From the publisher: The first book by a confirmed survivor of Ted Bundy, and the only memoir to challenge the popular narrative of Bundy as a handsome killer who charmed his victims into trusting him.
I haven’t read that much true crime. I’ve read a lot about John Wayne Gacy because I was in high school in the Chicago area when his horrors were discovered, but I didn’t know much about Ted Bundy going into this memoir. I held the popular beliefs that he was charming and intelligent in addition to being a serial killer. Kathy Kleiner Rubin was one of the young women he attacked when she was sleeping in her sorority bedroom, and she has a lot to say about how Bundy is viewed in popular culture.
The author makes the case that what we believe about Bundy is wrong. He was not charming; most women he approached found him creepy. Most of his victims were not lured into his car by a sad tale that he spun but were attacked in their beds or from behind by Bundy. He was not intelligent or learned; he was a poor student who had no aptitude for the law or anything except killing.
I had no idea how many suspected victims Bundy had. I knew he was brutal but didn’t know his preferred technique was to bash his victims in the head first, before violating them. The author is only a few years older than me, and I found her passionate defense of Bundy’s victims very moving. The memoir very much gave me “there but for the grace of god go I” vibes.
Kathy Kleiner Rubin is very resilient and a true survivor. She has one son, Michael, and he didn’t find out until he was 37 years old that the attack she suffered in college was at the hands of the notorious Ted Bundy. When he found out, he called her in shock. Toward the end of her book, she writes, “Michael was a big part of my happiness in life. During that phone call, as he kept repeating ‘you were so normal’ he brought up the pool parties I hosted for his birthday and other things I did to make his life as ordinary as possible. To me, this was one of my great accomplishments in life. Bundy was on a sick and twisted journey and he dragged his victims down the path. After I survived the attack, I dug in my heels so that he could pull me no further.”
There is some information about the author and her husband surviving Katrina which felt like filler, but aside from that the narrative flowed. The author has a lot of encouraging words for others who are fighting battles. Her words and memories are very inspirational. Appendix A is a list of the women and girls who lost their lives to Bundy, which is very reverential and which I read with great care. As the author points out, none of them are to blame for being murdered by a monster. Appendix C has a helpful list of ways to replace his narrative with remembrances of his victims.
If you like memoirs of people who have overcome great obstacles, or if you’d like to know more about Ted Bundy’s victims, I recommend A Light in the Dark.
I read an advance reader copy of A Light in the Dark. It is scheduled to be published on October 3, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.
From the publisher: A fascinating look at Walt Disney’s last, unfinished project and the controversy that surrounded it, including the budding environmental movement that made sure the resort never saw the light of day.
I’m a huge fan of Disneyland, Disney World, Disney movies, and their creator, Walt Disney. Walt Disney revolutionized animated films and theme parks. He truly was an American genius. (And I think he’d be appalled at some of the things being done in his name today.) When I saw a book was coming out about his attempts to build a Disney ski resort destination, I wanted to read it.
I’m afraid to say I did not find the entire book to be “fascinating,” no matter what the blurb says. Parts of the book I did indeed find fascinating, but I think this book could have been a great essay. The book appears to have been exhaustively researched. There are 18 pages of footnotes, a 2 page bibliography, and a 7 page index. There is no doubt that the authors did indeed find the subject fascinating.
The book opens just three months before Walt Disney’s death from lung cancer in December 1966. Right up until the end of his life, he was excited about goals he had for the Disney company. If he had managed to turn California’s Mineral King valley into a Disney resort, it would probably have been amazing. This book tells the story of the environmentalists who were determined to stop the resort from being built. (I got a definite sense that some of the people who already lived in the valley wanted to keep it pristine for themselves. It reminded me of a quote, attributed to Dennis Miller, that I heard my environmentalist brother-in-law repeat more than once: “A developer is someone who wants to build a house in the woods. An environmentalist is someone who already has a house in the woods.”)
I did find parts of the book interesting, and I learned things that I did not know. It’s only about 200 pages (not counting the footnotes and index). If you are attracted to all things Disney, you may want to read Disneyland on the Mountain.
I read an advance reader copy of Disneyland on the Mountain from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be published on September 13, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.
Welcome book enthusiasts! Today is an exciting day for all you nonfiction lovers, as we share some of the most recent true stories to hit our shelves. From captivating biographies that illuminate untold stories, to thought-provoking explorations of science, history, and culture, this latest release of nonfiction books promises to expand your horizons and challenge your intellect. Join us as we delve into the pages of these newly released works that are set to redefine the way we perceive the world around us.
Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food by Chris van Tulleken
It’s not you, it’s the food.
We have entered a new age of eating. For the first time in human history, most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food. There’s a long, formal scientific definition, but it can be boiled down to this: if it’s wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you wouldn’t find in your kitchen, it’s UPF.
These products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption. They are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally and the number one cause of environmental destruction. Yet almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed. UPF is our food culture and for many people it is the only available and affordable food.
The Happy Home: The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Home That Brings You Joy by Chelsea Foy
This lovely and inspirational guide, organized around six joyful qualities, will show you how to create a happier home, through prompts, quick fixes, afternoon projects, and mindful design and organization— The Happy Home is not just a title, it’s a promise.
Energize. Uplift. Comfort. Calm. Empower. Express. The road to happiness is paved with good emotions. In fact, a happy home is infused with these six actions and this cheerful book will help you create a space you love and that loves you back. Lovely Indeed creator Chelsea Foy offers up more than 50 creative ideas to engage all the senses to brighten your mood throughout your home. This book sits at the intersection of HGTV home improvements and design, thoughtful Marie Kondo practices, and a cheery color palette fans of the Home Edit will love.
Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders by John Glatt
Among the lush, tree-lined waterways of South Carolina low country, the Murdaugh name means power. A century-old, multimillion-dollar law practice has catapulted the family into incredible wealth and local celebrity―but it was an unimaginable tragedy that would thrust them into the national spotlight. On June 7th, 2021, prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh discovered the bodies of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on the grounds of their thousand-acre hunting lodge. The mystery deepened only months later when Alex himself was discovered shot in the head on a local roadside.
But as authorities scrambled for clues and the community reeled from the loss and media attention, dark secrets about this Southern legal dynasty came to light. The Murdaughs, it turned out, were feared as much as they were loved. And they wouldn’t hesitate to wield their influence to protect one of their own; two years before he was killed, a highly intoxicated Paul Murdaugh was at the helm of a boat when it crashed and killed a teenage girl, and his light treatment by police led to speculation that privilege had come into play. As bombshells of financial fraud were revealed and more suspicious deaths were linked to the Murdaughs, a new portrait of Alex Murdaugh a desperate man on the brink of ruin who would do anything, even plan his own death, to save his family’s reputation.
Owner of a Lonely Heart: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen
At the end of the Vietnam War, when Beth Nguyen was eight months old, she and her father, sister, grandmother, and uncles fled Saigon for America. Beth’s mother stayed—or was left—behind, and they did not meet again until Beth was nineteen. Over the course of her adult life, she and her mother have spent less than twenty-four hours together.
Owner of a Lonely Heart is a memoir about parenthood, absence, and the condition of being a refugee: the story of Beth’s relationship with her mother. Framed by a handful of visits over the course of many years—sometimes brief, sometimes interrupted, sometimes with her mother alone and sometimes with her sister—Beth tells a coming-of-age story that spans her own Midwestern childhood, her first meeting with her mother, and becoming a parent herself.
Mystical Mushrooms: Discover the Magic & Folklore of Fantastic Fungi by Aurora Kane
Mystical Mushrooms defines the beauty of mushrooms by focusing on their magical connections and symbolic meanings through folkloric tales and superstitions throughout the world. Go for a walk in the woods on any given summer day and you may find yourself surrounded in fungi galore as they lay nestled among the ferns and trees. After a rainstorm, peek out in your backyard and you may see tiny spores sprouting from the grass, forming what is known as a fairy ring. Mushrooms grow in all shapes, sizes, and colors and—depending on where you live—you might find some that are conducive to magic practice. Mystical Mushrooms enters this realm, exploring the magical properties, mythological connections, and symbolic qualities of the fungi that so intrigue us . Author Mandie Quark takes you on a journey through the mystical universe of mushrooms. From Buddhist traditions to the concept of fairy rings, Quark reveals how mushrooms have long been entwined with the supernatural in art, literature, and religion.
LGBTQ Family Building: A Guide for Prospective Parents by Abbie E. Goldberg
From surrogacy and adoption, to transgender pregnancy and finding child care, parenting as an LGBTQ person is complex. This book is an authoritative, comprehensive, and easy‑to‑read guide to parenthood and family building for LGBTQ people.
The path to becoming a parent is complicated for LGBTQ people. Some LGBTQ people don’t consider parenthood because of stereotypes and barriers, while others are interested in parenthood but unsure about the first steps or overwhelmed by the path to take. Still others are discouraged by the attitudes of their family, community, or religion.
Incurable Optimist: Living With Illness & Chronic Hope by Jennifer Cramer-Miller
At twenty-two, Jennifer Cramer-Miller was thrilled with her new job, charming boyfriend, and Seattle apartment. Then she received a devastating autoimmune diagnosis—and suddenly, rather than planning for a bright future, she found herself soaking a hospital pillow with tears and grappling with words like “progressive” and “incurable.”
That day, Cramer-Miller unwillingly crossed over from wellness to chronic illness—from thriving to kidney failure. Her chances of survival hinged upon on the expertise of doctors, the generosity of strangers, and the benevolence of loved ones. But what kind of life would that be?
When a Loved One Has Dementia by Eveline Helmink
A vital source of solace and compassion for those whose loved one has dementia, rooted in the author’s unflinching experience of caring for her mother.
Dementia enters life through the back door, slipping in unnoticed. Once it’s there, it can make you feel powerless, angry, and unsure how to move forward. When her mother developed dementia, Eveline Helmink wasn’t prepared. As she learned firsthand, when your loved one is suffering, it takes a toll on you, too.
From the publisher: Not much is harder than figuring out how to love your partner in all their messy humanness—and there’s also not much that’s more important.
At a time when toxic individualism is rending our society at every level, bestselling author and renowned marriage counselor Terrence Real sees how it poisons intimate relationships in his therapy practice, where he works with couples on the brink of disaster. The good news: Warmer, closer, more passionate relationships are possible if you have the right tools.
This is one of those books that I think everyone should read. Even though it’s designed to help those in romantic relationships, this book changed how I see all of my relationships. Real encourages readers to question the individual-centric culture that is prevalent in western society and reminds us that social connections, on multiple levels, have been necessary for a healthy society since the dawn of humanity. He encourages people to be more patient and empathetic with one another, asking the reader to ask themselves: how is what I’m about to say going to make the other person feel? Real also reminds readers that if the goal of arguing with their partner is to win the argument, both parties end up losing. Though it’s easy to say what one should do when not upset, Real provides sound advice by asking readers to take a deep breath and remind themselves that they love the person they are arguing with before hurling insults or attacking that person’s character.
Having worked with thousands of couples, Real provides clients’ stories as case studies to exemplify his points. Real proves to be a trustworthy source, as he is able to admit his own biases when working with clients. I listened to the audiobook, which is available through Libby. Real himself narrates the book. I always appreciate it when authors narrate their own books, because I think they know the most effective intonation and inflection to convey their message. Clocking in at 10 hours, this book was so easy to digest and flowed so smoothly that I listened to it in pretty much one sitting.
From the publisher: Grace M. Cho grew up as the daughter of a white American merchant marine and the Korean bar hostess he met abroad. They were one of few immigrants in a xenophobic small town during the Cold War, where identity was politicized by everyday details—language, cultural references, memories, and food. When Grace was fifteen, her dynamic mother experienced the onset of schizophrenia, a condition that would continue and evolve for the rest of her life.
Cho’s memoir is a beautiful and heart wrenching blend of food, reflections on racism in America (especially rural America), and the multifaceted struggles of mental illness (especially in “older” women of color). Her reflections are very deeply thought out and articulate, and she takes great care in exploring each issue minutely. Cho is a very intelligent person– she has a doctorate in Sociology and Women’s Studies– and it shows in her writing without being overbearing or condescending. In addition to her firsthand experiences, it is obvious that she has dedicated a lot of research to back up her writing.
It’s easy to feel close to Grace because she’s so honest about her thoughts and feelings. She isn’t afraid to question her own perceptions and actions, and the way she describes events with such detail and emotion makes it easy for the reader to empathize with her. Though she writes in a flowing, easy-to-digest style, Cho’s non-linear time skips made the timeline a bit hard to follow at times. Perhaps this would have been easier to follow in print– I listened to the audiobook version, which is available on Libby. It is 10 hours long and narrated by Cindy Kay, who does a good job of distinguishing speakers.
Though I was already familiar with schizophrenia and the effects it can have on families, I liked how in-depth Cho questioned what triggered her mother’s psychosis. Cho explores the nuances of her mother’s difficult upbringing influenced by Imperial Japan, the Korean War, and the United States military presence in addition to broader influences such as migrant experiences in the United States and the patriarchy. Throughout the story, Cho weaves the idea that these factors likely had an impact on her mother’s mental health. Overall, this is a fascinating read that covers a lot of ground.
From the publisher: Central Park birder Christian Cooper takes us beyond the viral video that shocked a nation and into a world of avian adventures, global excursions, and the unexpected lessons you can learn from a life spent looking up.
This is a compelling memoir of an ordinary person thrust into the limelight after an encounter in New York City’s Central Park with an unleashed dog and its owner.
Christian Cooper is a regular guy who found fame when he asked Amy Cooper to leash her dog in an area of Central Park known as the Ramble during bird migration. She reacted by calling the police on him, and his video of her behavior went viral. I don’t know whether Christian Cooper was asked to write a memoir or it was his idea, but he’s a good writer and I enjoyed it a lot. He’s funny, and thoughtful about his word choices.
I suspect some readers who pick up this memoir will be disappointed because there’s too much about birds. I suspect some birders who pick up this memoir will be disappointed because there isn’t enough about birds. Cooper takes us through his years before and after the video, documenting his life as a Black, male, gay, birdwatching nerd and sprinkling in birding tips as he goes.
I might not seem to have a lot in common with Cooper – I’m a white straight woman – but I am a birdwatcher and a nerd who loves Star Trek, and I’m about the same age as Cooper. Our shared pop culture experiences resonate! Reading Better Living Through Birding was like sitting down with a friend for coffee. Christian Cooper is a confident guy who stands up for what he believes in. His birding by ear skills sound legendary. He’d be fun to bird with.
I liked that the memoir covered a lot of ground and a lot of normal issues. Awkwardness with dad. Frustration with mom. Pushing the boundaries at work. Spending free time obsessed with a hobby. Modeling behavior after a character from pop culture. Dealing with coming out as gay. Encountering casual racism. This may or may not be the memoir for you, but if it intrigues you at all I recommend giving it a chance.
I read an advance reader copy of Better Living Through Birding from Netgalley.
It is scheduled to be published on June 13, and it will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.
Are you a history buff? Amateur chef? Thinking about getting some backyard chickens? We have the books for you! Read up on these new nonfiction titles and pick one up today!
First up we have The Ship Beneath the Ice: The Discovery of Shackleton’s Endurance by Mensun Bound. This book tells the extraordinary story of how the Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s legendary lost ship, was found in the most hostile sea on Earth, told by the expedition’s Director of Exploration. Complete with captivating photos from the 1914 expedition and of the wreck as Bound and his team found it, this inspiring modern-day adventure narrative captures the intrepid spirit that joins two mariners across the centuries—both of whom accomplished the impossible.
If you’re looking for a way to spice up your dinners, look no further than Yogurt & Whey: Recipes of an Iranian Immigrant Life by Homa Dashtaki. As founder of the much-loved The White Moustache Yogurt company, Dashtaki employs the same traditionally Iranian methods of making yogurt that her family has for generations in her kitchen today. Her passion culminates in inspiring the use of a new ingredient: why, the liquid gold extracted from straining homemade yogurt.
Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them by Tove Danovich is part memoir, part animal welfare reporting. From a hatchery in Iowa to a chicken show in Ohio to a rooster rescue in Minnesota, Danovich interviews the people breeding, training, healing, and, most importantly, adoring chickens.
Have you ever wondered why Bernie Madoff thought he could brazenly steal his clients’ money? Or why investors were so easily duped by Elizabeth Holmes? Or how courageous people like Jeffrey Wigand are willing to become whistleblowers and put their careers on the line? Then you need to check out Fool Me Once: Scams, Stories, and Secrets from the Trillion-Dollar Fraud Industry by Kelly Richmond Pope.
As graphic artist Rhea Ewing neared college graduation in 2012, they became consumed by the question: What is gender? This obsession sparked a quest in which they eagerly approached both friends and strangers in their quiet Midwest town for interviews to turn into comics. A decade later, Fine: A Comic About Gender came about. This graphic novel is sure to intrigue!
From the publisher: A news-making account of the war between David Koresh’s Branch Davidians and the FBI, and how their standoff launched today’s militias.
I don’t know why two books are being published in January 2023 on the standoff that took place in Waco, Texas in 1993, but they are and I read them both.
I found Waco Rising by Kevin Cook to be the more engaging, and the more frightening, of the two. Waco by Jeff Guinn is good but not great. Waco seems exhaustively researched; it is very detailed and at times repetitive. Waco Rising, on the other hand, included information I’d never heard or read before. For example, Guinn talks about the Branch Davidian dogs that were shot by agents, but Cook talks about the eleven tiny puppies that were inside, not outside in a pen, the chickens, and the “hunger-mad goose” penned up with the dead dogs. Details like these really brought the setting to life.
Cook’s retelling of what happened in at the Branch Davidian compound in the spring of 1993 moves at a much brisker pace, and without as much repetition (although there is still repetition – a good editor could have tightened up both of these books). Cook’s book is much more critical of the decisions made by the ATF and especially the FBI. Cook draws a direct line between Waco to Oklahoma City to Alex Jones to January 6th. FBI negotiator Gary Noesner calls Waco “a self-inflicted wound for the FBI. It contributed to a broad antigovernment sentiment that’s out there today.” (p. 157 of the advance reader copy)
If you want to know more about the standoff between government agents and the Branch Davidians, and how the event is affecting the United States today, you may find either or both of these books worth reading.
I read advance reader copies of Waco and Waco Rising from Netgalley.
Waco and Waco Rising are available for checkout from the Galesburg Public Library.
From the publisher: A relentless detective and an amateur genealogist solve a haunting cold case — and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy. Genetic genealogy, long the province of family tree hobbyists and adoptees seeking their birth families, has made headlines as a cold case solution machine, capable of exposing the darkest secrets of seemingly upstanding citizens. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate: Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age—the right to the very blueprint of who we are?
I’ve been reading a lot of true crime, and The Forever Witness is a great example written by an experienced and talented writer. Edward Humes is a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist who pays extreme attention to detail and can really turn a phrase. This book weaves together multiple cold case murders with fascinating information on how far genetic genealogy has come. It challenges us to think about the ramifications of using genetic genealogy to uncover criminals using the DNA of innocent relatives.
The story focuses on the murders of two young Canadians, Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook, who travelled to the US in November 1987 to pick up a furnace for his father’s service and repair business. Their bodies were found in two separate remote locations a few days after they disappeared, and they had been killed in very different ways. Thirty years later, the crime still had not been solved; then came new developments in genetic genealogy.
The author does a great job helping us get to know the young couple by presenting little details about their lives. He sympathetically presents the anguish of their friends and relatives. As fascinated as he is by the science used to uncover the truth, he is sensitive to the fact that he is writing about real people.
The segue into discussion about genetic genealogy was technical but also fascinating. I learned a lot. In 2016, a company called Parabon NanoLabs introduced cutting-edge DNA technology called Snapshot that can generate a composite sketch of a suspect from DNA trace evidence. A couple of examples are included in the book, of Snapshots and the actual killers, and the similarities are striking.
In the end, a true crime novel that reveals a killer is both sad for the victims and satisfying when justice is done.
I read an advance reader copy of The Forever Witness from Netgalley.
The Forever Witness adds a riveting layer of science to the true crime template. If you enjoy true crime works that also cover science and discuss pressing social issues, you may enjoy The Forever Witness. The Galesburg Public Library will own it once it is released in late November.