New Non-Fiction: From The Ivory Tower To Disaster Survival

We’ve been stuck inside for a while, avoiding the rain, but that’s meant plenty of time to curl up with a good book… or four. Today, we’ve got recent non-fiction covering a variety of topics, ranging from life tips from the Austen era to a sort of memoir on life as a teaching assistant. Walk along with us as we survey the latest literature!

We’ll start with the most apropos- what could be more up-to-the-minute reading than Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived. Scott Williams strings together several pretty great real-life stories from situations that we’ve probably all been afraid of, and discusses how to handle them. Everything from breaking down in the desert to being mauled by a bear are covered, and our favorite was the chapter on blizzards. It’s not a howto guide, precisely, but compellingly illustrates some general tips on how fairly average folks can make it through a catastrophe and come out alright… or not, as the case may be. From the practical (getting caught in a hurricane) to the less plausible (finding yourself trapped on an island), we enjoyed the voice and wished only that nuclear meltdowns had been covered. Of course, until recently, that would have been on our “implausible” list. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for an emergency. Ulysses Press, 296 pages.

Less useful, perhaps, is the Jane Austen Handbook. Some of our writers are big fans of Pride, Prejudice, Sense and even Sensibility. Subtitled, “A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide To Her World”, author Margaret Sullivan attempts to explain Victorian sensibility. Covering topics like dating, throwing parties, and running a household, the book is a clever idea but lacks in execution. The illustrations are nice, the explanations fairly interesting, but it falls short of the goals and also fails to broaden the audience for Austen’s works. Also, the tone was oddly sarcastic and a bit out of step with the material. Etiquette may be important, but there are far better ways to research the subject. Quirk Books, 224 pages.

On a similar note, Women Know Everything. Or so the book would have you believe, in this female-only source of quotations. There are plenty to enjoy- over 30,000 total- and unlike many similar books, this one offered many that we had never heard. Some sources are classic- Jane Austen makes an appearance- but so does Lady Gaga. And we loved the fact that the book didn’t shy away from controversy, featuring plenty of topics that were unexpected, like euthanasia. There are plenty of small surprises and more than a few large ones, and it was educational, inspirational, and entertaining. Quirk Books, 480 pages.

Finally, a book that sheds a light on the plight of the poor TA- underpaid, unappreciated, and untenured. In the Basement of the Ivory Tower lays out a pseudo-damning case blow-by-blow through the mid- and lower-tier higher education system of America. Beyond the tales of grade inflation, poor grammar, and other not-unexpected revelations, we found a pretty average plot masquerading as a wake-up call. Anyone with a passing familiarity will recognize the story and the characters, the tragedy and comedy. Unfortunately, those same people appear to be the primary and perhaps only audience for Professor X’s vivisection. There are the obligatory obscure references, but the whiff of “pity me” combined with a lack of real solutions or alternatives proffered, left us cold. Hiding behind anonymity, there still wasn’t anything too juicy here- skip it, and take a TA out to dinner instead. Viking, 288 pages.

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About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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