Staff Picks

Small Stories, Big Deal

One of the great things about a library is that fascinating stories abound everywhere.

It's just a matter of plucking one from the stream, so to speak.

Whale and boat illustration

Fathoms Below from TheColorfulCatStudio

Some of my favorite things to read are history, science, and true crime, so when an interesting non-fiction title comes across my radar it lands like a whale. 

Such was the case for the books in the list below that I've read in the past year.

Some illuminate compelling characters in a little pocket of time and space that are off the beaten path.

Others draw back and provide a huge view of humanity that helps us to connect dots that we didn't know had a pathway for connection.

Yet others make us stop and really consider how we treat others.

All were terrific books that have helped me chip away at understanding this weird, wild, and wondrous world that we live in.

American Fire

American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land

by Monica Hesse

Two people fall in love and then burn down houses: 67 fires in a five-month period to be exact, all in Accomack County, Virginia. This is a story of not just the doomed couple, but also of a small community attempting to cope with large-scale crime and destruction.

Dead Mountain

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident

by Donnie Eichar

Nine experienced hikers die in the Ural Mountains in 1959 after they inexplicably leave their tent during a sub-zero winter night. The author's account of interior Russia both at the height of the Cold War as well as today is extremely compelling, not to mention his theory of what might have actually happened to the adventurers.


Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

by Yuval Noah Harari

Examining the big picture of humanity over the course of time as well as the intricate details of our own bodies that make us function the way we do, Harari delivers an account that looks at where human beings have come from and why we, and no other hominids, are here. Spoiler: One thought-provoking theme is that we did not naturalize wheat, but rather the grain domesticated human beings.

The Man From the Train

The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery

by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James

Bill James is good with statistics, helping him in his career as a popular baseball writer. However, when he notices similarities in some unsolved murders from over a century ago, and digs a little deeper, well ..... buckle up, true crime aficionados, you're in for a tour de force.

The Best Land Under Heaven

The Best Land Under Heaven: The Donner Party in the Age of Manifest Destiny

by Michael Wallis

Wallis provides a compelling account of exactly how the Donner family and their companions were reduced to such extreme measures. It is a fascinating yet grim tale that still reverberates within our national consciousness.

The Blood of Emmett Till

The Blood of Emmett Till

by Timothy B. Tyson

This reflection of events leading to the creation of the Civil Rights movement is a heavy but illuminating read. The circumstances around Emmett Till's lynching and its aftermath still warrant discussion today.

Killers of the Flower Moon

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

by David Grann

Oil is discovered on an Oklahoma reservation in the early part of the 20th century and an intricate murder plot is hatched to cash in on the riches. It is a story filled with betrayal and injustice as well as a narrative of the creation of the FBI.

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