Published on March 30th, 2011 | by Greg0
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.