Prather’s Pick: Two nonfiction books for adults |

Prather’s Pick: Two nonfiction books for adults

Diane Prather

This week’s column has information about two nonfiction books for adults. The first is another book by Susan Branch.

A couple of weeks ago, this column reviewed “Martha’s Vineyard” by Branch. It’s a handmade book, based on her diary when she was in her 30s, divorced from her husband, and having made a move from California to Martha’s Vineyard.

So then Moffat County Library in Craig I found another of Branch’s books, “A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside,” for me through Interlibrary Loan. This book was written earlier than the other but when Branch was 65. (I know; that’s confusing.) It’s also based on her diary.

The first few pages of the book go back in Susan Branch’s life when she had been divorced for five years and had decided she was finished with men forever. But then she met Joe, a chef at a local restaurant. Fast forward to their 25 anniversary; to celebrate, they decided to take a voyage to England and spend two months exploring the English countryside.

Susan kept a diary of their trip, beginning with their voyage on the ocean liner. The couple took photos, she made sketches of rooms in houses, flowers and china, and she copied down recipes.

The couple visited lots of villages and towns and the homes of William Morris, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Beatrix Potter (who Susan especially admired) and others. Some of the properties are preserved in a National Trust so the houses are just as they were left.

When she returned home, Susan put her diary into book form. Like “Martha’s Vineyard,” this is a homemade book, printed by hand and filled with watercolor art, photos, quotations and recipes (such as Milk Cake and Lemon Butter Cookies).

It’s a charming, “feel good” book. “A Fine Romance” is published by Vineyard Stories (2013) and sells for about $26.95.

The second book featured in this week’s column is not such a “feel good” book. “Crisis of Character” was written by Gary J. Byrne (with Grant M. Schmidt). Byrne served law enforcement for nearly thirty years, including U.S. Air Force Security Police, the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service, and most recently as a Federal Air Marshall.

The subtitle of the book — “A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate”— is a summary of what the reader can expect to find in the book.

In the introduction to the book, Byrne writes that he always “dreamed of becoming an elite White House Secret Service Officer, a member of its Uniformed Division.”

His dream came true. Byrne stood guard outside the Oval Office, “the last barrier before anyone saw Bill Clinton.”

The “anyone” included Monica Lewinsky. Byrne saw Hillary, too, and a lot more. He has written this book in hopes that people will read it before going to the polls. It’s not a “feel good” book, but it’s a powerful book.

“Crisis of Character” is published by Center Street, Hachette Book Company (2016). The hardcover book costs about $27.00 or you can find it with the new books at the Craig Branch of the Moffat County Libraries.

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