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6 books about the stories behind the stories you think you know

By Nathan Maharaj • September 19, 2020The Bookish Life

There are stories, characters, and historical figures that today feel like they’ve always existed -- but everything has to come from somewhere.

Here’s a handful of books that offer a peek behind the scenes into creative processes, historical records, and the day-to-day reality that’s normally obscured by the shadows of icons.

Canadian readers can access all of these eBooks by subscribing to Kobo Plus Read. Start your FREE 30-day trial.

The History Behind Game of Thrones by David C. Weinczok

As brilliant as George R. R. Martin is, he didn’t create the world of Game of Thrones from thin air. Rather, as David C. Weinczok sees it, Martin created Westeros from Scottish history. Weinczok brings readers inside real castles with stories that parallel GoT plotlines, and tells the histories of kings, wars, and sieges that will be familiar to fans of the series. As we wait on Martin to get out another book in the series (not knowing for certain how far he’ll diverge from the HBO series that outran his writing) perhaps there are clues to be found in the history of Scotland, the other North.

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Upstairs at the Whitehouse: My Life with the First Ladies by J. B. West

In the always-on hyperconnected news cycle, most of us feel like we’ve got a reasonably good idea of what an American president does (or is supposed to do). But how well do we understand the duties and activities of the First Lady? While the POTUS (president of the United States) manages a nation, the FLOTUS is tasked with managing one of the most unusual households in the world. Chief White House Usher J. B. West takes us behind the scenes, far from the oval office, and into the domestic life of first families over several administrations.

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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her by Melanie Rehak

Nancy Drew solved her first mystery 90 years ago -- but did you know that the Drew you knew as a young reader wasn’t the same as the one readers a generation before read about? And that she’s still keeping young readers up late now? Author Melanie Rehak sleuths out the hidden story of where the famous girl detective came from and how she’s held onto readers for nearly a century.

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Don't Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Neil Gaiman

Who better to write the story of the life of Douglas Adams, author of the “six-part trilogy,” The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, than Neil Gaiman, author of dozens of fantastical works of fiction. As a huge fan of all things Hitchhiker himself, Gaiman celebrates the video games, the screen adaptations, and of course those most useful of inventions, towels. Gaiman’s access to Adams’ personal archive and his deep appreciation for the Hitchhiker spirit makes this a unique non-fiction read, in which you can be assured of the truth of every line, “except,” as Adams himself cautions, “the bits that are lies.”

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The Receptionist: An Education at the New Yorker by Janet Groth

The New Yorker has a reputation shared by few other magazines. For one, reading it is seen as a serious activity, akin to reading serious full-length books (an astonishing number of which seem to start out as long pieces in the magazine). But what’s it like to work at such an esteemed cultural institution? Janet Groth worked for decades as a receptionist and has all the goods on who misbehaved, and how, and with whom. She offers unprecedented views of the low-down antics behind the highest of high-brow publications.

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The Promise and the Dream: The Untold Story of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F. Kennedy by David Margolick

History ties Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy largely through their work on advancing the cause of Civil Rights and the tragedy of their assassinations, which happened just two months apart in the spring of 1968. But how did each man think and feel about the other? Investigative journalist David Margolick digs deep into a trove of historical resources to uncover the ways in which Kennedy and King each regarded the other as more than a fellow traveler on the path to Civil Rights, but as a peer, an ally, and occasionally as a rival.

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