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Staff Reviews: nonfiction

Check out these reviews written by the staff of the Marathon County Public Library! (For reviews in all genres, visit our main Staff Reviews webpage.) Staff book reviews are also published at Goodreads.com; follow us for the latest updates.


Cover: 'Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering'

"Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering" by Joanna Gaines

★★★★★ This is a cookbook straight out of the very real kitchen of Joanna Gaines with recipes you know that she has made many times!  I am, in general, a fan of the Gaines Family and have watched several installments of their TV show Fixer Upper.  I picked up this cookbook more out of curiosity than anything else.  These days I have found that many...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'Calypso'

"Calypso" by David Sedaris

★★★★ In David Sedaris’ latest compilation of observational essays, he and his longtime partner have purchased a beach house on the coast of North Carolina. Many of the essays in the book take place at this house, which Sedaris and his family use as a place to vacation in the summer or to gather during the holidays. The book contains 21 vastly different essays...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, humor, essays

Cover: 'Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story'

"Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story" by Chris Nashawaty

★★★ Nearly 40 years after its theatrical release, the film Caddyshack has an established spot in the history of pop culture through memorable quotes (“Did somebody step on a duck?”) and memorable characters like groundskeeper Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray. Author Chris Nashawaty sets out to share not only the history of how the film was made and how...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Hillbilly Elegy'

"Hillbilly Elegy" by J.D. Vance

★★★ Author J.D. Vance grew up among what he refers to as “hillbillys” – white, working class (and mostly poor) folks in Appalachia. Vance spent his adolescence split between extended family in Jackson, Kentucky and in Middleton, Ohio, a town in a state of decline after its main source of local jobs closes, leaving thousands without a job. In this memoir,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir

Cover: 'Love Warrior'

"Love Warrior" by Glennon Doyle Melton

★★★ Since she was 10 years old, Glennon Doyle Melton didn’t feel at home in her body. Due to the pressures of society, she never felt she could be thin enough, pretty enough, accepted enough, or loved enough. So, she turned to bulimia, binge drinking and casual sex to mask her fears and insecurities. In her twenties, Glennon finds herself pregnant and at a...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir

Cover: 'What to Do When I'm Gone: A Mother's Wisdom to Her Daughter'

"What to Do When I'm Gone: A Mother's Wisdom to Her Daughter" by Suzy Hopkins, Hallie Bateman

★★★★★ No one is ever really ready to lose a loved one, and this book tries to help with that in it's own unique way.  As the title states, the author's mother provides preemptive advice on how to function in the event of her death. The advice walks her daughter through day-by-day instructions on what to do, days, even years, after her passing.  As...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Creative Quest'

"Creative Quest" by Questlove and Ben Greenman

★★★★★ Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is a busy guy: drummer for the rap group The Roots, which is also the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon; DJ; restaurateur; and author of two previous books, Mo' Meta Blues and somethingtofoodabout. His newest book, as the title suggests, is all about creativity: what defines it, how to tap into your...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Feather Thief'

"The Feather Thief" by Kirk W. Johnson

★★★★ In 2009, 20-year-old American Edwin Rist broke into the Tring museum, a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. His quest: to steal rare bird specimens - some collected more 150 years earlier - with gorgeous feathers sought the world over by people who shared Edwin's obsession of the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying....

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays'

"One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays" by Scaachi Koul

★★★★★ Scaachi Koul is the daughter of Indian immigrants. She was born and raised in Canada surrounded by western culture. She is also thoughtful and hilarious. All this comes together in “One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None Of This Will Matter,” a delightful collection of essays. Many of Koul’s stories clue us in on what it is like to bear the scrutiny of being a...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, essays, humor

Cover: 'I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy'

"I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy" by Erin Carlson

★★★★ This book provides readers with a brief history of Ephron’s life prior to her filmmaking years, but the main focus is a behind-the-scenes tour of the writing, filming, and releases of Nora Ephron’s three classic romantic comedies: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail. While the spotlight is on Ephron and her transition from...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden'

"The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden" by Kevin DeYoung, Don Clark

★★★★ This brilliantly illustrated book covers the Bible’s central message in just 10 chapters using simple, casually styled language. It describes the Bible story of the snake crusher (that’s Jesus), defeating death forever so that we can live with God in the garden as the biggest story the world has ever known. DeYoung’s writing makes the Bible accessible to...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Last Black Unicorn'

"The Last Black Unicorn" by Tiffany Haddish

★★★★★ Stand-up comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish makes a living out of entertaining others and making people laugh. That might not seem like anything extraordinary, until you learn about all of the strife and setbacks Haddish faced in her life, especially before reaching adulthood. While growing up, Haddish had an absentee father, a mother who verbally and...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, celebrities, humor

Cover: 'Dear Pope Francis'

"Dear Pope Francis" by Pope Francis

★★★★★ This book is a delightful and refreshingly candid look at Pope Francis and the children from around the world who had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a letter and ask the leader of the Catholic Church any questions they wished. The questions they ask are honest, surprising, and ones that people of all ages would be interested in hearing his...

Audience: children | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Educated'

"Educated" by Tara Westover

★★★★★ Tara Westover has an impressive academic pedigree that includes Harvard and Cambridge, but she did not set foot into a classroom until she enrolled at Brigham Young University at the age of seventeen. This compelling memoir immerses the reader into the isolated world in which she was raised in rural Idaho as the youngest of six children. Her father, a...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

"The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi" by Phil Szostak

★★★★★ The Star Wars universe is a vast and constantly growing thing. But did you ever stop to wonder what makes something look like it belongs in a Star Wars movie? In The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, readers see the various stages of planning that went into creating new creatures, vehicles, costumes and locations for the latest film in the franchise....

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, movies, movie tie-ins

Cover: 'The Death and Life of the Great Lakes'

"The Death and Life of the Great Lakes" by Dan Egan

★★★★★ Dan Egan, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, provides a comprehensive portrayal of the Great Lakes, past and present, and a thorough analysis of the challenges the lakes have endured and continue to face. After establishing a portrait of the Great Lakes as they would have been experienced by the first European explorers, Egan traces the history...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Year of Yes'

"Year of Yes" by Shonda Rhimes

★★★ Shonda Rhimes is the creative mind behind of some of the hottest shows on television, including Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Though Rhimes was thriving professionally, her personal life had devolved into a cycle of sleeping, eating, working and just getting by. After being told by her older sister that “You...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, biography and memoir

Cover: 'Herbs for Flavor, Health, and Natural Beauty'

"Herbs for Flavor, Health, and Natural Beauty" by Jim Rude, Jena Carlin

★★★★ Looking for ideas on how to use fresh herbs? This book is covered with gorgeous, fully illustrated pages packed full of ideas on how to utilize fresh herbs, from recipes to health and wellness ideas. I grabbed a few recipes that were included that I'm excited to tweak to make vegan and try. My only critique is that I wish there was more to it! I would have...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl'

"The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl" by Issa Rae

★★★ Issa Rae is the creator, head writer and star of Insecure, a dramedy on HBO about the lives of a group of African American millennials. Watching that highly-entertaining series is what me aware of this book and Rae’s semi-autobiographical web series Awkward Black Girl (on which Insecure is based). This book, chapter by chapter, outlines the various ways...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, humor

Cover: 'American Fire'

"American Fire" by Monica Hesse

★★★★★ American Fire is the true story of a five month arson spree in rural Accomack County, Virginia that started in November 2012 when four fires were set in a 24 hour period. By its conclusion, more than 60 fires were set. Hesse, a Washington Post reporter, provides a compelling account of the crimes, the public hysteria, and efforts by law enforcement to...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Janesville: An American Story'

"Janesville: An American Story" by Amy Goldstein

★★★★★ Janesville, Wisconsin was home to the longest-operating GM plant in the world at the time of its closure in December 2008. This book provides a narrative account of life in Janesville after the closure of the plant, including long term effects, and includes the stories of employees of the GM plant and the local suppliers that supported it, their families,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life'

"Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life" by David R. Montgomery

★★★★ Many people choose sides between conventional and organic methods of farming, assuming that you will have to settle for lower harvests and smaller produce if you don’t want your food to be poisoned by carcinogenic pesticides. Montgomery brings the reader’s attention to a third option: conservative agriculture. This means not tilling fields with a plow,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook'

"Norah Gaughan's Knitted Cable Sourcebook" by Norah Gaughan

★★★★★ I love this book! Every pattern in this book is beautiful. Clear, clean-looking photographs display cable patterns ranging from beginner to advanced in skill level. The hard part is deciding where to start! The instructions are written so that knitters can really experiment and individualize each design to suit their projects. The author includes 2–3...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'You Can't Touch My Hair'

"You Can't Touch My Hair" by Phoebe Robinson

★★★★★ Whether comedian Phoebe Robinson is performing stand up, hosting one of her two successful podcasts, or critiquing pop culture on Instagram, you’ll find yourself laughing and wanting more when reading this book. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, is a series of essays where Robinson explains cultural and racial...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, humor

Cover: 'The Astronaut Wives Club'

"The Astronaut Wives Club" by Lily Koppel

★★★★ 45 years have passed since humankind's last visit to the moon, during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. In that time, NASA and other space agencies around the globe have sent numerous satellites and rovers into the depths of space, but nothing to rival the awe and fanfare the agency's space program drummed up during the space race of the 1960s. Author Lily...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, history, outer space

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