In the Mail: Non-Fiction Edition

A Ball, a Dog, and a Monkey: 1957 – The Space Race Begins by Michael D’Antonio

Booklist

Competing with Matthew Brzezinski’s Red Moon Rising (2007), D’Antonio’s story of the space age’s opening shots has less about politics, more about rocketry, and is archly exuberant about the improvisations of the first orbital objects. To call them satellites might overdignify Sputnik and America’s first astronaut, Gordo the squirrel monkey. D’Antonio sardonically stresses that they and the unreliable rockets that blasted them into the heavens were ad hoc gadgets, rushed to launch pads in the frantic propaganda competition between the U.S. and the USSR. Any weird rocket idea in 1957-58 seemed like a sane idea, such as launching atom bombs into space or the recorded voice of President Eisenhower, assuring earthlings of America’s desire for peace. Besides narrating countdowns, missile failures, and nuclear explosions, D’Antonio also evokes the boomtown atmosphere of Cape Canaveral through two young reporters, Jay Barbree and Wickham Stivers, who cut their teeth on the space-age story. An entertaining writer, D’Antonio delivers the technological heroics on which spaceflight fans are keen.

Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets: Surviving the Public Spectacle in Finance and Politics by William Bonner

From the Inside Flap

Collectively, people think and act in ways that are different from how they think and act as individuals. Understanding these differences, says William (Bill) Bonner–a longtime maverick observer of the financial world and the vagaries of the investing public–is vital to preserving your wealth and personal dignity. From the witch hunts of the early modern world to the war on terror, from the dot-com mania to the real estate bubble, people have always been caught up in frauds, conceits, and wild guesses–often with devastating results. In Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets, Bonner and coauthor Lila Rajiva show groupthink at work in an improbable array of instances throughout history and reveal why swimming against the current pays. They explain why people so often abandon good sense and good behavior to “follow the crowd” and show you how to avoid getting caught up in the public spectacles around you.

More Than Eyes Can See: A Nine Month Journey Through the AIDS Pandemic by Rhidian Brook

Book Description

Sent in 2006 by the Salvation Army to bear witness to the work they were doing in response to the AIDS pandemic, Rhidian Brook, his wife, and two children follow a trail of devastation through communities still shattered and being broken by the disease-truck stop sex workers in Kenya, victims of rape in Rwanda, child-headed families in Soweto, children of prostitutes in India. It is a remarkable journey among the infected and the affected through a world that, despite seeming on the brink of collapse, is being held together not by power, politics, guns, or money, but by small acts of kindness performed by unsung people who choose to live in hope. The problem of AIDS and HIV is a cause supported by many well-known people and events. The recent RED campaign has received publicity due in part to its spokesman, Bono of U2. This book is aimed at a young, politically aware audience who wants to make a difference.

The Few: The American “Knights of the Air” Who Risked Everything to Save Britain In The Summer Of 1940

Publishers Weekly

With his customary narrative drive, Kershaw (The Bedford Boys: One American Town’s Ultimate D-Day Sacrifice) spotlights the handful of American pilots who joined the Royal Air Force and its fighter squadrons during the Battle of Britain. They have been overshadowed by or confused with the better-known Eagle Squadrons, which formed in the autumn of 1940 with the tacit consent of the U.S. government. Kershaw’s “few” were a vanguard, enlisting individually to operate the British Spitfire planes as early as May 1940, when England stood alone and her odds of survival seemed long. Crusaders and adventurers, the pilots ignored U.S. neutrality acts to fight from a mixture of principled opposition to Nazism, vaguely defined Anglophilia and sheer love of air combat at a time when it still seemed glamorous. Scattered by ones and twos among different squadrons, each had his own story, which Kershaw admirably contextualizes within the climate of the Battle of Britain. Using personal vignettes to convey the extraordinary routines of life in the cockpits, in the squadrons and in England, Kershaw evokes the heroism of these pilots, only one of whom survived the war whose tide they helped turn.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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