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.

October’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

No More Police: A Case for Abolition by Marianne Kaba and Andrea Ritchie

In this powerful call to action, New York Times bestselling author Mariame Kaba and attorney and organizer Andrea J. Ritchie detail why policing doesn’t stop violence, instead perpetuating widespread harm; outline the many failures of contemporary police reforms; and explore demands to defund police, divest from policing, and invest in community resources to create greater safety through a Black feminist lens.

Centering survivors of state, interpersonal, and community-based violence, and highlighting uprisings, campaigns, and community-based projects, No More Police makes a compelling case for a world where the tools required to prevent, interrupt, and transform violence in all its forms are abundant. Part handbook, part road map, No More Police calls on us to turn away from systems that perpetrate violence in the name of ending it toward a world where violence is the exception, and safe, well-resourced and thriving communities are the rule.

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True Crime pick

Dangerous Rhythms by TJ English

Dangerous Rhythms tells the symbiotic story of jazz and the underworld: a relationship fostered in some of 20th century America’s most notorious vice districts. For the first half of the century mobsters and musicians enjoyed a mutually beneficial partnership. By offering artists like Louis Armstrong, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald a stage, the mob, including major players Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, and Charlie “Lucky” Luciano, provided opportunities that would not otherwise have existed.

Even so, at the heart of this relationship was a festering racial inequity. The musicians were mostly African American, and the clubs and means of production were owned by white men. It was a glorified plantation system that, over time, would find itself out of tune with an emerging Civil Rights movement. Some artists, including Louis Armstrong, believed they were safer and more likely to be paid fairly if they worked in “protected” joints. Others believed that playing in venues outside mob rule would make it easier to have control over their careers.

Through English’s voluminous research and keen narrative skills, Dangerous Rhythms reveals this deeply fascinating slice of American history in all its sordid glory.

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Biography pick

Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley

A new, fascinating account of the life of Agatha Christie from celebrated literary and cultural historian Lucy Worsley.

“Nobody in the world was more inadequate to act the heroine than I was.”

Why did Agatha Christie spend her career pretending that she was “just” an ordinary housewife, when clearly she wasn’t? Her life is fascinating for its mysteries and its passions and, as Lucy Worsley says, “She was thrillingly, scintillatingly modern.” She went surfing in Hawaii, she loved fast cars, and she was intrigued by the new science of psychology, which helped her through devastating mental illness.

So why—despite all the evidence to the contrary—did Agatha present herself as a retiring Edwardian lady of leisure?

She was born in 1890 into a world that had its own rules about what women could and couldn’t do. Lucy Worsley’s biography is not just of a massively, internationally successful writer. It’s also the story of a person who, despite the obstacles of class and gender, became an astonishingly successful working woman.

With access to personal letters and papers that have rarely been seen, Lucy Worsley’s biography is both authoritative and entertaining and makes us realize what an extraordinary pioneer Agatha Christie was—truly a woman who wrote the twentieth century.

Librarian Rachel has the following to say about her pick:

Everyone knows Agatha Christie for her popular mystery books. She is considered to be the best selling novelist of all time and only the Bible and Shakespeare have sold more copies than she has. Her numerous novels include two popular characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and each have their own series. So even though many people have read her books and enjoyed her stories, fewer people know the story of the woman writing these novels. Agatha Christie was a fascinating woman as the author Lucy Worsley details. 

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Cookbook Pick

Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture From My Kitchen in México by Rick Martínez

Join Rick Martínez on a once-in-a-lifetime culinary journey throughout México that begins in Mexico City and continues through 32 states, in 156 cities, and across 20,000 incredibly delicious miles. In Mi Cocina, Rick shares deeply personal recipes as he re-creates the dishes and specialties he tasted throughout his journey. Inspired by his travels, the recipes are based on his taste memories and experiences. True to his spirit and reflective of his deep connections with people and places, these dishes will revitalize your pantry and transform your cooking repertoire.

Highlighting the diversity, richness, and complexity of Mexican cuisine, he includes recipes like herb and cheese meatballs bathed in a smoky, spicy chipotle sauce from Oaxaca called Albóndigas en Chipotle; northern México’s grilled Carne Asada that he stuffs into a grilled quesadilla for full-on cheesy-meaty food euphoria; and tender sweet corn tamales packed with succulent shrimp, chiles, and roasted tomatoes from Sinaloa on the west coast. Rick’s poignant essays throughout lend context—both personal and cultural—to quilt together a story that is rich and beautiful, touching and insightful.

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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.