Category Archives: non-fiction

The First Conspiracy by Brad Metzler and Josh Mensch

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The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington
started as a footnote in history. Brad Metzler wanted to know more. He and Josh Mensch did extensive research, collecting historical documents and personal letters.

The book is written like a suspense novel in the present tense. Metzler does a good job or informing you what is fact, supposition, or old rumors. It is repetitive in some areas, somewhat like facts given in a court case. I’m not trying to criticize the book, I loved it. I’m just giving a warning that it reads like a combination mystery novel/history text book. It does give glimpses of the life of average people, also explores the beginnings of the Secret Service and the C.I.A.. You get an insight of the beginning of the Revolutionary War, how the army was built and how divided the country was between Loyalists and Patriots.

The First Conspiracy starts with the execution of one of the men involved in the conspiracy
only days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It then backtracks telling what led up to that point, leading you through the conspiracy and what ultimately led to the conspirators capture.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Highly Recommended

Vertical Vegetables by Amy Andrychowicz

cover artVertical Vegetable: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space is a great book for everyone interested in gardening, if you have a balcony, a small yard or even if you have a large garden but want to grow more with the same size garden. Many of the ideas are not only functional, they are very decorative.

Vertical Vegetables is wonderfully illustrated with very detailed instructions. Some of the projects are very simple others would require some construction skills. I love that each project has a detailed material list, a list that shows the exact length of each piece of material needed, also pictures of each step of the building process. Andrychowicz also goes into selecting the right plants and the maintenance required.

This is the author’s first book. She has had a website,, for some years and she has many followers and encouragement to write the book. Her website is nice with good ideas.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Shelley Clark
Rating:  Recommended

Damned Lies and Statistics by Joel Best

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Damned Lies and Statistics is a clear and concise description of the importance of critical thinking when looking at everyday statistics. While a useful book for those just beginning to learn about the statistics, it is mostly repetition for those who have taken a statistics course. I recommend this book as a review for those who know statistics or as a good way of gaining the fundamentals of stats. For those who already know the basics around statistics, I recommend Freakonomics instead.

Availability:  USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Izzy Lott
Rating: Recommended

The Train To Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell

cover artThe Train To Crystal City: FDR’s Secret Exchange Program and America’s Only Family Internment Camp During World War II

I love history, but I haven’t read much about World War II. I knew about Japanese internment camps, but I thought that only the Japanese had been in camps. I was very surprised to find out that Germans and Italians were also placed in camps. I knew that most of the Japanese in California had been rounded up, but according to the book the only reason that all of the Germans weren’t rounded up was because there were too many and they didn’t have enough facilities. Many of the children that were detained were U.S. citizens. Even more shocking was that countries in Central and South America cooperated with the U.S. , mainly Costa Rica and
Peru. Military personnel were sent down there and brought back Japanese, German, and Italians that were living in those countries, took their identification papers and then arrested them for being in the U.S. illegally.

The book follows two families, one Japanese and one German. It describes their life at Crystal City and continues with their being repatriated (I don’t know how it would have been repatriation for the American children that had never been to the country). They were exchanged for people the U.S. wanted returned (in some cases the people they were traded for weren’t even U.S. citizens).

There are family pictures included in the book and it does follow to later years. The author was able to use declassified files and first person interviews. I feel this is a historical Must Read, but
I am going to put Recommended with Reservations. The book is disturbing, but I believe should be read.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Shelley Clark
Rating: Recommended with reservations

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner

Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner was an easy read, but the principles extolled were age old, despite being presented as cutting edge. The author interviewed countless 20 somethings who were in positions of highly creative jobs, many of which they’d created themselves. He also interviewed their parents and former teacher/mentors. He determined students who don’t have to regurgitate facts, who can explore freely areas of interest, and who are able to collaborate are more likely to become adults who think outside the box… Which is exactly what the US needs. Fine thinking, but nothing new.


Availability:  USMAI
Review Submitted by: M Denise Brace nee Lerch (’82)
Rating: Not Recommended

Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold

cover artAmity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America

Journalist Eliza Griswold spent several years in southwestern Pennsylvania, tracing the fortunes of one family who sold their mineral rights to an energy company. The promise of easy money for a new barn is quickly betrayed by escalating costs: hundreds of trucks rumbling by, kicking up dust and damaging roads; constant grime on the windows and walls; sick and dying livestock; poisoned groundwater; and ongoing health issues, mental and physical, for the family and their neighbors. Griswold explores the history and culture of the region, the knot of regulatory agencies and industry ties, and the ensuing years of litigation. I was very impressed with how deftly Griswold wove together a very complicated story. Her emotions are clearly intertwined as well, in a way that demonstrated her empathy and showed how deeply she herself was involved in the story: the book itself is dedicated to the protagonist’s two kids.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating: Highly Recommended

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Well

cover artDavid Wallace-Wells’ book, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, synthesizes decades of climate research to offer a terrifying, unblinking look at the world that we, and our children and grandchildren, are going to inhabit. Wallace-Wells looks at everything from rising seas and desertification to what climate change means for our culture and our existential sense of ourselves. This book was unnerving, to say the least — not an enjoyable read but a compelling one. The saving grace of Wallace-Wells’ narrative was the fact that human activity created this crisis, mostly in the last fifty years, and humans now face a choice on what to do about it — that is, we don’t have to be resigned to the terrible inertia of the current moment. We all have a responsibility to read this book, and to sit with that awareness and dread, so that we can motivate ourselves to change direction.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating: Must Read
Challenge: Published in 2019