On The Shelf: New Adult Nonfiction for curious minds

Published 8:00 am Sunday, December 5, 2021

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

This week features biographies in our New Adult Nonfiction collection.

Journalist Anderson Cooper offers a glimpse into his family’s past with “Vanderbilt: the Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty.” Cornelius Vanderbilt was 11 years old when he began working on his father’s small boat ferrying supplies in New York Harbor. This was at the beginning of the nineteenth century. No one would have guessed that young man would go on to use his cunning and desire for wealth to build two empires — one in shipping and another in railroads. The staggering fortune he amassed was fought over by his heirs after his death in 1877, sowing the seeds of familial discord that would never fully heal. Vanderbilt’s son, Billy, managed to double the money his father left, but subsequent generations seemed to compete to find new and more extraordinary ways to spend it. This book moves from the impoverished wharves of nineteenth-century Manhattan to the lavish drawing rooms of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue and from the ornate summer homes of Newport to the courts of Europe, and all the way into modern-day New York.

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“The Approaching Storm: Roosevelt, Wilson, Addams, and Their Clash Over America’s Future” is a book by Neil Lanctot. This is the story of how the three most influential American progressives of the early 20th century fell out over America’s response to World War I. The most famous Americans on the national stage in the early years of the 20th century were Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Jane Addams — two presidents and a social worker. Each took a different path to prominence, yet all of them believed that the United States must assume a more involved role in confronting the growing domestic and international problems of the new age. This is the story of three leaders and how they debated, quarreled and split over the role the U.S. should play at the outset of World War I in 1914. It is the story of how and why the U.S. emerged onto the world stage.

Author Tristram Hunt delivers the biography of the man behind the world-famous Wedgwood pottery in “The Radical Potter: the Life and Times of Josiah Wedgwood.” Anyone who has thrown a fancy dinner party or filled a wedding registry has probably heard of Wedgwood pottery. Jane Austen bought it and wrote of it in her novels; Empress Catherine II of Russia ordered hundreds of pieces for her palace; British diplomats hauled it with them on their first mission to Peking, planning to impress China with their pottery. However, the life of Josiah Wedgwood was far richer than his ceramic accomplishments. He was a leader in the Industrial Revolution, a pioneering businessman, a stalwart scientific experimenter, a cultural icon and an ardent abolitionist. He did all this even while battling chronic disability and unrelenting pain. You see, a childhood bout with smallpox led to the amputation of his right leg. Drawing on the lush body of letters, journals and historical documents, the author paints a well-rounded picture of the Steve Jobs of the eighteenth century. Wedgwood was a difficult, brilliant man whose entrepreneurial spirit, personal drive and immense talent had a remarkable global impact.

Barbara Elleman tells the life story of one of children’s literature’s greatest stars in “The Worlds of Tomie dePaola: the Art and Stories of the Legendary Artist and Author.” Through engaging stories, childhood photos, illustrations and decades of celebrated books, the author captures the essence of this beloved author. dePaola’s work is filled with imagination, humor, grace and curiosity that represent a love for life that is reflected in everything he did. From autobiographical memories to folktales, religious stories, nursery rhymes (and more) we are transported through dePaola’s work — including his most famous character, Strega Nona. Originally published in 1999, this edition has been updated to include the final decades of the beloved children’s author’s life.

Actor and comedian Jamie Foxx has penned his memoir with “Act Like You Got Some Sense: and Other Things My Daughters Taught Me.” Foxx shares the story of being raised by his no-nonsense grandmother, the glamour and perils of life in Hollywood and the lessons he found in raising his two daughters. Though he has won an Academy Award and a Grammy, laughed with sitting presidents, and partied with the biggest names in Hollywood and hip-hop, Foxx is most proud of his role as father to two very intelligent and independent young women — Corinne and Anelise. He credits his late grandmother, Estelle Marie Talley, with teaching him everything he knows about parenting. He makes the effort to show up for them every day — even if they don’t share his love for Rolls Royce. Foxx shares up close and personal stories about the tough love and old-school values he learned growing up in the small town of Terrell, Texas; his early days hustling to make it in Hollywood; the joys and challenges of becoming a star; and how each phase of his life has shaped his parenting journey. At times equally hilarious, poignant and always honest, this is Jamie Foxx like the public has never seen him before.

“The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music” is by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. Having entertained the idea (and been encouraged) for years, Dave Grohl has finally decided to let fans know the stories of his life in his own voice. He hopes to shed some light on what it’s like for a kid from Springfield, Va. to walk through life while living the crazy dreams he had as a young musician. Grohl first hit the road at 18 with the band Scream, hooked up with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana,  and finally formed Foo Fighters. He has jammed with Iggy Pop, played at the Academy Awards, danced with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drummed for Tom Petty, met Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, and flown halfway around the world for an epic night with his daughters. Grohl offers his memories to us like the old boyfriend who made us a mixtape — with excitement and aplomb.