We are all about non-fiction in our Best of 2016 staff picks list for today. All things true for adults, young adults and children. As always, you can access the full list of our 2016 picks at the Library Newsletter.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
Shrill is an uproarious memoir, a feminist rallying cry in a world that thinks gender politics are tedious and that women, especially feminists, can’t be funny.
This book seriously changed my life. I gained confidence in my body, my voice, and my own thoughts and opinions. I can’t really put into words what this book means to me; I just want you to read it now. Lindy is a Seattle writer and is pretty much the best. -Carol’s pick
Hogs Wild by Ian Frazier
A decade’s worth of Frazier’s delightful essays–Frazier goes wherever his curiosity takes him. Whether the subject is wild hogs (they’re gaining ground!), or making a Styrofoam substitute from fungus, he makes the reader his willing companion.
I enjoyed (or was terrified by–Asian carp–oh no) all of these essays, but I loved learning about Dutch artist Theo Jansen and his strandbeests. -Eileen’s pick
Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors by Diana Henry
Another wonderful cookbook by James Beard Award winning author Henry. You may need to go to the grocery store first, but these recipes are worth it. And yes, once you have what you need on hand, they are simple.
I love how Henry encourages home cooks to expand their flavor options. Her recipes are easy to follow, too. -Eileen’s pick
Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Desmond spent four months interviewing poor inner-city families of Milwaukee who were dealing with eviction from poorly maintained units owned by slumlords. Most were spending 70% or more of their income on rent, making their lives very difficult.
Evicted has three distinct sections. The majority tells the individual stories of these people. There is a section of national facts, figures, and many ideas for solutions. Wrapping up this excellent book is the author’s own experiences with his research. -Elizabeth’s pick
Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs
In another chapter of Burroughs life, (what happened after Dry), he delves into his love-life. After he settles for years in a bland but stable relationship, the lies he’s been telling himself surface, and he endeavors to see more clearly.
Each time I read a book by Burroughs I hesitate first, since it’s not my usual fare, but then I remember why I love his books. He still has it: honesty, humor, depth, and he really knows how to tell his story! -Elizabeth’s pick
The Perfect Horse: the Daring U.S. Mission to Rescue the Priceless Stallions Kidnapped by the Nazis by Elizabeth Letts
This book traces the lesser-known efforts of Hitler to build a master race of the finest purebred horses, and the heroic achievements of American soldiers to rescue them.
I loved her other book entitled the Eighty Dollar Champion. -Leslie’s pick
Cooking For Jeffrey by Ina Garten
Ina’s most personal cookbook yet, Cooking for Jeffrey is filled with the recipes Jeffrey and their friends request most often, as well as charming stories from Ina and Jeffrey’s many years together.
Ina always includes gorgeous photos and foolproof recipes. I have already tried a few and they are winners. -Leslie’s pick
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
One young man’s journey from a poverty-stricken area of Ohio to the elite halls of Yale Law School.
Far from being a feel-good story of ‘bootstraps’ upward mobility, most of the discussion revolves around why his case is so rare for individuals growing up in Rust Belt and Appalachian towns. It’s a powerful look at the effects of generational poverty. -Lisa’s pick
Simple Matters: Living With Less and Ending Up With More by Erin Boyle
The author explains that living in small apartments all her life has forced her to pare down and keep only the items that she really loves.
Of all the books I’ve been reading on organization lately, this has been one of my favorites. The simple and beautiful design of the book is a good representation of the author’s main message. -Liz’s pick
Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King
King masterfully chronicles the story of the creation of the “Water Lilies,” even as Monet was challenged with aging, failing eyesight, the loss of his wife, and the advancing horrors of World War I.
A mesmerizing story of an artist’s creative vision and process as well as the challenges Monet overcame in his 30-year effort to paint his magnificent masterpiece at Giverny. -Pat’s pick
Of Arms and Artists: the American Revolution through Painters’ Eyes by Paul Staiti
Chronicles the American Revolution through the stories of the five great artists whose paintings animated the new American Republic: Charles Willson Peale, John Singleton Copley, John Trumbull, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart.
The stories of these five artists and their vision of America during the Revolution is a fascinating study of the effect of history on art, and art’s lingering shaping of our view of history. -Pat’s pick
Fields of Battle: Pearl Harbor, the Rose Bowl, and the Boys Who Went to War by Brian Curtis
Curtis connects two seemingly unrelated events: the Pearl Harbor attack and, a few weeks later, the Rose Bowl, — played in Durham, North Carolina, because more air strikes were feared on the West Coast.
Fields of Battle is a detailed intersection of sport and war in World War II that is gripping, occasionally tragic, but always rewarding, as heroes on the field become heroes in war. -Pat’s pick
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
Roach examines the odd intersection between science and the military with surreal and humorous results through interviews with the “experts” in the field.
You have to admire the author’s gung ho attitude and ability to keep a straight face when investigating things like caffeinated meat, army fashion, and maggot therapy. -Richard’s pick
While the City Slept by Eli Sanders
In 2009, Isaiah Kalebu broke into a home in the South Park neighborhood of Seattle, and brutally raped and attempted to kill two women. Sanders tries to explain how Isaiah’s untreated mental illness lead him to Teresa and Jennifer’s house.
This is an unfortunate new classic in true crime literature, with an overpowering sense of love between two women, and a rational voice for change. -Sarah’s pick
Kill ‘Em and Leave by James McBride
James McBride sets off to explore the roots of the iconic soul legend, James Brown.
This is a lyrical account of the racial environments that produced a legend. -Sarah’s pick
Networks of New York: an Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure by Ingrid Burrington
Behind our Internet connection on our phones, tablets, laptops, televisions, and refrigerators is a vast system of hardware, cabling, and radio waves that join forces to make the whole thing work.
Despite the New York City setting, this book deals with the same infrastructure used across the US. The author breaks dense technicalities into digestible chunks, so you’ll never look at a radio tower or traffic camera the same way again. -Zac’s pick
Young Adult Non-Fiction
Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace
The story of Jonathan Daniels, who travelled from New Hampshire to Alabama in 1965 to stand up against oppression, register black voters, and march with other heroes of the Civil Rights movement.
This is a taut, thrilling and terrifying account of Daniels experiences in the Deep South. This biography does an excellent job of depicting the courage of Daniels and his comrades and the horrible abuse that they fought against. -Jesse’s pick
The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Judith St. George
Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr were two men who seemed drawn to each other, as if by gravity. This book explores their lives, from their early days fighting the British, to their infamous final meeting on the shores of the Hudson River.
It’s the year of Hamilton! St. George does an incredible job detailing the lives of these notorious frenemies, separating myth from truth, and showing the mirrored nature of their lives. – Jesse’s pick
National Geographic Kids Awesome 8
Introduces the top eight examples of specific subjects, from wicked water slides and perilous predators to remarkable ruins and weirdest wonders.
This book is perfect for a curious mind with a short attention span. Each two-page spread is a list with eight awesome things in each category. There are 50 picture-packed lists that will capture the attention and interest of children and adults alike. -Andrea’s pick
Dear Pope Francis by Pope Francis
Questions written by children from across the world are presented to Pope Francis — and the Pope himself answers each letter.
This is a beautiful book that is not just for children or Catholics. In very simple words, Pope Francis answers some very difficult questions. Wonderful! -Leslie’s pick
The “What Was” Series by Various Authors
The “Who Was” biography series was so successful that now there’s an historical series of books about the San Francisco Earthquake and other events.
I like this series because kids love them! They’re interesting reads and good for AR points. -Leslie’s pick