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Favourite Nonfiction of 2019


Here are some of our favourites from the many books that we have read so far in 2019 - 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.

Giridharadas, Anand.
Winners take all

This book takes you behind the curtain and shows that while wealthy philanthropists may claim to want to make the world a better place, they refuse to do anything that would jeopardize their own places of privilege. Problems are even defined in ways that leave billionaires blameless, for example, focusing on budgeting apps for people who live paycheck to paycheck as if budgeting is the problem, instead of looking at the business practices that led to their low wages in the first place. Author Anand Giridharadas doesn’t pull any punches. He writes with passion and each chapter focuses on the wealthy who are caught up in this idea of changing the world by “doing good”, but not vowing to do “less harm” if it hurts their bottom line. Some buy into their own rhetoric while others try to change the system from within, appeasing the ultra-wealthy while at the same time hoping they’ll change their ways. Particularly timely with the US election heating up and the larger role billionaires are starting to take in the election down south. Jessica (Hespeler Library)

Farrow, Ronan
Catch and kill

Ronan Farrow is a giant slayer. His investigative reporting, combined with the brave testimony of women have helped topple giants like Harvey Weinstein, Les Mooves and Matt Lauer. This book is the story behind the story. It shows the lengths powerful men will go through to cover up their crimes. Farrow faced all manner of intimidation from spies following him and tracking his phone, to push back from his own bosses who were under Weinstein’s thumb. The work done to discredit Farrow and all the women who came forward to tell their stories is astounding. Farrow has an accessible writing style and he writes in a way that helps you walk in his shoes during this tumultuous time. An important book that shows what journalism at its best can do. If you want to read more about the topic, you can also read She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey which is a perfect companion book. Jessica (Hespeler Library)

Miller, Kelsey.
I'll be there for you

Miller knows her Friends episodes, and she does a stellar job telling a brief history of the ten year series in the context of the surrounding culture and expectations of the time. I enjoyed this examination of one of my favorite shows, and welcomed some of the backstory behind the creation and casting of Friends. Recommended for other fans of the show, as there are too many built in assumptions and jokes for anyone who isn't familiar with Friends. Sarah Pump (QS)

Klinenberg, Eric.
Palaces for the people

What makes a community thrive? Eric Klinenberg makes compelling arguments for the value of “social infrastructure” – parks, libraries, community centers and other inclusive gathering places as the areas that drive social connectedness, make people happier and prevent loneliness and isolation. He offers up sociological research and case studies to demonstrate how these spaces make neighbourhoods more livable, safe and prosperous by fostering trust and respect between people of different backgrounds and beliefs. This is an enjoyable and informative read for anyone who is interested in making their suburb or city a little friendlier. Meghan (Queen's Square Library)

Singh, Jagmeet
Love & courage

No matter your politics, you should take the time to learn more about any of the leaders of the major political parties. I didn’t know much about Singh going in and I was surprised to learn about his family and his struggles. This book read like fiction and I mean that as a compliment. Singh writes well about the challenges he’s overcome, including his father’s alcoholism, protecting his younger siblings and suffering through his own trauma. At times it’s a little too obvious he’s running for office, like his repeated references to understanding Quebec culture (a province he might struggle to win votes in). He also talks a little too much about his religion, but it’s probably necessary for him to explain Sikhism and how it shapes his worldview for people who know little about the religion. All in all, I was impressed with his writing style and how he handled himself in extreme situations. Whether you think he should be Prime Minister or not, it’s worth learning more about him and his book shares a remarkable tale about overcoming adversity and thriving. Jessica (Hespeler Library)

Sims, Stacy T.

I'd like to press this book into as many hands as possible. Sims, trained in exercise physiology and nutrition spent several years at Stanford where she explored gender differences with respect to exercise and eating. This book focuses on her research, firmly planted in science, not on the whims of some celebrity know-nothing popular on the internet. A very readable and actionable book for all women with questions about exercise and eating. Phil (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Flannery, Tim F.

Few people seem able to imagine the past much past the 20th century. Flannery can and does in his most readable look over the past 100 million years when Europe was just a couple of islands yet to be the landmass of so much human history. In clear and precise terms he explores the greater history of Europe, from tropical archipelago to the Ice Ages and then the recent history when humans showed up. Full of awe inspiring creatures from the past, Flannery weaves in the stories of the paleontologists and amateur bone hunters alike. Phil Robinson (Staff) (Queen's Square Library) 14/05/19

Østby, Hilde
Adventures in memory

Why do we remember some things and forget others? Can we improve our memory? Where are memories stored in the brain and what do seahorses have to do with memory? This book answers all these questions and more in a fascinating look at memory. Written by sisters, one a neuropsychologist and the other a novelist, the book reads like a novel but explains all the science of memory in an easy to understand manner. If you are at all interested in that intangible thing we call memory, this book is for you. Jessica (Staff) (Hespeler Library) 06/05/19

Roberts, Donna Twichell.
The good food cookbook for dogs

This cookbook features recipes for a variety of doggy treats, from stews and gravies to biscuits and birthday cakes. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, and I found the information about canine nutrition really helpful. My dog particularly enjoyed the Snickerpoodles and Peanut Butter Bones. Two paws up! Jessica Sheff (Staff) (Preston Library)

Newport, Cal.
Digital minimalism

Do you find yourself sneaking glances at your smartphone during a dinner date? If Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are taking up too much room in your life and starting to crowd out everyday pleasures, this book can start your digital detox. Digital minimalism asks you to make strategic choices about your technology to keep your screen time within reasonable limits and avoid the emotional pitfalls of social media. This means not only cutting out tech that isn’t making your life better, but also figuring out smarter ways to use the tech you still want to keep in your daily routine. There are plenty of good recommendations here for anyone who wants to free themselves from unthinking dependency on apps and devices. Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

McBride, James
Kill 'em and leave

This is an outstanding biography of a complicated celebrity singer, shadowed by poverty and racism. McBride's writing is direct, funny and fast-moving as we travel with him in his search for the deliberately elusive James Brown. Brown's legacy lives on, and so does the enactment of his contested will, which left his dwindling estate to the poor children of South Carolina, still being devoured by lawyers years after his death. Linda Foster (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)

Sims, Cliff.
Team of vipers

I was intrigued by this book, as the author claimed that it would be written from the perspective of someone who is on Trump's side. Having read several of the other current books about Trump's White House, I thought this might help balance my perspective. And it did. Sims is a good writer, which makes sense as he worked in Trump's communication teams on the campaign and the white house. He is right wing politically, but shares in the book how his personal politics have been informed by his mission trips overseas to work with Muslim refugees. Sims has a compassionate and friendly view of Trump. He thinks highly of the President, but does also share about some perceived weaknesses. Sims is careful to only share about his own direct experiences, so we don't get much of a window into some of the more controversial incidents of the presidency, since he wasn't in the room for those. However, he does share plenty of meaty recollections in a plausible way. Sims comes off as a reliable source in a current world full of unreliable ones about Trump. Sarah Pump (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)