Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

If you, too, are interested in all things true crime I recommend Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

In the last couple months, a few television series were released that depict the dangers of extreme and fundamental religious faith, most notably Netflix’s docuseries Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey and Hulu’s adaptation of Under the Banner of Heaven. Amidst my viewing of these revealing and disturbing episodes about Fundamental Latter Day Saints, I felt it necessary to read Krakauer’s narrative exposé of the gruesome murders of a mother and her baby at the hands of her brothers-in-law. Ron and Dan Lafferty, the brothers who committed this evil act, rooted their reasoning in their Mormon Fundamentalist faith, and more specifically in some of the incredibly dark and violent origins of the religion. 

Krakauer situates his book somewhere in-between a history lesson about Latter Day Saints and a journalistic account of this double homicide. His reports are researched and informed by several interviews, notably from Dan Lafferty (one of the murderers). What I found to be particularly captivating about the book are the interviews leading up to the murders of Brenda and Erika Lafferty, and how Krakauer weaves them together with the historical narrative of the Mormon Church. So many of the Lafferty friends and family members knew that the brothers were planning to “remove” Brenda and her baby from this world, but no one stopped them. The “why” to this question is what ultimately fuels Krakauer’s book. 

Though I would not use this book for academic research about the modern LDS church–none of the historical information is explicitly his own, nor is he himself Mormon–Krakauer’s examination of how damaging religious faith can be when it is blind and unrelenting is superbly executed. 

Krakauer proves to be an expert non-fiction writer who can illuminate reality without supplementing fact with fabrications. I highly recommend Under the Banner of Heaven if you are in any way interested in true-crime, or if you are falling down the rabbit hole of religious-extremist media coverage like myself. 

 

July’s Best Sellers Club Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined the Best Sellers Club? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose four nonfiction titles for our Best Sellers Club 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 July.

Social Justice pick

Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands by Kelly Lytle Hernández

“Rebel historian” Kelly Lytle Hernández reframes our understanding of U.S. history in this groundbreaking narrative of revolution in the borderlands.

Bad Mexicans tells the dramatic story of the magonistas, the migrant rebels who sparked the 1910 Mexican Revolution from the United States. Led by a brilliant but ill-tempered radical named Ricardo Flores Magón, the magonistas were a motley band of journalists, miners, migrant workers, and more, who organized thousands of Mexican workers—and American dissidents—to their cause. Determined to oust Mexico’s dictator, Porfirio Díaz, who encouraged the plunder of his country by U.S. imperialists such as Guggenheim and Rockefeller, the rebels had to outrun and outsmart the swarm of U. S. authorities vested in protecting the Diaz regime. The U.S. Departments of War, State, Treasury, and Justice as well as police, sheriffs, and spies, hunted the magonistas across the country. Capturing Ricardo Flores Magón was one of the FBI’s first cases.

But the magonistas persevered. They lived in hiding, wrote in secret code, and launched armed raids into Mexico until they ignited the world’s first social revolution of the twentieth century.

Taking readers to the frontlines of the magonista uprising and the counterinsurgency campaign that failed to stop them, Kelly Lytle Hernández puts the magonista revolt at the heart of U.S. history. Long ignored by textbooks, the magonistas threatened to undo the rise of Anglo-American power, on both sides of the border, and inspired a revolution that gave birth to the Mexican-American population, making the magonistas’ story integral to modern American life.

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True Crime pick

The Gotti Wars: Taking Down America’s Most Notorious Mobster by John Gleeson

A riveting, decades-in-the-writing memoir from the determined young prosecutor who, in two of America’s most celebrated trials, managed to convict famed mob boss John Gotti—and subsequently took down the Mafia altogether.

John Gotti was without a doubt the flashiest and most feared Mafioso in American history. He became the boss of the Gambino Crime Family in spectacular fashion—with the brazen and very public murder of Paul Castellano in front of Sparks Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan in 1985. Not one to stay below law enforcement’s radar, Gotti instead became the first celebrity crime boss. His penchant for eye-catching apparel earned him the nickname “The Dapper Don;” his ability to beat criminal charges led to another: “The Teflon Don.”

This is the captivating story of Gotti’s meteoric rise to power and his equally dramatic downfall. Every step of the way, Gotti’s legal adversary—John Gleeson, an Assistant US Attorney in Brooklyn—was watching. When Gotti finally faced two federal racketeering prosecutions, Gleeson prosecuted both. As the junior lawyer in the first case—a bitter seven-month battle that ended in Gotti’s acquittal—Gleeson found himself in Gotti’s crosshairs, falsely accused of serious crimes by a defense witness Gotti intimidated into committing perjury.

Five years later, Gleeson was in charge of the second racketeering investigation and trial. Armed with the FBI’s secret recordings of Gotti’s conversations with his underboss and consigliere in the apartment above Gotti’s Little Italy hangout, Gleeson indicted all three. He “flipped” underboss Sammy the Bull Gravano, killer of nineteen men, who became history’s highest-ranking mob turncoat—resulting in Gotti’s murder conviction. Gleeson ended not just Gotti’s reign, but eventually that of the entire mob.

An epic, page-turning courtroom drama, The Gotti Wars is a brilliantly told crime story that illuminates a time in our nation’s history when lawyers and mobsters dominated the news, but it’s also the story of a tenacious young man, in the glare of the media spotlight, who mastered the art of becoming a great attorney.

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Biography pick

We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story by Simu Liu

The star of Marvel’s first Asian superhero film, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, tells his own origin story of being a Chinese immigrant, his battles with cultural stereotypes and his own identity, becoming a TV star, and landing the role of a lifetime.

In this honest, inspiring and relatable memoir, newly-minted superhero Simu Liu chronicles his family’s journey from China to the bright lights of Hollywood with razor-sharp wit and humor.

Simu’s parents left him in the care of his grandparents, then brought him to Canada when he was four. Life as a Canuck, however, is not all that it was cracked up to be; Simu’s new guardians lack the gentle touch of his grandparents, resulting in harsh words and hurt feelings. His parents, on the other hand, find their new son emotionally distant and difficult to relate to – although they are related by blood, they are separated by culture, language, and values.

As Simu grows up, he plays the part of the pious child flawlessly – he gets straight A’s, crushes national math competitions and makes his parents proud. But as time passes, he grows increasingly disillusioned with the path that has been laid out for him. Less than a year out of college, at the tender age of 22, his life hits rock bottom when he is laid off from his first job as an accountant. Left to his own devices, and with nothing left to lose, Simu embarks on a journey that will take him far outside of his comfort zone into the world of show business.

Through a swath of rejection and comical mishaps, Simu’s determination to carve out a path for himself leads him to not only succeed as an actor, but also to open the door to reconciling with his parents.

We Were Dreamers is more than a celebrity memoir – it’s a story about growing up between cultures, finding your family, and becoming the master of your own extraordinary circumstance.

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Cookbook Pick

Fabulous Modern Cookies by Paul Arguin and Chris Taylor

With bolder-than-ever flavors and spectacularly scientific techniques, cookies have truly never been more fabulous.

Chris Taylor and Paul Arguin bring fresh perspective and heaps of creativity to everything they bake. Now reinventing America’s most traditional handheld dessert—the cookie—they offer 100 reliable and exciting recipes that are sure to impress. From Pumpkin Snickercrinkles to Black-Bottom Lemon Squares, and Coffee Bean Crunchers to Bronze Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, these are next-level cookies.

Combining their passion for serious baking with their professional backgrounds as accomplished scientists, Taylor and Arguin apply new methods and modern ingredient pairings to develop novel base recipes with innovative techniques. In these pages, they share what they’ve learned in lively tips and tricks for every recipe and style of cookie. Complete with mouthwatering photos, options to make ahead, decorate, or infinitely adapt, these outside-the-box recipes are the very definition of fabulous.

Librarian Ann says this about her July pick:

‘Who doesn’t love a homemade cookie? It’s a little bit of happiness you can hold in your hand! Fabulous Modern Cookies will help you raise the level of your cookie game with fun and innovative flavor combinations plus great tips and techniques for your best cookies yet.’

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Join the Best Sellers Club to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

April’s Best Sellers Club Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined the Best Sellers Club? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose four nonfiction titles for our Best Sellers Club 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 January.

Social Justice pick

An Abolitionist’s Handbook: 12 Steps to Changing Yourself and the World by Patrisse Cullors

In An Abolitionist’s Handbook, Cullors charts a framework for how everyday activists can effectively fight for an abolitionist present and future. Filled with relatable pedagogy on the history of abolition, a reimagining of what reparations look like for Black lives and real-life anecdotes from Cullors.

An Abolitionist’s Handbook offers a bold, innovative, and humanistic approach to how to be a modern-day abolitionist. Cullors asks us to lead with love, fierce compassion, and precision.

In An Abolitionist’s Handbook readers will learn how to:

– have courageous conversations
– move away from reaction and towards response
– take care of oneself while fighting for others
– turn inter-community conflict into a transformative action
– expand one’s imagination, think creatively, and find the courage to experiment
– make justice joyful
– practice active forgiveness
– make space for difficult feelings and honor mental health
– practice non-harm and cultivate compassion
– organize local and national governments to work towards abolition
– move away from cancel culture

An Abolitionist’s Handbook is for those who are looking to reimagine a world where communities are treated with dignity, care and respect. It gives us permission to move away from cancel culture and into visioning change and healing.

Librarian Anna has the following to say about her Social Justice pick:

‘Published in January, this handbook outlines twelve essential steps for readers to follow in order to be an abolitionist in the 21st century. Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and author of the bestselling memoir When They Call You a Terrorist, guides readers through the ways in which they can engage in activism to make real, impactful social change and work to heal communities; she not only offers tips and example scenarios, but also shares personal stories and experiences to help readers make connections they may not have otherwise made before. While she primarily focuses on issues of policing and mass incarceration, the steps featured in this book are applicable to several forms of activism, some of which include the following: having courageous conversations, moving away from reactions and toward response, turning inter-community conflict into a transformative action, practicing active forgiveness, and taking care of oneself to fight for others. Written as a ready-reference book and not a textbook “to live on a bookshelf,” Cullors has created a practical and thoughtful tool catered to current or aspiring activists who wish to engage in and perpetuate positive and necessary societal change.

I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to several positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. I also selected this title due to the popularity and interest of readers who want to know where to start when it comes to engaging in activism; the format and intentional creation of this title as a handbook with specific steps, tips, and examples is very intuitive to use and fits this trending interest. Finally, I chose this title due to a powerful, yet vulnerable quote I read in the preface, in which she addresses the question “why this book?” ‘

“These 12 principles or steps are about goal setting. They are about understanding who you are and how to bring the idea of abolition to the forefront in your life and in the lives of others. I can’t say I always live up to every principle that we need to dismantle white supremacy, but these are the ingredients. My version of the recipe is not always perfect. I get up and try every day.”

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True Crime pick

The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson: A Battle for Racial Justice at the Dawn of the Civil Rights Era by Chris Joyner

The story of Clarence Henderson, a Black sharecropper convicted and sentenced to death three times for a murder he didn’t commit

The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson is the story of Clarence Henderson, a wrongfully accused Black sharecropper who was sentenced to die three different times for a murder he didn’t commit, and the prosecution desperate to pin the crime on him despite scant evidence. His first trial lasted only a day and featured a lackluster public defense. The book also tells the story of Homer Chase, a former World War II paratrooper and New England radical who was sent to the South by the Communist Party to recruit African Americans to the cause while offering them a chance at increased freedom. And it’s the story of Thurgood Marshall’s NAACP and their battle against not only entrenched racism but a Communist Party—despite facing nearly as much prejudice as those they were trying to help—intent on winning the hearts and minds of Black voters. The bitter battle between the two groups played out as the sides sparred over who would take the lead on Henderson’s defense, a period in which he spent years in prison away from a daughter he had never seen.

Through it all, The Three Death Sentences of Clarence Henderson is a portrait of a community, and a country, at a crossroads, trying to choose between the path it knows is right and the path of least resistance. The case pitted powerful forces—often those steering legal and journalistic institutions—attempting to use racism and Red-Scare tactics against a populace that by and large believed the case against Henderson was suspect at best. But ultimately, it’s a hopeful story about how even when things look dark, some small measure of justice can be achieved against all the odds, and actual progress is possible. It’s the rare book that is a timely read, yet still manages to shed an informative light on America’s past and future, as well as its present.

Librarian Anna has the following to say about this True Crime pick:

‘Published in January, this title explores the intersection of true crime and race through the story of Clarence Henderson, a Black man who stood trial on three separate occasions for a crime he didn’t commit. With a death sentence on the line each time, Henderson was repeatedly tried and convicted for the 1948 murder of Carl “Buddy” Stevens Jr. based on minimal evidence and the decisions of all-white juries. This book also details the involvement of both the NAACP and the Communist Party in the trial, as both forces vied against one another to represent Henderson’s defense. Planned and researched for years, this book has documented a vital story at the dawn of the Civil Rights Era that may have otherwise been lost to history.

I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to its highly anticipated demand, as well as due to the positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. Another major reason I selected this title is due to Joyner delving into the deep and complex historical context surrounding the case, as the tensions reverberating through this particular trial were representative and reflective of some of the largest tensions present in postwar America. Finally, I chose this title because of its timeliness and applicability for America’s past, present, and future; circumstances of this case are sure to resonate with the racial prejudices and tensions existing today, and there is nothing more important than taking the time and opportunity to learn from our past to create a better future.’

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Biography pick

Civil Rights Queen: Constance Baker Motley and the Struggle for Equality by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

With the US Supreme Court nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, “it makes sense to revisit the life and work of another Black woman who profoundly shaped the law: Constance Baker Motley” (CNN). The first major biography of one of our most influential judges—an activist lawyer who became the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary—that provides an eye-opening account of the twin struggles for gender equality and civil rights in the 20th Century.

“A must-read for anyone who dares to believe that equal justice under the law is possible and is in search of a model for how to make it a reality.” —Anita Hill

Born to an aspirational blue-collar family during the Great Depression, Constance Baker Motley was expected to find herself a good career as a hair dresser. Instead, she became the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first of ten she would eventually argue. The only black woman member in the legal team at the NAACP’s Inc. Fund at the time, she defended Martin Luther King in Birmingham, helped to argue in Brown vs. The Board of Education, and played a critical role in vanquishing Jim Crow laws throughout the South. She was the first black woman elected to the state Senate in New York, the first woman elected Manhattan Borough President, and the first black woman appointed to the federal judiciary.

Civil Rights Queen captures the story of a remarkable American life, a figure who remade law and inspired the imaginations of African Americans across the country. Burnished with an extraordinary wealth of research, award-winning, esteemed Civil Rights and legal historian and dean of the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Tomiko Brown-Nagin brings Motley to life in these pages. Brown-Nagin compels us to ponder some of our most timeless and urgent questions–how do the historically marginalized access the corridors of power? What is the price of the ticket? How does access to power shape individuals committed to social justice? In Civil Rights Queen, she dramatically fills out the picture of some of the most profound judicial and societal change made in twentieth-century America.

Librarian Rachel has the following to say about her pick:

‘Constance Baker Motley was the first black woman to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court, the first of ten appearances. She defended Martin Luther King, Jr in Birmingham.  Motley also argued in the case of Brown vs the Board of Education and she played a role in vanquishing the Jim Crow laws in the South. She was the first black woman elected to the State Senate in New York and the first black woman on the federal judiciary. Constance Baker Motley is an incredible woman that through her legal work as a lawyer and a judge has made judicial and societal changes in twentieth century America. ‘

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Cookbook Pick

Good Enough: A Cookbook: Embracing the Joys of Imperfection & Practicing Self-Care in the Kitchen by Leanne Brown

You’ve got this!

Good enough is a cookbook, but it’s as much about the healing process of cooking as it is about delicious recipes. It’s about acknowledging the fears and anxieties many of us have when we get in the kitchen, then learning to let them go in the sensory experience of working with food. It’s about slowing down, honoring the beautiful act of feeding yourself and your loved ones, and releasing the worries about whether what you’ve made is good enough. It is.

A generous mix of essays, stories, and nearly 100 dazzling recipes, Good Enough is a deeply personal cookbook. It’s subject is more than Smoky Honey Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Fennel Slaw or Sticky Toffee Cookies; ultimately it’s about learning to love and accept yourself, in and out of the kitchen.

Librarian Ann says this about her April pick:

“My intention for this book is to be a gentle hug and a whisper in your ear that you are stronger than you know, and you deserve love and care, wherever you are, whoever you are, and not matter what anyone else might have told you.”

After the past two years of upheaval and the ongoing global crisis’ that we face, this may be the perfect time to pick up a cookbook that brings equal measures of encouragement and simple, delicious recipes than Good Enough by Leanne Brown. The emphasis is not on Instagram-worthy dishes (although there are many beautiful photos), but on food that brings comfort to prepare, to eat and to share. There is a nice balance of familiar favorites (hamburgers, salads, pasta) with simple flavor twists to more ambitious (but still do-able) treats.

Best of all are the insightful essays interspersed throughout. Many tackle difficult topics (loneliness, anxiety, the curse of perfection) that are thoughtful and helpful while other essays take a lighthearted look at getting through each day. This is an easy choice for comfort, entertainment and great recipes!

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Join the Best Sellers Club to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf

Heather Gudenkauf is an author of eight novels. She is Edgar Award nominated, which honors the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, and television. Heather is also a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel was an instant bestseller and spent 22 weeks on the New York Times list. Her books have been published in over 20 countries and have appeared on many book lists.

Heather was born in South Dakota, but moved to Iowa at the age of three with the rest of her family. Heather was born with a profound unilateral hearing impairment. As a result, she turned to books as a way to relax and retreat. She read many many books as a child, which helped fuel her desire to become a writer. Heather currently lives in Iowa with her family and her dog, Lolo.

Her latest book, The Overnight Guest, is the story of a true crime writer searching for answers. Suffering from writer’s block while working on her latest book, Wylie Lark decides to escape to an isolated farmhouse in Iowa to hopefully finish her book. She has worked to keep her distance from the residents of Burden in order to not have to answer questions about what she’s doing there and why she’s staying at such an isolated location. When Wylie learns that a big snowstorm is rolling in, she isn’t too worried. After all, she came prepared. She has a fireplace, silence, and a dog to keep her company. She also needs to finish writing her book which is more than enough to keep her busy. The only hiccup to her perfect plan: twenty years ago in the house that she is staying, two people were murdered and a girl disappeared without a trace.

The storm becomes much worse than Wylie expected. She finds herself trapped in this haunted house, trapped with the secrets of who killed those two people and trapped with her own reasons for wanting to escape her family back home. On one of her trips outside, Wylie makes a shocking discovery: a small child lying in the snow. When Wylie brings the child inside to warm them up, she immediately starts searching for answers as to why and how they ended up stranded in the middle of nowhere outside the farmhouse. While she questions them, the storm rages outside bringing more than snow, wind, and ice to her door. Wylie discovers that she isn’t as isolated as she thought she was and what she thought was true was all a lie.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Author photo credit: Erin Kirchoff

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

To tell you the truth, I don’t get how we can almost unanimously agree that murder is wrong, yet when it comes to rape some people still see shades of gray.  – Megan Goldin, The Night Swim

Megan Goldin’s latest The Night Swim is a psychological thriller that covers a controversial trial in a small town. Content warning: this book talks about rape, violence, sexual assault, sexual battery, murder, and domestic violence.

Rachel Krall is a true crime podcast host. She has become a common household name after a previous season set an innocent man free. The attention this garnered her has been both positive and negative. Some of the public also see her as the last hope of those seeking justice, constantly wanting her attention.

For her third season, Rachel has come to the small town of Neapolis to cover a controversial trial pitting a local golden boy against a young girl. This rape trial has torn the town apart. A swimmer on track to compete at the Olympics has been accused of raping the young granddaughter of the police chief. Rachel need this latest season to be a success, so she throws herself into the investigation and attends every day of the trial.

Rachel’s concentration is derailed when she finds a note under her car windshield asking for help. Thinking it was a one-off, Rachel continues her investigation into the trial. More mysterious letters keep showing up asking Rachel to find out what really happened to the writer’s sister twenty-five years ago. Officially Jenny Stills drowned, but the writer insists that she was actually murdered. Despite the pressures of the podcast weighing on her, Rachel can’t stop her desire to look into Jenny’s case. The more questions she asks, the more non-answers she receives. No one wants to dig up the past. Rachel’s investigation into Jenny’s case takes a turn when she realizes that both the present trial and the past mystery are connected. What she discovers could have devastating consequences for all involved.

This book is also available in the following formats:

January’s Best Sellers Club Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined the Best Sellers Club? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose four nonfiction titles for our Best Sellers Club 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 January.

Social Justice pick

Being Seen: One Deafblind Woman’s Fight to End Ableism by Elsa Sjunneson

A Deafblind writer and professor explores how the misrepresentation of disability in books, movies, and TV harms both the disabled community and everyone else.

As a Deafblind woman with partial vision in one eye and bilateral hearing aids, Elsa Sjunneson lives at the crossroads of blindness and sight, hearing and deafness—much to the confusion of the world around her. While she cannot see well enough to operate without a guide dog or cane, she can see enough to know when someone is reacting to the visible signs of her blindness and can hear when they’re whispering behind her back. And she certainly knows how wrong our one-size-fits-all definitions of disability can be.

As a media studies professor, she’s also seen the full range of blind and deaf portrayals on film, and here she deconstructs their impact, following common tropes through horror, romance, and everything in between. Part memoir, part cultural criticism, part history of the Deafblind experience, Being Seen explores how our cultural concept of disability is more myth than fact, and the damage it does to us all.

Librarian Anna has the following to say about her Social Justice pick:

‘Published in October, this title considers the ways in which ableism is embedded within our culture and how it manifests in our society, especially through books, movies, and TV. As a deafblind woman with partial vision in one eye and bilateral hearing aids, author Elsa Sjunneson asserts the consistent misrepresentation of disability coursing through these prominent modes of media is ultimately harmful to society as a whole, not just the disabled community, and that things need to change. Serving as both a memoir and cultural critique, she reflects on her experience living in a world that is not “built” for her, while also exploring the harm of false representation through her expertise as a media studies professor.

I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to several positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. I also selected this title due to the aforementioned intersection of memoir and cultural critique, as Sjunneson’s experience living with a disability in an ableist world, paired with her expertise in the ways in which this ableism is perpetuated through tropes in media, lends such a powerful and insightful voice in the fight for social justice for this community. Finally, I had the privilege of watching a couple of short interviews with Sjunneson, and it was truly eye-opening and moving to hear her experience and passion for just representation. While I found it inspiring, she emphasizes in the book that she herself does not wish to be viewed as an inspiration; rather, she hopes readers will be inspired to start doing the hard work of “dismantling the ableist system we live in.” ‘

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True Crime pick

Boys Enter the House: The Victims of John Wayne Gacy and the Lives They Left Behind by David Nelson

As investigators brought out the bagged remains of several dozen young men from a small Chicago ranch home and paraded them in front of a crowd of TV reporters and spectators, attention quickly turned to the owner of the house. John Gacy was an upstanding citizen, active in local politics and charities, famous for his themed parties and appearances as Pogo the Clown.

But in the winter of 1978–79, he became known as one of many so-called “sex murderers” who had begun gaining notoriety in the random brutality of the 1970s. As public interest grew rapidly, victims became footnotes and statistics, lives lost not just to violence, but to history.

Through the testimony of siblings, parents, friends, lovers, and other witnesses close to the case, Boys Enter the House retraces the footsteps of these victims as they make their way to the doorstep of the Gacy house itself.

Librarian Anna has the following to say about this True Crime pick:

‘Published in October, this book explores and documents the lives of the victims of John Wayne Gacy, the notorious “Killer Clown” who is recorded to have heinously taken the lives of at least 33 young men in Cook County, Illinois, throughout the 1960s and ‘70s. Rather than delve into details about the killer himself, however, this title reverses the typical true crime framework and puts the victims first, shining a light on the lives almost lost to history as “footnotes” and “statistics” and who have too often simply been “dismissed as runaways, throwaways, hustlers, [and] homosexuals.” Incorporating testimony from interviews with family, friends, lovers, and other individuals associated with the known victims, Nelson pieces together the lives of several of these young men all the way up until their final moments in Gacy’s clutches.

I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to its highly anticipated demand, as well as due to the positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. Another major reason I selected this title is because of the acute and unique focus on the victims. While many of the previous selections have revolved around the lives and actions of the killers themselves, this title allows Timothy McCoy, Billy Kindred, and Rob Piest, among many others, to have a voice and live on in memory, rather than be overshadowed as “one of Gacy’s victims.” Finally, I selected this title due to the fact that, at the end of October, Francis Wayne Alexander (another victim of Gacy’s) was identified using DNA samples; I find it absolutely fascinating that the forensic knowledge and tools we have today can be used to solve mysteries such as this and bring families closure, even so many years later.’

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Biography pick

The Last King of America: The Misunderstood Reign of King George III by Andrew Roberts

The last king of America, George III, has been ridiculed as a complete disaster who frittered away the colonies and went mad in his old age. The truth is much more nuanced and fascinating–and will completely change the way readers and historians view his reign and legacy.

Most Americans dismiss George III as a buffoon–a heartless and terrible monarch with few, if any, redeeming qualities. The best-known modern interpretation of him is Jonathan Groff’s preening, spitting, and pompous take in Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway masterpiece. But this deeply unflattering characterization is rooted in the prejudiced and brilliantly persuasive opinions of eighteenth-century revolutionaries like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson, who needed to make the king appear evil in order to achieve their own political aims. After combing through hundreds of thousands of pages of never-before-published correspondence, award-winning historian Andrew Roberts has uncovered the truth: George III was in fact a wise, humane, and even enlightened monarch who was beset by talented enemies, debilitating mental illness, incompetent ministers, and disastrous luck.

In The Last King of America, Roberts paints a deft and nuanced portrait of the much-maligned monarch and outlines his accomplishments, which have been almost universally forgotten. Two hundred and forty-five years after the end of George III’s American rule, it is time for Americans to look back on their last king with greater understanding: to see him as he was and to come to terms with the last time they were ruled by a monarch.

Librarian Rachel has the following to say about her pick:

‘King George III of England is often portrayed as dim-witted, tyrannical and evil. However, after extensive research, Andrew Roberts has found that the king was wise and humane and battled a mental illness, incompetent ministers, and enemies. This book sheds light on the real King George III and lays the rumors to rest.’

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Cookbook Pick

The Sweet Side of Sourdough: 50 Irresistible Recipes for Pastries, Buns, Cakes, Cookies and More by Caroline Schiff

Sourdough isn’t just for savory baking! The robust tanginess of sourdough adds that little bit of something extra to your favorite cakes, bars, tarts, sweet breads and more that you didn’t know you were looking for, and pastry chef Caroline Schiff couldn’t make it easier to do. Set yourself up for sourdough success with her best tips for building and maintaining a starter and then bake your way to sweet sourdough bliss.

Add a new layer of flavor to pie and tart crusts in mouthwatering recipes like Spiced Pear, Crème Fraiche and Almond Galette, Apple Maple Crumble Pie and Malted Milk Chocolate Ganache Tart. Make breakfast the most delicious meal of the day with pastries like Orange Ricotta Drop Biscuits and Dark Chocolate Chunk Scones that are the things of your wildest sourdough dreams. And every special occasion is made even more special with cakes that perfectly balance the sweet and sour, like Grapefruit Brown Sugar Brulée Cake, Raspberry Coconut Cake with Lime Glaze and Apple Sour Cream Crumb Cake.

Caroline’s reliable recipes take your favorite sweet treats up to the next level AND give you exciting, innovative ways to use your trusty sourdough starter.

Librarian Ann says this about her January pick:

‘Did you try your hand at sourdough bread baking during the COVID shutdown? Did you get tired of maintaining the starter, or just tired of the same flavors? Then The Sweet Side of Sourdough by Caroline Schiff is for you! The tanginess of the sourdough is a great compliment to sweet treats such as cakes, cookies, pies and sweet breads. Recipes cover everything from breakfast pastries to desserts for after dinner. Expand (or begin!) your sourdough knowledge with these fun and innovative recipes!’

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Join the Best Sellers Club to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

Best Sellers Club October Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined the Best Sellers Club? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose four nonfiction titles for our Best Sellers Club 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

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke

From the founder and activist behind the largest movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Tarana Burke shares her never never before revealed life story of how she first came to say me too and launch one of the largest cultural events in American history.

After a long, difficult day working with young Black girls who had suffered the unimaginable, Tarana tossed in her bed, unable to sleep as a fit of memories intruded into her thoughts. How could she help these girls if she couldn’t even be honest with herself and face her own demons. A fitful night led to pages and pages of scribbled notes with two clear words at the top: Me too.

Tarana Burke is the founder and activist behind the largest social movement of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the me too movement, but first she had to find the strength to say me too herself. Unbound is the story of how she came to those two words, after a childhood growing up in the Bronx with a loving mother that took a terrible turn when she was sexual assaulted. She became withdrawn and her self split, there was the Tarana that was a good student, model kid, and eager to please young girl, and then there was the Tarana that she hid from everyone else, the one she believed to be bad. The one that would take all the love in her life away if she revealed.

Tarana’s debut memoir explores how to piece back together our fractured selves. How to not just bring the me too movement back to empathy, but how to empathize with our past selves, with out bad selves, and how to begin to love ourselves unabashedly. Healing starts with empowerment, and to Tarana empowerment starts with empathy. This is her story of finding that for herself, and then spreading it to an entire world.

Librarian Anna has the following to say about her Social Justice pick:

‘I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to the anticipated high demand, several positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication, and its heightened significance in today’s culture. I also selected this title due to the intersectionality of identity presented in this memoir. While the “Me Too” movement was created to be representative of and empowering for every woman impacted by sexual assault, this was especially born out of an effort to support black women in this struggle. One heart wrenching and powerful quote denoting this reads: “Standing and fighting against the diminishment and destruction of Black bodies had become a proxy for the diminishment and destruction of my own Black body.” The sheer strength of sharing such traumatic experiences, as well as Burke’s liberation of them, is sure to validate, empower, and resonate with those who have experienced similar situations, while also drawing empathy and advocacy from others who share in the fight for social justice.’

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True Crime pick

The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream: The Hunt for a Victorian Era Serial Killer by Dean Jobb

“When a doctor does go wrong he is the first of criminals,” Sherlock Holmes observed during one of his most baffling investigations. “He has nerve and he has knowledge.”

In the span of fifteen years, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream poisoned at least ten people in the United States, Britain, and Canada, a death toll with almost no precedents. Structured around Cream’s London murder trial in 1892, when he was finally brought to justice, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream exposes the blind trust given to medical practitioners, as well as the flawed detection methods, bungled investigations, corrupt officials, and stifling morality of Victorian society that allowed Cream to prey on vulnerable and desperate women, many of whom had turned to him for medical help.

Dean Jobb vividly re-creates this largely forgotten historical account against the backdrop of the birth of modern policing and newly adopted forensic methods, though most police departments still scoffed at using science to solve crimes. But then most police departments could hardly imagine that serial killers existed—the term was unknown at the time. As the Chicago Tribune wrote then, Cream’s crimes marked the emergence of a new breed of killer, one who operated without motive or remorse, who “murdered simply for the sake of murder.”

Librarian Anna has the following to say about this pick:

‘I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to its highly anticipated demand, as well as due to the positive reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. Another major reason I selected this title is because of the relatively forgotten status of this killer; while many have heard of Jack the Ripper and H.H. Holmes, this figure who preceded them is often lost to history, despite his equally wicked crimes. Finally, I selected this title due to its interesting historical lens, as several of our previous selections have been focused on contemporary true crime accounts.’

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Biography pick

Tarantino: A Retrospective by Tom Shone

Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Reservoir Dogs by diving into the brilliant, twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino and discover the artistic process of an Oscar-winning legend.

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963, Quentin Tarantino spent many Saturday evenings during his childhood accompanying his mother to the movies, nourishing a love of film that was, over the course of his life, to become all-consuming. The script for his first movie took him four years to complete: My Best Friend’s Birthday, a seventy-minute film in which he both acted and directed. The script for his second film, Reservoir Dogs (1992), took him just under four weeks to complete. When it debuted, he was immediately hailed as one of the most exciting new directors in the industry.

Known for his highly cinematic visual style, out-of-sequence storytelling, and grandiose violence, Tarantino’s films have provoked both praise and criticism over the course of his career. They’ve also won him a host of awards—including Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards—usually for his original screenplays. His oeuvre includes the cult classic Pulp Fiction, bloody revenge saga Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and historical epics Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight . This stunning retrospective catalogs each of Quentin Tarantino’s movies in detail, from My Best Friend’s Birthday to The Hateful Eight. The book is a tribute to a unique directing and writing talent, celebrating an uncompromising, passionate director’s enthralling career at the heart of cult filmmaking.

Librarian Rachel has the following to say about her selection:

“Quentin Tarantino is one of the most popular directors of the modern era. His film career started thirty years ago and he has been popular ever since. Tarantino has stated that he is only going to direct ten films and so far, he has directed nine. With only one film left, this biography will shed light on the man behind the camera that has directed such films as ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’.”

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Cookbook Pick

Baking for the Holidays: 50+ Treats for a Festive Season by Sarah Kieffer

A charming holiday baking cookbook brimming with delicious, indulgent recipes, cozy winter photography, and lots of holiday cheer from Sarah Kieffer.

Here’s a festive holiday baking book to celebrate this very special time of year. Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, beloved baker behind The Vanilla Bean Blog, and creator of the “bang-the-pan” method offers more than 50 delicious recipes for seasonal brunches, cookie swaps, and all those Christmas, Hanukah, and New Year’s Eve parties.

Delight family and friends with edible gifts and whip up some delicious baked goods to treat yourself through the long winter months after the holidays have ended. Recipes include: Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Meyer Lemon–White Chocolate Scones, Pear-Almond Danish Bread, Hot Chocolate Cake, and Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepita Streusel.

With cozy holiday imagery, a lovely, clean aesthetic, and easy yet innovative recipes, this is a go-to cookbook for baking enthusiasts, anyone who loves the holiday season, and, of course, fans of Sarah Kieffer and her hugely popular cookie book, 100 Cookies.

GREAT GIFT OPPORTUNITY: With happy, festive photography and anyone-can-do-it recipes, this is a perfect holiday gift alongside a cute apron or baking product. It’s sure to please anyone in your life who loves to while away the winter months in their warm and cozy kitchen.

BELOVED, ACCOMPLISHED BLOGGER AND AUTHOR: Sarah Kieffer is the beloved blogger behind The Vanilla Bean Baking Blog, which won the SAVEUR Reader’s Choice Best Baking & Desserts Blog in 2014. Her pan-banging cookie technique went viral on the New York Times website. She has written two cookbooks and been featured by Food52, The Today Show, Mashable, The Kitchn, America’s Test Kitchen, Huffington Post, and more.

Perfect for:

• Bakers of all ages
• Holiday bakers
• Fans of Sarah’s bang-the-pan cookies, 100 Cookies, and The Vanilla Bean Blog
• Holiday gift givers

Librarian Ann says the following about her newest pick:

‘Filled with inspiration for the winter holidays, Baking for the Holidays by Sara Keiffer offers a wide range of delicious treats, from cakes and pies to cookies to breakfast pastries all beautifully presented in this gorgeous cookbook. This book also includes a chapter on gifting home baked goods for friends and family. Recipes range from beginner friendly to more challenging.’

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Join the Best Sellers Club to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.

New True Crime Titles

Looking for a new true crime book to read? Here are some titles that hit the shelves in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

At Any Cost: A Father’s Betrayal, a Wife’s Murder, and a Ten-year War for Justice by Rebecca Rosenberg

At Any Cost unravels the twisted story of Rod Covlin, whose unrepentant greed drove him to an unspeakable act of murder and betrayal that rocked New York City.

Wealthy, beautiful, and brilliant, Shele Danishefsky had fulfillment at her fingertips. Having conquered Wall Street, she was eager to build a family with her much younger husband, promising Ivy League graduate Rod Covlin. But when his hidden vices surfaced, marital harmony gave way to a merciless divorce. Rod had long depended on Shele’s income to fund his tastes for high stakes backgammon and infidelity–and she finally vowed to sever him from her will. In late December 2009, Shele made an appointment with her lawyer to block him from her millions. She would never make it to that meeting.

Two days later, on New Year’s Eve, Shele was found dead in the bathtub of her Upper West Side apartment. Police ruled it an accident, and Shele’s deeply Orthodox Jewish family quickly buried her without an autopsy on religious grounds. Rod had a clear path to his ex-wife’s fortune, but suspicions about her death lingered. As the two families warred over custody of Shele’s children—and their inheritance— Rod concocted a series of increasingly demented schemes, even plotting to kill his own parents, to secure the treasure. And as investigators closed in, Rod committed a final, desperate act to frame his own daughter for her mother’s death.

Journalists Rebecca Rosenberg and Selim Algar reconstruct the ten years that passed between the day Shele was found dead and the day her killer faced justice in this riveting account of how one man’s irrepressible greed devolved into obsession, manipulation, and murder.

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

A chilling true story—part memoir, part crime investigation—reminiscent of Ann Rule’s classic The Stranger Beside Me, about a little girl longing for love and how she found friendship with her charismatic babysitter—who was also a vicious serial killer.

 Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck. He bought them popsicles and together, they visited his “secret garden” in the Truro woods. To Liza, he was one of the few kind and understanding adults in her life. Everyone thought he was just a “great guy.”

But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.

Some of his victims were buried—in pieces—right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.

Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.

Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels by Ioan Grillo

From the author of El Narco, a searing investigation into the enormous black market for firearms, essential to cartels and gangs in the drug trade and contributing to the epidemic of mass shootings.

The gun control debate is revived with every mass shooting. But far more people die from gun deaths on the street corners of inner city America and across the border as Mexico’s powerful cartels battle to control the drug trade. Guns and drugs aren’t often connected in our heated discussions of gun control-but they should be. In Ioan Grillo’s groundbreaking new work of investigative journalism, he shows us this connection by following the market for guns in the Americas and how it has made the continent the most murderous on earth.

Grillo travels to gun manufacturers, strolls the aisles of gun shows and gun shops, talks to FBI agents who have infiltrated biker gangs, hangs out on Baltimore street corners, and visits the ATF gun tracing center in West Virginia. Along the way, he details the many ways that legal guns can cross over into the black market and into the hands of criminals, fueling violence here and south of the border. Simple legislative measures would help close these loopholes, but America’s powerful gun lobby is uncompromising in its defense of the hallowed Second Amendment. Perhaps, however, if guns were seen not as symbols of freedom, but as key accessories in our epidemics of addiction, the conversation would shift. Blood Gun Money is that conversation shifter.

The Haunting of Alma Fielding: A True Ghost Story by Kate Summerscale

Internationally bestselling and Edgar Award-winning author Kate Summerscale follows a ghost hunter in 1938 London in a case that illuminates changing social attitudes toward psychoanalysis, sexuality, and the supernatural

London, 1938. In the suburbs of the city, a young housewife has become the eye in a storm of chaos. In Alma Fielding’s modest home, china flies off the shelves and eggs fly through the air; stolen jewellery appears on her fingers, white mice crawl out of her handbag, beetles appear from under her gloves; in the middle of a car journey, a turtle materializes on her lap. The culprit is incorporeal. As Alma cannot call the police, she calls the papers instead.

After the sensational story headlines the news, Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research, arrives to investigate the poltergeist. But when he embarks on his scrupulous investigation, he discovers that the case is even stranger than it seems.

By unravelling Alma’s peculiar history, Fodor finds a different and darker type of haunting, a tale of trauma, alienation, loss and revenge. He comes to believe that Alma’s past has bled into her present, her mind into her body. There are no words for processing her experience, so it comes to possess her. As the threat of a world war looms, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.

With characteristic rigor and insight, Kate Summerscale brilliantly captures the rich atmosphere of a haunting that transforms into a very modern battle between the supernatural and the subconscious.

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

The gripping true story, told here for the first time, of the Last Call Killer and the gay community of New York City that he preyed upon.

The Townhouse Bar, midtown, July 1992: The piano player seems to know every song ever written, the crowd belts out the lyrics to their favorites, and a man standing nearby is drinking a Scotch and water. The man strikes the piano player as forgettable.

He looks bland and inconspicuous. Not at all what you think a serial killer looks like. But that’s what he is, and tonight, he has his sights set on a gray haired man. He will not be his first victim.

Nor will he be his last.

The Last Call Killer preyed upon gay men in New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s and had all the hallmarks of the most notorious serial killers. Yet because of the sexuality of his victims, the skyhigh murder rates, and the AIDS epidemic, his murders have been almost entirely forgotten.

This gripping true-crime narrative tells the story of the Last Call Killer and the decades-long chase to find him. And at the same time, it paints a portrait of his victims and a vibrant community navigating threat and resilience.

Two Truths and a Lie: A Murder, A Private Investigator, and Her Search for Justice by Ellen McGarrahan

In 1990, Ellen McGarrahan was a young reporter for the Miami Herald when she covered the execution of Jesse Tafero, a man convicted of murdering two police officers. When it later emerged that Tafero may have been innocent, McGarrahan was appalled by her unquestioning acceptance of the state’s version of events. The revelation propelled her into a new career as a private investigator.

Decades later, McGarrahan finally decides to find out the truth of what really happened in Florida. Her investigation plunges her back into the Miami of the 1960s and 1970s, a dangerous world of nightclubs, speed boats, and cartels, all awash in violence. She combs through stacks of court files and interviews everyone involved in the case. But even as McGarrahan circles closer to the truth, the story of guilt and innocence becomes more complex, and she gradually discovers that she hasn’t been alone in her need for closure. Because whenever a human life is forcibly taken—by bullet, or by electric chair—the reckoning is long and difficult for all.

A fascinating glimpse into the mind of a private investigator, Two Truths and a Lie is ultimately a deeply personal exploration of one woman’s quest to find answers in a chaotic world.

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper

You have to remember, he reminded me, that Harvard is older than the U.S. government. You have to remember because Harvard doesn’t let you forget.

1969: the height of counterculture and the year universities would seek to curb the unruly spectacle of student protest; the winter that Harvard University would begin the tumultuous process of merging with Radcliffe, its all-female sister school; and the year that Jane Britton, an ambitious twenty-three-year-old graduate student in Harvard’s Anthropology Department and daughter of Radcliffe Vice President J. Boyd Britton, would be found bludgeoned to death in her Cambridge, Massachusetts apartment.

 Forty years later, Becky Cooper a curious undergrad, will hear the first whispers of the story. In the first telling the body was nameless. The story was this: a Harvard student had had an affair with her professor, and the professor had murdered her in the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology because she’d threatened to talk about the affair. Though the rumor proves false, the story that unfolds, one that Cooper will follow for ten years, is even more complex: a tale of gender inequality in academia, a ‘cowboy culture’ among empowered male elites, the silencing effect of institutions, and our compulsion to rewrite the stories of female victims.

 We Keep the Dead Close is a memoir of mirrors, misogyny, and murder. It is at once a rumination on the violence and oppression that rules our revered institutions, a ghost story reflecting one young woman’s past onto another’s present, and a love story for a girl who was lost to history.

We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops, and Corruption by Justin Fenton

Baltimore, 2015. Riots were erupting across the city as citizens demanded justice for Freddie Gray, a twenty-five-year old black man who had died while in police custody. At the same time, drug and violent crime were surging, and that year, Baltimore would reach its deadliest year in over two decades: 342 homicides in a city of six hundred thousand people. Under intense scrutiny–and a federal investigation over Gray’s death–the Baltimore police department turned to a rank-and-file hero, Sergeant Wayne Jenkins, and his elite unit, the Gun Trace Task Force, to help get guns and drugs off the street.

And yet, despite intense scrutiny, what The New York Times would call “one of the most startling police corruption scandals in a generation” was unfolding. Entrusted with fixing the city’s drug crisis, Jenkins and his posse of corrupt cops were instead stealing from its citizens–skimming from the drug busts they made, pocketing thousands in cash found in private homes, and planting fake evidence to throw Internal Affairs off their scent. Their brazen crime spree would go unchecked for years, and would result in countless wrongful convictions, the death of an innocent person–and the mysterious death of one cop who was shot in the head the day before he was scheduled to testify against the Force.

Award-winning investigative journalist Justin Fenton has been relentlessly exposing the scandal since 2017, conducting hundreds of interviews and poring over thousands of court documents. The result is an astounding feat of reportage about a rogue police unit, and the American city they held hostage.

The Woman Who Stole Vermeer: The True Story of Rose Dugdale and the Russborough Art Heist by Anthony M. Amore

The extraordinary life and crimes of heiress-turned-revolutionary Rose Dugdale, who in 1974 became the only woman to pull off a major art heist.

In the world of crime, there exists an unusual commonality between those who steal art and those who repeatedly kill: they are almost exclusively male. But, as with all things, there is always an outlier – someone who bucks the trend, defying the reliable profiles and leaving investigators and researchers scratching their heads. In the history of major art heists, that outlier is Rose Dugdale.

Dugdale’s life is singularly notorious. Born into extreme wealth, she abandoned her life as an Oxford-trained PhD and heiress to join the cause of Irish Republicanism. While on the surface she appears to be the British version of Patricia Hearst, she is anything but.

Dugdale ran head-first towards the action, spearheading the first aerial terrorist attack in British history and pulling off the biggest art theft of her time. In 1974, she led a gang into the opulent Russborough House in Ireland and made off with millions in prized paintings, including works by Goya, Gainsborough, and Rubens, as well as Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid by the mysterious master Johannes Vermeer. Dugdale thus became – to this day – the only woman to pull off a major art heist. And as Anthony Amore explores in The Woman Who Stole Vermeer, it’s likely that this was not her only such heist.

The Woman Who Stole Vermeer is Rose Dugdale’s story, from her idyllic upbringing in Devonshire and her presentation to Elizabeth II as a debutante to her university years and her eventual radical lifestyle. Her life of crime and activism is at turns unbelievable and awe-inspiring, and sure to engross readers.

New True Crime Titles at Main

Looking for a new true crime book to read? Here are some titles that hit the shelves at our Main Branch in January, February, and March. If any of these titles interest you, you can use the links below to place a hold in our catalog, or you can always give us a call to put one on hold for you. The following descriptions were provided by the publisher.

American Serial Killers: The Epidemic Years 1950-2000 by Peter Vronsky

Fans of Mindhunter and true crime podcasts will devour these chilling stories of serial killers from the American “Golden Age” (1950-2000). With books like Serial Killers, Female Serial Killers and Sons of Cain, Peter Vronsky has established himself as the foremost expert on the history of serial killers. In this first definitive history of the “Golden Age” of American serial murder, when the number and body count of serial killers exploded, Vronsky tells the stories of the most unusual and prominent serial killings from the 1950s to the early twenty-first century. From Ted Bundy to the Golden State Killer, our fascination with these classic serial killers seems to grow by the day. American Serial Killers gives true crime junkies what they crave, with both perennial favorites (Ed Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer) and lesser-known cases (Melvin Rees, Harvey Glatman).

Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher by Charlotte Bismuth

In 2010, a brave whistleblower alerted the police to Dr. Stan Li’s corrupt pain management clinic in Queens, New York. Li spent years supplying more than seventy patients a day with oxycodone and Xanax, trading prescriptions for cash. Emergency room doctors, psychiatrists, and desperate family members warned him that his patients were at risk of death but he would not stop.

In Bad Medicine, former prosecutor Charlotte Bismuth meticulously recounts the jaw dropping details of this criminal case that would span four years, culminating in a landmark trial. As a new assistant district attorney and single mother, Bismuth worked tirelessly with her team to bring Dr. Li to justice. Bad Medicine is a chilling story of corruption and greed and an important look at the role individual doctors play in America’s opioid epidemic.

Hunting Whitey: The Inside Story of the Capture & Killing of America’s Most Wanted Crime Boss by Casey Sherman

Based on exclusive, fresh reporting, the thrilling, definitive inside story of the pursuit, capture, and killing of legendary South Boston mob boss, James “Whitey” Bulger, detailing as never before his years on the run, how he evaded capture, and his brutal murder in prison.

For the first time, Boston reporters Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge draw on exclusive interviews and exhaustive investigative reportage to tell the complete story of Whitey Bulger, one of the most notorious crime bosses in American history—alongside Al “Scarface” Capone and Vito Genovese—and a longtime FBI informant. The leader of Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and #1 on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, Bulger was indicted for nineteen counts of murder, racketeering, narcotics distribution, and extortion. But it was his sixteen-year flight from justice on the eve of his arrest that made him a legend and exposed deep corruption within the FBI.

While other accounts have examined Bulger’s crimes, this remarkable chronicle tells the story of his life on the run, his capture, and his eventual murder inside one of America’s most dangerous prisons—”Misery Mountain”—in 2018. Interweaving the perspectives of Bulger, his family and cohorts, and law enforcement, Hunting Whitey explains how this dangerous criminal evaded capture for nearly two decades and shines a spotlight on the dedicated detectives, federal agents, and prosecutors involved in bringing him to justice. It is also a fascinating, detailed portrait of both Bulger’s trial and his time in prison—including shocking new details about his death at Misery Mountain less than twenty-four hours after his arrival.

Granted access to exclusive prison letters and interviews with dozens of people connected to the case on both sides, Sherman and Wedge offer a trove of fascinating new stories and create an incomparable portrait of one of the most infamous criminals in American history.

The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers by Ben Kissel

An equal parts haunting and hilarious deep-dive review of history’s most notorious and cold-blooded serial killers, from the creators of the award-winning Last Podcast on the Left.

Since its first show in 2010, The Last Podcast on the Left has barreled headlong into all things horror, as hosts Henry Zebrowski, Ben Kissel, and Marcus Parks cover subjects spanning Jeffrey Dahmer, werewolves, Jonestown, and supernatural phenomena. Deeply researched but with a morbidly humorous bent, the podcast has earned a dedicated and aptly cultlike following for its unique take on all things macabre.

In their first book, the guys take a deep dive into history’s most infamous serial killers, from Ted Bundy to John Wayne Gacy, exploring their origin stories, haunting habits, and perverse predilections. Featuring newly developed content alongside updated fan favorites, each profile is an exhaustive examination of the darker side of human existence. With appropriately creepy four-color illustrations throughout and a gift-worthy paper over board format, The Last Book on the Left will satisfy the bloodlust of readers everywhere.

Smalltime: A Story of My Family and the Mob by Russell Shorto

Family secrets emerge as a best-selling author dives into the history of the mob in small-town America. Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a city “in its brawny postwar prime,” is where “Little Joe” Regino and Russ Shorto build a local gambling empire on the earnings of factory workers for whom placing a bet-on a horse or pool game, pinball or “tip seal”-is their best shot at the American dream. Decades later, Russell Shorto grew up knowing that his grandfather was a small-town mobster, but never thought to write about him, in keeping with an unspoken family vow of silence. Then a distant cousin prodded him: You gotta write about it. Smalltime, the story of Shorto’s search for his namesake, delves into the world of the small-town mob, an intricate web that spanned midcentury America, stitching together cities from Yonkers to Fresno. A riveting immigrant story, Smalltime is also deeply personal, as the author’s ailing father, Tony, becomes his partner in piecing together their patriarch’s troubled past. Moving, wryly funny, and richly detailed, Smalltime is an irresistible memoir by a masterful writer of historical narrative.

Till Murder Do Us Part: True Crime Thrillers by James Patterson

From the world’s #1 bestselling author comes a collection of Discovery ID true crime stories where the bonds of matrimony and love can tear you brutally apart.

Till Murder Do Us Part: Kathi Spiars can’t believe she’s found such a good man to marry as Stephen Marcum. Twelve years later, she starts to suspect that he isn’t who he says he is. As she digs into his past, she doesn’t realize that learning the truth will lead to a lifetime of fear and hiding. (with Andrew Bourelle)

Ramp Up to Murder: Brandi McClain, a young beautiful teenager, moves to California from Arizona, to model and live with her new boyfriend, a professional skateboarder. But her perfect life is about to turn on its head. In San Diego, investigators hunt for a missing girl. It’s a case that seems to plagued by dead ends. But once the truth emerges, it’s more haunting than they could have imagined. (with Max DiLallo)

The Unusual Suspect: The Rise and Fall of a Modern-Day Outlaw by Ben Machell

The remarkable true story of a modern-day Robin Hood: a British college student who started robbing banks as the financial crisis unfolded.

Stephen Jackley was a young British college student when the global financial crisis began in 2007. Overwhelmed by the growing indifference towards economic equality, he became obsessed with the idea of taking on the role of Robin Hood. With no prior experience, he resolved to become a bank robber. He would steal from the rich and give to the poor. Against all likelihood, his plan actually worked.

Jackley used disguises, elaborate escape routes, and fake guns to successfully hold up a string of banks, making away with thousands of pounds. He attempted ten robberies in southwest England over a six-month period. Banknotes marked with “RH”–“Robin Hood”–began finding their way into the hands of the homeless. Motivated by a belief that global capitalism was ruining lives and driving the planet toward ecological disaster, he dreamed of changing the world for the better through his crimes. The police, despite their concerted efforts, had no idea what was going on or who was responsible. That is, until Jackley’s ambition got the better of him.

This is his story.

Acclaimed journalist Ben Machell had full and direct access to Stephen Jackley, who in turn shared his complete set of diaries, selections of which are included throughout the narrative. The result lends an intense intimacy and urgency to Jackley’s daring and disturbing tale, shedding light on his mental state and the challenges he faced in his own mind and beyond. It wasn’t until Jackley was held in custody that he underwent a psychiatric evaluation, resulting in a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome.

Behind the simple act of bank robbery lies a complex and emotionally wrought story of an individual whose struggles led him to create a world in which he would succeed against all odds. Until he didn’t.

Best Sellers Club April Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined the Best Sellers Club? If not, you’re missing out! Four times a year, our librarians choose three nonfiction titles for our Best Sellers Club to read: a biography, a cookbook, and a true crime title. Below you will find information on the three titles they have picked for April.

Cookbook Pick

Cook Real Hawai’i by Sheldon Simeon with Garrett Snyder

Written by a favorite Top Chef finalist, Cook Real Hawai’i brings together the many cultures that have influenced Hawaiian cuisine. These are recipes that are eaten at home with family and friends. During this time of quarantine and social distancing, this cookbook can bring back fond memories of past travels, or help you dream of future adventures.

The story of Hawaiian cooking, by a two-time Top Chef finalist and Fan Favorite, through 100 recipes that embody the beautiful cross-cultural exchange of the islands. On two seasons of Top Chef, Sheldon Simeon established himself as a leading young, creative chef (he was both a finalist and Fan Favorite on both seasons). The role he is even more proud to fill, though, is as the storyteller of Hawaiian cuisine and the many cultures that have come together there to create it: the native Hawaiian traditions, Japanese influences, Portuguese cooking techniques, and dynamic flavors that are closest to Sheldon’s heart.

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True Crime pick

Confident Women: Swindlers, Grifters and Shapeshifters of the Feminine Persuasion by Tori Telfer

A thoroughly entertaining and darkly humorous roundup of history’s notorious but often forgotten female con artists and their bold, outrageous scams—by the acclaimed author of Lady Killers.

From Elizabeth Holmes and Anna Delvey to Frank Abagnale and Charles Ponzi, audacious scams and charismatic scammers continue to intrigue us as a culture. As Tori Telfer reveals in Confident Women, the art of the con has a long and venerable tradition, and its female practitioners are some of the best—or worst.

In the 1700s in Paris, Jeanne de Saint-Rémy scammed the royal jewelers out of a necklace made from six hundred and forty-seven diamonds by pretending she was best friends with Queen Marie Antoinette.

In the mid-1800s, sisters Kate and Maggie Fox began pretending they could speak to spirits and accidentally started a religious movement that was soon crawling with female con artists. A gal calling herself Loreta Janeta Velasquez claimed to be a soldier and convinced people she worked for the Confederacy—or the Union, depending on who she was talking to. Meanwhile, Cassie Chadwick was forging paperwork and getting banks to loan her upwards of $40,000 by telling people she was Andrew Carnegie’s illegitimate daughter.

In the 1900s, a 40something woman named Margaret Lydia Burton embezzled money all over the country and stole upwards of forty prized show dogs, while a few decades later, a teenager named Roxie Ann Rice scammed the entire NFL. And since the death of the Romanovs, women claiming to be Anastasia have been selling their stories to magazines. What about today? Spoiler alert: these “artists” are still conning.

Confident Women asks the provocative question: Where does chutzpah intersect with a uniquely female pathology—and how were these notorious women able to so spectacularly dupe and swindle their victims?

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Biography pick

Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight by Julia Sweig

A magisterial portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, and a major reevaluation of the profound yet underappreciated impact the First Lady’s political instincts had on LBJ’s presidency.

In the spring of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson had a decision to make. Just months after moving into the White House under the worst of circumstances–following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy–he had to decide whether to run to win the presidency in his own right. He turned to his most reliable, trusted political strategist: his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. The strategy memo she produced for him, emblematic of her own political acumen and largely overlooked by biographers, is just one revealing example of how their marriage was truly a decades-long political partnership.

Perhaps the most underestimated First Lady of the twentieth century, Lady Bird Johnson was also one of the most accomplished and often her husband’s secret weapon. Managing the White House in years of national upheaval, through the civil rights movement and the escalation of the Vietnam War, Lady Bird projected a sense of calm and, following the glamorous and modern Jackie Kennedy, an old-fashioned image of a First Lady. In truth, she was anything but. As the first First Lady to run the East Wing like a professional office, she took on her own policy initiatives, including the most ambitious national environmental effort since Teddy Roosevelt. Occupying the White House during the beginning of the women’s liberation movement, she hosted professional women from all walks of life in the White House, including urban planning and environmental pioneers like Jane Jacobs and Barbara Ward, encouraging women everywhere to pursue their own careers, even if her own style of leadership and official role was to lead by supporting others.

Where no presidential biographer has understood the full impact of Lady Bird Johnson’s work in the White House, Julia Sweig is the first to draw substantially on Lady Bird’s own voice in her White House diaries to place Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson center stage and to reveal a woman ahead of her time–and an accomplished politician in her own right.

Join the Best Sellers Club to have the new nonfiction picks automatically put on hold for you four times a year.