100 episodes

Nonfiction authors share compelling true stories & books with great ideas for living well. In addition to discussing captivating biographies & memoirs, these writers promote business & entrepreneurship, foster community-building, encourage health & wellness, strengthen home & family, and nurture personal development. Regardless of the genre, all the books we feature are insightful, inspiring, and uplifting. In the end, we save you time by curating long-standing classics, sleepers, and new releases. At Nonfiction4Life, we believe there's something for everyone!

Nonfiction4Life Janet Perry: blogger, podcaster, nonfiction book lover

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Nonfiction authors share compelling true stories & books with great ideas for living well. In addition to discussing captivating biographies & memoirs, these writers promote business & entrepreneurship, foster community-building, encourage health & wellness, strengthen home & family, and nurture personal development. Regardless of the genre, all the books we feature are insightful, inspiring, and uplifting. In the end, we save you time by curating long-standing classics, sleepers, and new releases. At Nonfiction4Life, we believe there's something for everyone!

    N4L 161: "Gone" by Linda K. Olson

    N4L 161: "Gone" by Linda K. Olson

    SUMMARY
    Radiologist, author, and speaker Linda K. Olson shares the story of becoming a triple amputee in her new book, Gone. On the cusp of becoming doctors, Olson and her husband are hit by a train in Germany, leaving Linda without three limbs. Uttered by her husband Dave just after the accident, the words “If you can do it, I can do it” become the couple’s mantra. Olson’s book, “A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life,” takes us through the arduous years of healing and rehab to the happy years of creating a family, pursuing a dream career, and traveling the world.
    KEY MOMENTS FOR OLSON
    Losing three limbs Choosing humor and happiness over misery Making lists of things to attack Learning to walk Living alone to finish a medical residency Getting pregnant and having two children Going on high-adventure camping trips Becoming a world-renowned radiologist Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease Giving motivational speeches around the world KEY QUOTES FROM THE OLSONS
    From Linda’s husband Dave in his first conversation with her after the accident: “I didn’t marry your arms and your legs….I married you—what’s inside." From Linda’s daughter Tiffany from her online writing class at UCLA: “I wanted everyone to know that her disability was only physical, not mental, and that she could do everything that everyone else could do." From Linda’s son Brian in his personal statement for medical school: “As a couple, my parents reveal the dedication and effort required in a genuine partnership. I have learned that what some call sacrifice is actually a combination of compassion, respect, and willingness—even eagerness—to change for someone else.” From Linda: “Attitude was the only thing I had control of, so my mind went into overdrive trying to be optimistic and cheerful. I pretended my brain was a muscle, which, if squeezed tightly enough, would power my way through, all the challenges ahead of us.” BUY Gone: A Memoir of Love, Body, and Taking Back My Life
    RECOMMENDATION
    Watch Linda do 22 one-arm pushups! Connect with us!
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    • 34 min
    N4L 160: "HumanKind" by Brad Aronson

    N4L 160: "HumanKind" by Brad Aronson

    SUMMARY
    Brad Aronson, author of the National Bestseller HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act a Time, discovered content when his wife was recovering from leukemia. Inspired by the many demonstrations of "humankindness" that supported their family through this dark time, he began writing a blog. Then, realizing that even the smallest of gestures from friends and strangers can lift, Aronson began seeking out simple acts of kindness across the globe. Collecting these good deeds of everyday heroes, Aronson now offers HumanKind. But it’s more than just a compilation of feel-good anecdotes. The book also provides a resource section filled with dozens of ideas, organizations, and service opportunities to motivate anyone wanting to “change the world one small act at a time.”
    "The most uplifting and life-affirming book in years" (Forbes). All author royalties go to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.
    KEY IDEAS
    Barriers to offering acts of kindness include feeling we can’t make a difference or feeling awkward reaching out to others. Small acts of kindness can have large ripple effects. The best way to start making a difference is by taking baby steps (e.g., sending a text, sharing a joke). Long-term follow-up is invaluable to those in long-term difficult circumstances. We don’t have to solve everyone’s problems; we just need to be there and be ourselves. QUOTES FROM ARONSON
    “I believe that most people are good.” “We all have different gifts to give—what’s important is rising to the occasion, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.” “Just doing anything matters!” “[Heroes] don’t command an army of helpers or have an abundance of free time. They’re everyday people who focus on what they can do to make a difference. Their acts of kindness change lives and even save them. These everyday heroes don’t just hope the world will get better—they make it better.” “Conversation is a medicine any of us can dispense and it provides lasting respite.” “No expression of love is wasted, and even the smallest gestures tend to go much further than we think they will.” BUY HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time
    RECOMMENDATIONS
    For many ideas to change the world one small act at a time, check out JustServe. Consider giving to or getting involved with Mentors International. Connect with us on social media!
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    • 41 min
    reluctant, genius, Gray, Bell, telephone

    reluctant, genius, Gray, Bell, telephone

    SUMMARY
    Much-decorated professor and accomplished author, Charlotte Gray chronicles Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention. Bell originally hailed from Scotland, emigrated to Canada for better health, and eventually settled in Boston, Massachusetts (USA) where he acted virtually solo while inventing what we know as the modern telephone. Although Bell felt miserable having to keep careful notes, his writings proved essential to his landmark patent, which ultimately made him the winner of the tight race to transmit human voices over wire. Says Gray, “His imaginative breakthrough is…what makes Alexander Graham Bell the quintessential inventor of the nineteenth century—the era when an untrained individual working alone could dream up such a crucial scientific advance.”
    KEY CHARACTERS
    Alexander Graham Bell – the father of modern communications and inventor of the telephone Melville Bell – Alexander’s father who taught him the physics and nuances of sound; inventor of “Visible Speech” to help the hearing-impaired assimilate into the hearing world; plagued by a degree of jealousy towards his son-in-law while also insisting Bell complete and submit his patent application Mabel Hubbard – student-turned-wife of Bell ten years his younger; went deaf at age five from scarlet fever Gertrude Mercer McCurdy – Alexander’s mother-in-law, a deaf woman, who insisted her daughter Mabel pursue rigorous intellectual achievements Gardiner Greene Hubbard – Bell’s father-in-law and business partner; instrumental in getting Bell to file a timely patent Samuel F.B. Morse – invented the Morse Code, an invention that catapulted the speed of communications Elisha Gray –rival inventor who first congratulated Bell then later disputed the win Thomas Edison – Bell’s contemporary and competitor; enjoyed the process of invention more than the inventions themselves Helen Keller – deaf and dumb genius; contemporary of Bell who often invited Bell to her own stage appearances Thomas Watson – Bell’s 22-year-old assistant of the famous “Watson, come here” moment QUOTES FROM GRAY
    “Electricity seemed to them like an invisible power, and if they could harness it, they could go to the moon.” “European ‘oralists’ appealed to the notion of speech as God’s special gift to mankind, which it was cruel to withhold from deaf children. Since the Renaissance, the human voice had been regarded as an image of the divine soul, and language as the source of civilization.” “[Bell] never accepted the argument that sign language was ‘natural,’ and he continued to insist that most deaf children were better off if they remained in the speaking world.” “Today, we can understand the technological revolution of Bell’s day only if we compare it with the impact that microprocessors have had on our own lives.” BUY Reluctant Genius: Alexander Graham Bell and the Passion for Invention
    RECOMMENDATIONS
    Watch “Telephone Hour” from the musical Bye Bye, Birdie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sPU3ymk2ms) BUY Dial M for Murder (DVD) BUY the '90s romantic comedy, Sleepless In Seattle, and see how the telephone plays an essential role in society. Connect with us on social media!
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    • 37 min
    N4L 158: "The Smallest Lights in the Universe" by Sara Seager

    N4L 158: "The Smallest Lights in the Universe" by Sara Seager

    SUMMARY
    In her memoir, The Smallest Lights in the Universe, author and astrophysicist Sara Seager shares her journey exploring both outer and inner space. An MIT professor standing on the cutting edge of discovering exoplanets, she is widowed at age 40 and plunged into deep grief. But with patience, time, and the help of a tight-knit widows’ group, Seager finds small lights to grasp while pulling herself out of overwhelming sorrow. When the piercing pain subsides, new connections serve as life-giving light.
    As the story unfolds, we see Seager’s professional work providing a metaphor for her personal life: “At its essence, astrophysics is the study of light. We know that there are stars other than the sun because we can see them shining. But light doesn’t just illuminate. Light pollutes. Light blinds. Little lights—exoplanets—have forever been washed out by the bigger lights of their stars, the way those stars are washed out by our sun. To find another Earth, we’d have to find the smallest lights in the universe.”
    KEY POINTS
    In contrast to watching a baby grow and develop, watching someone die means taking steps backward every day. Helping our loved ones die peacefully is our gift to them. Timing and cause don’t really affect losing a loved one; grief is grief. Healing is enhanced when the person left behind has few or no big regrets. Finding like-minded people going through a similar experience of loss is very helpful. Being a widow is like having no emotional reserves—no extra emotional strength—so when anything goes wrong, widows can come unglued. Being there for a friend months and years after she loses a spouse might be even more important than helping her immediately after. Those who heal best from grief give into the feelings and exercise patience. QUOTES FROM SEAGER
    “When you hit rock bottom through grief…or depression or anything, you have to hold on to those smallest lights…the smallest glimmer of hope to climb out.” “My life became a study in contrast, the light and the dark, the hopeful and the hopeless. I spent my days at MIT with my students, trying to see. I spent my evenings at home with Mike, pretending to be blind.” “When you lose someone, you don’t lose them all at once, and their dying doesn’t stop with their death. You lose them a thousand times in a thousand ways. You say a thousand goodbyes. You hold a thousand funerals.” “The lesson I took from it? The universe might be infinite, but our appetites for exploring it are finite, and so are our resources. Time is the most precious resource of all.” BUY The Smallest Lights in the Universe: A Memoir
    RECOMMENDATIONS
    BUY or watch The Theory of Everything, the story of another brilliant astrophysicist and futurist Stephen Hawking.
    BUY or watch Hidden Figures, the story of smart African American mathematicians who worked at NASA.

     

    • 29 min
    N4L 157: "Flying Free" by Cecilia Aragon

    N4L 157: "Flying Free" by Cecilia Aragon

    Author Cecilia Rodriguez Aragon, once a shy, timid child riddled by fear, shares her breakout memoir, Flying Free: My Victory over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team. Her book, 20 years in the making, features Aragon facing her fears head-on through learning to fly. With fierce determination matching her mathematical superpower, she becomes the first Latina pilot to secure a place on the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Team. But her journey to "flying free" includes much, much more. Aragon not only overcomes her fear but she also conquers racial and gender prejudices as well as her own mental barriers to getting a Ph.D. in engineering from UC Berkeley.
    KEY POINTS
    Life is unfair. Women are often taught to abdicate authority and not be in command. Change usually happens gradually, one day at a time, through doing daily, small, challenging tasks. Visualization costs nothing but is a very effective way of honing skills. Saying “no” to things too many times boxes us into a safe, boring life. QUOTES FROM ARAGON
    “I had been living a very narrow life and letting my fear define me, and then, at one point, I realized that living life too safely was dangerous for my spirit, and I decided to do something that was terrifying to me.” “Flying became my art, my science, and my passion. I used my training in math to optimize split-second performances in the air.” “Everybody has something that can help them achieve anything.” “When you face your fears, and triumph over them, life opens up before you, becomes more exciting, larger, and more vibrant.” “I’ve learned this about having a dream: It doesn’t matter if you tell anybody or not. What matters is that you make some progress in that direction every day.” BUY Flying Free: My Victory Over Fear to Become the First Latina Pilot on the US Aerobatic Team 
    RECOMMENDATIONS
    Listen to Nonfiction4life Episode 86: Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien
    Listen to Nonfiction4life Episode 137: Limitless Mind by Dr. Jo Boaler
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    • 40 min
    N4L 156: "On With the Butter!" by Heidi Herman

    N4L 156: "On With the Butter!" by Heidi Herman

    SUMMARY
    Heidi Herman serves up her latest book, On With the Butter! Spread More Living onto Everyday Life. Taking the title from an Icelandic expression meaning “Carry on, keep doing what you’re doing, forge ahead, and keep moving!” and inspired by her nonagenarian mother who lived by this mantra, Herman compiles dozens of ideas to fully embrace each day with enthusiasm and curiosity. She includes both spontaneous and planned activities for a rich life filled with zest, offering a wide variety of activities and challenges for those in retirement or for anybody with a little free time looking to add some fun and adventure to everyday living.  
    SOME "BUTTER" IDEAS
    “Grandmas Project,” spearheaded by Jonas Pariente, allows families to capture videos of older family members sharing their heritage through cooking or sharing recipes and skills that they want to pass on. “Take the scenic route” by traveling by train or bus. Keep learning by taking advantage of free community classes, going to museums, or attending lectures at nature preserve. Volunteer in places you love—National Parks, libraries, gardens, and nonprofits. “Musicians on Call” connects musicians and singers who bring music to healthcare facilities. “Be a hometown tourist” by referencing brochures in hotels, using resources from the Chamber of Commerce, touring local factories, and checking online for nearby events. QUOTES FROM HERMAN
    “Being spontaneous—even occasionally—also prevents us from getting into ruts and opens the door to more connection with our family and friends. And it turns out that playing life by ear can be beneficial for our health and happiness.” “There’s no reason that the lack of a companion should stop us from visiting someplace new. In most cases, if we’re enjoying a park, a museum, or a gallery alone, no one will take a second look. Likely, no one will care or find it odd if we’re alone…Let’s not worry about what other people think.” “There is no maximum age for new experiences and no expiration date for a challenge. To truly reach life’s full potential, we should never stop pushing ourselves toward something new. Testing our limits helps us determine what we’re fully capable of, whether that’s a physical accomplishment, a mental challenge, or a leadership achievement in a group.” “As adults, we often have to remind ourselves that it’s okay to play, laugh, and joke around and that, in fact, it’s healthy. Too often we avoid play because we’re self-conscious about looking silly, especially as we get older.”
    BUY On With The Butter: Spread More Living onto Everyday Life
    RECOMMENDATIONS
    Listen to Episode 139 of the Nonfiction4Life podcast with Jo Giese, "Never Sit If You Can Dance."
    https://www.nonfiction4life.com/139-never-sit-if-you-can-dance-jo-giese/
    Listen to Episode 12o of the Nonfiction4Life podcast with Melody Warnick, "This Is Where You Belong."
    https://www.nonfiction4life.com/120-this-is-where-you-belong-melody-warnick/
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    • 29 min

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