January Best Sellers Club – Nonfiction Picks

Have you joined our Best Sellers Club yet? Every quarter, our librarians pick out new books on certain topics: true crime, cookbooks, and biography. Join our Best Sellers Club  and automatically have selected titles put on hold for you. Want the hottest new release from your favorite author? Want to stay current with a celebrity book club? Love nonfiction? We’ve got that too! Choose any author, celebrity pick, and/or nonfiction pick and have us put the latest title on hold for you automatically. Select as many as you want!

Let’s go over the true crime, cookbook, and biography selections for January!

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper has been chosen for the Best Sellers Club January True Crime pick! Librarian Anna has this to say about her latest selection:

I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to its highly anticipated demand, as well as due to the positive and starred reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication. I was also immediately hooked by the following description of this title from Goodreads: “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.”

Want to know more about We Keep the Dead Close ? Check out the following description provided by Anna:

Published in November, this highly anticipated title investigates the 1969 murder of Jane Britton, a 23-year-old anthropology graduate student at Harvard University who was found bludgeoned to death in her apartment. Her body was surrounded by red ochre, a substance often found at ancient burial sites around the world, and appeared to have been killed with a small, sharp weapon, not unlike an archeological tool. At the time of her death and for many years after, rumors circulated that a tenured professor at the university had had an affair with Britton and killed her when she threatened to disclose the nature of their affair. Despite the scale of this scandal and the fact that Britton’s father held a powerful position at Radcliffe College, Harvard’s all-female sister school that was merging with Harvard that very year, this murder was never deeply investigated and faded quietly into the background for nearly half of a century. Forty years later, author Becky Cooper first heard this rumor as a Harvard undergraduate student herself and embarked on what would become a decade-long pursuit to get to the bottom of this mystery, which was just closed in 2018.

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Our January cookbook pick for the Best Sellers Club is Pie Academy by Ken Haedrich.

Want to know more about what Pie Academy is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Novice and experienced bakers alike will discover the secrets to baking a pie from scratch with recipes, crust savvy, tips and tutorials, advice about tools and ingredients, and more. Foolproof step-by-step photos give you the confidence you need to choose and prepare the best crust for different types of fillings. Learn how to make pie dough using butter, lard, or both; how to work with all-purpose, whole-wheat, or gluten-free flour; how to roll out dough; which pie pan to use; and how to add flawless finishing details like fluting and lattice tops. Next are 255 recipes for every kind and style of pie, from classic apple pie and pumpkin pie to summer berry, fruit, nut, custard, chiffon, and cream pies, freezer pies, slab pies, hand pies, turnovers, and much more. This beast of a collection, with gorgeous color photos throughout, weighs in at nearly four pounds and serves up forty years of pie wisdom in a single, satisfying package.

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The January biography pick for the Best Sellers Club is Unceasing Militant: The Life of Mary Church Terrell by Alison M. Parker.

For more information about what Unceasing Militant is about, check out the following description provided by the publisher.

Born into slavery during the Civil War, Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) would become one of the most prominent activists of her time, with a career bridging the late nineteenth century to the civil rights movement of the 1950s. The first president of the National Association of Colored Women and a founding member of the NAACP, Terrell collaborated closely with the likes of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Unceasing Militant is the first full-length biography of Terrell, bringing her vibrant voice and personality to life. Though most accounts of Terrell focus almost exclusively on her public activism, Alison M. Parker also looks at the often turbulent, unexplored moments in her life to provide a more complete account of a woman dedicated to changing the culture and institutions that perpetuated inequality throughout the United States.

Drawing on newly discovered letters and diaries, Parker weaves together the joys and struggles of Terrell’s personal, private life with the challenges and achievements of her public, political career, producing a stunning portrait of an often-under recognized political leader.

October True Crime Pick – American Predator

American Predator by Maureen Callahan has been chosen for the Best Sellers Club October True Crime pick! Librarian Anna has this to say about her latest selection:

Published in July 2019, this bestselling book investigates the heinous crimes of serial killer Israel Keyes. While not as infamous as other serial killers, such as John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy, Keyes is described as being one of the most “ambitious and terrifying serial killers in modern history.” Living in Alaska as a construction worker and as a father to his only daughter, Keyes would travel across the country to bury “kill kits,” which contained cash, weapons, and tools used to dispose of bodies; he planted these supplies in preparation for whenever he had an urge to act upon his sadistic desires in a particular place. He is thought to have murdered at least eleven people before his arrest in 2012, but stayed under the radar for fifteen years, as the first crime he committed was in 1997. I primarily selected this title for the BSC due to the positive and starred reviews it received from acclaimed journals and reader communities upon publication, as well as due to my surprise of never hearing of Keyes before finding this book, despite him committing these crimes in relatively recent history. I am excited to share this selection with you and hope you enjoy this pick!

Want to know more about American Predator ? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

A gripping tour de force of investigative journalism that takes us deep into the investigation behind one of the most frightening and enigmatic serial killers in modern American history, and into the ranks of a singular American police force: the Anchorage PD Most of us have never heard of Israel Keyes. But he is one of the most ambitious, meticulous serial killers of modern time. The FBI considered his behavior unprecedented. Described by a prosecutor as “a force of pure evil,” he was a predator who struck all over the United States. He buried “kill kits”–Cash, weapons, and body-disposal tools–in remote locations across the country and over the course of fourteen years, would fly to a city, rent a car, and drive thousands of miles in order to use his kits. He would break into a stranger’s house, abduct his victims in broad daylight, and kill and dispose of them in mere hours. And then he would return home, resuming life as a quiet, reliable construction worker devoted to his only daughter. When journalist Maureen Callahan first heard about Israel Keyes in 2012, she was captivated by how a killer of this magnitude could go undetected by law enforcement for over a decade. And so began a project that consumed her for the next several years–uncovering the true story behind how the FBI ultimately caught Israel Keyes, and trying to understand what it means for a killer like Keyes to exist. A killer who left a path of monstrous, randomly committed crimes in his wake–many of which remain unsolved to this day. American Predator is the ambitious culmination of years of on-the-ground interviews with key figures in law enforcement and in Keyes’s life, and research uncovered from classified FBI files. Callahan takes us on a journey into the chilling, nightmarish mind of a relentless killer, and the limitations of traditional law enforcement, in one of America’s most isolated environments–Alaska–when faced with a killer who defies all expectation and categorization.

Join our Best Sellers Club  and automatically have selected titles put on hold for you. Want the hottest new release from your favorite author? Want to stay current with a celebrity book club? Love nonfiction? We’ve got that too! Choose any author, celebrity pick, and/or nonfiction pick and have us put the latest title on hold for you automatically. Select as many as you want!

The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton

I don’t know about you, but the amount of reading I have done recently has drastically decreased. I have been gravitating toward podcasts instead. Another librarian recommended The Less People Know About Us  by Axton Betz-Hamilton as a true crime memoir that I would like and she was right! This book may be nonfiction, but it reads like fiction: a riveting tale of family drama and one person’s journey to rebuild their life from bare bones.

The Less People Know About Us  by Axton Betz-Hamilton follows Axton from childhood to adulthood. Growing up in small-town Indiana in the early 1990s, Axton and her parents (and the occasional grandparent) found themselves struggling. Why? When she was 11, both of Axton’s parents had their identities stolen. Life changed forever for them after this happened: fights over money became more and more frequent and their credit ratings were tanked. Every time Axton mentioned going to the authorities or the banks to help, her mom said she would handle it, when in reality, there was nothing much they could do to help because identity theft was a somewhat new concept.

To hide from the identity thief, they moved to different addresses and changed all of their personal information. Going so far as to avoid answering the door and to try to live as quiet a life as possible, Axton and her parents completely cut off the outside world. Isolated from friends and family, Axton’s life became increasingly more lonely. She became more and more anxious and eventually developed an eating disorder, seemingly quarantined in her childhood home as the identity thief was always able to find them no matter where they moved.

Years later, Axton discovered that she also was a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately by the time she discovered this, she was already thousands of dollars in debt. Her credit was ruined. In order to dig herself out of this, Axton became an award-winning identity theft expert doing research into this topic and trying to figure out why people choose to steal the identities of others. It took her years to figure out who was responsible and that involved trying to untangle a massively intricate web of lies that formed before she was even born.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

I spend a lot of time in the car either driving to work or driving to explore. This means that I have so many hours to fill that the music on the radio starts to repeat itself. I have learned to spend this time listening to podcasts and audiobooks instead. Looking at award-winning book lists, I found Sadie by Courtney Summers: a book that is presented like a true crime podcast. This sounded perfect to me.

Sadie by Courtney Summers highlights the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie. When thirteen-year-old Mattie goes missing from her small Colorado town and is eventually found murdered, her nineteen-year-old sister Sadie is devastated. Sadie has been raising Mattie by herself for years ever since their mother left. While she had some help from her surrogate grandma, Sadie took on the bulk of the responsibilities associated with her and Mattie’s welfare. When Sadie all of a sudden disappears about a year after Mattie is found, her surrogate grandma reaches out for help.

West McCray is a radio personality who has been slowly making his way across the country to work on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America. While stopped in one such town, he overhears a local talking about Sadie’s disappearance. Shortly after, West is contacted by Sadie’s surrogate grandma and finds himself drawn into the case. West decides to turn his examination into the disappearance of Sadie and the murder of Mattie into a true crime podcast called ‘The Girls’.

When Sadie runs away, rumors abound about why she left and where she’s going. Told in the alternating perspectives of both Sadie as she runs away and West’s podcast about her disappearance, readers are able to follow this story from both points of view. While Sadie has run away in order to track down her younger sister Mattie’s killer, West and the rest of her family don’t have access to that information and struggle to find out why she’s gone, where she is, and what has happened to her.

I enjoyed this book as it combines three of my favorite things: true crime, podcasts, and audiobooks. After looking at different reviews, flipping through the print book, and listening to the audiobook, I agree with others when they say that, if given the option, you should listen to the audiobook. By doing so, you are privy to the little audio clues present in the podcast sections that you would miss out on if you only read the book. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following format:

True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa

True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill
True Story starring James Franco and Jonah Hill

December 19, 2001.  Waldport, Oregon.  The body of a young boy was discovered floating in a pond.  No one knew who the boy was and there were no missing persons reports for a child.  Three days later, divers searched the pond, looking for clues on the boy’s identity.  There was a highway bridge over the pond, and it was suspected that a car with the child’s family may be in the pond.  Divers found the body of a girl with a rock tied around her ankle.  The media ran the story asking for help finding the children’s parents.  A babysitter stepped forward and identified the children.  From there, the authorities searched the children’s residence.  It was evident that someone had packed up the personal belongings.  But the father, mother, and younger sister of the children were missing.  Divers searched the water nearby and found two suitcases.  Inside were the bodies of the mother and the baby girl.  Four out of the five members of the Longo family were dead.  Mary-Jane and her children Zachary, Sadie and Madison had been murdered.  Christian Longo was no where to be found.

The story of the Longo family is truly horrific.  Stories such as these remind us all that there are dangerous people in the world.  Even a person that you love and trust could be the person that ends that your life.  But True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa is not just about the murdered Longo family.

Michael Finkel lives in Montana and is a writer for the New York Times.  He had recently written a story that was not entirely true and was terminated for it.  So when he gets a call from a journalist at The Oregonian, Finkel expects the call to be about his disgrace.  Instead, the newspaper writer asks him about his reaction to Christian Longo being arrested after claiming to be Michael Finkel from the New York Times.

And so begins the bizarre relationship between the accused murderer and the disgraced journalist.  Longo calls Finkel from prison on a weekly basis.  They exchange letters.  Finkel even drives to Oregon to visit him a few times.  And Michael Finkel is in the court room during Longo’s trial.

True Crime: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel
True Crime: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel

An interesting story of murder, deceit and redemption.  True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa is a must read for true crime fans and for those interested in human behavior.  It is available in print and in audiobook.

There is also a movie based off of the book.  True Story was released in 2015.  It stars James Franco as Christian Longo and Jonah Hill as Michael Finkel.  True Story is available on DVD from the library.