Category: Non-Fiction

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories of History’s Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farquhar
ISBN-13: 978-0140280241
Penguin Books, New York, 2001
352 p.

GENRE: Non-Fiction, European History

TEASER: This is not in any history book you’ve ever seen.

SUMMARY: Learn which Popes and kings died of sexually transmitted diseases. Take a closer look at Catherine the Great’s string of lovers. Farquhar gives you all of European history’s dirty little secrets.

CRITIQUE: The book begins with a series of royal family trees to give the reader a sense of how these families were connected. It is laid out in a very well planned and inviting manner. The book is sectioned off into themed sections such as: “Unholy Matrimony”, “When in Rome”, “Strange Reigns”, “Papal Vice”, “Royal Family Feud”, etc.

Not a lot of teenagers shop for books in the history section. This book is meant to appeal to teenagers and adults who are not necessarily fans of history lessons. The writing is funny and easy to read. Sometimes it’s quite hard to put down. Michael Farquhar has revealed the skeletons in histories closet with a delightful and fun wit.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael Farquhar is a writer for the Washington Post, specializing in history. He has appeared on the History Channel’s The French Revolution and Russia, Land of the Tsars. Some of his other titles include: Behind the Palace Doors, A Treasury of Great American Scandals, A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and Extraordinary True Stories of History’s Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds, and A Treasury of Foolishly Forgotten Americans. He lives in Washington, D.C.


READING LEVEL: General Adult

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some people might object to the sexual content, incest, rape, abuse, pedophilia, adultery, homosexuality, violence, and murder. I probably missed one.

DEFENSE: I would ask that people look at Farquhar’s research and bibliography.

I would also suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: European History

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Which wicked tale is your favorite?

Do you think this type of book would create more of an interest in learning history?

WHY INCLUDED: I actually was introduced to this book through a history teacher in highschool. I reread it to this day. I have always loved history and I love scandalous history even more. I think it makes people what to learn about history even more. Teens will want to read a book like this even more because it contains all the dirty little details that the standard history books won’t share with you.


PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives
Compiled by Frank Warren
ISBN-13: 978-0060899196
Regan Books (imprint of Harper Collins), New York, 2005
288 p.


TEASER: What’s your secret?

SUMMARY: This is the first book in a series for the PostSecret project. PostSecret is an ongoing mail-in art project created by Frank Warren. People from all over can mail their secrets on homemade postcards anonymously and selected entries will be posted on the PostSecret website, added to one of the books, or put in a museum exhibit. Participants are asked to send in an anonymous homemade postcard with a secret that is true and that has never been revealed to anyone. The secret can be a regret, a confession, a fear, and embarrassing habit, betrayal, or desire.

CRITIQUE: I really appreciate the variety in this book, not only from the secrets but from the art as well. There are cards written in sharpie on a standard note card, original paintings and drawings, and many collages. There is even a postcard written in Braille. There are confessions of love, loneliness, abuse, rape, odd habits, self harm, infedelities, prejudices, sexuality, fears, etc. At least one of the secrets in this book will be something you can relate to.

One of my favorite secrets from this collection is a humorous one. It reads, “Once I was asked by a doctor if I was hearing voices. The voice inside my head shouted: TELL HIM NO!” Another secret that hit a cord with me was a simple brown paper card with eight vintage stamps with pictures of old trains and wagons in the corner. It reads, “I found these stamps as a child, and I have been waiting all my life to have someone to send them to.” At the bottom, “I never did have someone.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frank Warren started PostSecret in November of 2004. He printed out 3,000 postcards inviting people to share a secret with him that was true and had never been revealed. He handed these cards out on the street, in art galleries, and hid them in the pages of library books. Even after he stopped passing out postcards secrets kept trickling into his mailbox.


READING LEVEL: General Adult

CHALLENGE ISSUES: People might challenge the fact that the book contains sexual situations, self harm, eating disorders, rape, abuse, and destructive thoughts.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: Contemporary Art, Art Appreciation

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you think this process of secret sharing can be healing?

WHY INCLUDED: I have been a fan for this project since the year it began in 2004. Even though some of the content may seem inappropriate, it’s actually quite relevant to their lives. These secrets are things that teens may be feeling. In fact, there are many young adults that submit entries to this project.