2016 Staff Picks: Nonfiction

Our expert readers advisory staff take a look back at the year and share their favorite titles.

  • All the Single Ladies : unmarried women and the rise of an independent nation

    2016 by Rebecca Traister

    "As a confirmed single lady, I found this highly fascinating. I thought it might be filled with tales of single women's exploits, but it is so much more than that. This is a book about the history of the independent female and how women opposing marriage, commitment or significant others is nothing new."

    Recommended by Cecilia

    "More American women are choosing to marry later in life, or not at all. Traister dons her journalist hat to explore this new norm, digging into the sociological roots and implications of a larger population of single women and how they affect America."

    Recommended by Amy

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  • Lab Girl

    2016 by Hope Jahren

    "Jahren alternates chapters that describe her life as an incredibly dedicated, rather eccentric scientist, and her deep friendship with her lab assistant, with chapters in which she writes about trees with loving detail, presenting facts that are at once accessible and completely astonishing. This is one book I know I will read again."

    Recommended by Lukie

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  • Children of Monsters : an inquiry into the sons and daughters of dictators

    2015 by Jay Nordlinger

    "Family life is never easy, even when dear old dad isn’t Stalin, Ida Amin, or Pol Pot. Author Jay Nordinger leaves you wanting more as he probes into the mostly awful lives of children of twentieth-century dictators."

    Recommended by Steven

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  • The Road to Little Dribbling : adventures of an American in Britain

    2015 by Bill Bryson

    "Bill Bryson is one of those humor writers who’s funnier the more he’s disgruntled. Fortunately for his readers, he finds plenty of reason to find fault as he transverses his adopted home country of Great Britain from end to end."

    Recommended by Steven

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  • Devoured : from chicken wings to kale smoothies-- how what we eat defines who we are

    2016 by Sophie Egan

    "There’s much food for thought in this up-to-date survey of the food we eat, the way we eat it, and the means we acquire it. Everyone who eats (i.e., everyone) will find him- or herself reflected in this fascinating snapshot of contemporary American foodways."

    Recommended by Steven

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  • Shrill : notes from a loud woman

    2016 by Lindy West

    "Journalist Lindy West shares her insights into modern womanhood and life with snark and honesty. Good for fans of Tina Fey’s Bossypants or Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, this memoir will make you laugh, cringe, and maybe even shed a tear or two."

    Recommended by Leah

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  • The Food Lover's Cleanse : 140 delicious, nourishing recipes that will tempt you back into healthful eating

    2015 by Sara Dickerman

    "This has become the cookbook I turn to most often. It includes a two week meal plan for each season, focusing on seasonal fruits and vegetables. Each season includes recipes for breakfast, snacks, dinners, desserts and creative lunches made from leftovers. Recipes range from super simple granola to relatively involved show-stopper dinners worthy of company. I don't follow the meal plan (at all), but I make a recipe or two (or three) from it each week and I have yet to come across a recipe I wouldn't make again!"

    Recommended by Allyson

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  • Hillbilly Elegy : a memoir of a family and culture in crisis

    2016 by J. D. Vance

    "This is a memoir of someone who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks; rural Kentucky and Ohio. In light of the recent election it is interesting to listen to his perspective."

    Recommended by Lee

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  • Trouble Boys : the true story of the Replacements

    2016 by Bob Mehr

    "One of my favorite bands gets a loving and exhaustive portrait from former Reader writer Bob Mehr--who spent six years getting this one just right. Beyond the bad behavior and drunken disasters of legend, are a bunch of lost and vulnerable kids from broken homes who don't know any better than to destroy everything they touch. Every page had me saying "oh boys," with a deep maternal sigh for the pain their childhood must've caused them; or else saying "BOYS!" with a teacherly sternness reserved for the biggest mischief-makers--who are usually the smartest and therefore most tragic students in the room. You'll want to hug them, then slap them, then fix them a sandwich so that they'll have some nutrition other than beer."

    Recommended by Jane

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  • Dead Presidents : an American adventure into the strange deaths and surprising afterlives of our nation's leaders

    2016 by Brady Carlson

    "As someone who is a huge fan of the presidents and has it on her bucket list to visit all the presidential museums (13 so far!), I loved this book written by someone even more obsessed with the presidents than I am. The author’s quest to visit every presidential grave site and presidential memorial is not just some kooky road trip adventure (though the book is fun to read). How we bury and remember our presidents says a lot about us as a country, who we were and who we aim to be."

    Recommended by Lynnanne

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  • The Princess Diarist

    2016 by Carrie Fisher

    "Carrie Fisher is a gifted memoirist, as she's already amply demonstrated. But there's something especially endearing and delicious about this glimpse into her 19 year old self, as she navigates playing the role that would come to define her career, one Princess Leia Organa. Having recently discovered some of her journals from that time period, she dishes all the delightful dirt she dug up on herself and the revelation (which surprises no one) that her crush on much-older and married costar Harrison Ford was more than a tremor in the Force. You'll want to fix a drink--perhaps a virgin, since our narrator has been very frank about her struggles with substances in the past--and hang out for some girltalk with a woman who invites you right into be one of her gal (or guy) pals."

    Recommended by Jane

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