Tag Archives: nonfiction

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon (2017)

In 1917, a ship full of explosives en route from New York to France exploded in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia. Killing 2,000 people and wounding 9,000 more, the explosion leveled 2.5 square miles of Canada. In The Great Halifax Explosion, author John U. Bacon combines engaging human interest stories with what happened leading up to and after the explosion (which was the largest in the world until the atomic bombs were dropped in 1945). He introduces readers to the families of Halifax and details their daily lives in this fascinating story. For fans of history books with a personal narrative.

If you visit Halifax, you can see the Mont Blanc Anchor. Learn more from Canada’s Historic Places.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing by Marie Kondo (2014)

When cleaning, it’s really easy to get overwhelmed to the point that you stop before you begin— all because of one question: “Where do I start?!” Marie Kondo’s answer is clothes! Gather up all the clothes in the house you can find (yes, even the ones in the back of that third closet in the room no one goes in) and go through them. From there, how do you decide whether you keep it or not?  Ask yourself this: does it bring you joy? Have you even worn it in the last year? (Did you forget it existed?)

Find your inner clutter-free calm with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (2015)

What an eye-opener—investigative journalist Sam Quinones pens a compelling and horrifying tale of how a combination of factors lead to the current devastating opiate problem affecting people across the United States.

In Dreamland, short chapters focus on various individuals (dealers, doctors, addicts, and their families) and corporations (marketing firms and pharmaceutical companies). Quinones weaves multiple threads together, showing how an influx of black tar heroin from Mexico (and a new delivery system) and the rise of OxyContin and other legal pharmaceuticals created today’s widespread challenges. He successfully humanizes people in this narrative, including some individuals that may surprise you.

There is so much to talk about—consider discussing Dreamland with your book group.

Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King (2016)

In this engagingly readable mix of art, history, and biography, author Ross King details the later years of Claude Monet’s life. Set against the backdrop of WWI, Mad Enchantment documents Monet’s work on paintings both large and small as well as his life in Giverny, France (and his relationships with other artists such as Renoir and Rodin). The prolific artist, although hindered by grief and failing eyesight, produced the massive paintings found in l’Orangerie in Paris.

The Art Institute of Chicago plays a role in the book, too. Did you know its representatives tried to purchase the paintings that ended up in l’Orangerie? At least we have many other Monet works in Chicago. Whether you’re planning a trip to Paris or Chicago, or just want to learn more about one of the greats (who was not always admired during his lifetime), I recommend this book—I lost track of the number of times I thought, “I didn’t know that.”

 

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (2016)

At turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, Trevor Noah’s candid memoir is a powerful, moving story of his life as a mixed race child growing up during apartheid. Told in vignettes, Born a Crime documents his relationship with his mother, his childhood and teenage antics, and his struggle to fit into a world that considered him a crime (at the time of his birth, interracial relationships were illegal).

Perhaps best known as the host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Noah does infuse humor into his stories, but this is not your typical comedian’s memoir. Listen to the audiobook: the author’s command of multiple languages and skill at impersonations shine in his engaging narration.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking (2017)

Ranking as the happiest country in the world three years running, the Danish know a thing or two about creating pleasant environments. A Dane himself, there is perhaps no one more qualified to write on this topic than Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. One of the reasons for their happiness is hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), which loosely translates to a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. Some of the ways you can achieve hygge are warm blankets, crackling fireplaces, good conversation, homemade sweets, and candles—lots and lots of candles.

This little book’s pages are packed with ideas for nights on your own or with others; recipes; happiness research; history; travel tips; and Danish wisdom. Check out The Little Book of Hygge today.

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (1999)

This is Mitch Albom’s second nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie. If you enjoyed that one, I think you’ll enjoy Have a Little Faith, possibly even more. It is heartwarming, inspirational, thought-provoking, and, at times, humorous.

Albom’s hometown rabbi asks Albom to deliver his eulogy when he dies. On his quest to learn more about this man, he encounters an African American pastor who, despite a past as a drug dealer and convict, is leading a Christian ministry serving the poor and homeless in Detroit’s inner city. The book alternates between these two very different men, religions, and their worlds. In the process, you learn valuable lessons about the power of faith to bring people together to accomplish great things. Great read for a book club.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben (2016)

If you love looking at that beautiful oak or maple in your backyard, or enjoy a walk in the woods, you’ll find this book fascinating. Peter Wohlleben confirms what I have often thought when in the midst of trees—they are wise, social beings that fulfill an important role in our lives. Check out The Hidden Life of Trees today.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander (2012)

Dr. Eben Alexander was close to death for a week. The memories from that week have changed his life and the way he thinks about life after death. In Proof of Heaven, Alexander pulls the reader into his drama and can cause a life changing shift in perspective. Listening to Alexander’s own voice recount his experiences made it all the more powerful a message.

The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker (2016)

For the inquisitive cat admirer, and cat disdainer alike, this book offers an entertaining look at the house cat’s story: from practically self-domesticating, to multiplying into staggering numbers worldwide, and winning our affection (true for most of us, that is). Abigail Tucker, the book’s author, is squarely in the cat lover camp, yet she’s forced to admit that cats don’t really have any practical use (this is the part cat haters will like).

Read The Lion in the Living Room to find out why cats may develop floppy ears and curly tails in the future; to discover the identity of the man who believes cats are “a tsunami of violence and death;” to learn why cat memes are considered by at least one meme researcher–that’s right, I said meme researcher—to be immortal; and to learn many more curious facts about our adorable pets.