Check It Out Category: Nonfiction

Summer Reading Category Spotlight: Science Books

reading colors your world

Astronomer and scientist Carl Sagan said, “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Read one of these science books for your Summer Reading journey, and learn something incredible! If your curiosity demands more, an expanded list of did-you-know titles is only a click away.

 

The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think book cover

The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman

Have you wondered: Which bird impales its prey on thorns, but is also a beautiful singer? Which birds feed their siblings? Which give gifts, or create stunning works of art? Which destroy other birds’ creations? Is it true birds think?

Learn about these and many more idiosyncrasies in the amazing world of birds.

Accessible; Engaging

 

Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live book cover

Apollo’s Arrow by Nicholas A. Christakis

Have you wondered: What will be the long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on American society? What will our nation’s recovery look like in the coming years? Was this the worst epidemic ever? Has the pandemic changed the way people view scientific information?

A science-backed look at where America could be headed in the future as the pandemic recedes.

Incisive; Persuasive

 

Chemistry for Breakfast: The Amazing Science of Everyday Life book coverChemistry for Breakfast by Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim

Have you wondered: Why does your alarm clock nearly send you reeling from your bed? How does toothpaste work on your teeth? Why do the cookies or cake you bake sometimes turn out dry? What does chemistry have to do with falling in love?

This book shows that chemistry can provide the answers to life’s quirky questions.

Captivating; Accessible

 

Cosmic Queries: StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going book cover

Cosmic Queries by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Have you wondered: How old is the universe? Is there intelligent life beyond Earth? What is our place in the universe? How will it all end?

An enlightening look at these and other perennial questions about our world.

Thought-Provoking; Engaging

 

The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet book coverThe New Climate War by Michael E. Mann

Have you wondered: Is the best way to fight climate change up to individual citizens? Are we really making a difference by recycling, flying less, or eating less red meat? Are fossil fuel companies just deflecting blame? How can real change be obtained?

Become an informed citizen in the fight against climate change with the ideas in this book.

Compelling; Hopeful

 

The Musical Human: A History of Life on Earth book cover

The Musical Human by Michael Spitzer

Have you wondered: Where did music come from? Why does music play such an important part of our lives? Does music have a connection with the animal world? How did cultural attitudes through the centuries define music?

An in-depth look at the fundamental role music plays in human lives.

Thought-Provoking; Engaging

 

A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and its Assault on the American Mind book cover

A Terrible Thing to Waste by Harriet A. Washington

Have you wondered: What is environmental poisoning? Do chemicals and toxins actually lower intelligence? Why are high levels of harmful chemicals disproportionately found in communities of color? What can citizens do to advocate for less toxic environments?

This important book has the ability to provoke outrage and inspire debate about the damage being done to marginalized communities due to high levels of toxins.

Well-Researched; Evocative

 

Summer Reading Category Spotlight: Positive Change Makers

reading colors your world

The Positive Change-Makers in Nonfiction category for Summer Reading highlights those who have impacted communities and history for the greater good. A few of our favorites are featured below, and even more lives of inspiration may be discovered here.

 

She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman book cover

 

She Came To Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

A lively, informative and illustrated tribute to one of the most exceptional women in American history–Harriet Tubman–looks at a heroine whose fearlessness and activism still resonates today.

Engaging; Well-Researched

 

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love book cover

 

Over the Top: A Raw Journey to Self Love by Jonathan Van Ness

The style-expert star of Queer Eye shares deeply personal stories from his Midwestern childhood, revealing how he channeled his passions and setbacks into the positive energy that shaped his signature brand.

Funny; Upbeat

 

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke book cover

 

The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke by Jeffrey C. Stewart

The definitive biography of the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Explore the education of Alain Locke, including his becoming the first African American Rhodes Scholar and earning a PhD in philosophy at Harvard University, and his long career as a professor.

History; Inspiring

 

Fearless Women: Courageous Females Who Refused to be Denied book cover

 

Fearless Women: Courageous Females Who Refused to Be Denied by Toby Reynolds

Profiles thirty-six women who fought for freedom, and forged new paths to help change society, including such notables as Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai, Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, and Amelia Earhart.

Thought-Provoking; Well-Researched

 

Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America's Most Powerful Mobster book cover

 

Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down American’s Most Powerful Mobster by Stephen L. Carter

Author Stephen L. Carter traces the story of his grandmother, an African-American attorney who, in spite of period barriers, devised the strategy that sent mafia chieftain Lucky Luciano to prison in the 1930s.

True Crime; Engaging

 

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare book cover

 

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblat

A portrait of Elizabethan England and how it contributed to the making of William Shakespeare discusses how he moved to London lacking money, connections, and a formal education and rose to become his age’s foremost playwright.

History; Richly Detailed

 

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina book cover

 

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Documents the author’s emotionally dynamic effort to become the third African-American soloist in the history of the American Ballet Theatre, describing the harsh family difficulties she overcame including her mother’s highly publicized custody battle to halt her career.

Inspiring; Moving

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time book cover

 

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations-One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson

Traces how the author, having been rescued and resuscitated by Himalayan villagers after a failed attempt to climb K2, worked to build schools that would particularly benefit the young girls who were forbidden an education by Taliban restrictions.

Impassioned; Thought-Provoking

 

Summer Reading Category Spotlight: Read a Book that Colors True Events

reading colors your world

Looking for some interesting nonfiction reading for your summer reading category? Try a memoir or biography! Access a suggested list here, or read on for some of our favorites:

crying in h mart book cover

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Michelle, the Japanese Breakfast indie pop star presents a full-length account of her viral New Yorker essay to share poignant reflections on her experiences of growing up Korean-American, becoming a professional musician and caring for her terminally ill mother.

“It felt like the world had divided into two different types of people, those who had felt pain and those who had yet to.”
― Michelle Zauner, Crying in H Mart

 

 

more myself book cover

More Myself: A Journey by Alicia Keys

The 15-time Grammy Award-winning music artist traces her journey from self-censorship to full expression, describing her complicated
relationship with her father, the people-pleasing nature that
characterized her early career and her struggles with gender expectations.

“Growth requires movement. And often, the only way forward is through an exit door.” Alicia Keys, More Myself

 

 

memorial drive book cover

Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey

The former U.S. poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author shares a chillingly personal memoir about the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather.

“I have always loved the feel of books, the way they give a literal weight to words and make of them a sacred object.”
― Natasha Trethewey, Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir

 

 

 

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In book cover

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran

In this coming-of-age memoir told through the themes of great books,  Tran navigates the push and pull of finding and accepting himself
despite the challenges of immigration, feelings of isolation, and teenage rebellion, all while attempting to meet the rigid expectations set by his immigrant parents.

“My father loved the library because it was a safe haven for him – no missed cultural cues, no bigoted insults from his coworkers, no glaring reminders of what was lost. All patrons of the library were pilgrims to the oracle all seeking the sake thing: knowledge. And in their pursuits of the same thing, they were all equals.”

― Phuc Tran, Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In

 

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath book coverRed Comet: The Short and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath by Heather Clark

A new biography of Sylvia Plath that focuses on her remarkable
literary and intellectual achievements, while restoring the woman
behind the long-held myths about her life and art.

“What other woman would dare to draw blood with a kiss?” ― Heather Clark, Red Comet

 

 

 

A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

Dita Kraus grew up in Prague in an intellectual, middle-class Jewish family. She went to school, played with her friends, and never thought of herself as being different—until the advent of the Holocaust. Torn from her home, Dita was sent to Auschwitz with her family. Dita’s
powerful memoir sheds light on an incredible life—one that is delayed no longer.

“No longer do I wait till…till the war ends, till we are liberated, till I marry, till the child is born, till we have more money, till the school year ends, till peace comes…I need not delay anymore; I have caught up with my life.” ― Dita Kraus, A Delayed Life

Winter Reading Ideas: Best Books of 2020

Best Books of 2020

We sifted through a great many of the Best Books of 2020 opinions that have been making the rounds and put some of the more frequent fliers on this curated Best Books of 2020 list. Featured below are some of the books that our staff have heard rave reviews about as well as those consistently on those Best Of indexes!

Deacon King Kong book cover

 

Deacon King Kong by James McBride

In the aftermath of a 1969 Brooklyn church deacon’s public shooting of a local drug dealer, the community’s African-American and Latinx witnesses find unexpected support from each other when they are targeted by violent mobsters.

 

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family book cover

 

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Tells the heartrending story of a midcentury American family with 12 children, 6 of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

 

Transcendent Kingdom book cover

 

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

A novel about faith, science, religion, and family that tells the deeply moving portrait of a family of Ghanaian immigrants ravaged by depression and addiction and grief, narrated by a fifth year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford school of medicine studying the neural circuits of reward seeking behavior in mice.

 

Blacktop Wasteland book cover

 

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby

Compelled by poverty to agree to a lucrative final heist that will allow him to go straight, a skilled getaway driver finds his efforts complicated by racial dynamics and the ghosts of his past.

 

The Cold Millions book cover

 

The Cold Millions by Jess Walter

Enduring a harsh existence as day laborers, orphaned brothers Gig and Rye Dolan are drawn to a feminist activist and a vaudeville singer whose experiences reflect an unjust world on the brink of upheaval.

 

 

The City We Became book cover

 

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Takes readers into the dark underbelly of New York City where a roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars.

 

 

The Only Good Indians book cover

 

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

 

Party of Two book cover

 

Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory

Going against her better judgement, LA lawyer Olivia Monroe secretly starts dating a hotshot junior senator until their romance is made public and her life falls under intense media scrutiny, jeopardizing everything.

Winter Reading Ideas: Staff Favorites of 2020

FAVT Staff Favorites 2020 header

We would not dream of celebrating the start of a new year without first cheering the reads that proved exciting company during the last. Choose one of these 2020 staff favorites to kick off your own Winter Reading season, and let us know if you agree! Most are available in both physical and digital collections. Contact us for help with access or to request a title hand-picked just for you.

 Top Favorite!
House in the Cerulean Sea book coverLiz, Al, Denise, and Kelda recommend
The House in the Cerulean Sea
TJ Klune

Vanished Birds book coverAl recommends
Vanished Birds 
Simon Jimenez
Witch Hat Atelier book coverAbby recommends
Witch Hat Atelier series
Kamome Shirahama
Dont Go Without Me book coverJohn recommends
Don’t Go Without Me
Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
From Scratch book coverJenny recommends
From Scratch
Tembi Locke
Frankly in Love book coverAndrea recommends
Frankly in Love
David Yoon
When All Is Said book coverLaura recommends
When All Is Said
Anne Griffin
Foul Is Fair book coverCathleen recommends
Foul Is Fair
Hannah Capin
Anxious People book coverDenise recommends
Anxious People
Fredrik Backman
narrated by Marin Ireland
Sellout book coverChelsea recommends
The Sellout
Paul Beatty

 

Nothing to See Here book coverNancy recommends
Nothing to See Here
Kevin Wilson
narrated by Marin Ireland
House in the Cerulean Sea book coverAndrea recommends
Stamped
Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
narrated by Jason Reynolds
Ninth House book coverLiz recommends
Ninth House
Leigh Bardugo

 

Leave the World Behind book coverKelda recommends
Leave the World Behind
Rumaan Alam
narrated by Marin Ireland
Slaughter House-Five book coverJohn recommends
Slaughterhouse-Five
Ryan North
illustrated by Albert Monteys
story by Kurt Vonnegut
Charming as a Verb book coverJenny recommends
Charming as a Verb
Ben Philippe