2019 Staff Picks: Nonfiction

By Skokie Staff Adult Services

Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland

    2019 by Keefe, Patrick Radden

    This true crime/political history book was as my favorite of the year--fascinating, thought-provoking, and compelling journalistic nonfiction. I ended up reading along to the audio, which is superb. Recommended by Allyson.

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  • How to Be an Antiracist

    2019 by Kendi, Ibram X.

    Racism, history shows, is born out of its profitability and utility. It is rooted in patriarchy and capitalism. I attended a recent discussion at Evanston Township High School by this respected scholar of race and history at American University, and I strongly encourage others to read with an open mind and give his comments serious consideration. Recommended by Mary.

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  • Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves

    2019 by Waal, F. B. M. de

    This book should be required reading for all humans, not just animal lovers. Animal emotions and memory can be measured and recorded, in a similar fashion to those of humans. The ramifications are enormous, if we choose to acknowledge them. Recommended by Mary.

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  • This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant's Manifesto

    2019 by Mehta, Suketu

    Immigration as a form of reparations. After hearing the NPR interview with the author, you will see current events differently and perhaps realize that migrants and migration benefit all countries. Recommended by Mary.

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  • The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel

    2019 by Reich, Howard

    Yet another book to give us all the benefit of Elie Wiesel's wisdom. Howard Reich takes us through his interviews and conversations about his experiences and how writing has helped Wiesel help others. It makes us think about how the following generations deal with what their families went through in the Holocaust. Recommended by Monica.

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  • Travel Light, Move Fast

    2019 by Fuller, Alexandra

    As her larger-than-life father dies slowly in a Budapest hospital, Fuller reflects on his unending optimism in the face of difficulties that would defeat ordinary human beings, and his impact on her childhood and continued influence throughout her life. It is almost unbearably poignant, yet never sappy. Recommended by Lukie and Terry.

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  • Lotharingia: A Personal History of Europe's Lost Country

    2019 by Winder, Simon

    Reading this book is like eating an entire wedding cake, so rich and abundant is Winder’s storehouse of fascinating facts about the countries and regions uncomfortably squeezed between France and Germany. If this weren’t enough, Winder is also endlessly amusing as he traipses through time and place. Recommended by Steven.

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  • The Club: Johnson, Boswell, and the Friends Who Shaped an Age

    2019 by Damrosch, Leopold

    Any book that focuses on the lovable Dr. Samuel Johnson is going to have something to recommend it, but Damrosch outdoes himself in this portrait not just of a man but of his age and associates. No university press book should ever be this entertaining. Recommended by Steven.

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  • Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

    2019 by Renkl, Margaret

    Many of my favorite books combine a deep connection to nature with personal journeys surrounding life's most profound challenges and gifts. This is just such a book, enhanced by enchanting illustrations by the author's brother. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country

    2019 by Houston, Pam

    Houston's insights about finding joy in her love of nature while grieving damage to the natural world is balm to the soul and a helpful guide. Descriptions of wildfires threatening her ranch make today's news stories that much more poignant. Recommended by Lukie.

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  • Shout: A Poetry Memoir

    2019 by Anderson, Laurie Halse

    Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, about a 14-year-old girl's spiraling depression after surviving a sexual assault, is a classic of young adult literature that has moved scores of readers since it was published 20 years ago. In Shout, Anderson writes about the sexual assault she survived when she was a teen, the publication of Speak, and the teens with whom she's connected in the past two decades. It's an invaluable indictment of rape culture and an emotionally visceral read. Recommended by Jarrett.

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  • Manet and Modern Beauty: The Artist's Last Years


    If you missed this incredible exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago earlier this year, this gorgeous coffee table book captures the works that were featured. Background history and information about the artist enhances the appreciation and enjoyment of this collection. Recommended by Mary.

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  • The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds

    2019 by Van Hemert, Caroline

    After touring parts of Alaska, I am amazed at this couple's ability to cover hundreds of miles of raw, remote country in search of their professional and personal pursuits (including bird watching), while keeping their marriage intact (enriched even), and their survival skills honed. An utterly fascinating read. Recommended by Mary.

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  • The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees

    2019 by May, Meredith

    A moving memoir that tells the story of how helping her grandfather tend his beehives helped a girl survive an abusive childhood. Recommended by Marjorie.

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  • The Pianist from Syria: A Memoir

    2019 by Ahmad, Aeham

    An astonishing and heart-wrenching true story of a pianist's escape from war-torn Syria with his family. It offers a first-person perspective of the devastating refugee crisis. Recommended by Marjorie.

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