We asked the staff members at the library to take a look back at 2017 and let us all know their favorite nonfiction reads of the year. Some of these book were brand new in 2017, some are classics, others are somewhere in between.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.
Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
Book | eBook
Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass
In this celebration of winter in a remote valley of thirty inhabitants, Rick Bass describes the wilderness and freedom of the valley people, still living without electricity, and the slow-motion quality of life that hasn’t changed in a hundred years. Visual impressions abound: white rabbits as large as cats, bull elk eating hay alongside cows, giant larches as wide as redwoods and old trees popping like firecrackers as they collapse under the weight of the snow. A book about matching landscape to life, about a man and a woman finding a place to call home.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. The family of an Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more and more members of the tribe began to die under mysterious circumstances.
In Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann revisits a shocking series of crimes in which dozens of people were murdered in cold blood. Based on years of research and startling new evidence, the book is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, as each step in the investigation reveals a series of sinister secrets and reversals. But more than that, it is a searing indictment of the callousness and prejudice toward American Indians that allowed the murderers to operate with impunity for so long. Killers of the Flower Moon is utterly compelling, but also emotionally devastating.
Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life by Irwin Kula
Life can be messy and imperfect. Were all looking for answers. And yet, as renowned rabbi Irwin Kula points out, the yearning for answers is no different now than it was in the times that gave rise to Moses, Buddha, and Jesus. Far from being a burden, however, these yearnings can themselves become a path to blessing, prompting questions and insights, resulting in new ways of being and believing. In this, his first book, Rabbi Kula takes us on an excursion into the depths of our desires, applying ancient Jewish tradition to seven of our most wonderful yearnings. Merging ancient wisdom with contemporary insights, Rabbi Kula shows how traditional practices can inform and enrich our own search for meaning. More importantly, he invites us to embrace the messiness and complexities of the human experience in order to fully embrace the endless and glorious project of life.
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Writing Radar by Jack Gantos
With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Jack Gantos instructs young writers on using their “writing radar” to unearth story ideas from their everyday lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires readers to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create, revise, and perfect their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos’s own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who—many unwittingly—inspired Gantos’s own writing career.
Book | eBook
Shirley Jackson: a Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
Instantly heralded for its “masterful” and “thrilling” portrayal (Boston Globe), Ruth Franklin reveals the tumultuous life and inner darkness of the literary genius behind such classics as “The Lottery” and The Haunting of Hill House. In this “remarkable act of reclamation” (Neil Gaiman), Ruth Franklin envisions Jackson as “belonging to the great tradition of Hawthorne, Poe and James” (New York Times Book Review) and demonstrates how her unique contribution to the canon “so uncannily channeled women’s nightmares and contradictions that it is ‘nothing less than the secret history of American women of her era’ ” (Washington Post). Franklin investigates the “interplay between the life, the work, and the times with real skill and insight, making this fine book a real contribution not only to biography, but to mid-20th-century women’s history” (Chicago Tribune). “Wisely rescu[ing] Shirley Jackson from any semblance of obscurity” (Lena Dunham), Franklin’s invigorating portrait stands as the definitive biography of a generational avatar and an American literary genius.
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The Art of Overwatch
The video game Overwatch has taken the world by storm, boasting millions of players and gaining critical acclaim. Now, in this beautiful hardcover, Blizzard Entertainment reveals the creative process behind one of the most popular FPS games of all time! Filled with never-before-seen art as well as commentary provided by the game’s development team, this book is sure to please any Overwatch fan.
My Story by Elizabeth Smart
On June 5, 2002, fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart, the daughter of a close-knit Mormon family, was taken from her home in the middle of the night by religious fanatic, Brian David Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee. She was kept chained, dressed in disguise, repeatedly raped, and told she and her family would be killed if she tried to escape. After her rescue on March 12, 2003, she rejoined her family and worked to pick up the pieces of her life.
Now for the first time she tells of the constant fear she endured every hour, her courageous determination to maintain hope, and how she devised a plan to manipulate her captors and convinced them to return to Utah, where she was rescued minutes after arriving. Smart explains how her faith helped her stay sane in the midst of a nightmare and how she found the strength to confront her captors at their trial and see that justice was served.
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The Clever Gut Diet by Michael Mosley
In this groundbreaking book, Dr. Mosley takes us on a revelatory journey through the gut, showing how junk food and overuse of antibiotics have wiped out many “good” gut bacteria leading to a modern plague of allergies, food intolerances, and obesity. Drawing from the latest cutting-edge research, Dr. Mosley provides scientifically proven ways to control your cravings, boost your mood, and lose weight by feeding the “good” bacteria that keep you healthy and lean, while staving off “bad” bacteria that contribute to weight gain and disease.
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Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Yiyun Li grew up in China and has spent her adult life as an immigrant in a country not her own. She has been a scientist, an author, a mother, a daughter—and through it all she has been sustained by a profound connection with the writers and books she loves. From William Trevor and Katherine Mansfield to Søren Kierkegaard and Philip Larkin, Dear Friend is a journey through the deepest themes that bind these writers together.
Interweaving personal experiences with a wide-ranging homage to her most cherished literary influences, Yiyun Li confronts the two most essential questions of her identity: Why write? And why live?
Book | eBook
The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell
You may know W. Kamau Bell from his critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated hit show on CNN, United Shades of America. Or maybe you’ve read about him in The New York Times, which called him, “the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years.” Or maybe in The New Yorker, fawning over his brand of humor, writing, “Bell’s gimmick is intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable.”
After all this love and praise, it’s time for the next step: a book. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell is a humorous, well-informed take on the world today, tackling a wide range of evergreen issues, such as race relations; fatherhood; the state of law enforcement today; comedians and superheroes; right-wing politics; failure; his interracial marriage; his upbringing by very strong-willed, race-conscious, yet ideologically opposite parents; his early days struggling to find his comedic voice, then his later days struggling to find his comedic voice; why he never seemed to fit in with the Black comedy scene . . . or the white comedy scene; how he was a Black nerd way before that became a thing; how it took his wife and an East Bay lesbian to teach him that racism and sexism often walk hand in hand; and much, much more.
Book | eBook | Audiobook CD
Fairy Houses: How to Create Whimsical Homes for Fairy Folk by Sally Smith
Create the ultimate fairy houses, made with natural materials – just the way real fairies build their homes! Have you ever seen a real fairy house? Not the ceramic ones you purchase, but a real fairy house made from natural elements? Well, now you can build your own miniature magical abode – the perfect addition to your garden. Revealed in Fairy Houses for the first time are the step-by-step instructions for constructing exquisite fairy houses, explained by master fairy house architect Sally Smith. From her home on the edge of the Adirondacks, Smith has been creating one-of-a-kind fairy residencies for years. She uses natural artifacts such as butterfly wings for stained-glass windows, twigs for window frames, and birch bark for walls. Smith reveals her building secrets in Fairy Houses. Readers begin their fairy house project by flipping through an inspiration gallery, deciding what kind of house they wish to create and considering where in nature they’ll put it. From there, readers learn about building materials (found and natural), on-site fairy house construction, how to light a fairy house, and how to incorporate stonework into the design. All of Smith’s secret tips and techniques are then showcased in a series of step-by-step photos, making fairy house creation easy. The ones featured in Fairy Houses were designed especially for this book and are meant for longer-lasting installations. With this eBook, fairy houses move beyond “cute” and into beautiful nature-woven works of art. When you’re through, you’ll find yourself in an enchanted land where a Lord of the Rings-esque mood is magically evoked.
Book | eBook
Vacationland by John Hodgman
Disarmed of falsehood, he was left only with the awful truth: John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privileged Sasquatch through three wildernesses: the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent much of his youth; the painful beaches of Maine that want to kill him (and some day will); and the metaphoric haunted forest of middle age that connects them.
Vacationland collects these real life wanderings, and through them you learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.
Though wildly, Hodgmaniacally funny as usual, it is also a poignant and sincere account of one human facing his forties, those years when men in particular must stop pretending to be the children of bright potential they were and settle into the failing bodies of the wiser, weird dads that they are.
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What Eats That? Predators, Prey, and the Food Chain by Ryan Jacobson
Animals are adorable, but they also have a wild side. Many hunt to survive–and must avoid being hunted. This kid-friendly introduction to nature’s predator-prey relationship spotlights several amazing examples. Wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela presents spectacular photos of real critters in their natural habitats, while author Ryan Jacobson explores their most interesting hunting and eating habits. How do snakes catch their meals? Why do mosquitoes feed on blood? Children learn about each animal and then get to guess, What Eats That? With every turn of the page, the predator becomes the prey as the answer is revealed! Stan and Ryan’s first book together won a Mom’s Choice Award. This follow-up is perfect for any child who loves animals or appreciates nature.
Whose Butt? by Stan Tekiela
Butts are funny–especially to kids. Award-winning wildlife photographer Stan Tekiela takes advantage of this giggle-worthy topic, using it as an educational bridge to introduce children to facts about animals. Readers are shown an animal’s behind and asked to guess, “Whose butt?” Then it’s time to turn the page and discover the answer! Regardless of your age, you’re sure to laugh while you learn, so get to the bottom of animal butts with this wonderful picture book.