Wednesday, July 13, 2016

July's Celebrity Picks: Ken Burns



KenBurns_credit_Cable_RisdonKen Burns is the go-to guy when it comes to smart, engaging documentary films and this month he's translated that into book form by making nonfiction fascinating to kids.  Grover Cleveland, Again!: A Treasury of American Presidents was inspired by Burns' daughters and their love of naming the presidents, always exclaiming, "Grover Cleveland, again!" when it came to Cleveland's second non-consecutive term.  

GroverClevelandAgain200Burns' book introduces kids ages ten and up to each President's legacy and fun facts about the men when they were outside the oval office.  The book is written for kids, but I've gotta say, it's pretty interesting for adults too...

So what does a renowned documentary filmmaker read in his spare time?  Below are some of Burns' favorite recent reads.

 *photo credit Cable Risdon


 

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 The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
 
This is Mukherjee's magnificent follow up to his Pulitzer Prize winning history of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies. It is his genius (and wry wit) to be the Agatha Christie—or more appropriately the psychologically penetrating Georges Simenon—of us. This is a scientific detective story that keeps you riveted to discoveries that inch closer to answering: "Who am I?"
 

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No one knows more about the presidency in the 20th century than Bill Leuchtenburg. In his nineties, he has produced this massive, eminently readable guide to the men who led this country during one of the most consequential and calamitous centuries in history, keeping their humanness as well as their policies front and center.
 

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I am reading Isabel Wilkerson's masterpiece for the second time. She frames the Great Migration (of African Americans from the Old Confederacy to the North) with three spellbinding true stories, each coming during a different decade, as blacks sought a better life elsewhere. Wilkerson never loses sight of the larger context, while her three narratives dance off the page with danger, discrimination, and determination.
 

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This second volume of Peter Coyote's autobiography proves, once again, that he has crammed more into one amazing lifetime than ten other mortals. He does so with elegance, unflinching self-criticism, and dramatic flair. And the man who emerges is better for his experience—not always the case with the rest of us.
 

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 The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
 
What makes this debut novel so riveting is that, besides being so well written and so historically accurate, it gives the Vietnamese a voice in their own story, not overshadowed by…uh….us. It's a beautiful, poetic book about love, war, politics, and intrigue.
 


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