Winter 2019’s Must-Read Nonfiction

Winter 2019’s Must-Read Nonfiction

must-read nonfiction

The weather outside may be frightful, but reading nonfiction is so delightful. Escape the snow, sleet, and cold by staying in with one of this season’s must-read nonfiction books. Whether you’re interested in learning more about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, hacking, or the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, there’s a book here to please every reader. Kick off those snow boots and get reading!

The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga

This memoir from Scholastique Mukasonga honors the memory of the author’s mother. Mukasonga grew up in Rwanda in the years leading up to the Rwandan genocide in which the Tutsi population was systematically murdered. As a child, Scholastique and her family were constantly mistreated because of their Tutsi heritage, and her mother served as a protective figure. Scholastique would eventually escape to Burundi and later, France, but her mother (along with much of her family) would be killed in the genocide. This is an important book written for a strong and loving woman.

On shelves: December 18

Breaking and Entering by Jeremy N. Smith

Jeremy N. Smith’s latest takes readers into the life of a hacker who is simply known as “Alien.” She began hacking at MIT when she was a student there, and made friends with fellow hackers who practiced literal, physical trespassing rather than just the virtual kind. From there, Alien went into the field of cybersecurity, and watched as her peers worked both to protect large organizations and to infiltrate them. Alien now runs her own company that helps clients protect themselves against hacking. Kirkus called this book: “A page-turning real-life thriller, the sort of book that may leave readers feeling both invigorated and vulnerable.”

On shelves: January 8

Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox, illustrated by James Otis Smith

Ted Fox’s 1983 classic is back and better than ever in this graphic adaptation that features illustrations from James Otis Smith. In it, readers will learn about the storied history of Harlem’s Apollo Theater and the outstanding artists who got their start there over the years, including James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Michael Jackson (among others). Music lovers and history buffs alike will delight in this updated classic, and Smith’s stunning visuals will bring this important and exciting work to a whole new generation of readers.

On shelves: January 8

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

When author Dani Shapiro sent her DNA into a genealogy website, she got far more information back than she had bargained for. She learned that the man she had always believed to be her father was, in fact, not. This was devastating news: Shapiro had long identified closely with her father, and had a somewhat more strained relationship with her mother. In her memoir Inheritance, Shapiro writes about the pain of her discovery, her subsequent investigation into the identity of her biological father, and the struggle to determine just how much information about her identity was kept from her over the years.

On shelves: January 15

When Death Becomes Life by Joshua D. Mezrich

Organ transplants, if you really think about it, are nothing short of miraculous. Livers, kidneys, hearts, lungs—body parts that seems so permanent, so intrinsic to an individual’s very being can in fact be relocated from one body to another, sometimes saving a life in the process. This is the subject of Joshua D. Mezrich’s engrossing new memoir about life as a transplant surgeon. Mezrich narrates fascinating, high-stakes surgeries that succeeded, as well as some that tragically failed. He also provides readers with historical context about the history of organ transplants. For fans of Henry Marsh and Atul Gawande, this is the perfect nonfiction book to pick up this winter.

On shelves: January 15

The Birth of Loud by Ian S. Port

Rock and roll enthusiasts, electric guitar aficionados, and music buffs, listen up: Ian S. Port’s dual biography of Leo Fender and Les Paul might be your new favorite book. In it, Port tells the story of the two rivals as well as the history of the electric guitar. Leo and Les came from vastly different backgrounds: Leo Fender was a radio repairman, while Les Paul was an acclaimed performer. But in competing with one another to build the best electric guitar, both of them changed the face of popular music forever. We think this book is best enjoyed with the right soundtrack: Start with Jimi Hendrix’s famous Woodstock performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played on a Fender Stratocaster, of course.

On shelves: January 15

Maid by Stephanie Land

For readers who enjoyed Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, Stephanie Land’s Maid (with a forward by Ehrenreich) is a great book to pick up this winter. In it, Land writes about her struggles to make ends meet for herself and her daughter, Mia. Land is a single parent, and worked as a maid in the homes of wealthy people in hopes of being able to provide for Mia and herself. Often, the pay she received was simply not enough to cover the cost of housing, groceries, and other necessities, and Land fell into a cycle of poverty despite her hard work. Land writes about these experiences in this honest and important book, and gives readers insight into the real challenges of poverty in America.

On shelves: January 22

The World According to Fannie Davis by Bridgett M. Davis

In this memoir, author Bridgett M. Davis writes about the life of her mother, Fannie Davis. Fannie lived in a dilapidated part of Detroit on Delaware Street and ran a Numbers game (an illegal form of gambling based on the drawing of random numbers) for more than three decades beginning in 1958. Doing so required secrecy, know-how, and more than a little moxie. The payoff was big, and Fannie was able to give her family an upscale life as a result. In a starred review, Kirkus observed: “This is not a story about capitalizing on degeneracy. It is one of hope and hustling in a world where to have the former almost demanded the latter.” We know readers will be fascinated by Fannie’s life and inspired by her love of her family.

On shelves: January 29

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing takes readers to Northern Ireland during the Troubles, where a mother of ten named Jean McConville was brutally murdered. In late 1972, masked men forced her out of her house while her children tried desperately to hold onto her. She was killed, and her remains were not found until more than 30 years later. This murder was the work of the I.R.A., and author Patrick Radden Keefe uses the tragedy to talk about the large-scale conflict in Northern Ireland at the time. For readers interested in learning more about the Troubles, we also recommend Milkman on our list of must-read winter fiction.

On shelves: February 26

Savage Feast by Boris Fishman

Boris Fishman’s family came to the United States from Soviet Belarus when Boris was a child, and brought with them a rich tradition of cooking. In their new country, those traditions took on new meaning and became a way of preserving a connection to their old home. Fishman writes about the foods that meant the most to him as a child as well as the new dishes that gave him insight into what food means to other families, people, and cultures. Interspersed into this book are delectable recipes from Fishman’s family. If you aren’t hungry when you start reading this book, you will be by the time you’ve finished.

On shelves: February 26

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