Library Column: New Adult Nonfiction

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2021

This column was submitted by Evangeline Cessna, Local History Librarian at the Warren County – Vicksburg Public Library.

This week’s column features New Adult Nonfiction.

Author Margalit Fox delivers an escape story worthy of Hollywood with “The Confidence Men: How Two Prisoners of War Engineered the Most Remarkable Escape in History.” Two British officers, Harry Jones and Cedric Hill, survived a two-month forced march and a terrifying shootout in the desert to be imprisoned in a remote Turkish POW camp during World War I. Jones was an Oxford-educated son of a British lord and Hill was a mechanic on an Australian sheep ranch. The two joined forces to hoodwink their authoritarian and brutal captors. Jones made a Ouija board and faked elaborate seances for his fellow prisoners in order to stave off despair and boredom. Word got around to the Ottoman officials and Jones was approached with a question: Could he contact the spirit world to find a vast treasure rumored to be buried nearby? Jones, a trained lawyer, and Hill, a clever magician, use the Ouija board — and their keen sense of human psychology — to build a trap for their captors that ultimately led to their freedom.

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“Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering” is by Scott A. Small. As director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, Dr. Scott Small has dedicated his career to understanding why memory forsakes us. His focus is largely on patients who experience pathological forgetting and the contrast that this form of forgetting has to normal forgetting — which we experience every day. Until recently, most everyone — memory scientists included — believed that forgetting served no purpose, however, new research in psychology, neurobiology, medicine and computer science tells a different story. Forgetting benefits our cognitive and creative abilities, emotional well-being and even our personal and societal health. As frustrating as this may seem, it is precisely what opens up our minds to making better decisions, experiencing joy and relationships and flourishing artistically. Small looks across disciplines to put new scientific findings into context while revealing groundbreaking development about Alzheimer’s disease.

Author Laurence Bergreen delves into the lives of two of Britain’s most celebrated figures with “In Search of a Kingdom: Francis Drake, Elizabeth I, and the Perilous Birth of the British Empire.” Before he was secretly sent by Queen Elizabeth to circumnavigate the globe or called upon to save England from the Spanish Armada, Francis Drake was, perhaps, the most wanted and prolific pirate ever to sail. The notorious red-haired, hot-tempered Drake pillaged galleons laden with New World gold and silver, stealing a vast fortune for his queen and himself. The Spanish nicknamed him “El Draque” and placed a bounty on his head, but Drake helped to transform a third-rate island kingdom into a dominating world power. In 1580, Elizabeth secretly called upon Drake to circumnavigate the earth, which he did successfully. (Ferdinand Magellan had died in his attempt.) Equal parts exploratory and raiding mission, Drake’s journey aboard the Golden Hind reached Patagonia, the Pacific coast of modern-day California and Oregon, the Spice Islands, Java and Africa. Almost a decade later, Elizabeth called upon the now Vice Admiral of the British fleet. Drake’s stunning defeat of the once-invincible Spanish Armada led to the British Empire’s ascent on the world stage.

Geek out with authors Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman in their latest: “Secrets of the Force: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Wars.” For the past four decades, no film saga has touched so many the way Star Wars has. The franchise has captured the imaginations of filmgoers and filmmakers alike. The authors have ambitiously decided to tell the entire story of this blockbuster franchise from the very beginning in a single volume. Featuring the commentaries of hundreds of actors and filmmakers involved with and influenced by “Star Wars,” as well as writers, commentators, critics, executives, authors and film historians, Altman and Gross reveal it all.

Dean Jobb tells the story of a serial killer in Victorian England—but not the one you think—in his latest “The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream.” In the span of 15 years, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream murdered as many as ten people in the United States, Britain and Canada. Poison was his weapon of choice and, though, not as well-known as Jack the Ripper, he was certainly as brazen. This book is structured around the 1892 London murder trial of the doctor, when he was finally brought to justice. Jobb exposes the blind trust given to medical practitioners, as well as the flawed detection methods, bungled investigations, corrupt officials and stiff morality of Victorian society which allowed Dr. Cream to prey on vulnerable and desperate women. As the Chicago Tribune wrote, “Dr. Cream’s crimes marked the emergence of a new breed of killer: one who operated without motive or remorse, who murdered simply for the sake of murder.”