Staff Picks: Captivating Non-Fiction

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Whether you are a fervent or not-so-fervent reader of non-fiction, the reference staff at Warrenton central library tops of bookshopes to entice you into choosing one of these captivating non-fiction titles. What gets you pondering: tales of friendship, stories of perseverance or a biography that brushes up against the topic of our own mortality? They say the truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes that is the case, and sometimes the truth simply blows you away. Let your mind be swept up, as by a sweet spring breeze, in one of these real-life tales.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I’ll be honest, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but I love reading historical fiction. I know I can’t compare the two, but I do find it helpful in recalling historic events. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown was an excellent book! Brown takes us through the minds and training of nine rowers during the 1936 Olympics – a time when faith, courage and a lot of perseverance was needed. I found it to be a coming of age story of Joe Rantz. Joe, however, wanted the story of the boat and the eight other rowers to be told, and that is what Brown accomplished. The story read more like a fiction story, minus all the “rowing” vocabulary. I couldn’t put it down and, not knowing much about the 1936 Olympics, I was excited for these rowers, the coach who wouldn’t give up on his boys and their strength and determination that led to victory.

If you’d like to read more about the 1936 Olympics check out Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936 by David Clay Large. This title gives an historical account of the 1936 Olympics, the politics and the Nazi Propaganda and the international effort to boycott the games.

~ Jody, Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: & Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

I am a big fan of non-fiction author Mary Roach (see Stiff and Gulp). As such, I am not put off by the strange, the moderately disgusting or the morbid. I acknowledge that these categories are not everyone’s cup of tea. But for those who appreciate a slice of the macabre now and then, I would recommend Caitlin Doughty’s book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Perhaps you are already familiar with Caitlin through the internet, where she is the blogger behind the “Ask a Mortician” web series. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is actually Caitlin Doughty’s autobiography. She talks in detail of her first in-person encounter with death, her childhood in Hawaii and how events throughout her life shaped her views on mortality. She also goes into detail about her work as a crematory operator in a funeral home in California. The book offers insight not only into the author’s life and career, but into the practices of the funeral industry as a whole. I, personally, find this fascinating. We forget that death, like many other things, is a business. It is a tremendous, revenue-generating industry, and this book does not shy away from the details of industry practices. Yes, this book talks about the individual cremations of deceased persons of all ages and walks of life. It gives unflinching depictions of the day-to-day activities of a funeral home, albeit with humor and a light touch. Nevertheless, I would offer a content warning, as Doughty does in her Author’s Note. But if you can take in this autobiography as a whole, I think it offers a unique view not only of one person’s experience, but of some of the larger questions many of us ask ourselves.

~ Amanda, Reference Librarian, Warrenton central library 

Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner

If you’re looking for a book exclusively about Star Trek, this is not it. However, if you’re looking for a book about a friendship that spanned many, many years, this is it. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy became friends while working on the TV show Star Trek in the 1960s, and remained friends, although they were not close during the last years of Nimoy’s life (Nimoy died on February 27th, 2015).

Shatner and Nimoy had much in common. They were born four days apart. Both came from Orthodox Jewish immigrant families. Both were raised in large cities (Shatner in Montreal, Nimoy in Boston). Both shared a passion for acting and the determination to succeed. I thoroughly enjoyed the first part of the book, detailing their careers before Star Trek, and the last part, covering their lives after Star Trek. It’s a quick read, and a wonderful tribute from one friend to another.

~ Vicky, Reference/Virginiana Room Librarian, Warrenton central library 

Book listsreviews from our book clubs and favorites from library staff are great resources when searching for your next book. Or stop by the reference desk at your local library.

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