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Posts from the ‘non-fiction’ Category


#Election 2020 (4) A Very Stable Genius

  • Author:  Carol Leonnig, Philip Rucker
  • Title: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America
  • Published: 2020    (480 pages)
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan



  1. I enjoyed this book very much and
  2. …at the same time it depressed me.
  3. How did we let a man like Trump anywhere near the White House?
  4. C.J. White House Press Secretary in the series
  5. …West Wing uses the phrase “full lid”.
  6. Press conference:  “You have a full lid on Christmas day.”
  7. This is to say that there will be no more news from the White House today. 
  8. Well, this book just  “blew the lid off The White House”!
  9. The book  reveals some  startling and spectacular insights
  10. …about Trump that we don’t see in the newspapers.
  11. A Very Stable Genius will find its audience
  12. …..hopefully before November 2020!
  13. #VoteBlueNoMatterWho



Trump:  A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America

  1. Legacy
  2. Damage flowing from his every word and gesture
  3. World leader
  4. Translated bluster into hard policy
  5. …withdrawal Paris climate accord, nuclear deal with Iran
  6. Character
  7. A name calling pigeon-chested schoolboy (Kim Jong-un, as Rocket Man)
  8. Foreign policy
  9. Trump looks like Bambi on ice.
  10. Homeland policy
  11. Pouring $$  into a fake emergency to stir up is political base (Finish the Wall!)
  12. while the rest of the country is in the middle of a storm!
  13. White House
  14. Staff chosen from ‘central casting’ as
  15. ….Trump seeks ‘the look’ (do the job and look the part).
  16. Revolving doors as advisors come and go.
  17. West Wing is in a constant state of damage control.

#Election (3) Unmaking of the Presidency

  • Author:  S. Hennessey,  B. Wittes
  • Title: Unmaking the Presidency: Donald Trump’s War on the World’s Most Powerful Office
  • Published: 2020    (433 pages)
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan



  1. Politics is not beanbag….it’s hardball.
  2. If you want to make an informed choice at the
  3. ballot box in November 2020 start by looking
  4. under the hood of Trump and his
  5. … Administration in the White House.
  6. This is not a book. This is an achievement
  7. The Electoral College ushered Trump into office 2016
  8. …despite losing the popular vote (3-4 million votes).
  9. If Trump wins again in 2020…the question is:
  10. has the public accepted as tolerable Trump’s presidency that
  11. …is fundamentally about the vanity of one individual?
  12. Be afraid, be very afraid in these dystopian times.
  13. #MustRead


  1. Speech:
  2. Stream-of- consciousness, (example East Room Speech dd 07 February 2020)
  3. Proudly illiterate; misspellings, Kansas City Chiefs
  4. …Super Bowl winners…from Kansas or Missouri?
  5. Trump does not speak to persuade, never makes an argument
  6. …but constantly repeats epithets (Sleep Joe, Shifty Schiff) and
  7. …slogans (MAGA, KAGA. Do Nothing Dems, Hoax, Witch Hunt)
  8. to  keep the base mobilized and validated.
  9. Lies:
  10. Trump does not ‘tap dance around the truth….he is a pathological
  11. …liar about everything!!  (example SOTU address dd 04 February 2020)
  12. Mueller Report:
  13. Trump feels like ‘victim-in-chief’.
  14. Kingship:
  15. I have the absolute right….to even pardon myself!
  16. Management style:
  17. Governs in eruptions;  Trump attacks opponents via Dept of Justice
  18. New York Times  Editorial Board dd 13 February was very clear:
  19. TRUMP does NOT have the authority to run the DOJ
    — like a goon squad at one of his failed casinos.
  20. What has Attorney Bill Barr done for Trump?
    misled the public about the findings from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III,
    cleared Trump of obstruction of justice,
    embraced Trump’s claim that the FBI was “spying” on him,
    worked to discredit the Russia probe,
    disputed the inspector general’s finding that the probe had a proper basis
    commissioned another probe in pursuit of his desired outcome
    declined to investigate the Ukraine allegations
    announced softened sentencing recommendations for Trump pal Roger Stone
    after Trump demanded it.
    investigating the prosecution of another former Trump aide, Michael Flynn.
  21. Foreign Policy:
  22. Shoot-from-the-hip deal-making,  does not want to listen to his Generals.
  23. Many foreign interlocutors simply ignore what the president says.
  24. But I don’t think the Turkish President Erdogan will EVER forget Trump’s
  25. ….brash personal letter in which he warned
  26. …not to be a “tough guy” or a “fool,” and
  27. …said he risked being remembered as “the devil”.  #OUCH



#Non-Fiction Surrender

  • Author:  Joanna Pocock
  • Title:  Surrender  (360 pg)
  • Published: 2019
  • Genre:  non-fiction (memoir)
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #WorldFromMyArmchair ( North American West)


  1. Joanna Pocock is writing realism in her essays
  2. about nature, environment and herself (memoir)
  3. ..but not in the traditional style.
  4. She details the the damage done to the environment (mining)
  5. ….that made me shudder.
  6. She details information about the people
  7. …in her life (family) and who she met in Missoula Montana
  8. …and on her road trips.
  9. Shock: Wolf trappers…Ms Pocock is on the side of the wolves!
  10. The Three Percenters…”3%-ers ” militia movements are growing.
  11. She shares her feelings during her adventure.
  12. “I was aware …that the land in the American West was not mine.”
  13. “…I felt at first lost and had no real concrete reason to be here.”
  14. But she did know that the West…had changed her.
  15. She would seek to give herself over to wilderness however she could.
  16. Best chapter:
  17. Joanna’s experience at the Ecosex Convergence in Washington state!
  18. Goal: make sex less shameful and environmetalism more sexy.
  19. Truly, this was a terrific section of the book.
  20. Ms Pocock stood among the other attendees, dressed in jeans and
  21. a warm fleece…surrounded by people
  22. in gauzy  “I Dream of Genie” numbers…!
  23. Joanna was open to the tribal approach at this jamboree
  24. …but ” I slipped out before the cuddle circle got going”.
  25. #Hilarious



  1. Montana has been the “last best place” for so many people.
  2. Ms Pocock’s book goes far beyond the pristine wilderness.
  3. She stands between youth and old age (52 yr.)
  4. There are moments Joanna does not want to be back in London
  5. …but does not know what to do about it.
  6. Marriage and children are ties that bind,
  7. …yet sometimes the ties can chafe – and strangle.
  8. Sometimes….all you can do is  Surrender
  9. …to your circumstances.
  10. #BrilliantWriting
  11. Chapeau au bas  for Joanna Pocock!


Feedback to Word By Word:

Claire, every memoir is different and it depends on the level of openness the writer dares to achieve especially concerning very personal thoughts. Joanna Pocock had the perfect balance: personal issues, feelings for nature and skepticism about some cultural practices in the American West. I learned so much from this book!


Feedback to WhatsNonFiction:

I’m sure you will love this book! Joanna Pocock has done her homework and she incudes many reference to the books she read about the American West, evironmentalism and essays by other authors she admires…for instance Rebecca Solnit “A Book of Migrations”. Trivia: Did you know the Appalachian Mountains is the second most biodiverse region in the world after the Amazon? I did not know that!



#AWW2020 Wild Sea: a history of the southern ocean

  • Author:  Joy McCann
  • Title: Wild Sea: a history of the southern ocean  (258 pg)
  • Published: 2018
  • Genre: non-fiction
  • Rating: C+
  • Trivia:  2019 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) longlist
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #AWW2020   @AusWomenWriter


The Southern Ocean:

  1. Solo sailors call it ‘the South’, as if to emphasize its alien difference.
  2. The Southern Ocean is a place most of us have never been to
  3. …and never wish to visit.
  4. It is a realm of cold grey skies and raging winds
  5. …that eternally circulate round the bottom of the world.


Antartic Circumpolar Ocean Current:



Ch 1 Ocean – continental drift

  1. Pangaea –> current pattern of continents –> creation of oceans
  2. The continents  don’t change or move independently
  3. …but are transported by the shifting tectonic plates.




Ch 2  Winds

Clipper Route…. took advantage of the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties winds….92 days London — Sydney 1862.




Ch 3  Coast

Located in the southern Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of Africa and just north of Antarctica are the Kerguelen Islands. A French territory, this island group (known as Îles de la Desolation in French) is considered to be one of the most isolated places on Earth.  (…2 little white dots!)



Ch 4  Ice     

  1. To sail from the Southern Ocean towards the open waters of the Ross Sea you have  to push through the ice a number of times….an ice barrier 100 miles wide.
  2. As the Southern Ocean is dominated by strong westerly winds it encourages a clockwise route.
  3. Antartica is only accessible for a few weeks in summer (January-February).
  4. By March ships risk being trapped in sea ice until the next spring.
  5. The ice begins to close in trapping you for the winter
  6. ….an experience no one is likely to survive.



Ch 5  Deep

  1. The ‘twilight zone is formally known as the dysphotic zone.
  2. Below 1000 meters lies the midnight zone…complete darkness.



Ch 6  Current

  1. ANIMATION of Antarctic Bottom Water
  2. A remarkably detailed animation of the movement of the
  3. …densest and coldest water in the world around Antarctica.
  4. The whale  is the totem of the Mirning people (Ngargangurie)



Ch 7   Convergence

  1. The Southern Ocean is no longer simply a remote space devoid of human habitation.
  2. The Earth is dependent upon the ocean’s heartbeat of seasonal ice
  3. …its carbon-filled lungs and slow circulation of its deep currents.
  4. Ocean covers 80 per cent of the Southern Hemisphere.
  5. Australia sits at an ocean cross-roads.
  6. Changes in the southern oceans may also alter the
  7. ….climate processes that control rainfall over Australia.
  8. We need to understand the influence of the
  9. …southern oceans on climate and sea levels.
  10. This book is a good place to start!
  11. #Bravo Joy McCann



  1. Detailing a mysterious realm that’s as vital to our existence as the air we breathe.
  2. Wild Sea: a history of the southern ocean
  3. is instructive, covering an area of knowledge that receives very little press.
  4. As the title says …it is a history
  5. …and Joy McCann uses many 19th C references.
  6. I must applaud the author because in her NOTES
  7. …she also  includes many links to websites
  8. …(Kindle edition) with a trove of information.
  9. The only weak point in the book is
  10. ….I was  always tempted to leave the text to often and explore
  11. the links  she provided!
  12. PS:  book contains some beautiful illustrations
  13. ….perfect viewing with Kindle!
  14. (…I never knew an albatross could be so big!! …see foto)
  15. Reading tips:
  16. Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans (2012)
  17. Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica T. Griffiths (2010)

#Non-Fiction The Moth Snowstorm



Finished: 19.01.202
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: C



  1. You can’t say M. McCarthy does not have a creative style.
  2. You will find Adam and Eve, Neil Armstrong, Prospero and Ariel from
  3. The Tempest….all on one page.
  4. Birds and butterflies swoop through the paragraphs.
  5. The estuary of the Dee is Elysium for McCarthy
  6. …..but not for me.
  7. This book is not my cup of tea!
  8. If you want to take a journey into nature
  9. …my recommendations are:
  10. Foxes Unearthed: A Story of Love and Loathing in Modern Britain by Lucy Jones
  11. The Shepherd’s Life: A People’s History of the Lake District by James Rebanks.

#Non-Fiction The Irish Writer and the World

  • Author:  Declan Kiberd
  • Title: The Irish Writer and the World (331 pg)
  • Published: 2005
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #ReadIrelandMonth20
  • #Begorrathon20


Ch 1 Introduction

Central theme – cultural forces which appear opposites often turn out to have common ground on which they can meet!
Goal – zone of free debate to allow an intelligent savouring of differences as well as similarities
Error – leaders ignore the ‘cultural domain and are led by mere politics.
James Joyce – perfect example….a writer who made himself European without ceasing to be Irish.


Ch 2 The fall of the Stage Irishman


Stage Irishman (19th C)
Caricature of an Irish stage drunk, clowning his way with stories between bars
He wears an Irish mask: exploiting the quaint Irish peasantry
for the amusement of a ‘superior’ foreign audience.
The stage Irishman was generally “garrulous, boastful,
…unreliable, hard-drinking, belligerent (though cowardly).

Anti-Stage Irishman
Caricature of an holier-than-thou Irishman
refusing any taint of the Stage Irishness.

Stage Gael
Caricature of the long suffering suffering peasantry of the west of Ireland
ignoring the awful poverty.
“Gaelic morons here with their bicycle clips and handball medals” (Flann O’Brien)

Stage Writer:
Stage Irishman is a thing of the past.
Ireland is in danger of replacing it with the Stage Writer:
…legendary drinking of Brendan Behan (died 41 yr)
Flann O’ Brien (died 54 yr) and Patrick Kavanagh (died 63 yr).

Irish Literary Modernism (20th C)
Seamus Heaney, Martin O’Cadhain and Sean O’ Riordain are
masters who brought Irish writing into the 20th C.
They gave their countrymen a true image of themselves.

19th C
Rejection on romantic Irish novelists (C. Wickham 1826-1882)
— dealing sympathetically with Irish life, manners, quaint customs
and the insuppressible humor of the peasantry.

20th C
Acceptance of new generation of writers
–“…which the people would be shown in all their naked hideousness” (Yeats)
That author was Flann O’ Brien (aka Brian O’Nolan). Novel An Béal Bocht
The Irish expression “to put on the poor mouth” is mildly pejorative.
Peasant farmers would exaggerate the direness of one’s situation
to evoke sympathy, charity of creditors and landlords or generosity of customers.


Ch 3  Storytelling: the Gaelic tradition

  1. “The best things come in small packages.”   (Anne Enright)
  2. The short story…
  3. has been the most popular literary form with readers.
  4. permits intense self-expression.
  5. author selects a single aspect of life to reveal his personality.
  6. is credible, written in private for the critical solitary reader.
  7. exploits minor triumphs, sadness  of the commonplace man.



  1. I was looking for insights into Irish writers and their works.
  2. I enjoyed the introduction, ch 1 about Irish stereotypes and
  3. ch 2 about Irish and short stories.
  4. Liked: ch 1-2-3 (15%)
  5. Disliked: ch 4-19
  6. The rest of the book was centered around
  7. nationalism, multiculturalism,
  8. do you write in Gaelic or in English….which is preferred?
  9. ..75th commemoration of the Easter Uprising,
  10. museums, colonialism, poets Synge vs Yeats etc.
  11. All are scholarly discussions worth reading
  12. ….but was not what I was looking for.
  13. #CherryPickWhatYouLike

#Non-fiction From Russia With Blood


Finished: 15.01.2020
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: D-


If you want REAL investigative journalism
read Luke Harding
A Very Expensive Poison

If you want to read a REAL Putin scholar
read Dr. Fiona Hill
Mr Putin: Operative in the Kremlin

Last thoughts:
Honest opinion? This book was a waste of time.
“old news” …if you have been reading the newspapers
since 2000!
I can’t imagine this as a page turner, except when I was turning
a dozen pages at a time hoping it would get better.




#Non-Fiction Nixon at the Movies



  1. This book was a delight to read.
  2. I love politics and the movies!
  3. The author uses movies Nixon choose to see
  4. …some multiple times…to expose the character of Nixon.
  5. It is a combination of a psychological biography and cinematic history.
  6. Nixon was in The White House  for 67 months.
  7. He screened no less than 500 movies!
  8. Nixon hated meeting people.
  9. But Nixon loved the movies
  10. Movies had all the vividness and pageantry of life
  11. —without any of the human complications.
  12. The movies were not only larger than life
  13. …they were safer than life.
  14. This quote in the epilogue sums it all up:
  15. “Where a Lincoln appeals to our aspirations,
  16. …a Kennedy to our fantasies
  17. …Nixon just is.”
  18. Trump spends his time on the golf course
  19. Obama romps on the basketball court and
  20. Nixon at the Movies!
  21. #MustRead



  1. Favorite movie: Patton
  2. Favorite actor(s): John Wayne and Clint Eastwood
  3. Favorite genre:  westerns
  4. Favorite director: John Ford



Mark Feeney (1957) is an arts critic for The Boston Globe.
  1. Feeney graduated from Harvard in 1979.
  2. He and worked for the paper ever since, as a researcher, writer, and editor.
  3. A finalist for the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
  4. He he won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

#Non-Fiction The Churchill Factor


Finished: 13.01.2020
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: A+++++



  1. I started this book before the UK’s general election.
  2. It is fascinating to see how Boris Johnson
  3. emulates his hero, Churchill!
  4. Winston Churchill tipped the scales of destiny in 1940.
  5. We should all be thankful for his courage, pluck and
  6. famous message June 1940 to the British people:


“We shall go on to the end.
We shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender…”




  1. This book was a delight to read!
  2. Not stuffy or dry
  3. …but filled with insights and humor as
  4. Johnson weaves the narrative between war,
  5. politics and Churchill’s personal life.
  6. Boris Johnson is a savvy politician
  7. ….but also an excellent writer!
  8. #MustRead
  9. PS: John Lithgow is wonderful as Winston Churchill
  10. in Netflix series The Crown...
  11. #MustSee

#Non-Fiction Samantha Power

  • Author:  Samantha Power
  • Title:  The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
  • Published: 2019
  • Genre:  non-fiction
  • Challenge 2020
  • Monthly plan
  • #ReadIrelandMonth20
  • #Begorrathon20


Finished: 08.01.2020
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: C


Part I
Ch 1- 6
Pretty basic childhood memories
SP (9 yr) was taken by her mother to America
after the breakdown of a marriage.

Ch 7- 12
I’m beginning to feel more engaged with the book than was initially the case. SP has digested the horrors of the Balkan conflict (war correspondent). She decided to enter law school to prepare her for a career in which she could influence the policymakers who might look away again from the atrocities of genocide.

Ch 13 – 18
SP does feel a profound disconnect between her personal good fortune and the rest of the world. She threads elements of her family story throughout the book.


Part 2:
Ch 19-40
The memoir finally begins to move ahead in a faster and more effective way.
I am very interested learning more about the insider’s account of foreign-policy-making.


Who is Samantha Power?
She is an Irish-American scholar  who won a  Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem From HelI.
Ms Power has devoted much of her career to promoting the use of American power (Obama administration) to halt mass atrocities.
She served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations 2013-2017.

How did SP get interested in ‘genocide’?

Ms Power was witness to genocide during the Balkan Crisis.
She a war correspondent for Foreign Policy magazine. When she enrolled at Harvard Law School she took courses about Holocaust related subjects. SP wanted to learn when was military force justified? Note: I’m reading this book as Trump decides ‘to take out” General Soleimani of Iran! Justified?


Last thoughts:

  1. Samantha Power (activist-turned-diplomat)
  2. …leads the life as a diplomat involved in juggling the
  3. demands of her job and those of her two young children.
  4. Ms Power left me with the feeling that she told us
  5. just enough about herself to make this book a ‘memoir’.
  6. What  I missed was Ms Power’s thoughts about her road to
  7. confirmation for U.S. Ambassador to the UN that was
  8. strewn with landmines.
  9. She never mentions it!
  10. Her main goal was to inform the reader as objectively as possible
  11. about the good work the Obama administration
  12. …did during her tenure as
  13. political aide and later as US ambassador to the UN.
  14. Samantha Power hopes that we do more
  15. …about our engagement in the world
  16. …and strengthening our democracy.
  17. As memoir….?  It did not touch
  18. my heartstrings…
  19. …very ‘chilly’ look back on her life.
  20. #WorthwhileButNotExceptional