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Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
It's always amazing to me how New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast gets to the heart of an issue with her dark, dry and hysterically funny perspective. In this memoir (in cartoon format) she treats us to her wry, poignant, devastating and totally on-the-mark observations about the aging of her parents. While it can be wrenching and is always thought-provoking, you also can't stop turning the pages, and you will never forget it.
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Huguette Clark, the daughter of a 1900s mining millionaire, grew up in incredible wealth and with multiple homes, but in 1941 Huguette stopped leaving her New York apartment. Reporter Bill Dedman came across a listing for an estate that had been vacant for decades, thus starting him on the riveting story of this eccentric recluse (who the Seattle Times said “made Howard Hughes seem like a Kardashian”) and the people who took advantage of her.
The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irène Némirovsky by Her Daughter
When her mother, famous French writer Irène Némirovsky was taken by the Gestapo in 1942, Élisabeth Gille was five years old. In an effort to learn about the woman she never knew, Élisabeth imagines her mother's memoirs. Through fictionalizing her mother's character and past, Gille establishes The Mirador as a truly imaginative personal project, as well as and a natural critique on the memoir genre itself.
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis
Medicine in the mid-19th Century relied heavily on the theory that “bad air” caused the spread of disease. The Remedy is the fascinating, inspiring and ultimately heartbreaking story of German doctor Robert Koch, germ theory, and political influence over scientific discovery. A surprising double narrative intersperses Koch’s story with Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wife had tuberculosis, and whose future literary creation, Sherlock Holmes, would herald a new era of scientific methodology and logical reasoning.
The Shakespeare Notebooks
If you are a fan of Shakespeare and Doctor Who, this is the book for you. It is a silly book that pretends that Doctor Who, the fictional time-traveling individual, influenced a number of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. The author goes through Shakespeare’s “notebooks” to find proof that the Doctor is the influencing force behind Shakespeare. It was a fun book and had several a couple new Doctor Who adventures to read about in broken iambic pentameter.
Tea and Dog Biscuits
Author Barrie Hawkins goes into details about his first year of taking care of orphaned dogs. With the help of his wife, they managed to “rehome” twenty dogs that year. The stories range from tragic to silly anecdotes about learning what is required to foster dogs. All the stories have heartwarming endings for each dog, and you also get to meet quite a few unique people who help the Hawkins’ them along the way.
Running Like a Girl
Considering starting the activity/sport of running? Just getting started running? Or have you been a runner for years? Regardless, you will love this book! From her first disastrous runs, to triumphantly crossing the finish line in her first marathon, Heminsley humorously recounts her experiences and learns that running is truly a journey of self-discovery. Lace up those shoes because this book will inspire you to get out the door and hit the pavement!
-Kara, Green Lake
The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld: A Memoir
Hocking, an avid skateboarder in his thirties, gives up everything to move to New York City to live his dream of becoming a writer. Quickly discovering he's more lost than ever, Hocking finds solace in his newfound obsession with surfing. He juxtaposes his attempts to work through codependency and commitment issues with the history of Herman Melville's Moby Dick (another obsession). Hocking's writing is enchanting and highly relatable. A great read after Cheryl Strayed's Wild.
Dreams of Other Worlds
A descriptive guide of all the unmanned space missions over time, this book explores the stunning ways in which our knowledge of the universe has changed from these scientific missions. It's mind-boggling to consider the extent of space, and that technology from the 1960s and 70s is still collecting and transmitting data from the furthest reaches of our Solar System. This book has universal appeal, but Space nerds and Sci-Fi geeks will enjoy.
The Green River Killer
This is a fascinating, macabre and personal look at Washington's most notorious serial killer, Gary Ridgeway. Jeff Jensen's father spent years tracking down Ridgeway, trying to bring justice to him and closure to the families of his murder victims. This is a fantastic and haunting introduction to the graphic novel genre, proving that “comic books” can tell a story as effectively as any other printed work. It’s a must-read for true crime fans.
Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier
A former journalist combines the best of all genres as far as I’m concerned: true crime and nature writing. You may be as shocked as I was to read how a psychopath calling himself Papa Pilgrim escaped any consequences for decades as he abused both the wild lands he lived on and his own family. The heroism of ordinary townspeople, National Park Rangers and his brave daughter finally exposed his tangled webs of deceit.
-Molly, Lake City
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Elizabeth Kolbert presents a series of essays detailing how humans will be the cause of the next mass extinction on earth. Her examples are well thought out and lead us down an inexorable path to realize that we are the cause many individual animal species extinctions. Her writing is concise and interesting and makes this her book a must read for natural history buffs.
The Sweet Life in Paris
When pastry chef and cookbook author David Lebovitz moves to Paris, he is in for quite a change. From repurposing his bedroom into an ice cream production facility to buttering up the locals with les brownies Américains to mastering the fine art of queue jumping, this book is a delight. Not hooked yet? Try your hand at some of the included delicious sounding recipes. Yum!
The Land of Second Chances: the Impossible Rise of Rwanda’s Cycling Team
Rwanda is not considered a hotbed for world class athletes. But despite tragic inheritance, hope thrives among a handful of its determined young cyclists. Along comes an American trainer seeking redemption who develops a program to serve not only the cyclists, but their community as well. Microloans fund coffee co-ops, which in turn employ the riders in an ingenious plan to keep the businesses and the cycling venture going. Check out this inspiring read!
From Hell is simply the greatest graphic novel ever published. This sixteen-part series chronicles the infamous Jack the Ripper murders from the fevered point of view of the killer himself. He is Sir William Gull, physician to Prince Albert, driven to kill in order to complete a grand Masonic ritual which encompasses the whole mystical history of London. Drawn in an equally frenzied style, the novel draws you inexorably into his madness.
The Last Wilderness
Murray Morgan paints an early history of the Olympic Peninsula that leaves one with a true taste of the wildness of the Pacific Northwest. From geological formation, to indigenous relationships, to the creation of ports, to logging, to radical history, to the development of the Olympic National Park; The Last Wilderness offers a good adventure for the thrill seeker and the history buff alike. This is the perfect rainy day read!.
-Victoria, West Seattle
Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy
Fascinating tableaux of animals (rabbits, birds, kittens) engaged in typical Victorian activities such as playing cards, getting married, and attending a funeral. Potter was a British country taxidermist whose popular museum charmed visitors for almost 150 years. This book reminded me of the equally morbid The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corinne Botz which showcases the dollhouse crime scenes of Frances Glessner Lee. Not for the squeamish!
-Christiane, Queen Anne
Author Perlstein follows the rise of conservatism from 1964 to 1972, focusing particularly on the role that Richard Nixon played. The author manages to be very detailed without becoming ponderous. The writing compares favorably to other political authors of history such as Theodore White and Robert Caro. This is the second book in a trilogy three part series, but reads fine as a standalone volume.
If a photographer you had never met before asked to take your photo, would you say yes? What if he asked you to pose with a stranger? How about if he asked you to touch that stranger? Photographer Richard Renaldi did just that, and published the results in this remarkable book. Sometimes the subjects look entirely comfortable with each other. Sometimes, they’re clearly uneasy. This is a challenging, mesmerizing and beautiful collection.
Stolen Figs, and Other Adventures in Calabria
Calabria’s humble traditions, food, and people are the highlights of Mark Rotella’s travelogue. In his trips within the region also known as the “toe” of Italy, he meets relatives and strangers welcoming him to his Calabrese roots, discovers forgotten details about his immigrant grandparents, and experiences being an Italian-American outsider back in the motherland. Readers will embrace Rotella’s adventures and find themselves dreaming to find their own Calabria.
The Faraway Nearby
From a mountainous pile of apricots to the frozen Arctic, Solnit's lyrical essays will take you to unexpected places and light fires in your brain with her reflective and beautiful prose. A companion of sorts to her earlier, equally excellent A Field Guide to Getting Lost, The Faraway Nearby is a wise and wandering meditation on the nature of storytelling and the ways stories connect us and make us who we are. Perfect winter reading.
American Mirror: the Life and Art of Norman Rockwell
This is a fascinating account of Rockwell’s life and times. The author delves into previously unknown aspects of his personality and unflinchingly looks at his faults, but presents his life with compassion from a historically relevant viewpoint. In talking about Rockwell’s artwork, Solomon discusses the other popular works of his times which gives a deeper perspective to his work.
Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire
Taking place several years after the more famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Astor Expedition was every bit as grueling and ambitious. Although Astor’s plan for a global trade network was foiled by the War of 1812, his explorers laid the foundation for the Oregon Trail and future American settlement of the Pacific Northwest. This clear-eyed and riveting page-turner by outdoor adventure writer Peter Stark is a must-read for fans of Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage.
The Lady in the Tower: the Fall of Anne Boleyn
This account of Anne Boleyn’s love affair with King Henry VIII, as well as the chilling events leading up to her death, is enthralling until the end. What led Henry VIII to fall so passionately in love with Anne, and how could such a consuming affair end with his decision to have her executed? Could Anne have been guilty of the charges against her? Weir uses her expert research to answer these questions and more.