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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: 'Hope and Other Luxuries'

"Hope and Other Luxuries" by Clare B. Dunkle

★★★★ This memoir is haunting, beautiful, and hard to forget. From the outside, Clare's life seems perfect. She has a great job as children's book author and is raising her two smart and talented daughters in Germany with her loving husband. Clare's story shows us that even when you think everything is perfect, something can happen that can turn your whole world...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, mental health

Cover: 'Life from Scratch'

"Life from Scratch" by Sasha Martin

★★★★★ Blogger Sasha Martin may be best known for Global Table Adventure, the blog where she chronicled her culinary journeys cooking recipes from every country. Her memoir does discuss the blog, as well as her picky husband's foray into exotic foods, but the majority of the memoir focuses on the tragedies Martin experienced as a child, and how it affected her...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, food

Cover: 'When Fraser Met Billy'

"When Fraser Met Billy" by Louise Booth

★★★★ This is a true story about a struggling family, their autistic son, Fraser and a special gray shelter cat named Billy who brought them love, happiness and hope. With Billy in his life, gradually Fraser had less tantrums, was less anxious about changes, and less moody. Also diagnosed with hypotonia, a muscle condition, Billy also helped him learn to climb...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, memoir, differing abilities, animals

Cover: 'Getting There: A Book of Mentors'

"Getting There: A Book of Mentors" by Gillian Zoe Segal

★★★★★ Curious about how Warren Buffett, Jillian Michaels, or Michael Bloomberg became so successful? Read about the road to success from these public figures and more who excel in a variety of careers. Each person also offers advice in addition to their candid recollections about success. An excellent book, especially for anyone looking for a mentor or just some...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Worn Stories'

"Worn Stories" by Emily Spivack

★★★★★ Everyone has a piece of clothing hanging in a closet or folded away in a drawer that has so much sentimental value, it is impossible to discard, despite the stains or holes. This clever idea of documenting the stories of such clothing began as a side project in 2010. For the book, the author pairs each short essay with a stark photograph of each item of...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Make My Day London'

"Make My Day London" by Lonely Planet

★★★★ This is a great, quick resource to go through for anyone interested in a short trip to London. As someone who's lived in this amazing city, I thought Lonely Planet did a great job picking some of the top attractions for a city where there's something to see around every corner (in my very biased opinion!). This resource allows you to mix and match...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, travel

Cover: 'H is for Hawk'

"H is for Hawk" by Helen Macdonald

★★★ Part memoir, part nature essay, and part biography of eccentric author T.H. White, this book is difficult to categorize. Helen Macdonald decides to train a goshawk after her father's unexpected death, and the experience allows her to deal with her loss. Macdonald also writes about the parallels between her goshawk training experience and the English author...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, memoir

Cover: 'Mademoiselle Chanel'

"Mademoiselle Chanel" by C. W. Gortner

★★★★★ This novel follows the life of famed fashion designer Coco Chanel from her early years in a convent to the debut of her 1954 collection. For lovers of fashion, there are numerous descriptions of her famous pieces as well as a subplot about development of her still popular scent, Chanel No. 5. Her social circle, which included artists, aristocrats,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Style & Simplicity'

"Style & Simplicity" by Ted Kennedy Watson

★★★★ This isn't your typical decorating book. This is a celebration of the beauty in everyday items. Organized alphabetically, the author beautifully displays items and ideas on how to use them to create a wonderful space. A few recipes are included, and every page is gorgeous. A fantastic book to look through for ideas and inspiration.  

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, decorating

Cover: 'Stevie Nicks'

"Stevie Nicks" by Zoë Howe

★★★ As a Stevie Nicks fan, I enjoyed this new biography from British journalist Zoe Howe, but recommend it with some reservations. I was a bit disappointed that most of the material is sourced from published interviews and books, so I would not recommend this book for fans looking for "new" insights about Nicks, especially fans who have already read one of the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, biography, celebrities, music

Cover: 'As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride'

"As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride" by Cary Elwes, Joe Layden

★★★★★ Fans of the movie The Princess Bride—this book is for you! Cary Elwes, whom fans of the movie know as Westley, shares memories and behind-the-scenes stories from the making of a movie that eventually became a classic. Many alumni of the movie, including Rob Reiner and the surviving members of the central cast, contribute anecdotes, and it is abundantly...

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

Cover: 'The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook'

"The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook" by Kate White

★★★★ Have you ever found yourself wondering how to make Richard Castle’s pancakes or Kinsey Millhone’s peanut butter and pickle sandwich? If so, this is the cookbook for you! It showcases recipes from more than one hundred mystery authors, and chances are at least one of your favorite mystery authors contributed a recipe. Each recipe includes an introduction...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'life.love.beauty'

"life.love.beauty" by Keegan Allen

★★★★ This is a thoughtful collection of photographs, poems, journal entries, and thoughts from Keegan Allen. Most readers will recognize him from the ABC Family TV show "Pretty Little Liars." Fans will enjoy moments and photos taken on and off the set featuring many of the actors from this show, as well as other productions important to Keegan Allen. He also...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, photography

Cover: 'Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favourite Food'

"Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favourite Food" by Joseph Bastianich, Tanya Bastianich Manuali

★★★★ Who doesn't love pasta? This cookbook has a plethora of new and traditional ideas. All 100 recipes are under 500 calories for those focused on healthy eating, although with the tempting photos, you'd never think this cookbook was focused on flavorful but healthy recipes! I can't wait to delve into a few of these!  

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients'

"My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients" by Geoffrey Zakarian, Amy Stevenson, Margaret Zakarian

★★★★ For those of us who cook frequently, we almost always have a stocked pantry. But even if it isn't, pantry items are easy to shop for and keep on hand. This cookbook highlights 50 valued pantry items, from honey to canned chickpeas to some of the most essential spices, and includes beautiful recipes that use them. Everything looks delicious, original, and...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'The Ultimate Allergy-Free Cookbook'

"The Ultimate Allergy-Free Cookbook" by Judi Zucker, Shari Zucker

★★★★ Allergic or intolerant to milk, eggs, wheat, nuts, soy, or fish, and looking for easy recipes to make? I qualify for 3 of the allergies mentioned in this cookbook, and it was very helpful having a whole cookbook devoted to recipes I can safely have! Although I was disappointed that no photos were included, the amount of recipes and tips included were...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination'

"Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination" by J. K. Rowling, Joel Holland

★★★★★ I wish someone had read these inspiring words to me on my graduation day! This is a beautiful commencement speech formatted into a beautiful book that helps a beautiful cause, J.K Rowling's charity, Lumos. Told with humor and unquestionable wisdom by (in my very biased opinion) one of the best authors in the world, this is a commencement speech for the...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Pin Action'

"Pin Action" by Gianmarc Manzione

★★★★ Gianmarc Manzione recreates the world of 1960s and 1970s action bowling in this story of championship bowler Ernie Schlegel. Using interviews, archival materials, and his own love of bowling, the author makes the reader feel like he or she is at the bowling alley, watching Schlegel bowl in one of his flashy outfits or witnessing a gangster draw his knife...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship'

"Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship" by Ashley Rodriguez

★★★★ Full of beautiful photographs and tasty recipes, this cookbook is great for couples looking to add some romance to their relationship through food. The author and her husband have weekly date nights at home, cooking three or four course meals after they put their kids to bed. Some of the recipes might seem rather ambitious (making homemade buns for...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'The Biscoff Cookie & Spread Cookbook: Irresistible Cupcakes, Cookies, Confections, and More'

"The Biscoff Cookie & Spread Cookbook: Irresistible Cupcakes, Cookies, Confections, and More" by Katrina Bahl

★★★★★ I have loved Biscoff Spread ever since I first saw it next to the peanut butter at the grocery store. I am also an avid baker and confectioner. Now, I have found a book to fuel my addiction to this spread and the cookies from which it originated. The author originally developed the recipes to provide her son, who is allergic to peanut butter, with delicious...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, cookbook

Cover: 'I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks'

"I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks" by Gina Sheridan

★★★★★ This collection of short and absolutely hilarious anecdotes that will appeal to both library workers and library users. The stories range from cute encounters with children and confusion over e-books and computers to a few entries that moved this reviewer to tears. There is even an entire chapter dedicated to one eccentric library patron. As a library staff...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction

Cover: 'If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission'

"If Nuns Ruled the World: Ten Sisters on a Mission" by Jo Piazza

★★★★★ The nuns profiled in this book are inspiring, even if you do not identify as Catholic. Piazza interviewed ten nuns who have devoted their lives to various causes, ranging from helping victims of human trafficking to challenging the use of nuclear weapons. Each nun also discusses why she decided to become a nun, and how she discovered her cause. The author,...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, spirituality

Cover: 'Unseen London'

"Unseen London" by Mark Daly, Peter Dazeley

★★★★★ Have you ever been curious about what different buildings might look like from the inside? What about historic buildings in one of the most famous world cities? This book is a gem with really wonderful pictures of some very iconic and historic buildings of London. It is very interesting to see the different styles and architecture that lay behind closed...

Audience: adults | Genre: nonfiction, travel, photography

Cover: 'The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights'

"The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights" by Steve Sheinkin

★★★★★ The Port Chicago 50 tells the true story of 50 black sailors who were tried for mutiny late in World War II. Port Chicago was a Navy base near San Francisco, CA, and, like other military bases in the U.S. at the time, was segregated. At Port Chicago, black sailors—who could not serve on naval vessels outside of the mess hall or laundry—loaded munitions into...

Audience: children, tweens | Genre: nonfiction, history

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