2012 Holiday Nonfiction Picks

This book shines for its informative, often witty, and also heart-warming view of those who keep the wheels of our country turning. Hidden America takes interviews from the people that play a part in running our every day lives, and shines light on the unsung heroes among us. Whether it’s a migrant labor camp in Northern Maine, to a traffic control tower at America’s busiest airport, to the misshapen stench of a California landfill, Jeane Marie Laskas uses vibrant and revelatory prose, to bring to life those who go overlooked. I loved this book for its breadth, its humor, its humanity, and its fierce hold of authenticity.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780399159008
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Putnam Adult - September 13th, 2012

Bestselling historian H.W. Brands takes on Civil War general Ulysses Grant and in a wonderfully readable biography describes how this unlikely hero turned into a two-term president that held the country together at two critical turning points in U.S. history. American history buffs as well as lovers of a great biography will find this book finely researched, but surprisingly compelling. Using Grant’s own words and journals, Brands details battleground assaults to the fierce devotion and intimate relationship Grant had with his wife, to the deep friction Grant felt with his father, and what emerges is compelling narrative of a deeply humanitarian president often overlooked by history.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780385532419
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Doubleday Books - October 2nd, 2012

More years ago than either of us would probably care to admit, I took a course on the 20th century monk Thomas Merton, co-taught by Doug Christie while we were both still undergrads. The course proved formative for most of us involved with it, and I am very happy to see that Christie has been “contemplating contemplation” ever since. He makes a plea for the contemplative life as a necessary part of the work of healing the planet. Drawing on the likes of Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold, but also on the writings of the early hermetic desert fathers, this book would be a perfect gift for anyone who seeks a bit more quiet reflection during the hectic holiday season.

Reviewed by: 
Seana
The Blue Sapphire of the Mind: Notes for a Contemplative Ecology Cover Image
$39.72
ISBN: 9780199812325
Availability: Backordered
Published: Oxford University Press, USA - December 3rd, 2012

Jon Ronson wrote one of the year’s bestselling pop psychology books—The Psychopath Test—and now he’s back with a book of essays that explore everything from the Insane Clown Posse to Indigo Children to literally following the footsteps of James Bond. Ronson simply cannot resist a good story, and we are all so fortunate for it.

Reviewed by: 
Kat
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Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781594631955
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - October 1st, 2013

After seven years of unforgettable sketches on Saturday Night Live (my favorites were her Harry Potter skits), Rachel Dratch left the show and found herself creatively frustrated and unable to find good work. This is the story of those years of foundering and questioning, and the life and family she unexpectedly fell into. Hilarious and very real.

Reviewed by: 
Kat
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Girl Walks Into a Bar...: Comedy Calamities, Dating Disasters, and a Midlife Miracle Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781592407576
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Avery Publishing Group - February 5th, 2013

Marlantes, author of the bestselling novel Matterhorn, goes beyond headlines and partisanship to carefully examine the experience of soldiers at war. Marlantes writes for veterans, soldiers and civilians, and the result is a meditation on the costs and effects of combat. What It Is Like To Go To War is compassionate, profound, powerfully honest, and very, very important.

Reviewed by: 
Kat
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What It Is Like to Go to War Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780802145925
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press - September 11th, 2012

Weir’s story about her marriage to an apple farmer is wrenching and tender. There are times when you want to ask what in the world she thinks she’s doing with her life, but you can’t stop reading. The Orchard is an environmental fable much like Silent Spring, but also a portrait of an astonishing marriage and partnership. A powerful and important memoir.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
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The Orchard Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9780446584685
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grand Central Publishing - September 4th, 2012

This is a collection of original travel stories told by some of the world’s best contemporary novelists—including Isabel Allende, Peter Matthiessen, Alexander McCall Smith, Joyce Carol Oates, and Tea Obreht. What surprised me about the collection was its never-ending breadth, not just in destination (we visit the span of the world from San Quentin prison, to Rome, Antarctica, India, or the Sudan) but also the keenly observant voice and narrative that is immediate with each author. Some of these authors tell of journeys so quirky and hysterical, that it’s hard to believe that the stories are true, and not an imposition of their novelistic ways, but other essays our deeply affecting and observing, speaking to the seemingly polar emotions of kinship and also solitary inconsequentiality that can come with travel. This is guaranteed to please many on your gift-list and worth asking for on your wish list as well.

Reviewed by: 
S.M.C.
Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales from Great Fiction Writers Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9781742205946
Availability: Backordered
Published: Lonely Planet - November 1st, 2012

 

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