The Nonfiction Author Series is bigger than ever for 2024, moving to a larger venue and featuring four best-selling writers who’ll take us from the eve of World War II’s battle of Okinawa to a fishing boat tragedy off Long Island, from the rebirth of our endangered bald eagle to a dying woman’s inspiring horseback ride across America.
The four Monday morning events are presented by the nonprofit Friends of the Library of Collier County, to raise funds for the ten branches of the Collier County Public Library system.
The series moves this year to a larger venue at Hilton Naples, on U.S. 41 near Pine Ridge Road, and still includes a full buffet breakfast, followed by the author’s talk and a book signing. See the info box for dates, times, cost and how to sign up.
The featured speakers are:
Elizabeth Letts, author of The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America, on Monday, January 22.
Buzz Bissinger, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II, on Monday, February 5.
Jack E. Davis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird, on Monday, February 26.
Amanda M. Fairbanks, author of The Lost Boys of Montauk: The True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind, on Monday, March 18.
“We are very excited about this year’s program,” said Lew Paper, chairman of the Friends committee that plans the series.
“The growing public interest in the series continues to inspire us to find authors who will meet the expansive tastes of the Naples community. Unfortunately, increased costs have required us to raise the price more than we would like. But I do hope people will remember that this is a fundraising event and that a portion of the series cost is tax-deductible.”
The January 22 author, Elizabeth Letts, grew up mostly on the back of a horse in Southern California, so it’s no accident that much of her writing focuses on horses.
A Yale graduate, Peace Corps veteran, certified nurse-midwife, and mother of four, Letts penned The Perfect Horse, the true story of American soldiers in Europe rescuing hundreds of purebred Arabian horses, and The Eighty-Dollar Champion, about a trainer who made a show jumping champion out of a nag headed for the slaughterhouse.
In Naples, she’ll talk about her most recent book, The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America. It’s an inspiring story of a 63-year-old woman in Maine who, given a medical death sentence, sets out in 1954 on a 5,000-mile horseback ride across America to see the Pacific Ocean.
Next up, on February 5, is Buzz Bissinger, a familiar name for his earlier blockbuster Friday Night Lights, which has sold more than two million copies and spawned a movie and hit TV show centered on the Texas city of Odessa and its obsession with the Permian High School football team.
His latest, The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II, centers on two U.S. Marine Corps regiments on Guadalcanal, training for the deadly invasion of Okinawa. Their ranks include many college football stars, so, naturally, they decided to play a football game on Christmas Eve 1944.
Months later, 15 of those 64 Mosquito Bowl players would be dead on Okinawa’s bloody battlefield. Bissinger traces the lives of those who lived and those who died, their childhoods and families, and the loss of innocence for college athletics and the nation.
The February 26 speaker is Jack E. Davis, professor of history at the University of Florida for the past 20 years. Davis has made Florida’s environment his personal beat, culminating with the Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea.
In The Bald Eagle: The Improbable Journey of America’s Bird, Davis offers a rollicking history of America’s complicated relationship with our national symbol, from the time we almost wiped eagles out of existence to today’s reverence for the noble bird.
Closing out the Series is Amanda M. Fairbanks, author of The Lost Boys of Montauk: The True Story of the Wind Blown, Four Men Who Vanished at Sea, and the Survivors They Left Behind. Fairbanks was scheduled for the 2023 lecture series but had to cancel, so the FOL is pleased she is available to speak this season.
Her book describes how, in March 1984, four men left Long Island’s Montauk Harbor on a commercial fishing boat that disappeared a week later during a storm. The bodies of the crew were never recovered.
Fairbanks goes beyond the background of the crew and the impact their loss had on their survivors; she also details the shift of Montauk and the nearby Hamptons from working-class villages to a summer playground for New York City’s wealthy.
The 2024 sponsors of the
Nonfiction Author Series are:
Platinum — Bigham Jewelers, Stock Development, The Club at Olde Cypress
Gold — Books-A-Million, Fidelity Investments, Gulf Coast International Properties, John R. Wood Properties
Silver — Naples MacFriends User Group, The Capital Grille, Wynn’s Market
Nonfiction Author Series
What: Author lectures and breakfast that raise funds for the Collier County Public Library system
Where: Hilton Naples, 5111 Tamiami Trail N., Naples
When: A full hot and cold breakfast buffet is served at 8:30 a.m.; the authors speak shortly after 9:15 a.m., followed by a book signing
Elizabeth Letts, Monday, January 22
Buzz Bissinger, Monday, February 5
Jack E. Davis, Monday, February 26
Amanda M. Fairbanks, Monday, March 18