Nonfiction Round-up 2017

My introduction to Deb Perelman of the fantabulous food blog smittenkitchen.com wasn't via the usual route: I found out she was speaking at my local library, a friend told me I should go, I took her advice and found Deb and warm and funny and smart, and only then did I look up her website and her first cookbook, the excellent The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I love them both, and was so excited when I found out about Smitten Kitchen Every Day. This follow-up contains more than a hundred real recipes for real people, gorgeously illustrated.
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This book was a delightful surprise. In this debut, Detroit librarian Spence writes love letters and break-up notes to the books in her life and in her library's stacks. (The last 20% of the book is not letters, but the letters were my favorite part.) Imagine a younger Nancy Pearl, with a few f-bombs and a lot more snark. Don't miss the adorable hardcover version; it's a beauty and would make an excellent gift for your favorite book-lover.
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We are collectively obsessed with the idea of defining and knowing ourselves and our unique place in the world. For readers who long to dig deeper into what makes them uniquely them (and why that matters), Reading People explains the life-changing insights that can be gained from the most popular personality frameworks, such as Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram, and others and shares specific, practical real-life applications across all facets of life, including love and marriage, productivity, parenting, the workplace, and spiritual life. Understanding personality can revolutionize the way we live, love, work, and pray.
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Brené Brown's work has meant a lot to me (my favorite: Daring Greatly, and I'm so excited to have another new book in my hands. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown tackles what she calls our current spiritual crisis of disconnection. We don't know what it means to belong anymore, or why it matters, or how to experience true connection—and we are suffering for it. In her new work she sets out four practices of true belonging, explains how we can practice them in our own lives, and shares heaps of stories so we can see what they look like in practice. A timely read, and a good one.
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I LOVED this book and have been waiting impatiently to share it with you! We've all had them—those memorable moments that have a disproportionate impact on our lives, the ones that make us feel proud, insightful, connected, even transcendent. The moments that we know are special, both as we experience them, and through the lens of memory, years later. In this pageturner of a business book (yep, that's a thing) the Heath brothers explain not only why those moments are so special, but how we can deliberately create more of them in our own and other people's lives. Practical and inspiring, and one of my favorite reads this year.
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The author of Alexander Hamilton and Washington: A Life is back, this time with another whopping presidential biography that clocks in at 1098 pages. This exhaustive treatment of the man Chernow admiringly calls "the single most important figure behind Reconstruction" is packed with details and stories but, according to the critics, is rarely dull—despite its doorstop status.
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From the publisher: "Most of us don’t want to think. Thinking is trouble. Thinking can force us out of familiar, comforting habits, and it can complicate our relationships with like-minded friends. Finally, thinking is slow, and that's a problem when our habits of consuming information leave us lost in the spin cycle of social media, partisan bickering, and confirmation bias. In this smart, endlessly entertaining book, Jacobs diagnoses the many forces that act on us to prevent thinking and he also dispels the many myths we hold about what it means to think well. (For example: It's impossible to 'think for yourself.') Drawing on sources as far-flung as novelist Marilynne Robinson, basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain, British philosopher John Stuart Mill, and Christian theologian C.S. Lewis, Jacobs digs into the nuts and bolts of the cognitive process. Because if we can learn to think together, maybe we can learn to live together, too."
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In 2016, Morrison delivered the Norton lectures at Harvard University about race, human nature, and other-ness. This is the book form of those addresses; because they were first delivered as lectures they are exceptionally easy to read, although the themes themselves are hard. I especially enjoyed Morrison's discussions of her own popular works, like Beloved and Paradise, and her references to authors like Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, and William Faulkner. With a foreword by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Publication date: September 18.
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I'm in the middle of this one right now. This is the story of the American female code breakers whose vital work helped win World War II, but whose work has gone unsung for decades. 10,000 American women served the U.S. Army and Navy as cryptanalysists; their call to action came in the form of a letter that asked them two short questions: did they like crossword puzzles, and were they engaged to be married? A fascinating, thoroughly researched, and well-told true account.
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From the publisher: "The fascinating true story behind the magnificent Gilded Age mansion Biltmore—the largest, grandest residence ever built in the United States. Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton."
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