Check It Out Category: Nonfiction

Native American Gardening

This week we had an amazing time learning about gardening, harvesting, recipes, and history from award-winning Ojibwa author and speaker Kim Sigafus. Missed the program? Watch the recorded version anytime through April 27th.

If you are interested in reading about Native American experiences or about gardening, check out our staff recommendations:

braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the teachings of plants book cover

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.

*Nonfiction read

fire keeper's daughter book cover

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Daunis, who is part Ojibwe, defers attending the University of Michigan to care for her mother and reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation of a series of drug-related deaths.

the garden of small beginnings book cover

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Rendered a single mom after her husband’s fatal car accident, textbook illustrator Lillian recruits her young daughters and supportive sister to help her do research for a boutique vegetable guide at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden, where a patient instructor and quirky gardeners help her grieve and find healing.

there there book cover

There There by Tommy Orange

A novel which grapples with the complex history of Native Americans; with an inheritance of profound spirituality; and with a plague of addiction, abuse and suicide, follows 12 characters, each of whom has private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow.

*Featured in our Book Discussion Collection!

blue dahlia book cover

Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts

Centering around three courageous women, who meet for the first time at a crossroads in their lives, this first installment in a new trilogy follows Stella as she casts aside her fears and finds a special love that she will do anything to protect.

the night watchman book cover

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

A historical novel based on the life of the author’s grandfather traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th-century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.

The Garden of Evening Mists book cover

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

Seeking solace in the Malaysian plantations of her childhood after grueling World War II experiences, criminal prosecutor Yun Ling Teoh discovers a Japanese garden and its enigmatic tender, an exiled Japanese royal gardener who reluctantly accepts her as an apprentice.

Winter Counts book cover

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

A vigilante enforcer on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation enlists the help of an ex to investigate the activities of an expanding drug cartel, while a new tribal council initiative raises controversial questions.

Rules for Visiting book cover

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

A talented but reclusive gardener is inspired by her love of classic literature to embark on a female odyssey to reconnect with her four once-close friends through simple activities and digital encounters that unexpectedly catapult her into viral fame.

*Also available as a Books-to-Go Discussion Kit!

Summer Reading Category Spotlight: Art Books

reading colors your world

In a summer celebration of the many ways in which Reading Colors Our World, we cannot overlook the rich experiences offered by books dedicated to art. Whether illuminating technique, striking pictorials, historical context, tools for interpretation, or a fascinating palette of all, these volumes open our eyes to worlds both observed and imagined. Train your gaze upon these curated standouts from MPPL’s collection, or click here for an expanded gallery of works that merge visual and language.

The Art of Love: The Romantic and Explosive Stories Behind Art's Greatest Couples book cover

The Art of Love: The Romantic and Explosive Stories Behind Art’s Greatest Couples by Kate Bryan

The Art of Love tells the stories of the most fascinating couples of the art world, exploring the passionate, challenging and loving relationships behind some of the world’s greatest works of art.

Art of Love is an art piece itself.” ~Amazon.com review

Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris Between the Wars book cover

Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris Between the Wars by Michele Greet

The work of Latin American artists in interwar Paris receives overdue attention in this unprecedented survey, which highlights the artists’ significant role in the development of modernism.

“This book goes beyond the study of Latin American art to become a must-read for anyone interested in modern art in the first half of the twentieth century.” ~Katherine Manthorne

Postures: Body Language in Art book cover

Postures: Body Language in Art by Desmond Morris

Never before given such dedicated attention, Postures argues that the gestures portrayed in a work of art can reflect the mores of a particular period in history, the customs of a certain culture, or a fashion in artistic styles.

“Accessible and enjoyable… Most effective when it uses art to draw attention to power dynamics and how behaviors can give insight into social structures.” ~Choice

The Art of Being Bill: The Many Faces of Awesome book cover

The Art of Being Bill: The Many Faces of Awesome by Ezra Croft

The Art of Being Bill is the first illustrated collection of Bill Murray, highlighting the star like you’ve never seen him before: Bill Murray at The Last Supper, Bill Murray as an Indian god, Bill Murray as a knight, Bill Murray as Superman, and numerous other artistic tributes that will amuse and inspire you.

“When you see the cover of this paperback, showing a tattooed Bill Murray looking straight at you, your fingers itch to open it. And what a treat when you do.” ~TwinCities.com

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 cover

Chemistry 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 cover

The 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 cover

Red 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