Archives for posts with tag: nonfiction

Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings

Published as All Hell Let Loose: The World at War, 1939-1945 in the UK


Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945Inferno is a compelling history of World War II, told from the point of view of regular people, soldiers and civilians, who experienced the war. The author, Max Hastings, is a British journalist and author of many modern history books. Inferno offers a comparative history of the war, giving the reader context about the similarities and differences between geographical areas and time stages of the war.

One of my favorite parts of reading this book was discovering World War II topics that I hadn’t learned about in high school history class. These include the conflict between the Russian and German armies on the Eastern Front, where 90% of the German Army’s losses were received. I also learned a lot about the Pacific Theater, as most of what I learned focused on the island battles. The sections on China and southeast Asian countries under Japan’s rule were very interesting, as was the discussion of Japanese vrs. Western values on warfare and prisoners. Hastings contends that the industrial might of the United States made more of an impact on the war than the US military, which was interesting to think about given the focus on troops in my history lessons.

Inferno is a great book for people who want a more complete or alternate history of World War II. As a history that is focused on the stories of ordinary people and soldiers, it is also has more compelling human stories than history books focused on battles and weapons. Max Hastings won  the Pritzker Prize for Military History and Inferno was a New York Times Notable Book.


From Amazon:

 From King County Library System in Book, ebook, and Downloadable Audiobook:


One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

The perfect non-fiction summer read. This is an engaging book from the king of popular non-fiction about many interesting developments that happened over the summer of 1927. By reading this book, you’ll learn about the early history of flight and why Charles Lindbergh was such a great pilot and why the 1927 Yankees were the best baseball team in history.  You’ll also read about a massive natural disaster and the President who went on vacation to the Black Hills during the aftermath. There are also some spectacular crimes detailed in the book, including a  horrible murder that gripped the nation, the trial of two anarchists which was very famous at the time but is unremembered now, and you’ll also read about how Al Capone consolidated his power in the criminal underworld of Chicago.

Bryson is adept at making the historical entertaining as well as informative, and you’ll come out of this book with many good cocktail conversation starters. This book is a series of loosely-related topics that were interesting to Bryson, not a linear tale, so if you don’t find one topic that interesting, you can always skip to the next chapter. Bryson also narrates his audiobooks himself, and he has a nice voice, so the audiobook version would be a great choice for a summer road trip as well.


From Amazon:


From King County Library System in Book, Large Print Book, Audiobook CD, Downloadable Audiobook, and ebook:

Great Books to Relax With

These are the 10 “beach reads” I am looking forward to this summer, even though I often read them in a comfy chair on my deck instead of on the beach. If they haven’t been published yet the release date is listed.


Stuff Matters

10. Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik

This looks like a great nonfiction book to read when I get sick of fiction. There are lots of short entries about the modern materials that make up our everyday lives. Easy-reading nonfiction is great to read before bed, as it is interesting, but does not lead me down the rabbit trail of “one more chapter!” the way a gripping fiction book can.

From Amazon:

From King County Library System in Book and ebook:



9. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I have read all of the books of The Song of Ice and Fire series, but I’d like to re-read them, starting with A Game of Thrones, before I start watching the tv series.

From Amazon:

From KCLS in Book, eBook, Graphic Novel Book, Audiobook CD, Audiobook Cassette(!),  Chinese Book, and Spanish Book:



8. Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

I loved the Veronica Mars tv show because of the spunky teenage girl protagonist solving interesting crimes. I am excited to see if the first book in the series will live up to the show.

From Amazon in Kindle format:

From Powell’s in paperback:

From KCLS in Book and Downloadable Audiobook:



7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I actually have this book checked out right now, I just haven’t been in the mood to read it! It is a short read, but a little creepy, so I am going to read it when I feel in the mood for a darker title.

From Amazon:

From KCLS in Book, ebook, Large Print Book, Audiobook CD, Downloadable Audiobook, and Spanish Book:


Shine Shine Shine

6. Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

This book looks fantastic! It is about autism, rockets, love, death, and a troubled marriage. It is the first book by the author and has been gaining popularity since its release in 2012.

From Amazon:

From KCLS in Book, Audiobook CD, and Downloadable Audiobook:



5. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I read this classic children’s book in middle school, and I look forward to reading it again. It is a dystopian story that should appeal to readers of The Hunger Games and Divergent. The movie version will be released in August 2014. It stars Jeff Bridges as The Giver and Brenton Thwaites as Jonas (he played Prince Phillip in Maleficent).

The IMDB page for the movie:

From Amazon:

From KCLS in Book, ebook, Audiobook CD, Downladable Audiobook, Preloaded Audiobook Player, Chinese Book, Japanese Book, Korean Book, and Spanish Book:



4. Landline by Rainbow Rowell – coming July 8, 2014

Rainbow Rowell is known for writing engaging books about love stories with all of life’s complications. This novel has a character with a failing marriage, and she finds that she can talk on the phone with her husband in the past. This seems like a good mix of romance and sci fi, and a great beach read!

From Amazon:



The Book of Life

3. The Book of Life (All Souls #3) by Deborah Harkness – coming July 15, 2014

I loved the first two books in this series, which is like Twilight for adults. I am looking forward to the final book in the series.

See my review of A Discovery of Witches, the first book in the All Souls trilogy:

From Amazon:

From KCLS in Book:


2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Since the movie version of this book came out, it has become even more popular than it was. I got tired of waiting on the hold list, so I went and bought it the other day. I am waiting for a free weekend so I can really sob my way through this tale of first love and cancer.

From Amazon:

From KCLS in Book, Large Print Book, Audiobook CD, Preloaded Audiobook Player, ebook, Spanish Book, and Chinese Book:


Written in My Own Heart's Blood1. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon

The book I am most excited to read is the latest volume in the Outlander series. I can’t wait to find out what has happened to Jaime and Claire since the last book!

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From KCLS :

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

WildWild is a memoir of loss, grief, and finding yourself again. After losing her mother and her marriage, Cheryl Strayed went on a years-long bender of reckless behavior. She impulsively decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Canada down the Western USA to Mexico, as a journey of self-discovery. Strayed encountered many problems, some stemming from her lack of knowledge about the trail and her failure to pack practically, but ultimately triumphed over the trail and worked through some of her problems.

I have heard that this book has inspired many new hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail, but experienced hikers may be underwhelmed by her lack of preparedness and wilderness skills. There are some passages I found genuinely moving, and passages that were very funny as well. Be prepared for the a bit of 1990’s Northwest counterculture/hippie vibe that shows through as well.

This is a feel-good story of growth that won a lot of awards last year, including being included in Oprah’s book club and being named a best book of the year by NPR. It will come out as a movie in December 2014 and will star Reese Witherspoon, so you can get started on reading it before it gets even more popular with the film release. This is a great beach read for those interested in hiking, mother-daughter relationships, or journeys of healing and self-discovery.

From King County Library System in downloadable ebook, downloadable audiobook, pre-loaded audiobook player, audiobook cd, large print book, book, and Spanish-language book:

From Amazon:

IMDB for the film version:

Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven L. Davis

Cover image of Dallas 1963

Dallas 1963 describes the social and political climate in Dallas, Texas in the three years leading up to the Kennedy assassination. It is an eye-opening book on the right-wing extremism in Dallas and the culture of hate and fear it spawned. This book delves into the politics of the leaders of Dallas, showing how they acted and their motivations. Some key figures followed include Ted Dealey, the editor of the very conservative Dallas Morning News, General Walker, an army general who became a poster child for the right after he was fired for forcing his conservative views on his troops, and Stanley Marcus, the liberal owner of the Neiman Marcus department store.

I had learned a little about the Kennedy assassination in history class, but I did not live through the event. Dallas 1963 was a great book to learn about the context of the assassination. It delves into the Dallas Citizens Council, the elite power broker businessmen of Dallas that controlled the city, as well as the progress of the Civil Rights movement and de-segregation in Texas and the South more broadly. This book does not go into any of the conspiracy theories, and instead is a well-researched and gripping book about the climate of hate and fear that permeated Dallas and led up to the assassination. As with many books about history, it can also be read as a warning, showing how this culture grew and reminding us that it can grow again if we aren’t careful. A worthwhile read, especially for younger readers trying to understand the event.

From Amazon:

From King County Library System in book, e-book, audiobook cd, preloaded audiobook, and e-audio:,%20Bill

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

girls-who-went-awayThis is a nonfiction collection of stories gathered from interviews by women who gave children up for adoption in the 1950’s, 60’s, and early 70’s. The author intersperses the stories with chapters about the culture and social forces at work during the period. The book tells a wide array of stories, but one theme runs throughout the book – the lack of choices and agency of the birth mothers, and the incredibly strong forces from society, social workers, and their own families that led the women to give their children up. I did not know much about adoption before reading this book, but I knew what society said about adoption: that birth mothers wanted to give up their children and could not or would not raise the children themselves. This might be different today, but The Girls Who Went Away shatters that myth for the 50’s-70’s. The women’s stories are shocking and sad, and some made me angry, but it is important for these stories to be told, as that can be the first step in understanding and healing for birth mothers and adopted children.

One problem I had with the book is that the author chose women to interview based on women who were (in the organization?). The group of women were self-selecting, as they joined the organization and volunteered to tell their stories. This makes for a sample that is probably not representative of birth mothers as a whole during this period, but as there are not public records of women who were birth mothers to sample from, and there is so little research into this area, I feel this book goes a long way to filling the need for information about the topic.

cover of The Reason I JumpThe Reason I Jump – The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. By Naoki Higashida, translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell.

The Reason I Jump is a rare look inside the mind of someone with severe autism. The book takes the form of a Q&A, with the author, Naoki Higashida, answering common questions about autism. The questions range from “why do autistic people talk so loudly and weirdly?” to “what’s the reason you jump”. Some answers go more into depth than others, as the author struggles to understand some of his behavior and cannot compare it to a “normal” person because he doesn’t know how they think, but all the answers are informative. Interspersed among the questions and answers are short fiction stories by the author, which tell his experience from a different perspective.

I found the book very helpful for understanding how someone with autism might experience the world. From sensory overload to problems with language and impulse control, the author explains to the best of his abilities how he sees the world. It is also a pretty quick read – at 176 pages, with many illustrations interspersed, I got through the whole book in 90 minutes. I felt the time was well spent for this illuminating book.

One problem that I had with the book is that Higashida often answers questions with “we” and “us” instead of “I” – he is answering for everyone with autism, not just for himself. As autism is a spectrum disorder, with many different traits, I do not feel that he can speak for every autistic person. This also might be problematic if a reader is not very familiar with autism, as they might take his word as gospel and treat other autistic people as Higashida wants to be treated, which might not be the same for all people with autism.

Overall, The Reason I Jump is a quick and illuminating look at an autistic person’s mind.

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