Best of 2014: Nonfiction

We continue our daily posts from our staff picked Best of 2014 list with all things factual. Read on for great nonfiction books ranging in topic from Wall Street shenanigans, Hollywood scandals, cookbooks, humor and much more.

NF1

A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction | Joel Greenberg
The story of the passenger pigeon; how flocks of billions of birds were shot, clubbed, burned, crushed, flailed, speared, drowned, and blown up; a species’ extinction by wanton human butchery.

I’d read stories about the passenger pigeon’s fate, but couldn’t believe what I was reading. This author’s careful documentation allows no evasion of the book’s central thesis. -Cameron

Capital in the Twenty-First Century | Thomas Piketty
Economist Piketty relates in great detail why funneling money to the already rich leads to the past devouring the future.

It is a tour de force of scholarship, spanning the globe and spanning centuries. -Cameron

Flash Boys | Michael Lewis
Relates how certain Wall Street traders laid their own high speed communications line from Chicago to New York to purchase stock before anyone else. They beat the buyer to the punch and sell at a profit.

Pulls back the curtain on a whole array of tawdry Wall Street scams. The kicker is that there is no law to stop them. -Cameron

Food : a Love Story | Jim Gaffigan
Jim Gaffigan gives his listeners what they really crave, his thoughts on all things culinary(ish).

Gaffigan is one of the funniest, smartest, and cleanest comics working today. Here he adds plenty of new material to what fans will already expect. Try the audiobook, narrated by Gaffigan himself. -Alan

NF2

Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets and Recipes from our Kitchen | Nathan, Zoe
Recipes for delectable baked goods, both sweet and savory, abound. Illustrated with mouth-watering photos.

I love sampling cookbooks from the library before deciding whether to purchase for my personal collection. -Eileen

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s | Tom Doyle
Based on exclusive first-hand interviews, a chronicle of Paul McCartney’s struggles in the first decade after the Beatles’ breakup discusses his reclusive life, substance abuses, arrests, and efforts to launch his band Wings.

Love it or hate it, Paul was prolific in the 70’s and I happen to love his output from the period (especially Ram and Red Rose Speedway). This details everything, including depression, granting him depth the music doesn’t necessarily indicate. -Alan

One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band | Alan Paul
Told through the voices of band members, roadies, family, and friends, it is the story of an iconic–and tragic–rock band of the sixties, the Allman Brothers Band.

Really puts the Allmans in context, a fusion band with influences from blues, rock, jazz, country, and even classical. -Cameron

The Portlandia Cookbook: Cook Like a Local | Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, with Jonathan Krisel
This cookbook features the best recipes from the stimulating food mecca that is Portland.

Portlandia. Need I go on? Okay, fine. This book combines two of my favorites: cooking and the TV show Portlandia. The recipes are real, but humor runs amok in the sidebars and chapter breaks. I’m asking Santa for this one. -Carol

NF3

QR Codes Kill Kittens: How to Alienate Customers, Dishearten Employees, and Drive Your Business into the Ground | Scott Stratten
Using real-life examples from human resources, marketing, branding, networking, public relations, and customer service, this book offers tips and guidance on how to prevent in-person and online/social media slip-ups.

I’m part of a team of library staffers who run the library’s social media platforms. I am always on the lookout for ways I can improve the work I am doing, since it relfects on the library. Also, there’s a kitten on the cover! -Carol

Retro baby : Cut Back on all the Gear and Boost Your Baby’s Development with More than 100 Time-Tested Activities | Anne Zachry
New isn’t always better when it comes to the health and well-being of babies. Retro Baby is full of tips for inexpensive toys and simple activities to enhance your baby’s development without investing in all manner of high-tech baby gear.

Published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is full of the newest research findings about child development along with practical ways to help your baby thrive. This is a great gift for anyone with a new baby. -Theresa

Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Sex, Deviance, and Drama from the Golden Age of American Cinema | Anne Helen Petersen
A collection of shocking clashes and controversies from Hollywood’s Golden Age, featuring notorious personalities including Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Jean Harlow, and more.

This is a smart treatment backed up by solid research that debunks rather than celebrates scandal. -Alan

NF4

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory | Caitlin Doughty
Young aspiring crematory operator Caitlin Doughty takes readers behind the scene of America’s death industry. Not for the faint of heart due to some graphic descriptions, this book provides a very thought-provoking look at what happens to us after we die.

This was a very honest and surprisingly humorous discussion of a topic most of us would like to ignore. Doughty provides some fascinating information about death rituals around the world, as well as a history of how we’ve responded to death in the US. -Lisa

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions | Randall Munroe
The creator of the popular webcomic xkcd receives a lot of odd queries from his fans. This book answers these (sometimes literally) burning questions such as: What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?

The author’s dry wit and impressive scientific knowledge make this book not only hilarious but also amazingly informative. Impossible to put down once started. -Richard

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