Tag Archives: nonfiction

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.

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.

Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen (2011)

willowbrookballroomOn October 28, 2016, the historic Willowbrook Ballroom burned down. The legendary ballroom and banquet hall in Willow Springs started as the Oh Henry Ballroom in 1921. It had its heyday in the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s featuring bands such as Jimmy Dorsey and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When ballroom dancing was on the decline in the late 1960s and 1970s, Willowbrook Ballroom featured Chubby Checker and such bands as The Cryan’ Shames. Supposedly it was the last place Resurrection Mary danced before she left and was hit by a car. There have been sightings of her ghost in the Chicago area.

Check out Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen to reminisce.

 

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi (2016)

imjudgingyouPopular blogger Luvvie Ajayi (Awesomely Luvvie) tells it like it is and gives voice to a generation that has mastered the perfect side-eye. I’m Judging You is a collection of humorous essays that will have you laughing out loud or nodding your head in agreement. Some of the topics she tackles are pop culture, dating, racism, fame, and social media.

Growing up in Nigeria and living her adult life in Chicago, Ajayi has a unique view of culture in America, but it will feel familiar to readers all the same. In fact, you’ll likely find that you’ve thought some of the same things to yourself!

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel (2013)

astronautAnyone who grew up during the race to the moon era can identify with the mystery and mystique of the astronauts. This nonfiction account from the perspective of their wives may disenchant some, but readers will have a whole new respect and admiration for these great American women. In The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel does a good job of presenting the facts and opinions through extensive research and interviews in a story-like format. The epilogue ties everything up in a neat package explaining what happened after the space race was won and life returned to normal.