April’s Simply Held Nonfiction Picks

Changes are coming to Simply Held starting July 1, 2024, but before that happens we wanted to share our April nonfiction picks for our patrons that are already signed up! Starting July 1, there will only be four nonfiction picks for you to choose from: biographies, cookbooks, social justice, and true crime. Our nonfiction picks are chosen quarterly and are available in regular print only. If you would like to update your selections or are a new patron who wants to receive picks from any of those four categories, sign up for Simply Held through our website!

Below you will find information provided by the publishers and authors on the titles we have selected for April from the following categories: biography, body mind spirit, cookbook, poetry, social justice, strength through struggle, and true crime.

Biography pick

John Lewis: In Search of the Beloved Community by Raymond Arsenault

For six decades John Robert Lewis (1940–2020) was a towering figure in the U.S. struggle for civil rights. As an activist and progressive congressman, he was renowned for his unshakable integrity, indomitable courage, and determination to get into “good trouble.”

In this first book-length biography of Lewis, Raymond Arsenault traces Lewis’s upbringing in rural Alabama, his activism as a Freedom Rider and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, his championing of voting rights and anti-poverty initiatives, and his decades of service as the “conscience of Congress.”

Both in the streets and in Congress, Lewis promoted a philosophy of nonviolence to bring about change. He helped the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders plan the 1963 March on Washington, where he spoke at the Lincoln Memorial. Lewis’s activism led to repeated arrests and beatings, most notably when he suffered a skull fracture in Selma, Alabama, during the 1965 police attack later known as Bloody Sunday. He was instrumental in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and in Congress he advocated for racial and economic justice, immigration reform, LGBTQ rights, and national health care.

Arsenault recounts Lewis’s lifetime of work toward one overarching goal: realizing the “beloved community,” an ideal society based in equity and inclusion. Lewis never wavered in this pursuit, and even in death his influence endures, inspiring mobilization and resistance in the fight for social justice. – Yale University Press

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Body, Mind, Spirit pick

An apothecary of art: to soothe your soul by Ravenous Butterflies

Take a transformative journey to improve your mental wellbeing with this sumptuous collection of 80 paintings and uplifting quotes.

Ravenous Butterflies is the online brainchild of artist Lisa Azarmi and was designed to provide a safe sanctuary for emotional wellbeing. An Apothecary of Art is a soothing blend of 80 beautiful paintings and inspiring, comforting and uplifting quotes to lift the spirit, calm the mind and heal the soul.

The contents page is artfully divided into 24 emotional journeys that suggest routes in which to navigate the book to explore different feelings along the way, and to provide comfort and solace in difficult times. Within these pages you will find both the works of world-renowned masters and the paintings of lesser-known talents paired with uplifting thoughts from great poets, writers and thinkers. A biographical section on the featured artists will provide context on your new favourite finds.

This inspiring debut collection from Ravenous Butterflies features 80 exquisite works of art from the likes of Modigliani, Hasui Kawase, and Thomas Cooper Gotch with accompanying quotes from inspirational voices including Sappho, Pablo Neruda and Harriet Tubman. This illumination of the power of art as a source of wellbeing is modern yet timelessly beautiful – the perfect book to dip into to lift your spirits. – Batsford

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Cookbook pick

The Comfort Food Cookbook: Over 100 Delicious Recipes That Taste Like Home by the Coastal Kitchen

Over 100 tasty recipes that bring comfort to your kitchen.

Relive old family traditions with meals that bring warmth to the table. These nostalgic and cozy recipes are sure to become family favorites. Whether you’re looking for quick and easy family recipes, a way to placate picky kids, dishes for dinner parties, or just want a meal that tastes like home, these comfort classics will hit the mark and soothe the soul every time.

Inside you’ll find:

  • Over 100 hassle-free recipes for cozy breakfasts, satisfying snacks and appetizers, hearty dinners, and delectable desserts
  • Quick-fix dinners for weeknights and rich meals for Sunday dinners and potlucks
  • A variety of recipes ready in 30 minutes or less that are perfect for families and busy people

Serve food you can be sure you and your family will love. Indulge your cravings with Chicken Noodle Soup, Creamy Mac N’ Cheese, Meatloaf, Lasagna, Southern Fried Chicken, Chicken Enchiladas, Roasted Sausage with Peppers and Onions, Chicken Pot Pie, Borscht, Baked Pasta, Roasted Beef Brisket, Chicken and Dumplings, Mushroom Risotto, Pad Thai, and the best Grilled Cheese Sandwich you’ll ever have. Gather your family and friends around the table with wholesome dishes you’ll cherish with The Comfort Food Cookbook. – Cider Mill Press Book Publishers

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Poetry pick

You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves edited by Diana Whitney

Created and compiled just for young women, You Don’t Have to Be Everything is filled with works by a wide range of poets who are honest, unafraid, and skilled at addressing the complex feelings of coming-of-age, from loneliness to joy, longing to solace, attitude to humor. These unintimidating poems offer girls a message of self-acceptance and strength, giving them permission to let go of shame and perfectionism.

The cast of 68 poets is extraordinary: Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate, who read at Joe Biden’s inauguration; bestselling authors like Maya Angelou, Elizabeth Acevedo, Sharon Olds, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Mary Oliver; Instagram-famous poets including Kate Baer, Melody Lee, and Andrea Gibson; poets who are LGBTQ, poets of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, poets who sing of human experience in ways that are free from conventional ideas of femininity. Illustrated in full color with work by three diverse artists, this book is an inspired gift for daughters and granddaughters—and anyone on the path to becoming themselves. – Workman Publishing Company

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Social Justice pick

Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class by Rob Kim Henderson

Rob Henderson was born to a drug-addicted mother and a father he never met, ultimately shuttling between ten different foster homes in California. When he was adopted into a loving family, he hoped that life would finally be stable and safe. Divorce, tragedy, poverty, and violence marked his adolescent and teen years, propelling Henderson to join the military upon completing high school.

An unflinching portrait of shattered families, desperation, and determination, Troubled recounts Henderson’s expectation-defying young life and juxtaposes his story with those of his friends who wound up incarcerated or killed. He retreads the steps and missteps he took to escape the drama and disorder of his youth. As he navigates the peaks and valleys of social class, Henderson finds that he remains on the outside looking in. His greatest achievements—a military career, an undergraduate education from Yale, a PhD from Cambridge—feel like hollow measures of success. He argues that stability at home is more important than external accomplishments, and he illustrates the ways the most privileged among us benefit from a set of social standards that actively harm the most vulnerable. – Gallery Books

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Strength Through Struggle pick

A Living Remedy: A Memoir by Nicole Chung

From the bestselling author of ALL YOU CAN EVER KNOW comes a searing memoir of family, class and grief—a daughter’s search to understand the lives her adoptive parents led, the life she forged as an adult, and the lives she’s lost.

In this country, unless you attain extraordinary wealth, you will likely be unable to help your loved ones in all the ways you’d hoped. You will learn to live with the specific, hollow guilt of those who leave hardship behind, yet are unable to bring anyone else with them.

Nicole Chung couldn’t hightail it out of her overwhelmingly white Oregon hometown fast enough. As a scholarship student at a private university on the East Coast, no longer the only Korean she knew, she found community and a path to the life she’d long wanted. But the middle class world she begins to raise a family in – where there are big homes, college funds, nice vacations – looks very different from the middle class world she thought she grew up in, where paychecks have to stretch to the end of the week, health insurance is often lacking, and there are no safety nets.

When her father dies at only sixty-seven, killed by diabetes and kidney disease, Nicole feels deep grief as well as rage, knowing that years of precarity and lack of access to healthcare contributed to his early death. And then the unthinkable happens – less than a year later, her beloved mother is diagnosed with cancer, and the physical distance between them becomes insurmountable as COVID-19 descends upon the world.

Exploring the enduring strength of family bonds in the face of hardship and tragedy, A Living Remedy examines what it takes to reconcile the distance between one life, one home, and another – and sheds needed light on some of the most persistent and grievous inequalities in American society. – Ecco

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True Crime pick

Behold the monster: confronting America’s most prolific serial killer by Jillian Lauren

New York Times best-selling author Jillian Lauren’s personal, haunting account of confronting serial killer Samuel Little, and her determination to lift up the voices of his victims for the first time.

Jillian Lauren had no idea what she was getting into when she asked LAPD homicide detective Mitzi Roberts about the case she was most proud of. It was when she put Samuel Little, the now deceased serial killer, behind bars for killing three women in Los Angeles. In fact, Little had murdered approximately ninety women over six decades, but many were cold cases and Mitzi didn’t have enough evidence (or jurisdiction) to prove it.

After doing more digging, Lauren, the New York Times best-selling author of two memoirs and a novel, was obsessed. Following months of exchanging letters with Little, Lauren finally got a face-to-face meeting. In the hundreds of hours of interviews that followed, Little confessed to dozens of murders for the first time. Lauren knew this harrowing journey was taking its toll, both psychologically and legally—but still, she couldn’t stop.

Little gave Lauren a powerful and terrifying window into the psyche of a serial killer, and as she delved deeper, she realized she needed a way to survive these encounters. To balance out his darkness, she would illuminate the lives of the women he killed, making sure they would be remembered as more than mere props in the drama of his life. She excavated their lives—visiting their hometowns, talking to their families, investigating all they left behind.

Harrowing, insightful, and extraordinarily adept at giving Little’s victims a chance to have their stories heard for the first time–including those of the four who survived–this is a truly unforgettable read. – Jillian Lauren

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Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

She Kills Me: The True Stories of History’s Deadliest Women by Jennifer Wright, illustrated by Eva Bee

She Kills Me: The True Stories of History’s Deadliest Women by Jennifer Wright with illustrations by Eva Bee is a short book packed full of information about women killers spanning hundreds and hundreds of years. This book is a collection of macabre short stories divided into different sections of women killers.

The women in this book have murdered for a wide variety of reasons: necessity, love, revenge, or pleasure being the main four presented here. In most tales, men are expected to be the killers with women as their dainty victims. Women are hardly ever portrayed as killers, those who haunt the streets looking for victims. In fact it took years for people to even recognize that women could be serial killers. She Kills Me presents the stories of female murderers from across centuries and shows that they are messy, angry, impulsive, and deadly. We might feel icky for being pulled into their stories, but they’re fascinating. In this book, readers learn about 40 women who have murdered for a wide variety of reasons they were able to justify.

This book was a palette cleanser for me, which feels weird to say as it’s about murder. She Kills Me is by no means a complete history of these women.  As it is full of short stories, it doesn’t take much time to read, but gives just enough information if readers want to look up more about the women on their own. The author does add her own commentary, which can be distracting, but overall this serves as a good starting point and introduction to these women and their crimes.

January’s Simply Held Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined Simply Held? If not, you’re missing out! Ten different nonfiction titles are chosen four times a year by our librarians and automatically placed on hold for you. Those selections come from the following categories: biography, body mind spirit, cookbook, explore your world, poetry, self-help, social justice, strength through struggle, theologies, and true crime. Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Biography pick

Flirting with Danger: the Mysterious Life of Marguerite Harrison, Socialite Spy by Janet Wallach

The true story of socialite Marguerite Harrison, who spied for U.S. military intelligence in Russia and Germany in the fraught period between the world wars

Born a privileged child of America’s Gilded Age, Marguerite Harrison rebelled against her mother’s ambitions, married the man she loved, was widowed at thirty-seven, and set off on a life of adventure. Hired as a society reporter, when America entered World War I she applied to Military Intelligence to work as a spy.

She arrived in Berlin immediately after the Armistice and befriended the enemy, dining with aristocrats and dancing with socialists. Late into the night she wrote prescient reports on the growing power of the German right. Sent to Moscow, she sneaked into Russia to observe the results of the Bolshevik Revolution. Although she carried press credentials she was caught and imprisoned as an American spy. Terrified when told her only way out was to spy for the Cheka, she became a double agent, aiming to convince the Russian rulers she was working for them while striving to stay loyal to her country.

In Germany and Russia, Harrison saw the future—a second war with Germany, a cold war with the Soviets—but her reports were ignored by many back home. Over a decade, Harrison’s mysterious adventures took her to Europe, Baghdad, and the Far East, as a socialite, secret agent, and documentary filmmaker. Janet Wallach captures Harrison’s daring and glamour in this stranger-than-fiction history of a woman drawn to the impossible. – Doubleday

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Body, Mind, Spirit pick

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety by Sarah Wilson

The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful.

Sarah Wilson first came across this Chinese proverb in psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison’s memoir An Unquiet Mind, and it became the key to understanding her own lifelong struggle with anxiety. Wilson, bestselling author, journalist, and entrepreneur has helped over 1.5 million people worldwide to live better, healthier lives through her I Quit Sugar books and program. And all along, she has been managing chronic anxiety.

In First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Wilson directs her intense focus and fierce investigating skills onto her lifetime companion, looking at the triggers and treatments, the fashions and fads. She reads widely and interviews fellow sufferers, mental health experts, philosophers, and even the Dalai Lama, processing all she learns through the prism of her own experiences.

Wilson offers readers comfort, humor, companionship, and practical tips for living with the Beast:

  • Cultivate a “gratitude ritual.” You can’t be grateful and anxious at the same time.
  • Eat to curb anxiety. Real food is your best friend.
  • Just breathe. Embrace the healing power of meditation.
  • Make your bed. Every day. Simple outer order creates inner calm.
  • Study fellow fretters to know thyself. Emily Dickinson, Charles Darwin, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all struggled with anxiety.
  • Actively practice missing out. Forget FOMO, curl up on the couch, and order takeout.

Practical and poetic, wise and funny, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful is a small book with a big heart. It will encourage the myriad souls who dance with this condition to embrace it as a part of who they are, and to explore the possibilities it offers for a richer, fuller life. – Dey Street Books

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Cookbook pick

Midwestern Food: A Chef’s Guide to the Surprising History of a Great American Cuisine, with more than 100 tasty recipes by Paul Fehribach

An acclaimed chef offers a historically informed cookbook that will change how you think about Midwestern cuisine.

Celebrated chef Paul Fehribach has made his name serving up some of the most thoughtful and authentic regional southern cooking—not in the South, but in Chicago at Big Jones. But over the last several years, he has been looking to his Indiana roots in the kitchen, while digging deep into the archives to document and record the history and changing foodways of the Midwest.

Fehribach is as painstaking with his historical research as he is with his culinary execution. In Midwestern Food, he focuses not only on the past and present of Midwestern foodways but on the diverse cultural migrations from the Ohio River Valley north- and westward that have informed them. Drawing on a range of little-explored sources, he traces the influence of several heritages, especially German, and debunks many culinary myths along the way.

The book is also full of Fehribach’s delicious recipes informed by history and family alike, such as his grandfather’s favorite watermelon rind pickles; sorghum-pecan sticky rolls; Detroit-style coney sauce; Duck and manoomin hotdish; pawpaw chiffon pie; strawberry pretzel gelatin salad (!); and he breaks the code to the most famous Midwestern pizza and BBQ styles you can easily reproduce at home. But it is more than just a cookbook, weaving together historical analysis and personal memoir with profiles of the chefs, purveyors, and farmers who make up the food networks of the region.

The result is a mouth-watering and surprising Midwestern feast from farm to plate. Flyover this! – University of Chicago Press

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Explore Your World pick

Most Delicious Poison: The Story of Nature’s Toxins – from Spices to Vices by Noah Whiteman

A deadly secret lurks within our spice racks, medicine cabinets, backyard gardens, and private stashes.

Scratch beneath the surface of a coffee bean, a red pepper flake, a poppy seed, a mold spore, a foxglove leaf, a magic-mushroom cap, a marijuana bud, or an apple seed, and we find a bevy of strange chemicals. We use these to greet our days (caffeine), titillate our tongues (capsaicin), recover from surgery (opioids), cure infections (penicillin), mend our hearts (digoxin), bend our minds (psilocybin), calm our nerves (CBD), and even kill our enemies (cyanide). But why do plants and fungi produce such chemicals? And how did we come to use and abuse some of them?

Based on cutting-edge science in the fields of evolution, chemistry, and neuroscience, Most Delicious Poison reveals:

  • The origins of toxins produced by plants, mushrooms, microbes, and even some animals
  • The mechanisms that animals evolved to overcome them
  • How a co-evolutionary arms race made its way into the human experience
  • And much more

This perpetual chemical war not only drove the diversification of life on Earth, but also is intimately tied to our own successes and failures. You will never look at a houseplant, mushroom, fruit, vegetable, or even the past five hundred years of human history the same way again. – Little Brown Spark

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Poetry pick

The Tiny Journalist: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

Internationally beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye places her Palestinian American identity center stage in her latest full-length poetry collection for adults. The collection is inspired by the story of Janna Jihad Ayyad, the “Youngest Journalist in Palestine,” who at age 7 began capturing videos of anti-occupation protests using her mother’s smartphone. Nye draws upon her own family’s roots in a West Bank village near Janna’s hometown to offer empathy and insight to the young girl’s reporting. Long an advocate for peaceful communication across all boundaries, Nye’s poems in

The Tiny Journalist puts a human face on war and the violence that divides us from each other. – BOA Editions, Ltd.

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Self-Help pick

The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly: Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You by Margareta Magnusson

In her international bestseller The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning Margareta Magnusson introduced the world to the Swedish tradition of döstädning, or “death cleaning”—clearing out your unnecessary belongings so others don’t have to do it for you. Now, unburdened by (literal and emotional) baggage, Magnusson is able to focus on what makes each day worth living. In her new book she reveals her discoveries about aging—some difficult to accept, many rather wondrous. She reflects on her idyllic childhood on the west coast of Sweden, the fullness of her life with her husband and five children, and learning how to live alone. Throughout, she offers advice on how to age gracefully, such as: wear stripes, don’t resist new technology, let go of what doesn’t matter, and more.

As with death cleaning, it’s never too early to begin. The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly shows all readers how to prepare for and understand the process of growing older and the joys and sorrows it can bring. While Magnusson still recommends decluttering (your loved ones will thank you!), her ultimate message is that we should not live in fear of death but rather focus on appreciating beauty, connecting with our loved ones, and enjoying our time together.

Wise, funny, and eminently practical, The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly is a gentle and welcome reminder that, no matter your age, there are always fresh discoveries ahead, and pleasures both new and familiar to be encountered every day. – Scribner

This title is also available in large print, Libby eBook, and Libby eAudiobook.

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Social Justice pick

Humanizing Immigration: How to Transform Our Racist and Unjust System by Bill Ong Hing

First book to argue that immigrant and refugee rights are part of the fight for racial justice; offers a humanitarian approach to reform and abolition

Representing non-citizens caught up in what he calls the immigration and enforcement “meat grinder”, Bill Ong Hing witnessed their trauma, arriving at this conclusion: migrants should have the right to free movement across borders—and the right to live free of harassment over immigration status.

He cites examples of racial injustices endemic in immigration law and enforcement, from historic courtroom cases to the recent treatment of Haitian migrants. Hing includes histories of Mexican immigration, African migration and the Asian exclusion era, all of which reveal ICE abuse and a history of often forgotten racist immigration laws.

While ultimately arguing for the abolishment of ICE, Hing advocates for change now. With 50 years of law practice and litigation, Hing has represented non-citizens—from gang members to asylum seekers fleeing violence, and from individuals in ICE detention to families at the US southern border seeking refuge.

Hing maps out major reforms to the immigration system, making an urgent call for the adoption of a radical, racial justice lens. Readers will understand the root causes of migration and our country’s culpability in contributing to those causes. – Beacon Press

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Strength Through Struggle pick

Twice as Hard: The Stories of Black Women who Fought to Become Physicians, from the Civil War to the 21st Century by Jasmine Brown

Black women physicians’ stories have gone untold for far too long, leaving gaping holes in American medical history, in women’s history, and in black history. It’s time to set the record straight

No real account of black women physicians in the US exists, and what little mention is made of these women in existing histories is often insubstantial or altogether incorrect. In this work of extensive research, Jasmine Brown offers a rich new perspective, penning the long-erased stories of nine pioneering black women physicians beginning in 1860, when a black woman first entered medical school. Brown champions these black women physicians, including the stories of:

· Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who graduated from medical school only fourteen months after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and provided medical care for the newly freed slaves who had been neglected and exploited by the medical system.

· Dr. Edith Irby Jones, the first African American to attend a previously white-only medical school in the Jim Crow South, where she was not allowed to eat lunch with her classmates or use the women’s bathroom. Still, Dr. Irby Jones persisted and graduated from medical school, going on to directly inspire other black women to pursue medicine such as . . .

· Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who, after meeting Dr. Irby Jones, changed her career ambitions from becoming a Dillard’s salesclerk to becoming a doctor. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Dr. Elders as the US surgeon general, making her the first African American and second woman to hold this position.

Brown tells the stories of these doctors from the perspective of a black woman in medicine. Her journey as a medical student already has parallels to those of black women who entered medicine generations before her. What she uncovers about these women’s struggles, their need to work twice as hard and be twice as good, and their ultimate success serves as instruction and inspiration for new generations considering a career in medicine or science. – Beacon Press

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Theologies pick

In Thought, Word, and Seed: Reckonings from a Midwest Farm by Tiffany Eberle Kriner with foreword by Thomas Gardner

In this brilliantly crafted essay collection, Tiffany Eberle Kriner weaves together literary criticism, nature writing, and memoir to explore what grows when we plant texts in the landscapes of our lives.

The first time Tiffany Eberle Kriner walked the parcel of land that would become Root and Sky Farm its primary crop seemed to be chaos. Industrial agriculture practices had depleted the fields, leaving them littered with the detritus of consumerism and rural poverty—plastic deck chairs, bags of diapers, endless empty cans of Monster Energy Drink. In this landscape, she meets Virgil and Charles W. Chesnutt, where her close readings of their works intersect with her efforts to create “a just and sustainable community farm.”

From her sixty acres in northern Illinois, Kriner reads James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, T. S. Eliot, William Langland, and others. She weaves reflections into the warp and woof of her life: coaxing growth from neglected land, embracing the frustrations and joys of family life, reckoning with racism in a small town. Along the way she cultivates an awareness of interdependence and mercy as they appear in the particulars of her rooted life.

Connecting culture, ecology, faith, and literature, In Thought, Word, and Seed invites readers to cultivate fruitful conversations between literature and the environments in which they live. – Eerdmans

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True Crime pick

Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls by Jessica McDiarmid

For decades, Indigenous women and girls have gone missing or been found murdered along an isolated stretch of highway in northwestern British Columbia. The corridor is known as the Highway of Tears, and it has come to symbolize a national crisis.

Journalist Jessica McDiarmid meticulously investigates the devastating effect these tragedies have had on the families of the victims and their communities, and how systemic racism and indifference have created a climate in which Indigenous women and girls are overpoliced yet underprotected. McDiarmid interviews those closest to the victims—mothers and fathers, siblings and friends—and provides an intimate firsthand account of their loss and unflagging fight for justice. Examining the historically fraught social and cultural tensions between settlers and Indigenous peoples in the region, McDiarmid links these cases to others across Canada—now estimated to number up to four thousand—contextualizing them within a broader examination of the undervaluing of Indigenous lives in the country.

Highway of Tears is a piercing exploration of our ongoing failure to provide justice for the victims and a testament to their families’ and communities’ unwavering determination to find it. – Atria Books

This title is also available in large print.

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Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

New, and, True Crime Books – Art Thieves and Con Artists Edition

Looking for new true crime books? Our true crime selector, Lynn, has two brand new true crime books about art thieves and con artists! Read more about them below and share your favorites art thief/con artist true crime book in the comments.

Con/Artist: The Life and Crimes of the World’s Greatest Art Forger by Tony Tetro

Art forger Tetro is known for his virtually perfect copies of works by such artists as Rembrandt, Dali, and Rockwell. Charged in the late 1980s with more than 40 counts of forgery, he eventually pleaded no contest to a drastically reduced number of charges. Tetro, born in 1950, is a self-taught artist, who, in his early years, copied famous paintings (often from library books) and put them up for sale at art fairs. But nobody wanted them, and he figured he knew why: he signed them with his own name. Inspiration struck when he read Fake!, Clifford Irving’s 1969 book about the notorious art forger Elmyr de Hory. As Tetro tells us, he thought, “I could do this.” And he did—better, perhaps, than anyone before or since. His memoir, cowritten with investigative journalist Giampiero Ambrosi, is absolutely fascinating, full of the kind of evocative writing and precise detail that brings an autobiography to life. He might have been doing something illegal, but it’s awfully hard not to like Tony Tetro. Like reformed con artist Frank W. Abagnale (Catch Me If You Can), he seems straightforward, open about his crimes, and just a bit proud of his success as a crook. A welcome addition to any true-crime shelf.  From Booklist Online

Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel

Finkel (The Stranger in the Woods, 2017) presents a roller-coaster read of hubris and romance, contradiction and despair. French art thief Stéphane Breitwieser’s story is full of epic highs that seem never-ending and crucial questions regarding his mental state and motivation. He is a man who “exempt[ed] himself from the rules of society.” Over nearly eight years, Breitwieser stole a work of art once every dozen or so days, amassing over 300 objects, including engravings, weapons, tapestries, and paintings. Acting on instinct, often spontaneously, improvising, and thrilled by the challenge, Breitwieser seems to have reveled in the exhilaration aroused by taunting the authorities. But he also comes across as lonesome, guided by passion and aesthetics, and obsessed with acquisition; he kept all that he stole. Is he criminally insane? Immature and spoiled? Certainly his unquenchable thirst for stealing art was indulged by the people who loved him and whom he loved, including his mother, and his crimes ultimately destroyed their lives. Finkel examines the circumstances that fed Breitwieser’s obsession and led to his downfall. From Booklist Online

 

New, and, True Crime

It’s summer time and there’s an explosion of new crime books. Check out these new titles:

Angel Makers: Arsenic, a Midwife, and Modern History’s Most Astonishing Murder Ring by Patti McCracken

They called her Auntie Suzy: a pleasant, friendly woman who acted as a midwife in a village in Hungary a century ago. Most readers, even devoted fans of true crime, have probably never heard of her. And yet she was the leader of a ring of women who committed dozens, maybe hundreds, of murders over a period of perhaps 15 years. This is journalist McCracken’s first book, and it is simply excellent. The storytelling is dramatic and compassionate; unlike works of crime nonfiction that relate facts at a journalistic remove, this book feels like it was written by someone who cares deeply about the victims of the crimes. There are a lot of mysteries surrounding this story: for example, there are conflicting accounts of how the “murder ring” was uncovered, and the total number of victims remains uncertain. Historical accounts conflict with one another. As much as it is possible to do so a century later, McCracken separates the wheat from the chaff and arrives at a representation of events that seems to tell the real story of the crimes—both who committed them, how they did it (distilling arsenic from flypaper), and how Auntie Suzy and her gang were finally apprehended.   From Booklist Online

Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders by John Glatt

The horrific double homicide may have thrown the South Carolina low country into an unflattering national spotlight, but the murders of Maggie and Paul Murdaugh are but two in a series of tragedies. At the center is Maggie’s husband and Paul’s father, Alex, a former lawyer descended from a long line of South Carolina prosecutors. Investigative journalist and veteran true-crime author Glatt (The Doomsday Mother, 2022) tells the story, from the first Murdaugh solicitors to hold office through Alex’s 2023 trial, including the several deaths in Alex’s orbit: Stephen Smith, his son Buster’s classmate, who was found dead under suspicious circumstances in 2015; longtime housekeeper Gloria Satterfield, who died after allegedly tripping and falling on the Murdaugh’s property in 2018; Mallory Beach, Paul’s 19-year-old friend, who was killed in a 2019 boating accident while Paul was driving drunk. And of course, the 2021 shooting deaths of Maggie and Paul on the family hunting property. Adding to the horror, Alex all the while was stealing millions from his clients’ settlements, including from the sons of his deceased housekeeper. With the flurry of recent coverage, including Netflix and Dateline documentaries, readers will be swept up in this account of the circumstances that enabled such tragedies.  From Booklist Online

Devil’s Coin: My Battle to Take Down the Notorious Onecoin CryptoQueen  by  Jennifer McAdam

McAdam, with journalist coauthor Thompson, tells the incredible journey of how she, a Scottish grandmother and the daughter of a coal miner, went from cryptocurrency fraud victim to a champion for herself and the millions of others who were deceived by OneCoin, losing their savings for a total of $27 billion worldwide. Her memoir is both a cautionary tale and a story of endurance in the pursuit of justice. Readers will come to understand McAdam’s health conditions as well as her fascination with OneCoin’s founder, Ruja Plamenova Ignatova, who would later be convicted for fraud. McAdam relates how she worked with law enforcement to uncover the scandal, weathered death threats, and continued to tell her own story and push for awareness in the media. Readers interested in true-crime tales of deception and scams, cryptocurrency, and blockchain technology will find this book fascinating as it unfolds McAdam’s point of view on the personal and worldwide impact of the OneCoin scandal. From Booklist Online

What the Dead Know: Learning about Life as a New York City Death Investigator by Barbara Butcher

Butcher’s life is right out of a novel, and a best-seller at that. She was one of the first women to be hired as a medicolegal investigator in New York City, spending over two decades in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She battled alcoholism and depression before and during her career as well as the fraught interpersonal dynamics that come from being a gay woman in an overwhelmingly male profession and still managed to rise in the ranks and become one of the most trusted voices in her field. There’s even her mystery-series, protagonist-ready name. And, after reading What the Dead Know, readers will wish that Butcher would turn to mystery writing. The book is part memoir, part crime—or more specifically death—procedural. She shares specific cases from her long career, chronicling the range of death scenes she encountered, from the many suicides to front-page-ready double murders. The chapters that follow the complicated nature of her job following the 9/11 attacks are especially harrowing and emotionally resonant. Butcher’s relaxed writing style allows her to show off her engaging personality, which often lends moments of humor despite the heavy topic, making this a recommended addition to any public-library collection.  From Booklist Online

July’s Simply Held Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined Simply Held? If not, you’re missing out! Ten different nonfiction titles are chosen four times a year by our librarians and automatically placed on hold for you. Those selections come from the following categories: biography, body mind spirit, cookbook, explore your world, poetry, self-help, social justice, strength through struggle, theologies, and true crime. Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Biography pick

Gentleman Bandit: The True Story of Black Bart, the old West’s most infamous stagecoach robber by John Boessenecker

Black Bart is widely regarded today as not only the most notorious stage robber of the Old West but also the best behaved. Over his lifetime, Black Bart held up at least twenty-nine stagecoaches in California and Oregon with mild, polite commands, stealing from Wells Fargo and the US mail but never robbing a passenger. Such behavior earned him the title of a true “gentleman bandit.”

His real name was Charles E. Boles, and in the public eye, Charles lived quietly as a boulevardier in San Francisco, the wealthiest and most exciting city in the American West. Boles was an educated man who traveled among respectable crowds. Because he did not drink, fight or consort with prostitutes, his true calling as America’s greatest stage robber was never suspected until his final capture in 1883. Sheriffs searched and struggled for years to find him, and newspaper editors had a field day reporting his exploits. Legends and rumors trailed his name until his mysterious death, and his ultimate fate remains one of the greatest mysteries of the Old West.

Now historian John Boessenecker sheds new light on Black Bart’s beginnings, reputation and exploits, bringing to life the glittering story of the mysterious stage robber who doubled as a rich, genteel socialite in the golden era of the Wild West.

This title is also available in large print.

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Body, Mind, Spirit pick

Dream Analysis Made Easy: Everything You Need to Know to Harness the Power of Your Dreams by Krystina Sypniewski

Your dreams offer vital insights into many aspects of life. This easy-to-use book goes a step further than traditional dream books. Within these pages are many examples to show you how to analyse and make sense of your own dreams. While offering some symbolic guidance the emphasis is always on the numinous meaning for the individual. The dreams you will work with include Recurring, Prophetic, Nightmare, Lucid and Direct Soul communication.

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Cookbook Pick

Grilling with Golic and Hays: Operation BBQ Relief cookbook by Mike Golic and Stan Hays / photography by Ken Goodman

Champion pitmaster and CEO and co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief Stan Hays joins forces with NFL veteran and former ESPN Radio host Mike Golic in this celebration of the connection of BBQ and sports.

Good for the stomach, better for the soul—quality comfort barbecue and side dishes that reflect the character and warmth of the national nonprofit Operation BBQ Relief. The 80+ recipes from your favorite sports stars, pitmasters, and chefs combine the worlds through the power of food.

Grilling with Golic and Hays: Operation BBQ Relief Cookbook aims to inspire hope and compassion through the stories of overcoming challenges that are present in both the athletic world and the work of Operation BBQ Relief. Armed with a caravan of cooks, mobile pits, kitchens, and volunteers, Operation BBQ Relief delivers support through hot meals in times of need, feeding first responders and communities affected by natural disasters, along with year-round efforts to fight hunger through various programs.

Each of the 80+ comforting recipes—from appetizers to ribs, and from seafood to desserts—will include a short biography of each sports star or chef contributor. Gorgeous photography throughout the book showcases recipes such as:

Smoked Jalapeño Pimento Cheese
Lobster Pasta Salad
Tequila BBQ Spare Ribs
Southwest Brisket Chili
Chipotle Smoked Chicken
Salmon Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw and Mango Salsa
Rum Cake
Chargrilled Pineapple Piña Colada

Barbecue and sports have connected people and families everywhere, from tailgates to sports watch parties. It is this connection that also drives the heart of Operation BBQ Relief and each community they serve with hope, friendship, and compassion.

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Explore Your World pick

A Brief History of Earth: Four Billion Years in Eight Chapters by Andrew H. Knoll

How well do you know the ground beneath your feet?

Odds are, where you’re standing was once cooking under a roiling sea of lava, crushed by a towering sheet of ice, rocked by a nearby meteor strike, or perhaps choked by poison gases, drowned beneath ocean, perched atop a mountain range, or roamed by fearsome monsters. Probably most or even all of the above.

The story of our home planet and the organisms spread across its surface is far more spectacular than any Hollywood blockbuster, filled with enough plot twists to rival a bestselling thriller. But only recently have we begun to piece together the whole mystery into a coherent narrative. Drawing on his decades of field research and up-to-the-minute understanding of the latest science, renowned geologist Andrew H. Knoll delivers a rigorous yet accessible biography of Earth, charting our home planet’s epic 4.6 billion-year story. Placing twenty first-century climate change in deep context, A Brief History of Earth is an indispensable look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Features original illustrations depicting Earth history and nearly 50 figures (maps, tables, photographs, graphs).

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Poetry pick

Everything Comes Next: Collected & New Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

This celebratory book collects in one volume award-winning and beloved poet Naomi Shihab Nye’s most popular and accessible poems.

Featuring new, never-before-published poems; an introduction by bestselling poet and author Edward Hirsch, as well as a foreword and writing tips by the poet; and stunning artwork by bestselling artist Rafael López, Everything Comes Next is essential for poetry readers, classroom teachers, and library collections.

Everything Comes Next is a treasure chest of Naomi Shihab Nye’s most beloved poems, and features favorites such as “Famous” and “A Valentine for Ernest Mann,” as well as widely shared pieces such as “Kindness” and “Gate A-4.” The book is an introduction to the poet’s work for new readers, as well as a comprehensive edition for classroom and family sharing. Writing prompts and tips by the award-winning poet make this an outstanding choice for aspiring poets of all ages.

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Self-Help pick

Making Great Relationships: Simple Practices for Solving Conflicts, Building Connection, and Fostering Love by Rick Hanson, PhD

Relationships are usually the most important part of a person’s life. But they’re often stressful and frustrating, or simply awkward, distant, and lonely. We feel the weight of things unsaid, needs unmet, conflicts unresolved. It’s easy to feel stuck.

But actually, new research shows that you create your relationships every day with the things you do and say, which gives you the ability to start improving them now. You have the power to make all your relationships better just by making simple changes that start inside yourself.

New York Times bestselling author of Buddha’s Brain and Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson, PhD, brings his trademark warmth and clarity to Making Great Relationships, a comprehensive guide to fostering healthy, effective, and fulfilling relationships of all kinds: at home and at work, with family and friends, and with people who are challenging. As a psychologist, couples and family counselor, husband, and father, Dr. Hanson has learned what makes relationships go badly and what you can do to make them go better.

Grounded in brain science and clinical psychology, and informed by contemplative wisdom, Making Great Relationships offers fifty fundamental skills, including:

• How to convince yourself that you truly deserve to be treated well
• How to communicate effectively in all kinds of settings
• How to stay centered so that conflict doesn’t rattle you so deeply
• How to see the good in others (even when they make it difficult)
• How to set and maintain healthy boundaries or resize relationships as needed
• How to express your needs so that they are more likely to be fulfilled

With these fifty simple yet powerful practices, you can handle conflicts, repair misunderstandings, get treated better, deepen a romantic partnership, be at peace with others, and give the love that you have in your heart. Making Great Relationships will teach you how to relate better than ever with all the people in your life.

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Social Justice pick

Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.

Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

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Strength Through Struggle pick

Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter by John Hendrickson

In the fall of 2019, John Hendrickson wrote a groundbreaking story for The Atlantic about Joe Biden’s decades-long journey with stuttering, as well as his own. The article went viral, reaching readers around the world and altering the course of Hendrickson’s life. Overnight, he was forced to publicly confront an element of himself that still caused him great pain.

He soon learned he wasn’t alone with his feelings: strangers who stutter began sending him their own personal stories, something that continues to this day. Now, in this reported memoir, Hendrickson takes us deep inside the mind and heart of a stutterer as he sets out to answer lingering questions about himself and his condition that he was often too afraid to ask.

In Life on Delay, Hendrickson writes candidly about bullying, substance abuse, depression, isolation, and other issues stutterers like him face daily. He explores the intricate family dynamics surrounding his own stutter and revisits key people from his past in unguarded interviews. Readers get an over-the-shoulder view of his childhood; his career as a journalist, which once seemed impossible; and his search for a romantic partner. Along the way, Hendrickson guides us through the evolution of speech therapy, the controversial quest for a “magic pill” to end stuttering, and the burgeoning self-help movement within the stuttering community. Beyond his own experiences, he shares portraits of fellow stutterers who have changed his life, and he writes about a pioneering doctor who is upending the field of speech therapy.

Life on Delay is an indelible account of perseverance, a soulful narrative about not giving up, and a glimpse into the process of making peace with our past and present selves.

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Theologies pick

Muddy People: A Muslim Coming-Of-Age by Sara El Sayed

A quick, clever, warm-hearted debut about growing up in an Egyptian-Muslim family.

Sara is growing up in a family with a lot of rules. Her mother tells her she’s not allowed to wear a bikini, her father tells her she’s not allowed to drink alcohol, and her grandmother tells her to never trust a man with her money.

After leaving Egypt when Sara was only six years old, her family slowly learns how to navigate the social dynamics of their new home. Sara feels out of place in her new school. Her father refuses to buy his coworkers a ginger beer, thinking it contains alcohol. Her mother refuses to wear a hijab, even if it would help them connect with other local Muslims. And Sara learns what it feels like to have a crush on a boy, that some classmates are better friends than others, and that her parents are loving, but flawed people who don’t always know what’s best for her, despite being her strongest defenders.

For readers of Patricia Lockwood’s Priestdaddy and Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart, this heartwarming book about family and identity introduces a compelling new voice, with a coming-of-age story that will speak to everyone who’s ever struggled to figure out where they belong.

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True Crime pick

Ted Bundy and the Unsolved Murder Epidemic: the Dark Figure of Crime by Matt DeLisi

This book revisits the life and crimes of Ted Bundy. It seeks to reconcile the contradictions and controversies about his life that underscore the broader US unsolved murder problem, one that is estimated at between 250,000 to 350,000 open, unresolved, or cold cases. The incidence of crime is far greater than is captured by official statistics; most offenses are never detected, a concept known as the dark figure of crime which is explored here. Drawing on 25 years of practitioner, research, and consultant experiences with the most violent criminals, this book offers solutions toward clearing the current backlog of unsolved murders in the United States many of which were never reported and disproportionately perpetrated by offenders like Bundy. This compelling book speaks to students, academics and readers interested in true crime, serial murder, homicide and criminal justice.

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Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

I am a lover of true crime. This isn’t much of a surprise to my family and friends. For years, true crime has taken over the media I consume(podcasts, tv shows, movies, books, etc). When I stumbled upon Murder Book: A Graphic Memoir of a True Crime Obsession by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, I knew this was something I needed to read. I wasn’t disappointed.

Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell is obsessed with true crime. Ever since she can remember, true crime has been prevalent in her life. Hilary believes that she inherited her interest in crime from her mother, but has questions about the psychology surrounding why people find true crime to be so entertaining. In her quest to answer that question, Hilary examines her past, does research, and starts combining what she learns into this graphic memoir. Hilary talks about high profile cases(Zodiac, Ted Bundy, etc) that impacted her life and moves onto other not as high profile cases and the often overlooked victims that are also etched into her memory (Anne Marie Fahey for example). For those of us that enjoy true crime, Hilary also lists authors she loves, the crime shows she watches, and the podcasts she listens to. This graphic novel made me feel normal – she outlines her obsession of love and true crime, while also saying that outsiders may see some weirdness in people loving/enjoying true crime. This is definitely an unconventional book/topic, but there is an audience who will appreciate it.

While I enjoyed this graphic novel, it does jump around a lot (the author acknowledges this). It didn’t bother me much as it made sense to me and followed the jumpy way my own brain works. Reading about how the author tries to figure out why she loves true crime and why she started down this path made me think about why I too love true crime. Hilary highlighted some cases that I hadn’t heard about and some that I had already explored. It was validating to read something that talked about my own anxieties, love of true crime, etc.

April’s Simply Held Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined Simply Held? If not, you’re missing out! Ten different nonfiction titles are chosen four times a year by our librarians and automatically placed on hold for you. Those selections come from the following categories: biography, body mind spirit, cookbook, explore your world, poetry, self-help, social justice, strength through struggle, theologies, and true crime. Join Simply Held to have any of the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Biography pick

Untold Power: The Fascinating Rise and Complex Legacy of First Lady Edith Wilson by Rebecca Boggs Roberts

A nuanced portrait of the first acting woman president, written with fresh and cinematic verve by a leading historian on women’s suffrage and power

While this nation has yet to elect its first woman president—and though history has downplayed her role—just over a century ago a woman became the nation’s first acting president. In fact, she was born in 1872, and her name was Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. She climbed her way out of Appalachian poverty and into the highest echelons of American power and in 1919 effectively acted as the first woman president of the U.S. (before women could even vote nationwide) when her husband, Woodrow Wilson, was incapacitated. Beautiful, brilliant, charismatic, catty, and calculating, she was a complicated figure whose personal quest for influence reshaped the position of First Lady into one of political prominence forever. And still nobody truly understands who she was.

For the first time, we have a biography that takes an unflinching look at the woman whose ascent mirrors that of many powerful American women before and since, one full of the compromises and complicities women have undertaken throughout time in order to find security for themselves and make their mark on history. She was a shape-shifter who was obsessed with crafting her own reputation, at once deeply invested in exercising her own power while also opposing women’s suffrage. With narrative verve and fresh eyes, Untold Power is a richly overdue examination of one of American history’s most influential, complicated women as well as the surprising and often absurd realities of American politics.

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Body, Mind, Spirit pick

After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Live and Beyond by Bruce Greyson, MD

The world’s leading expert on near-death experiences reveals his journey toward rethinking the nature of death, life, and the continuity of consciousness.

Cases of remarkable experiences on the threshold of death have been reported since ancient times, and are described today by 10% of people whose hearts stop. The medical world has generally ignored these “near-death experiences,” dismissing them as “tricks of the brain” or wishful thinking. But after his patients started describing events that he could not just sweep under the rug, Dr. Bruce Greyson began to investigate.

As a physician without a religious belief system, he approached near-death experiences from a scientific perspective. In After, he shares the transformative lessons he has learned over four decades of research. Our culture has tended to view dying as the end of our consciousness, the end of our existence—a dreaded prospect that for many people evokes fear and anxiety.

But Dr. Greyson shows how scientific revelations about the dying process can support an alternative theory. Dying could be the threshold between one form of consciousness and another, not an ending but a transition. This new perspective on the nature of death can transform the fear of dying that pervades our culture into a healthy view of it as one more milestone in the course of our lives. After challenges us to open our minds to these experiences and to what they can teach us, and in so doing, expand our understanding of consciousness and of what it means to be human.

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Cookbook Pick

6 Spices 60 Dishes: Indian Recipes that are simple, fresh, and big on taste by Ruta Kahate; photographs by Ghazalle Badiozamani

A collection of 60 Indian recipes that are fresh and healthy, easy to prepare, and full of flavor.

Using just six spices—cayenne, coriander, cumin, turmeric, mustard seed, and asafetida—chef Ruta Kahate presents 60 delicious recipes that are easy to prepare and deliver rich, complex flavor. These dishes—including tons of nourishing veggies, raitas, grains, and dals—are fresh, healthy, and versatile enough to mix and match, plus they feature Instant Pot variations for maximum ease.

Serve up a quick lunch of Mustard Shrimp alongside a cool lettuce and citrus salad. Short on time after a busy day? Instant Pot your supper with a comforting Coconut Beef Stew. Prep a double batch of Parsi-Style Rajma on Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week—the flavors only get better over time.

With stories from Ruta Kahate’s culinary life around the world, plus vibrant, colorful photography that reflects the lively recipes within, 6 SPICES, 60 DISHES is a must-have for anyone who wants super-tasty, healthy meals that come together in a flash.

EXPERT AUTHOR: Ruta Kahate was a teaching cook for many years in the Bay Area before moving to Goa. She is adept at explaining step-process cooking to amateur home cooks, and her recipes are clearly written and well tested, coming out perfect every time.

AUTHENTIC RECIPES: Ruta Kahate was born and raised in India, and has since lived in California, Hong Kong, Goa, and Wisconsin. Her food is authentic and healthy, drawing on the Ayurvedic principles she lives by and her experience living in India and abroad.

Perfect for:

Home cooks of all levels
Anyone looking to expand their weeknight cooking repertoire
Busy people who need easy recipes but still want them to taste good
People who love Indian food
People who bought books like INDIANISH, MADE IN INDIA, and 5 SPICES, 50 DISHES

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Explore Your World pick

Looking Up: The True Adventures of a Storm-Chasing Weather Nerd by Matthew Cappucci

An energetic and electrifying narrative about all things weather—by one of today’s rising meteorological stars.

Get in—we’re going storm-chasing!

Imagine a very cool weather nerd has just pulled up to you and yelled this out the window of his custom-built armored storm-chasing truck. The wind is whipping around, he’s munching on Wawa, it’s all very chaotic—yet as you look into his grinning face, you feel the greatest surge of adrenaline you have ever felt in your life. Hallelujah: your cavalry is here!

Welcome to the brilliance of Looking Up, the lively new book from rising meterology star Matthew Cappucci. He’s a meteorologist for The Washington Post, and you might think of him as Doogie Howser meets Bill Paxton from Twister, with a dash of Leonardo DiCaprio from Catch Me If You Can. A self-proclaimed weather nerd, at the age of fourteen he talked his way into delivering a presentation on waterspouts at the American Meteorological Society’s annual broadcast conference by fudging his age on the application and created his own major on weather science while an undergrad at Harvard.

Combining reportage and accessible science with personal storytelling and infectious enthusiasm, Looking Up is a riveting ride through the state of our weather and a touching story about parents and mentors helping a budding scientist achieve his improbable dreams. Throughout, readers get a tutorial on the basics of weather science and the impact of the climate.

As our country’s leaders sound the alarm on climate change, few people have as close a view to how serious the situation actually is than those whose job is to follow the weather, which is the daily dose of climate we interact with and experience every day.

The weather affects every aspect of our lives (even our art) as well as our future. The way we think about it requires a whole-life overhaul. Rain or shine, tropical storm or twister, Cappucci is here to help us begin the process.

So get in his storm-chasing truck already, will ya?

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Poetry pick

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, artwork by Jason Griffin

Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin, had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.

And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.

This title is available in the following formats:

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Self-Help pick

The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness by Robert Waldinger, MD and Marc Shulz, PhD

What makes for a happy life, a fulfilling life? A good life? According to the directors of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted, the answer to these questions may be closer than you realize.

What makes a life fulfilling and meaningful? The simple but surprising answer is: relationships. The stronger our relationships, the more likely we are to live happy, satisfying, and overall healthier lives. In fact, the Harvard Study of Adult Development reveals that the strength of our connections with others can predict the health of both our bodies and our brains as we go through life.

The invaluable insights in this book emerge from the revealing personal stories of hundreds of participants in the Harvard Study as they were followed year after year for their entire adult lives, and this wisdom is bolstered by research findings from this and many other studies. Relationships in all their forms—friendships, romantic partnerships, families, coworkers, tennis partners, book club members, Bible study groups—all contribute to a happier, healthier life. And as The Good Life shows us, it’s never too late to strengthen the relationships you have, and never too late to build new ones.

Dr. Waldinger’s TED Talk about the Harvard Study, “What Makes a Good Life,” has been viewed more than 42 million times and is one of the ten most-watched TED talks ever. The Good Life has been praised by bestselling authors Jay Shetty (“Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz lead us on an empowering quest towards our greatest need: meaningful human connection”), Angela Duckworth (“In a crowded field of life advice and even life advice based on scientific research, Schulz and Waldinger stand apart”), and happiness expert Laurie Santos (“Waldinger and Schulz are world experts on the counterintuitive things that make life meaningful”).

With warmth, wisdom, and compelling life stories, The Good Life shows us how we can make our lives happier and more meaningful through our connections to others.

This title is also available in the following format:

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Social Justice pick

A Few Days Full of Trouble: Revelations on the Journey to Justice for my Cousin and Best Friend, Emmett Till by Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr and Christopher Benson

In 1955, Emmett Till was lynched when he was fourteen years old. That remains an undisputed fact of the case that ignited a flame within the Civil Rights Movement that has yet to be extinguished. Yet the rest of the details surrounding the event remain distorted by time and too many tellings. What does justice mean in the resolution of a cold case spanning nearly seven decades? In A Few Days Full of Trouble, this question drives a new perspective on the story of Emmett Till, relayed by his cousin and best friend—the Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., a survivor of the night of terror when young Emmett was taken from his family’s rural Mississippi Delta home in the dead of night.

In a hypnotic interplay between uncovered facts and vivid recall, Rev. Parker offers an emotional and suspenseful page-turner, set against a backdrop of reporting errors and manipulations, racial reckoning, and political pushback—and he does so accompanied by never-before-seen findings in the investigation, the soft resurrection of memory, and the battle-tested courage of faith. A Few Days Full of Trouble is a powerful work of truth-telling, a gift to readers looking to reconcile the weight of the past with a hope for the future.

This book is also available in the following format:

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Strength Through Struggle pick

Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation by Hannah Gadsby

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself,” Hannah Gadsby declared in their show Nanette, a scorching critique of the way society conducts public debates about marginalized communities. When it premiered on Netflix, it left audiences captivated by their blistering honesty and their singular ability to take viewers from rolling laughter to devastated silence. Ten Steps to Nanette continues Gadsby’s tradition of confounding expectations and norms, properly introducing us to one of the most explosive, formative voices of our time.

Gadsby grew up as the youngest of five children in an isolated town in Tasmania, where homosexuality was illegal until 1997. They perceived their childhood as safe and “normal,” but as they gained an awareness of their burgeoning queerness, the outside world began to undermine the “vulnerably thin veneer” of their existence. After moving to mainland Australia and receiving a degree in art history, Gadsby found themselves adrift, working itinerant jobs and enduring years of isolation punctuated by homophobic and sexual violence. At age twenty-seven, without a home or the ability to imagine their own future, they were urged by a friend to enter a stand-up competition. They won, and so began their career in comedy.

Gadsby became well known for their self-deprecating, autobiographical humor that made them the butt of their own jokes. But in 2015, as Australia debated the legality of same-sex marriage, Gadsby started to question this mode of storytelling, beginning work on a show that would become “the most-talked-about, written-about, shared-about comedy act in years” (The New York Times).

Harrowing and hilarious, Ten Steps to Nanette traces Gadsby’s growth as a queer person, to their ever-evolving relationship with comedy, and their struggle with late-in-life diagnoses of autism and ADHD, finally arriving at the backbone of Nanette: the renouncement of self-deprecation, the rejection of misogyny, and the moral significance of truth-telling.

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Theologies pick

Uncultured: A Memoir by Daniella Mestyanek Young with Brandi Larsen

Behind the tall, foreboding gates of a commune in Brazil, Daniella Mestyanek Young was raised in the religious cult The Children of God, also known as The Family, as the daughter of high-ranking members. Her great-grandmother donated land for one of The Family’s first communes in Texas. Her mother, at thirteen, was forced to marry the leader and served as his secretary for many years. Beholden to The Family’s strict rules, Daniella suffers physical, emotional, and sexual abuse—masked as godly discipline and divine love—and is forbidden from getting a traditional education.

At fifteen years old, fed up with The Family and determined to build a better and freer life for herself, Daniella escapes to Texas. There, she bravely enrolls herself in high school and excels, later graduating as valedictorian of her college class, then electing to join the military to begin a career as an intelligence officer, where she believes she will finally belong.

But she soon learns that her new world—surrounded by men on the sands of Afghanistan—looks remarkably similar to the one she desperately tried to leave behind.

Told in a beautiful, propulsive voice and with clear-eyed honesty, Uncultured explores the dangers unleashed when harmful group mentality goes unrecognized, and is emblematic of the many ways women have to contort themselves to survive.

This title is also available in the following format:

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True Crime pick

Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University by Richard White

A premier historian penetrates the fog of corruption and cover-up still surrounding the murder of a Stanford University founder to establish who did it, how, and why.

In 1885 Jane and Leland Stanford cofounded a university to honor their recently deceased young son. After her husband’s death in 1893, Jane Stanford, a devoted spiritualist who expected the university to inculcate her values, steered Stanford into eccentricity and public controversy for more than a decade. In 1905 she was murdered in Hawaii, a victim, according to the Honolulu coroner’s jury, of strychnine poisoning. With her vast fortune the university’s lifeline, the Stanford president and his allies quickly sought to foreclose challenges to her bequests by constructing a story of death by natural causes. The cover-up gained traction in the murky labyrinths of power, wealth, and corruption of Gilded Age San Francisco. The murderer walked.

Deftly sifting the scattered evidence and conflicting stories of suspects and witnesses, Richard White gives us the first full account of Jane Stanford’s murder and its cover-up. Against a backdrop of the city’s machine politics, rogue policing, tong wars, and heated newspaper rivalries, White’s search for the murderer draws us into Jane Stanford’s imperious household and the academic enmities of the university. Although Stanford officials claimed that no one could have wanted to murder Jane, we meet several people who had the motives and the opportunity to do so. One of these, we discover, also had the means.

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Nonfiction for the Reluctant, Stressed, and Skeptical

I was recently reminded that there’s a lot of fascinating reading in non-fiction if you only know how to find it. Non-fiction offers a different reading experience than fiction does. Where fiction affects your emotions and takes you on a journey (often tense, angsty, or deeply emotionally wrenching), non-fiction engages your mind with more intellectual fascination. Here are some non-fiction books I’ve read that offer various entry points into the genre.

My top category is always science – I love Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, and What If (1 & 2) by Randall Munroe. I’ve also started on the works of Mary Roach, renowned for her approachable and entertaining forays into topics like death, sex, space, and most recently animal offenders in Fuzz. I’d say my love for scientific non-fiction (and fiction; my favorite author is Andy Weir after all) is because of my natural curiosity, since these books explore different realms of knowledge and the limits of what’s possible.

My second-favorite nonfiction category is books by humorists like David Sedaris; I’ve read most of his work (for the title alone I particularly love Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls) as well as other hilarious and relatable personalities. I remember loving Wow No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

Another very common entry point into nonfiction is true crime books – I’m still working my way into this area but I have read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (a classic and definitely fascinating) as well as The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and the convicted murderer who was an invaluable part of it.

Many people also love memoirs like Crying in H Mart (I’ll read it when I need to cry and not before, thank you) or poetry by breathtaking wordsmiths like Rupi Kaur (I tried Milk and Honey, and it made me feel raw, vulnerable and exposed so I decided to try again later), or powerful, expose-type social science reads. The power of the latter is in making you feel seen, or as if your eyes have been opened. For that reason I loved Ace by Angela Chen and highly recommend it.

The key in my experience is identifying what it is you value in a reading experience and seeking them out. For me, this includes infectious enthusiasm, a dry sense of humor, a sense of hope, and engrossing storytelling. Do you have something that immediately hooks you, or a favorite nonfiction read? Let us know below!

 

January’s Simply Held Nonfiction Picks

We have rebranded our Best Sellers Club to now be called Simply Held! Have you joined Simply Held? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose four nonfiction titles for Simply Held members to read: a biography, a cookbook, a social justice, and a true crime title. Below you will find information provided by the publishers on the four titles our selectors have picked for October.

Social Justice pick

Making Americans: Stories of Historic Struggles, New Ideas, and Inspiration in Immigrant Education by Jessica Lander

A landmark work that weaves captivating stories about the past, present, and personal into an inspiring vision for how America can educate immigrant students

Setting out from her classroom, Jessica Lander takes the reader on a powerful and urgent journey to understand what it takes for immigrant students to become Americans. A compelling read for everyone who cares about America’s future, Making Americans brims with innovative ideas for educators and policy makers across the country.

Lander brings to life the history of America’s efforts to educate immigrants through rich stories, including these:
-The Nebraska teacher arrested for teaching an eleven-year-old boy in German who took his case to the Supreme Court
-The California families who overturned school segregation for Mexican American children
-The Texas families who risked deportation to establish the right for undocumented children to attend public schools

She visits innovative classrooms across the country that work with immigrant-origin students, such as these:
-A school in Georgia for refugee girls who have been kept from school by violence, poverty, and natural disaster
-Five schools in Aurora, Colorado, that came together to collaborate with community groups, businesses, a hospital, and families to support newcomer children.
-A North Carolina school district of more than 100 schools who rethought how they teach their immigrant-origin students

She shares inspiring stories of how seven of her own immigrant students created new homes in America, including the following:
-The boy who escaped Baghdad and found a home in his school’s ROTC program
-The daughter of Cambodian genocide survivors who dreamed of becoming a computer scientist
-The orphaned boy who escaped violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and created a new community here

Making Americans is an exploration of immigrant education across the country told through key historical moments, current experiments to improve immigrant education, and profiles of immigrant students. Making Americans is a remarkable book that will reshape how we all think about nurturing one of America’s greatest assets: the newcomers who enrich this country with their energy, talents, and drive.

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True Crime pick

The Forever Witness: How DNA and Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder by Edward Humes

A relentless detective and an amateur genealogist solve a haunting cold case—and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy.

In November 1987, a young couple on an overnight trip to Seattle vanished without a trace. A week later, the bodies of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Jay Cook were found in rural Washington. It was a brutal crime, and it was the perfect crime: With few clues and no witnesses, an international manhunt turned up empty, and the sensational case that shocked the Pacific Northwest gradually slipped from the headlines.

In deep-freeze, long-term storage, biological evidence from the crime sat waiting, as Detective Jim Scharf poured over old case files looking for clues his predecessors missed. Meanwhile, 1,200 miles away in California, CeCe Moore began her lifelong fascination with genetic genealogy, a powerful forensic tool that emerged not from the crime lab, but through the wildly popular home DNA ancestry tests purchased by more than 40 million Americans. When Scharf decided to send the cold case’s decades-old DNA to Parabon NanoLabs, he hoped he would finally bring closure to the Van Cuylenborg and Cook families. He didn’t know that he and Moore would make history.

Genetic genealogy, long the province of family tree hobbyists and adoptees seeking their birth families, has made headlines as a cold case solution machine, capable of exposing the darkest secrets of seemingly upstanding citizens. In the hands of a tenacious detective like Scharf, genetic genealogy has solved one baffling killing after another. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate: Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age—the right to the very blueprint of who we are?

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Biography pick

Path Lit by Lightning: The Life of Jim Thorpe by David Maraniss

A riveting new biography of America’s greatest all-around athlete by the bestselling author of the classic biography When Pride Still Mattered.

Jim Thorpe rose to world fame as a mythic talent who excelled at every sport. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, was an All-American football player at the Carlisle Indian School, the star of the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and played major league baseball for John McGraw’s New York Giants. Even in a golden age of sports celebrities, he was one of a kind.

But despite his colossal skills, Thorpe’s life was a struggle against the odds. As a member of the Sac and Fox Nation, he encountered duplicitous authorities who turned away from him when their reputations were at risk. At Carlisle, he dealt with the racist assimilationist philosophy “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” His gold medals were unfairly rescinded because he had played minor league baseball. His later life was troubled by alcohol, broken marriages, and financial distress. He roamed from state to state and took bit parts in Hollywood, but even the film of his own life failed to improve his fortunes. But for all his travails, Thorpe did not succumb. The man survived, complications and all, and so did the myth.

Path Lit by Lightning is a great American story from a master biographer.

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Cookbook Pick

What’s for Dessert: Simple Recipes for Dessert People by Claire Saffitz

Filled with decadent delights to satisfy any sweet tooth, this all-new collection of straightforward and simple recipes for dessert people is filled with loads of troubleshooting advice that readers have come to count on.

“Whether you’re into flambés, soufflés, or simple loaf cakes this book offers over 100 different answers to that all-important question: What’s for dessert?”—Claire Saffitz

Claire Saffitz returns with 100 recipes for all dessert people—whether you’re into impressive-yet-easy molten lava cakes, comforting rice pudding, or decadent chestnut brownies. In this all-new collection, Claire shares recipes for icebox cakes, pies, cobblers, custards, cookies and more, all crafted to be as streamlined as possible. (No stand mixer? No problem! You won’t need one.) To keep the recipes straightforward and simple, Claire makes sure each recipe is extra efficient, whether you’re making a Whipped Tres Leches Cake with Hazelnuts or Caramel Peanut Popcorn Bars. Fans will find all the warmth, encouragement, and deliciously foolproof recipes with loads of troubleshooting advice that they’ve come to count on from Claire.

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Join Simply Held to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.