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Holiday Nonfiction Picks, 2011

Bookshop staff's holiday picks: the best books of the season that make great gifts.

Lions of the West by Robert Morgan

Lions of the West is written by an award-winning historian, poet, and novelist who traces the lives of 10 early Americans that played significant roles in the country’s westward expansion. From Thomas Jefferson to Johnny Appleseed, Robert Morgan uses keen historical research to sharpen the stories of those whose visions pushed America to settle the frontier. With portraits, maps, battle plans, and honesty about the complexities of conquering land whether it be 1743 to the California Gold rush of 1849, Morgan has created a richly authoritative biography that reads like an epic novel.

Maphead by Ken Jennings

Written by Ken Jennings (the very Ken Jennings who was a record-winning “Jeopardy!” contender) this is a charming, witty book. Written with a blend of memoir, humor, anecdote, and serious research, Jennings breaks into the world of maps. From map making, to map collecting, to Google maps, to the ways pop-icons plan their tour stops, Jennings has written a surprisingly delightful title whose aim is to “rescue geography from irreverence.” Truly this is perfect for the know-it-all in your life, who could stand to know a little bit more.

Don’t Shoot by David Kennedy

After hearing Kennedy on NPR, I knew that he had that special something that meant he should be listened to. As a professor at a College of Criminal Justice, Kennedy brought in all kinds of speakers from Gang members to police officers to help his students gain understanding of the real-world facets of criminal justice and life. But after hearing the complexities and humanity in each speaker, Kennedy realized that it was crucial that he and his class not be the only one to hear this multifaceted view. Bringing together gang members, their families, community service providers, and the police in one place—an agreement was born that was dubbed Operation Ceasefire—the result was Boston city violence plummeted by almost two-thirds. This book explains the inside story of that first ‘ceasefire’ meeting and the importance and difficulty of implementing the program in other cities around the nation.

Fire Monks by Colleen Morton Busch

This book takes a close look at an incredible story that happened right in our area. In 2008, a series of lightning strikes ignited hundreds of fires across California, and one of those fires threatened the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Big Sur, a place accessible by a single unpaved road and particularly vulnerable to fire. The story of how the center was saved by those who lived and worked there will leave you on the edge of your seat, as well as teach you about the many ways that zen teachings can prepare you for a wildfire.

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

If you love Eddie Izzard, Kate Beaton is your new soul mate. Like Izzard, Beaton loves to tackle subjects that most people think of as, well, kind of boring. Archaic Canadian history, Napoleon, Jane Austen...all are featured, and all are made hysterical by Beaton's sharp wit and creativity.

Staff Pick Badge
Hark! A Vagrant By Kate Beaton Cover Image
ISBN: 9781770460607
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Drawn and Quarterly - September 27th, 2011

Twain’s Feast by Andrew Beahrs

his book has it all: mouthwateringly good food writing, exquisite nature writing, including vivid descriptions of fields and forest, snippets of Mark Twain's transcendent musings about American food, and an incredible travelogue that spans many states and takes you back to Twain's childhood. One of my favorite books in recent memory.

Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens By Andrew Beahrs Cover Image
ISBN: 9780143119340
Availability: This item is likely out of print! We may be able to order it from the publisher. If it's unavailable, we will refund you ASAP.
Published: Penguin Books - October 25th, 2011

Killer of Little Shepherds by Douglas Starr

The title of this book is admittedly not very festive, but I promise you, great things await within. It's the incredible story of the birth of modern forensics, told through the story of a particularly twisted serial killer in France, and the brilliant scientist and criminologist who eventually stopped him.

The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science By Douglas Starr Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307279088
Availability: Backordered
Published: Vintage - November 1st, 2011

The Grace of Silence by Michele Norris

Michele Norris of NPR’s All Things Considered set out to write a book about “the hidden conversation on race” that was taking place around the country since the election of President Obama. Norris was interested in the continuing phenomenon she felt when interviewing people about what they weren’t saying when race came up; people were being careful and she wanted to know why. Then, when interviewing her own family about race and silence, a family secret was revealed and suddenly Norris’s journey to understanding the complexity of racial legacy became a more immediate and intensely personal story. The Grace of Silence illuminates the ways that silence and revelation are deeply imbedded into how we have racial dialogue. I cannot get the ending words of this memoir out of my head, and nor do I want to. This is a beautiful, telling, and wonderful read.

The Grace of Silence: A Family Memoir By Michele Norris Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307475275
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - September 6th, 2011

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