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Favourite Nonfiction of 2018


Here are some of our favourites from the many books that we have read so far in 2018 - we loved them, and hope that you will too! Keep checking back for additions to this newest list of "must reads". All guaranteed to get you thinking.

Saslow, Eli.
Rising out of hatred

If you want to understand more about the U.S. and the current resurgence of white supremacy this is an eye-opening book. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Eli Saslow, this book follows the journey of former white nationalist Derek Black. Black, the godson of David Duke, grew up in the center of the white nationalist movement and was already viewed as the natural successor to Duke. When he was outed at his University as a white nationalist, the chaos and blowback caused Derek to re-examine his beliefs. Now, Black not only has left that life behind, but now openly speaks out against it, including writing an op-ed for the New York Times called “Why I Left White Nationalism”. Well-documented interviews and original source material such as emails and forum messages show Derek’s difficult, and eventually, life-changing journey. A must-read in this day and age. Jessica (Queen's Square Library)

Hawking, Stephen
Brief answers to the big questions

In this slim volume, Stephen Hawking summarizes the conclusions of his life’s work in theoretical physics and his ideas on the future of humanity. If you haven’t read Hawking’s work before, this is a good and (relatively) simple introduction to his theories on black holes, entropy and other questions about space-time and cosmology. If you’re already an admirer of Hawking’s work, you will likely appreciate the background insight provided into his research, struggles with motor neurone disease and other key biographical details, as well as the many humorous asides that showcase the physicist’s trademark dry wit. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 06/11/18

Orlean, Susan.
The library book

Being a librarian, I may be a wee bit biased, but I absolutely loved this genre-busting book by Susan Orlean (a beloved non-fiction writer who had the unique distinction of being portrayed by Meryl Streep in the Charlie Kaufmann movie, Adaptation). Orlean has a way of going off on beautiful, head-spinning tangents, beginning with the bizarre true crime story of the 1986 burning of the LA Public Library and going in a million different directions, all of them intriguing and informative, from notes on arson investigations to frontier women, book theft by Hollywood movie studios and Ray Bradbury. What starts as the portrait of a strange and singular crime becomes an epic vision of how communities come together to share stories and knowledge in ways both small and grand. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 20/11/18

Bidini, Dave.
Midnight light

Bidini is raconteur, journalist and musician. You might even call him a Renaissance man, if he wasn't so down to earth and unpretentious. Midnight Light is his story of spending an extended amount of time in Yellowknife and the people he meets while working for a local newspaper. It sounds simple but Bidini has the ability to tell many stories at once: from the Dene elders whose wisdom he shares; the local characters; as well as the complicated racism that persists in daily interactions. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 28/11/18

Brusatte, Stephen.
The rise and fall of the dinosaurs

If there is a more bubbly and passionate archeologist writing about dinosaurs I'd be very surprised. Brusatte provides the most recent information on dinosaur life and death in this thought provoking book. From early pre-dino times to the mass extinction that led to the reign of the dinosaurs, to dinosaur evolution and extinction, Brusatte provided a page-turning history that will appeal to all readers. Very highly recommended. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Pyenson, Nick.
Spying on whales

Whales are the largest mammals in the world, and in some cases are larger that the largest dinosaurs of the past. Whales are also poorly known and understood, as Pyenson suggests in the title. Most whale knowledge comes from the brief time spent at or near the surface, but Pyenson tries his best to highlight the latest research, as well as an historical overview on our relationship to whales.Captivating, yet solemn reading (specifically when it comes to human whale interaction). For the dedicated reader, you can see some of the 3D replications of entire whales found in Chile. Science writing at its best. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Nussbaum, Martha Craven
The monarchy of fear

Nussbaum, a professional philosopher has the gift of being a good writer who writes clearly and passionately.This work is for the general public and specifically deals with the rise of fear and blame in recent elections. Taking the historical approach Nussbaum explores the uses of fear through history as well as effective strategies to address its effects. In current times, when opinion and emotion seem to trump reason and facts, Nussbaum's analysis gives hope and practical advice. Highly recommended.
Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Childs, Craig
Atlas of a lost world

Childs is a great storyteller of the migration of peoples into what is now North America. In exploring the recent anthropological finds, he brings new light to some outdated conceptions we hold on too. We all know about the land bridge across Siberia, but we also learn about the coastal plains route that allowed migration at the same time. Perhaps most interesting is the evidence of settlements that pre-date even the earliest finds by thousands of years. A thrilling read made all the more interesting with Childs traveling to the archeological locations he discusses in the book. Phil (Queen's Square Library)

Castner, Brian.
Disappointment River

Leave it up to an American to cross the border and tell the story of Alexander Mackenzie's pursuit of a passage to China in the 1790's. Castner takes the extra step of traveling the same route as Mackenzie to gain a better perspective of this epic journey. Well told, informative and funny in parts, a great addition to early Canadian exploration. Phil(Queen's Square Library)

Farrow, Ronan
War on peace

Pulitzer Prize winner and former diplomat Ronan Farrow paints a bleak picture about the decline of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. Farrow makes the case that diplomats are essential to protect service men and women but diplomacy is often dismissed in lieu of military engagements. Interviewing all living Secretaries of State he tracks the changes in U.S. diplomacy and their consequences for both the United States and for the wider world. A fascinating read and while the topic is heavy, Farrow writes with humour and makes hard to grasp concepts accessible to readers that lack his diplomatic expertise. Jessica (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Tammet, Daniel
Every word is a bird we teach to sing

I almost gave up on this book, but in the end, I was glad to have finished it. Tammet is a high functioning autistic writer, essayist and translator and in Every Word he tells his story of autism and his fascination with language. In particular, his chapters on "Icelandic Names" and "Dead Man Talking" were insightful and worth his sometimes lengthy digressions. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 22/02/18

Eddo-Lodge, Reni.
Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race

This book gives a no-holds barred discussion of 21st century racism, providing plenty of necessary facts and raising plenty of necessary questions. A couple of observations: the book discusses the British context and makes no mention of Canada and its Indigenous peoples. Also, an activist friend commented that in the sixties she was told that she wasn’t black enough to understand, and half a century later, nothing has changed except that she now feels discriminated against by ageism. Eddo-Lodge supplies a good resource for vital discussions. L. Foster (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 27/02/18

Blakeslee, Nate
American wolf

The most interesting book I've read this year. Blakeslee is an excellent storyteller and has an ability to tell all sides of the story of the re-introduction of the American wolf into Yellowstone Park. Blakeslee is particularly brilliant in his descriptions of the lives of the wolves he follows. A great thoughtful page turner. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 27/02/18

Coll, Steve.
Directorate S

There is no better writer of the recent past than Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll. In Directorate S Coll documents and synthesizes the widest number of sources dealing with the Afghan war (2001 to present): the egos, the politicians, tacticians, generals, the State Department, CIA, NATO and more. At the heart of the book is the duplicitous actions of the Pakistani military to both aid and abet the Taliban as they attempt to fulfill American support in opposition of the Taliban insurgency. Coll highlights the unclear political aims, the fractured tactical approaches and the inability of the Americans to replicate the counterinsurgency successes of Iraq war, and a general lack of understanding of the unique attributes of the Afghani people and region. Sure to be included in the best books of 2018 when year the end reviews roll around. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 24/05/18

Sakamoto, Mark

The story of how an unlikely Canadian family was created from an interred Japanese daughter from British Columbia and a Manitoulin Island son who barely survived imprisonment by the Japanese. The author, their descendant, struggles for the same forgiving attitude in his own relationship. Definitely deserving of its Canada Reads nomination possibly the winner? L. Foster (Staff) (Clemens Mill Library) 03/03/18

Westover, Tara.

Until the age of 16, Tara Westover had little to no formal schooling, growing up in an extremely devout family of Mormons who practiced survivalism to prepare for an apocalypse. In an almost miraculous turn of events, she managed not only to attend college, but to earn a prestigious scholarship and later, a PhD at Cambridge University. This is the story of how education opened up her world and made it possible for her to understand her tumultuous and sometimes violently repressive family life in new terms. Westover writes about her changing perspective with significant insight. She also provides a fascinating window into the American survivalist movement and what motivates them to "go off the grid", refusing modern amenities like medical care and education and turning their homes into fortresses against government interference. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 06/03/18

Blincoe, Nicholas.

Blincoe is personable, a wonderful writer, and downright funny which considering the importance placed on Bethlehem religiously, politically and geographically could make for a bummer of a read. From it's Paleo era settlement to the creation of an actual town Blincoe examines the forces that shaped the area dispelling myths along the way, always with a touch of humour. Bethlehem's tenuous contemporary issues are not underplayed, and despite the challenges to come, you can sense Blincoe's enduring love for the city. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 08/03/18

Stevenson, Bryan.
Just mercy

Instead of pursuing a lucrative partnership at an established law firm, Harvard-trained attorney Bryan Stevenson created a non-profit agency to help the most vulnerable: people who are unable to afford adequate legal counsel and are facing the death penalty, mostly in southern US states such as Alabama, Florida or Mississippi. Stevenson and his colleagues at the Equal Justice Initiative use their legal skills to expose the unfair treatment suffered by those who are poor or are visible minorities in the criminal justice system. This includes the exoneration of an innocent man wrongly condemned to death row. It is a searing indictment of a two-tiered justice system where affluence can buy better treatment and shorter sentences and where poverty can mean a lifetime in prison or lethal injection. What's more, you'll be inspired by Stevenson's passion for the law and his compassion for his clients. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 03/04/18

Foer, Franklin.
World without mind

With the recent news about Facebook more and more people are casting a critical eye toward big tech companies. This book will make you realize that Facebook isn’t the only company you need to be worried about. As companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook invade every aspect of our lives, we may not realize what we are giving up. Franklin Foer takes you inside the history and mindset of these companies and the results are eye-opening. In the guise of convenience we offer up our privacy, individuality and critical thinking according to Foer. Foer also offers tools to combat these growing monopolies before it is too late. A necessary book for these modern times. Jessica (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 28/03/18

The affordable feasts collection

This cookbook is incredible. I have made at least 15 of the recipes and they are all super tasty, super easy, and super healthy! All four of my kids gobble them up - any cookbook that prevents dinnertime battles is worth its weight in gold in my house! The recipes use ingredients that are readily available in any grocery store. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is that I wish it had more pictures. Don't miss this one! Carroll (Staff) (Clemens Mill Library) 11/04/18

Bakewell, Sarah.
At the existentialist café

Whether you're a die-hard fan of Sartre and Camus or a complete philosophy novice, chances are you'll enjoy this gossipy yet erudite biography of the modern existentialist movement. The stereotype of existentialists is that they spent all their time moping around Parisian cafes wearing black turtlenecks and smoking clove cigarettes. Okay, they might've done that some of the time, but they also wrote classic books, fought in the French Resistance, led social and intellectual revolutions and created a way of thinking that continues to have a huge influence on the world. Life can often feel absurd or meaningless and the existentialists dedicated much of their writing to finding ways to cope with that anxiety and enjoy a greater sense of freedom and authenticity. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 06/05/18

Rosling, Hans.

In a cultural climate where media spokespeople discuss "alternate facts" and there seems to be little consensus on the prevailing reality, this is a very timely book. Han Rosling, an international health care expert, demonstrates how even educated people can allow outdated assumptions and generalizations to distort their understanding of the world - in complete defiance of actual statistics. Often, because dramatic crises or disasters are attention-getting, we also forget to note the many positive changes occurring more slowly across the globe, from decreases in extreme poverty to overall gains in education and equality. You are likely to come away from this book with a more hopeful (and data-driven) perspective on global development, plus some cognitive tools to analyze news in a "factful" way. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 19/05/18

Talaga, Tanya.
Seven fallen feathers

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in developing a better understanding of how institutionalized racism and geographic isolation have impacted First Nations communities in northern Ontario - particularly when it comes to ensuring kids have equal access to educational opportunities. The seven "fallen feathers" in the title refers to the seven young people of indigenous descent who died under suspicious circumstances while they were boarding in homes in Thunder Bay to attend high school. Tanya Talaga reconstructs the personal stories of the deceased students and their families in heartrending detail, as well as offering context on the laws and governmental policies that have contributed to the isolation and political disenfranchisement of many people from northern reservations. This isn't an easy read, but it is a compelling and important one. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 22/05/18

Drezner, Daniel W.
The ideas industry

When you work at Idea Exchange you just cannot resist the books about ideas. Ideas Industry is not a wide ranging book on ideas per se, rather it's an exploration of the ideas industry specifically as it relates to the foreign policy industry. Delving deep into American policy wonkery; the rise of Ted talks; the decline of Foreign Policy magazine; from think tanks to Davos; and the impact of thought leaders from Silicon Valley Drezner covers it all. This book won't be for everyone but it is a thought provoking read. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 24/05/18

Jasanoff, Maya
The dawn watch

Jasanoff re-examines the life world and writings of Joseph Conrad through his most popular novels in a book that combines biography and literary criticism. Conrad who spent much of his life traveling the sea during the Imperialist age has much to say about the violent globalized world we now live in. Highly recommended. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 24/05/18