I’ve never really been a non-fiction girl. Most of the time, it is dry reading. Boring. Facts and figures with very little to make me want to care about them.
Oddly enough though, I just finished one non-fiction book and am in the middle of another.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
I *loved* The Radium Girls! The author does an incredible job of telling their story. You almost do not even know that it’s non-fiction. It’s exciting, page-turning, suspenseful, and you really come to know the girls. The author gave them a life that endures. Their voice, their experiences, their suffering, their pluck and determination, their zest for life, their faith and loyalty… it is all amazing and inspiring.
I suppose you could say that I was already inclined toward this book, as I used to be a Nuclear Reactor Operator in the Navy. And to an extent, this is true. There is a certain wonder and fascination with radiologic material. But, in my time, also a healthy caution, respect, and sometimes fear. I live in an age which is after things like Nagasaki, Hiroshima, and Chernobyl. We know of the power and destruction that fissile material can cause. We also know how it can be used in positive ways, including in the fields of medicine and power generation. I suppose you could say that I am a proponent of nuclear energy.
But reading this book gave me this sense of horror from the beginning. These girls were literally using it as makeup some evenings. *Coating* themselves in it. It made me want to reach over and pluck those brushes right out of their mouths and give lengthy lectures. Throughout the book, I was wondering about the lingering radioactivity of items that came in contact with the girls. Towards the end, the author commented on how a sister of one of the girls developed cancer later in life which was likely ascribed to the fact that the two girls had shared a bed. What about the radioactivity of their houses? Their beds? The plumbing that was surely coated in radium after they showered at the end of the day? The book describes the impact that the sites of USRC and Radium Dial had on their communities, but what about the effect the girls had on their neighborhoods? It leaves an Erin Brockovich question mark in the air.
I loved this book. Not because it was cheery, but because it is important. More than that, I came to really love the girls. I read this book when I probably should have been sleeping. In the middle of the night both Thursday and Friday night. Their story resonates with me and is not one that I will soon forget. I finished it sometime around 3 am this morning — all 496 pages of it. I had borrowed it from the library, having snatched it up from the New shelf. It had been published in April and I remember having been interested in it when I first saw it months ago in a Barnes & Noble, but it had fallen off my radar until recently when I paid my library fines and again went to pick up way too many books for me to possibly read before their return dates (Horrible, I know, but I can’t help taking too many and then owing money – my civic duty is monetarily supporting the library via fines, apparently).
I can only highly encourage everyone to read this book. Even if you only read one non-fiction book in a decade, read this one.
Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back by Nathan Bomey
This is another book that magically fell into my hands as I was perusing the library. I am only about half-way through this book. I originally checked it out from the library, but didn’t start it until after it was due. I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that it was on the HITS list and due back in a week. As soon as I got the email notice about it’s overdue status, I thought about reading it quickly before returning it, but at 336 dense pages, it was not likely that I would finish soon. So I returned it and purchased an audiobook version from Audible. This is what I have been listening due during my commutes to and from work this week.
I’ll have to say that it’s not nearly as engaging as The Radium Girls was, especially as it revolves around banks, politicians, and lawyers — not typically genres of interest for me. But I *do* have a fondness for Detroit and its people. The author does a good job of making a somewhat dry tale interesting and giving flavor to the main players surrounding Detroit’s bankruptcy and restructuring. I’ll let you know the rest of my thoughts after I finish the read (or listen, as the case may be).
One of my planner friends, Monica, turned me onto a podcast (and website) called What Should I Read Next (Modern Mrs. Darcy) by Anne Bogel. I’m constantly amazed by how many books they can mention in the course of a single podcast! It definitely feeds the bookworm in me and makes me want to read more. I think she is currently on episode 91, which gives me lots of catching up to do!
Not non-fiction, but this morning I took my car in for an oil change and started reading yet another library book. I’m about 90 pages into that one and will likely finish it sometime this weekend. I’m about to head out to the library to return The Radium Girls and have my eye on picking up a few more books. See you soon!