Blogger Cecilia McGowan

#PLA2020 Wrap-up 3: From the Personal to the Political: Nonfiction You Can’t Put Down

Oh, how I love informational books and what a stellar line-up of authors at PLA presenting their new books.

I knew Bob Garfield’s voice, but had never seen a photo of him, which is unusual for someone so well known; Bob is the longtime co-host of On the Media.  Bob’s new book is American Manifesto: Saving Democracy From Villains, Vandals and Ourselves.  He believes we should all become ‘bulwarks against the post-truth barrage.’  He has a established We the Purple: a nonpartisan coalition, campaign and movement.  As an aside and as we were in Nashville, Bob invited us to listen to two stories on his webpage: Tag You’re It, Part I & II, where he details how he is resolved to become a country music legend.

Bonnie Tsui said she wrote Why We Swim because she hates to run and loves to swim.  There are great books about runners, like Born to Run, but no books about swimming.  She set out to fix that by collecting stories about swimming and swimmers.  We are the only mammals that don’t intrinsically know how to swim; even bats can swim!  We learn to swim for survival, but once we do that it becomes so much more.  We swim for community, and as one of the last refuges from overwhelming connectivity.  Her stories made me want to jump in the water right then and there!

Megan Phelps-Roper is the granddaughter of the founder of the Westover Baptist Church, one of the most hated groups in our country.  In her memoir Unfollow, she details how her grandfather turned from being a warrior for racial equity to leading marches against gays, lesbians, funerals of veterans and anyone her family were sinners.  A chance Twitter conversation began her turn away from her family and all she wanted to do was just run away. Instead, she is reaching out to those that her family reviled.  Megan is a powerful, impassioned speaker and advocate.

Sara Seager is a MIT astrophysicist and author of the new memoir The Smallest Lights in the Universe.  She currently chairs NASA’s Probe Study Team for the Starshade project.  Her goal: to find a planet like earth, the chances of which are 1 in 10 billion.   After the untimely death of her husband, Sara is left with two young sons and is aided in her recovery from grief by reaching outside herself, including becoming a member of a group of widows in Concord.  But the stars and planets are also a solace.  She imagines aliens imagining us, also searching for meaning and connections with the other.  I’m looking forward to reading this compelling memoir.

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