As the New Year approaches, join our librarians in looking back on our favorite reading of the year gone by. By popular acclaim, here are ten non-fiction titles that made the biggest impact on us in 2018. (Fiction and books for youth will follow in the days to come).
2018 was a huge year for books about society and politics, and while journalistic potboilers focused on the executive branch may have garnered all the hype, we think that long after most of these are forgotten, Jill Lepore’s magisterial and insightful These Truths: A History of the United States is likely to be stimulating and provoking conversation among readers. Likewise, Mona Hanna-Attisha’s gripping first-hand account of the Flint water crisis, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, provides a powerful and inspiring account of the confluence of environmental and racial issues in America today.
For many readers seeking to deepen their awareness of and come to terms with America’s abiding struggles and biases around race, two local authors had their back. So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo each ventured into this troublous area with thoughtfulness and sensitivity, advancing the national discussion. (Listen to DiAngelo discussing her book at the library in this podcast.) This year also saw the return of a lost classic of black history with Zora Neale Hurston’s moving account drawn from her field work with of the last known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade, Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo.”
This was a strong year for memoirs, with Tara Westover’s Educated: A Memoir, a riveting account of her childhood and youth in a strict Mormon family in a remote region of Idaho, and Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know, the moving story of the author’s life as a Korean American adoptee. (Hear our podcast of Chung and Ijeoma Oluo at the library). Of course we badly needed to laugh, and David Sedaris’s poignant and hilarious Calypso helped us see the humor in middle age.
We were captivated by The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, Kirk Johnson’s account of a bizarre heist of rare bird skins from the British Natural History Museum. And it should surprise precisely nobody that we just could not get enough of Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, with its celebration of the heroism and eccentricity of librarians down the ages.
– posted by David W.