The books considered for our 2017 nonfiction list ran the gamut—from intensely personal memoirs to true crime investigations, travelogues, ethnographic studies, historical biographies, science texts, and even cookbooks. But even in examining all of those topics, nonfiction is an extensive and wide-ranging category to cover. For example, it’s difficult to directly compare the merits of Electric Arches, Eve L. Ewing’s mixed-media, poetic collection, with Samin Nostrat’s beautiful and lively cooking guide Salt Fat Acid Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, in which the recipes are almost secondary.
Neither of those books made the final cut, but trust me—both are worth looking into. In the end, we went with our gut, choosing the books that each of us most enjoyed and appreciated. I think you’ll find a bit of bias in the results—apparently, we really love memoirs!—but there is still a bit of variety in the final list for you to explore, to learn, and to enjoy.
The 2017 committee includes:
- Anna, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
- Brandy F., Reference Services, Lebanon Junction Branch Library
- Heather, BCPL Public Relations Administrative Assistant
- Marianne, Reference Services, Ridgway Memorial Library
- Tanya, Circulation Clerk, Mt. Washington Branch Library
- Tracy (that’s me), BCPL Public Relations Coordinator & Committee Organizer
Alligator Candy by David Kushner
An unforgettable memoir about a family’s ultimate tragedy and their struggle to recover and carry on.
American Eclipse by David Baron
I listened to this book in the week before the August 2017 eclipse and so really felt like I understood the excitement that the 1878 eclipse must have generated. It’s an interesting and informative book about science, discovery, and invention.
American Fire by Monica Hesse
I enjoy reading true crime, if it’s well written, and this one definitely is. It covers all details, from beginning to end, and doesn’t miss a beat. I think true crime readers will enjoy this one.
This is a solid true-crime read with a little extra. The author did a masterful job putting this bizarre occurrence into thought-provoking economic and historical contexts.
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
This short, quickly moving book packs a wild punch. Mind-blowing nuggets of information given in such a way non-scientists can understand. Not to mention, Neil deGrasse Tyson himself narrates the audiobook, and his voice is like warm molasses!
This gem of a book provides a clear and fascinating overview of the subject. I might have to listen to the audio again or pick up the book to fully grasp a few of the concepts—but the book is so short and accessible, I wouldn’t mind that a bit. I loved the author’s occasional shamelessly dorky asides.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
This captivating memoir could not have been told in a more beautiful way than the graphic novel format. A raw and emotional monologue on identity and heritage.
Emotionally and visually evocative.
The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson
I really enjoyed reading this. It provided a broad understanding of basic civil rights issues that were going on during the 1950s and 60s in the black community.
Tyson does a clear-eyed, thorough, and thought-provoking job covering a seminal case in civil rights history, painting a vivid picture of the era’s social landscape and explaining why the event is still so very relevant today.
The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs
I LOVED The Bright Hour. It’s honest and thought-provoking, lyrical and touching. Heart wrenching even. It will make you laugh and make you cry. Loved every moment.
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesenvich
Very compelling read. It’s almost like reading a work of fiction, but knowing it’s not just amazed me.
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty
This book is in my top three for 2017.
A macabre but beautiful exploration of what it means to live and die in cultures around the world. Extremely well-written and entertaining. I fought sleep to stay up and read it!
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
Stunning, honest, and brave. Roxane Gay is a superb talent, and I was by turns heartbroken, inspired, and awed by every word she wrote. Her story is both universal and achingly personal.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
A well-written combination of history and memoir, told from multiple voices.
Another heart-wrenching and mind-boggling history lesson about the incredible injustice dealt to the Osage American Indians by our government.
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
I can’t stop thinking about and talking about this book. It’s an eye-opening look at a hidden subculture of America that is far more prevalent that we might think, based on the encounters of a journalist who embedded herself within the secret tribe of van dwellers and nomads on and off over a period of more than three years. The book does much to challenge our perceptions of “homelessness” and “houselessness,” and the various “characters” and situations Bruder introduces are completely engrossing. I finished the audiobook—about 10 hours in length—in two days, listening to it on my commute, at work, while cooking dinner, and any other time I was able to squeeze it in to my day.
Radium Girls by Kate Moore
This is a fascinating and astounding history lesson about life in the early 1900s for some young women who were “lucky” enough to land a lucrative job painting clock faces. You can’t make this stuff up!
This is a well researched, fascinating story that deserves telling.
Rebel Mother: My Childhood Chasing the Revolution by Peter Andreas
Really well-written and fascinating story. I highly recommend.
Shoot Like a Girl by Mary Jennings Hegar
Extremely well-written and an excellent perspective on female military service.
This absolutely incredible memoir is one of my favorite books of 2017. MJ’s strong, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s flawed, and she’s brilliant. She’s every repressed woman reaching for a man’s dream and doing it with amazing finesse. I read this book covered in goose bumps.
Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler
A lovely, rambling monologue on love, life, tragedy, and the healing power of immersing yourself in the world after grief has changed you.
What an emotional journey this takes you on. It’s not just a book, but a life story, so much love and heartbreak and healing in what seemed like not enough time. A very powerful read.
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
A hypnotic blend of poetry and prose that provides a raw, searing portrait of grief, a complicated childhood, and—as can be expected from Alexie—the realities of life as a modern American Indian.
Source: Book News and Reviews