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The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures
This well-researched, riveting history of the 19th-century inventions that were precursors to modern film focuses on two eccentric men: an innovative tinkerer (and murderer) who developed stop-motion photography, and his patron, a wealthy railroad magnate. For fans of narrative nonfiction history in the style of Timothy Egan, Erik Larson and Simon Winchester.
Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
If you have ever wondered how organized religion can realistically fit into modern society, Bolz-Weber posits a good example in this spiritual memoir. Tattooed, outspoken and inclusive of all people in her church, the House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS), this Lutheran “pastrix” doesn’t mince words as she criticizes traditional religion while seeking a healthy, peaceful and down-to-earth belief system.
Among the Thugs
Before 9/11, the greatest threat to Western civilization was the English soccer hooligan. Buford’s Among the Thugs was my introduction to the world of savage fandom and my first taste of immersion journalism. Buford was not afraid to literally get into the gutter with his subjects; he drank and fought with the worst of them. Fans of his New Yorker articles should check out this early, gritty work.
The Address Book
What would you do if you found an address book? When Calle discovered one on a Parisian sidewalk, she took it home, photocopied the contents and returned it anonymously. Then she contacted the people listed in the book and asked them to tell her about its owner. In this controversial and thought-provoking work, Calle sketches a strangely intimate portrait of a man she's never met through the words of his friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America
Cook takes us through the adventures of mushroom hunters, dealers and suppliers, and the chefs and restaurants that use these wild products. His detailed descriptions and moving dialogues make this a very fast-paced and fun read. Makes me want to try more wild mushrooms!!
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
Travel to North Korea through the pages of this graphic novel, where Delisle recounts his experiences as a Canadian animator temporarily working in Pyongyang. An excellent companion book to Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea.
A Zoo in My Luggage
Durrell returns to the British Cameroons in search of animals for his own zoo. He renews his acquaintance with the Fon of Bafut and meets a variety of challenging animals and many eager, helpful locals. Much hilarity ensues as Durrell is, as ever, quite capable of seeing the humor in disaster, even when he is the buffoon in the situation. His precise prose satisfies as a travelogue, an animal-and-human adventure or as pure humor.
-Guy, Substitute Librarian
Put an Egg on It: 70 Delicious Dishes that Deserve a Sunny Topping
Ferroni flips our notions (over easy, of course) of the egg in this delightful new cookbook. She cracks the humble shell of our familiar oval friend and lets the insides shine in a surprisingly diverse and exciting array of culinary environments. The author, a Pacific Northwest native, manages to make simple recipes exotic and exotic recipes simple, proving once and for all that eggs are bigger than breakfast. Most importantly, the results are consistently delectable.
-Spenser, High Point
The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code
A history of the 50-year effort to decipher Linear B, the writing etched into ancient clay tablets unearthed in Crete and Greece. Ancient civilizations, linguistics, puzzles and code-breaking! Fox keeps the pace moving along while doing a really exceptional job of writing about the different phases of deciphering in a manner understandable to the novice. She also brings to life the motivations and complexities of each of the three main players.
The Film Club
When Jesse’s grades show no sign of improving, his father, film critic David Gilmour, offers him a unique proposal: drop out of school and watch movies with Dad all day. As recounted in David's wonderful memoir, both parent and child learn much about one another—and themselves—between screenings of Truffaut, Hitchcock and Tarantino. The Film Club is a frank, touching depiction of the bond (and barriers) between fathers and sons.
-Michael, Lake City
The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change
Based on thorough research, Gore presents what we need to do in order to survive in the future. Here are the solutions—why can’t we all just follow his suggestions? Readers of economics, politics and history will find this work an incredible read. Only Gore can explain things of extreme complexity in plain language for everyone to understand. Despite flow charts, scientific studies and statistics, this book almost reads like fiction.
God's Middle Finger: Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre
Mexico’s rugged and dangerous Sierra Madre Mountains are not your typical vacation destination, but British journalist Grant was determined to traverse the dramatic range. With a considerable amount of self-deprecating humor, too much tequila and not nearly enough water, he boldly travels (on horseback!) where few have ventured before. His exploits offer humor, history, humanity, the requisite treasure hunt and genuine danger, making for an adventure best enjoyed vicariously in a comfortable chair.
-Spenser, High Point
You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story
The authors, married 16 years, are both comedy writers and actors in Los Angeles. It’s tough making a living in their industry, and battling Hollywood (and sometimes each other)—as well as caring for their disabled son—makes this memoir moving and funny. Gurwitch and Kahn take turns recounting their individual memories about shared events. Unsurprisingly, often dramatically different and highly entertaining versions unfold. Now a play, the work debuted in, where else? LA.
A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog
Koontz is not generally known for his nonfiction, but he has created a touching story about his first dog, Trixie. Given to him when he was in his 50s, she helped inspire and change his writing. Trixie was an amazing dog and Koontz tells many fascinating stories about her short life. Just to warn you, be prepared for a bittersweet ending.
Detroit: An American Autopsy
In a heartbreaking report on a city in decline, LeDuff, a Detroit native, presents both a damning account of the city's leadership and a loving portrait of those who occupy its abandoned neighborhoods. His reportage is infused with gallows humor, such as when he describes how underfunded Detroit firefighters struggle to decide which house to save in side-by-side fires. I highly recommend this somber and compelling account!
Gaining Daylight: Life on Two Islands
Have you ever visited Kodiak Island, Alaska? You’ll feel like you have after reading this arresting set of essays. Using language that feels like the verbal equivalent of a scratch-and-sniff card, Loewen describes her summers living at a remote Uyak Bay cabin, where her husband fishes for salmon and she raises her young sons without conveniences such as phones and cars, but rich with wildlife and the freedom to explore.
Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids
I picked this book because of the sensational cover, so imagine my dismay when it turned out to be a well-researched, scientific account of cryptids that explains the pseudoscience behind their “existence.” I had a hopeful Northwesterner’s belief in Sasquatch, but it is hard to argue with actual fact: no trace of Bigfoot has ever been found. This is true for other popular cryptids also. This book explains why people still believe.
-Christiane, Queen Anne
The Plague and I
Beloved local author Betty MacDonald was famous for her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle stories and The Egg and I. Her wit and optimism especially shine in The Plague and I, which chronicles her experiences in a tuberculosis (TB) sanatorium. MacDonald manages to find humor in difficult circumstances, and I really enjoyed learning more about the history of TB treatment in the United States.
Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
In March 1995, members of Japanese religious cult Aum released toxic sarin gas into the Tokyo subway system. Perturbed by the media's sensationalist reports, Murakami begins collecting accounts from both the survivors and Aum followers. In a disturbingly profound piece of literary journalism, one of Japan's most insightful writers reveals a nation plagued by individualism and isolation: repressions that spur some to seek deep spiritual fellowship, and leave a metropolis' emergency response system wholly incommunicado.
Shelf Discovery: Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading
Skurnick is the author of the beloved—and sadly now defunct—young adult (YA) literary blog Fine Lines. Shelf Discovery builds upon her previous work and is even more hilarious and insightful than her blog. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting all my favorite novels from the ‘70s and the ‘80s, and I discovered a few hidden gems along the way. This is a must-read for lovers of YA literature.
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity
Families come in many shapes and sizes. What happens, though, when children have significant physical or emotional challenges which isolate them from other members of their families? Solomon interviewed hundreds of families with children who were deaf, autistic, schizophrenic, or even children of rape, describing their journeys with sensitivity and empathy. Families respond in predictable and unpredictable ways, and as Solomon discovers, there’s no one path that works for every family.
-Nancy, West Seattle
The Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered
One particular shade of blue was coveted by the ancients, mentioned throughout the Bible, lost for many centuries, and rediscovered only recently. Who knew that a shade of blue could be so rare? Author and physicist Sterman narrates the mystery and science of this color’s surprising story. The political, religious and economic significance involved astounded me. The presence of blueness may seem a common thing, but with engaging prose, Sterman shows us otherwise.
-Richard, Capitol Hill