The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America by Lauri Lebo
This was an impulse read. I suppose it might be odd that I chose to read about a evolution/intelligent design court case on impulse, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The book was mentioned in passing during an interview I watched with actor John de Lancie (“Q” on Star Trek: The Next Generation). De Lancie is a secular activist and has been working on a play based on the trial.
The trial is Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Basically, in the early 2000s, some members of the Dover Area School Board sought to add creationism (later, intelligent design) to the local public school’s science curriculum while downplaying the validity of evolution. Some parents of students had a problem with this, seeing it as a violation of division of church and state. The teaching of creationism in public schools had already been ruled against: creationism is seen to be a religion-based concept that furthers only a specific religion. The crux of Kitzmiller v. Dover came down to whether intelligent design is an actual scientific theory not based in any religious (Christian) faith and whether the proposed addition constituted as “teaching.” The judge ruled for the parents in a 139 page decision.
Lauri Lebo is a Pennsylvania native and was a local reporter during trial. The Devil in Dover is about the trial and the events leading up to it, but also focuses on relationships between people on both sides of the issue, her own relationship with her fundamentalist Christian father, and her shift away from religion. Many of the people involved in the case were neighbors and most were Christians, though not necessarily of the same denomination. There was also libel and potential perjury on the part of the defendants, which is not a good look for people who claim to be interested in the souls of others.
The Devil in Dover was published in 2009, but there are aspects of it that still seem very relevant. Lebo states near the beginning of the book that she believes 9/11 changed the US in a bad way. That it made it easy to embrace an “us against them” attitude where “they” are evil even when they are your literal or figurative neighbors. I’m not sure I entirely buy the notion that the change occurred particularly after 9/11, but it’s baffling to me how much division there has been when we really needed to be united.
I’m not going to participate officially in Nonfiction November because I don’t think I have time to put together posts each week, but I do want to give a shout-out to the event. Reading nonfiction often gets overlooked as being dry or not being as important as “literature.” False dichotomy! Nonfiction is a wide genre, knowing how the world works is always a good ting, and some nonfiction is just as narratively driven as the best fiction. So, anyway, if you like nonfiction and want to celebrate it or you’re new to nonfiction and want some recommendations, check out the event all through November. It kicked off Monday with Rennie at What’s Nonfiction:
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?
I generally try to read about a 30% nonfiction during the year. Right now I’m hanging out at 37% with my two in-progess books also being nonfiction. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve read and what’s going on in 2021.
Books about writing:
Or at least tangentially about writing. It seems I’m trying to come back from what I’ve recently described as my mid-life hiatus.
- Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide by John Cleese – recommended! It’s short and rather comforting book about, well, creativity.
- Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg (re-read)
- The Call of Stories by Robert Coles (re-read)
- Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury (re-read)
- Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders
- The Letters of Shirley Jackson, edited by Laurence Jackson Hyman (in-progress, but so far, recommended)
Not as many magic books as in years past, probably because I’ve maybe been paying too much attention to what I’m “supposed” to be reading.
- Strange Cures by Rob Zabrecky – recommended! The least magical of the bunch, this is Rob Zabrecky’s autobiography of living in drug-soaked California as a member of Possum Dixon and later as a magician.
- The Coney Island Fakir by Gary R. Brown
- Jay’s Journal of Anomales by Ricky Jay
- David Copperfield’s History of Magic by David Copperfield, Richard Wiseman, and David Britland (in-progress)
Horror in media:
Why? Don’t know, but I have watched a lot of horror movies since April of 2020. A lot.
- The Science of Women in Horror by Meg Hafdahl and Kelly Florence
- Nightmare Movies by Kim Newman
- Danse Macabre by Stephen King – recommended! Even if you’re not a fan of Stephen King or even horror, this is a pretty good primer on horror tropes and what they say about American society (at least from 1950 to 1980).
Science history related:
One of my favorite sub-genres of science nonfiction is the history of science. Or maybe one of my favorite sub-genres of history is where it intersects with science. (See also, magic books.)
- The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale – recommended! Also “magic books” related, but much more about the psychology that is behind the want/need to perpetuate a certain type of con, in this case mediumship.
- The Reason for the Darkness of the Night by John Tresch – recommended! A great Poe biography, but also about the advancement of science in the US during Poe’s lifetime; how each influenced the other.
- Tesla: Inventor of the Modern by Richard Munson
So, that’s a microcosm of my reading this year. I’m sure my TBR will be freshly filled up with great nonfiction titles by the end of the month!
Week 4 is hosted by Katie @ Doing Dewey
New to My TBR : It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!
Sheesh, I guess December is coming up next week which means that this is the last week of Nonfiction November. I added a little of this and a little of that to my TBR list, which is just the way I like nonfiction!
- My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams via Books are My Favorite and Best.
- The Burning of Bridget Cleary by Angela Bourke via 746 Books.
- Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent & Sara Vladic via Julz Reads.
- Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad by David Haward Bain via Lou Lou Reads.
For “Expert Week,” I asked from some sports recommendations. Here are a couple on the top of my virtual TBR!
- ROAR by Samantha Lane via Book’d Out.
- The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey via Reader Buzz.
Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction is Week 3’s host:
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I’m going for all three this week! My subject? Sports! People who knew me in high school or college would probably be surprised to find that I’ve become a player of a sport and a fan of sports.
Three books I’ve read and would recommend:
- A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton by John McPhee – The other book about a sport I’ve read by John McPhee (aside from this year’s Levels of the Game).
- Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis – I love that sports books are usually about a story but also about a system. Here I learned about baseball and also about the Oakland A’s.
- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis – I didn’t remember that both Moneyball and The Blind Side were both by Michael Lewis. Obviously, he’s a stand-out in this genre.
Three books I want to read (and all are available at the library right now!):
- Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth by David Gessner – This is the sport I play, but I haven’t read this book yet!
- Dust Bowl Girls: The Inspiring Story of the Team That Barnstormed Its Way to Basketball Glory by Lydia Reeder – Ladies and the history of basketball (probably my favorite sport to watch)? Yes, please!
- Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano (trans. Mark Fried) – This one is cheating a little. I’ve read the first few chapters of this book for a Sport & Society class I’m currently taking.
And finally, I’d like some recommendations. I’m especially looking for sports book by women, or sports books for younger readers. Anyone read anything that should go on my TBR?
Julie @ Julz Reads is hosting week 2:
This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
Week 2 of NonFic November is always a challenge, but especially since I haven’t read too many magic books this year!
I realized as I finished reading Moby-Dick earlier this year that I’ve become one of those people: I’m going to reread the novel over and over again for the rest of my life and I’ll tell you about it if you ask me. As I reread this last time, I also read Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby-Dick by George Cotkin. Cotkin has a chapter for each chapter of Moby-Dick, each riffing on a theme, a piece of history, or (most interestingly to me) how the novel has become a part of pop culture.
This might be a slightly controversial pairing because The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson has come to be considered, let’s say, less than factual. But when I read it in my teens, it was a true, account of a haunting. To some extent, the ambiguity makes it the perfect pairing for Home Before Dark by Riley Sager.
One of the magic books I did read this year was The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski. Since it’s all about how Houdini has become as much of a character as he was a person, I figured I’d pair that book with one of the many team-ups of the magician with the world’s most famous detective: Sherlock Holmes and The Escape Artist by Fred Thursfield. I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my rainy day TBR list.
Your Year in Nonfiction
NonFiction November! The only good part of October ending…
Leann @ Shelf Aware kicks off week one with:
Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
My nonfiction ratio is a little low this year, thus far (only 25%), but it’s been full of gems. Unsurprisingly, one of my favorites has been Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. It’s been highly recommended now for years and hits on my fascination with deception. More surprisingly, I really enjoyed The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski. Houdini is not my favorite guy, but because I love magic history I’ve read more about him that I really want to. It was pleasant for an author to have a newer take on Houdini. Along with a basic biography, Posnanski asks, “Why Houdini? Why is he the cultural touchstone that he is?”
I’ve read a few books this year about writing and the writer’s life. I started last December rereading all of Helene Hanff’s books, mostly as comfort reading, but hers is a writing life I envy. I also read Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker, Take Joy by Jane Yolan, and Draft No. 4 by John McPhee.
I haven’t recommended much this year because I’ve been a little more insular than usual. I don’t know why that would be… So, I’m looking forward to chatting about nonfiction and getting recommendations as well as giving them. From this year’s reading, I want to recommend The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini and the other John McPhee book I read, Levels of the Game, bios (sort of) of Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner as they play first US Open tennis match.
NonFiction November TBR
Here’s what I’d like to read this month:
- Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life by Gaby Wood
- The Tale of Terror: A Study of the Gothic Romance by Edith Birkhead
- Strange Cures by Rob Zabrecky
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 30) – New to My TBR
Hosted by Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction:
It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!
Oh, man. In week three, I asked for recommendations for true crime & books about true crime and you all OBLIGED. Mostly, I added recs to my TBR that sounded appropriate and were available at one library or another. I’m sure I’ll be returning to that comment section in the future though.
So, lets start off with our host this week, Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction? who suggested Savage Appetites: Four True Stories of Women, Crime, and Obsession by Rachel Monroe (which I immediate put in a hold request for) and The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson.
Since it was immediately available, I checked out Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers by Scott Bonn suggested by hmsgofita. Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out recommended The Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr and If I Tell You . . . I’ll Have to Kill You by Michael Robotham, among a bunch of other books with lots of focus on forensics and writing crime fiction.
Julie @ JulzReads pointed me to her whole expert page from 2016. This sparked off my noticing Columbine by Dave Cullen all over the place (The Lowery Library and Never Enough Novels that I bookmarked, probably others too). I checked it out and am about 50% finished reading it. It’s heavy stuff.
Therefore, I needed some other reading too. Plucked from the Stacks posted about Broadway flops. I am fascinated by behind-the-scenes stories of movies and theater. There are so many people and so many things can go wrong! So, Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History by Glen Berger and Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops by Ken Mandelbaum are definitely going to be reprieve reading.
So many good books! It’s been another great Nonfiction November.