Brady Clemens

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, where it was almost obligatory to take a junior high class trip to Fallingwater. I remember very little about my visit, other than enjoying the woods around the house and wondering why all the beds seemed so small. I knew nothing about the famed architect behind the house. It was an ignorance that I decided to finally remedy with Paul Hendrickson’s new biography, “Plagued by Fire: The Dreams and Furies of Frank Lloyd Wright.”

BookMark: "The End Is Always Near" By Dan Carlin

Aug 6, 2020

Normally, a book recounting the long history of disaster, collapse, and near misses wouldn’t rank highly on the list of things to read during a pandemic. Yet the new book from history podcast host, Dan Carlin, covers a tough topic with insight and a bit of humor that makes it a far more interesting and less grim work than it could have been! "The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses" takes us from the very beginnings of civilization up through the 20th Century.

BookMark: "Edison" By Edmund Morris

Apr 2, 2020
Brady Clemens reviews "Edison" by Edmund Morris.

Nearly 90 years after his death, the name Thomas Edison still stands as a synonym for invention and technical wizardry. Yet aside from a short list of his inventions, I couldn’t say that I knew all that much about him. So, when I saw that Edmund Morris had written a new biography—titled simply “Edison”—I couldn’t resist learning more. Morris is perhaps best known as the author of the magisterial three volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt, of which “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” won the Pulitzer Prize.

BookMark: "The Good Neighbor" By Maxwell King

Feb 6, 2020

Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, it was almost a given that young children watched at least a few episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” And I’m pretty sure I watched more than just a few! I remember well the episode where we saw how crayons were made, as well as the episode where Mister Rogers visited a lighthouse. The Land of Make Believe was a familiar place – both on the show, and the ride at Idlewild Park, which my family and I visited several summers in a row.

Brady Clemens reviews "Our Man" by George Packer.

A few years ago, I read George Packer’s “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.” It was a haunting portrayal of the slow unraveling of the United States through the life stories of many individuals. Like so many others, I found the book to be fascinating. So, it was with great interest that I saw Packer had published a new book, this time focused on the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke. I recalled the name Holbrooke, but couldn’t say I knew a lot about him. Given how much I had enjoyed “The Unwinding,” I thought this book too would surely be worth a read.

History makes a great story when it’s told well. And who can resist a good story? I certainly can’t. Having been a history major in undergrad, I may be particularly susceptible. So when I came across Matthew Kneale’s new book, “Rome: A History In Seven Sackings” in the leisure reading collection at Pattee Library, I had to check it out.

It's almost too obvious to be worth pointing out, but healthcare impacts everyone. And it seems like there's one thing everyone can agree on. Healthcare is expensive, whether we're talking about drug prices or insurance premiums. It wasn't always like this. The story of how healthcare got this way is the subject of Elisabeth Rosenthal's book “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back.” I'm always interested in current events, and with the battles over healthcare on the national stage, this book seemed particularly timely.

BookMark: "The Grapes Of Wrath" By John Steinbeck

Jul 26, 2018

When the list for PBS’ Great American Read program was released, I was pleased to see that among several favorites, John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” made the cut. Steinbeck has long been in my universe of preferred books. Over the course of a few years while I was a teenager, I made my way through several of his works, including “Of Mice and Men,” “East of Eden,” and the lesser known but deeply comic work “Tortilla Flat.” But of those books, it’s only been “The Grapes of Wrath” that I’ve returned to repeatedly. Since I rarely re-read anything, that says a lot.

BookMark: "Rise of the Necrofauna" By Britt Wray

May 17, 2018

The past few years have seen a veritable flurry of renewed interest in the idea of bringing extinct species back to life. Multiple books, articles and even a few TED talks have each approached the topic from different angles, or focused on different species. A new book on the topic caught my attention, not only for its approach, but also for the almost haunting art that graces its cover: the skull of a woolly mammoth and the head of a wooly mammoth facing each other across a dark background.

BookMark: "Fire And Fury" By Michael Wolff

Jan 25, 2018

Since the week before it was published, Michael Wolff's “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” has been, by far, the most-talked about book in the country. The furor, prompted by an angry denunciation-by-tweet from the President, a cease and desist letter from his lawyers and salacious details from the book making their way into the press, immediately catapulted it to bestseller status. Being a political junkie, of course I couldn't resist giving it a read. I rushed through it in just a few days.

BookMark: "Weird Dinosaurs" By John Pickrell

Dec 14, 2017

Anyone who knows me for more than ten minutes knows of my deep and abiding fondness for dinosaurs. It’s a holdover from that phase most children go through, re-ignited for me during a summer class on the extinct beasts during college. Yet the drawback of being an adult who loves dinosaurs is readily apparent when you visit the shelves of your local library or bookstore. Most dinosaur books are aimed at a far younger audience than myself, and the books for adults are often more technical works.

BookMark: "Beren and Lúthien" By J.R.R. Tolkien

Sep 7, 2017

One of the joys of being a Middle Earth enthusiast is that, over forty years after the death of J.R.R. Tolkien, new works from his papers continue to be published - a remarkable feat for any author. No matter how regularly this happens, news of a new Tolkien book still manages to surprise as well as delight. My own joy at hearing of the forthcoming publication of “Beren and Lúthien,” edited by Tolkien’s son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien, left me quite literally jumping up and down with excitement, to the mild bemusement and possible chagrin of my co-workers.

BookMark: "Worst. President. Ever." by Robert Strauss

Jan 12, 2017

I've long been fascinated by the occupants of the White House, and with the history of slavery in the United States. Given that, a book like Robert Strauss' new biography of James Buchanan, “Worst. President. Ever.,” was going to be a must-read regardless, even if it hadn't been given such a catchy title.

If you are familiar with science writer Mary Roach, you know she is never one to shy away from parts of science that verge on the absurd. I read two of her previous books, and was enchanted by Roach's unique combination of endless curiosity and a wry sense of humor. So I rushed to lay my hands on her newest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War.” It will not fail to live up to her fans’ expectations. Even those who have never read her before will be hard-pressed to put down a book that I finished in a few short days.

I've always been interested in history, but in high school I found American history to be incredibly boring. It was often presented as a black and white affair, completely scrubbed of any nuance. It was only after discovering the true complexity of our history that I began to find it fascinating. And there are few who portray this complexity as well as historian Joseph Ellis. This meant that his newest book, “The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution,” was an immediate must-read. Ellis, the author of numerous books on U.S.

BookMark: "Kissinger's Shadow" by Greg Grandin

Dec 3, 2015

I was intrigued to hear about a new book that seeks to reconcile the seemingly contradictory legacies of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Greg Grandin, author of well-received books like “Fordlandia” and “Empire of Necessity,” tackles the thorny issue of one of the United States' most notorious diplomats in the book “Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman.”

There is a new essential read for anyone interested in human evolution. An important question in this debate has always been why did modern humans survive and the Neanderthals did not? Personally, I find the topic fascinating. That’s why I picked up the recently published book “The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction.” Written by anthropologist and retired Penn State professor Pat Shipman, it makes some interesting arguments.

Cover of "George Marshall: A Biography" and reviewer Brady Clemens
for right: Erin Cassidy Hendrick / WPSU

When I came across “George Marshall: A Biography” by Debi and Irwin Unger, I knew I needed to read it. Marshall, General of the Army during the Second World War, is perhaps best remembered as the creator of the “Marshall Plan,” for which he later won a Nobel Prize.