Travel Adventures

Travel Adventures

Adventure! Travel! Take a journey with the authors of some amazing journeys. Whether older classics or newer titles, a well-written travel experience is a transporting adventure that is perfect for summer reading. Here are some great titles from the nonfiction shelves of SPL!


An Arabian Journey: One Man’s Quest Through the Heart of the Middle East     Levison Wood

915.3 WOO 2019

Following in the footsteps of great explorers such as Lawrence of Arabia and Wilfred Thesiger, Wood brings us along on his complex adventure: a circumnavigation of the Arabian Peninsula as he completes a 5,000-mile trek through the most contested region on the planet. An epic tour through the land at the root of all civilization.

Cover ImageExplore Everything: Place-Hacking the City Bradley L. Garrett 910.4 GAR 2013

Has every inch of the world been explored?  Perhaps it is the everyday places – the cities we live in – that need to be rediscovered.  The author has evaded urban security in numerous cities to experience the city in new ways – he calls it “place hacking” – a new look at closed, secret, hidden and forgotten urban spaces.  Intriguing and with lots of photos!

Cover ImageNotes from a Small Island Bill Bryson 914.1 BRY 2001

Bill Bryson never disappoints!  The author of A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country takes us on an irreverent and hilarious journey through the island nation he called home for two decades.

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot Robert Macfarlane 914.2 MAC 2012

The author sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes that crisscross the British landscape. An immersive exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths.

The River Queen: A Memoir Mary Morris 917.7 MOR 2007

In the middle of her life, Morris went home, to the heart of the country and the Mississippi River.  Her adventure traveling by houseboat transformed her life.

Sicilian Odyssey Francine Prose 914.5 PRO 2003

The noted author brings the singular island of Sicily to life as she explores its tangled past and colorful present.  Through anecdotes and engrossing historical references she evokes the powerful spell that Sicily has cast for centuries.

Cover ImageThe Snow Leopard Peter Matthiessen 915.496 M433

Truly a classic!  In 1973, the author and biologist George Schaller traveled, as the winter snows were seeping into the high passes of the remote mountains of Nepal, to study the Himalayan blue sheep and possibly glimpse the rare and beautiful snow leopard. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, was also on a spiritual quest to find the Lama of Shey at the ancient shrine on Crystal Mountain.

The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes Rick Bass 818 BAS 2018

Rick Bass strikes out on a journey with the aim of making a memorable meal for each of his literary mentors and to express his gratitude for the way they have shaped his writing and his life.  A wonderful journey!

Cover ImageWalking the Nile Levison Wood 916.2 WOO 2015

Starting in November 2013 in a forest in Rwanda, Wood set forth on foot, aiming to become the first person to walk the entire length of the fabled Nile River.  He followed the Nile for nine months, over 4000 miles and through six nations, to the Mediterranean coast.

Books To Manage Your Life Post-Pandemic

We are finally beginning to return to our normal, pre-pandemic lives. With that brings lots of good things like going out to eat or gathering with friends.  But it also means returning to work, more traffic, busier schedules, and more hectic lives.  Here are just a few titles that you can get from the Sewickley Public Library to help manage your time and ease your mind!

 

The organized mind : thinking straight in the age of information overload / Daniel J. Levitin

New York Times bestselling author and neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin shifts his keen insights from your brain on music to your brain in a sea of details. In The Organized Mind , Daniel J. Levitin, PhD, uses the latest brain science to demonstrate how those people excel–and how readers can use their methods to regain a sense of mastery over the way they organize their homes, workplaces, and time.

 

 


Overwhelmed : work, love, and play when no one has the time / Brigid Schulte

Can working parents in America–or anywhere–ever find true leisure time? In Overwhelmed , Schulte, a staff writer for The Washington Post , asks: Are our brains, our partners, our culture, and our bosses making it impossible for us to experience anything but “contaminated time”?

 

 


Make time : how to focus on what matters every day / Jake Knapp

In a world where information refreshes endlessly and the workday feels like a race to react to other people’s priorities faster, frazzled and distracted has become our default position. But what if the exhaustion of constant busyness wasn’t mandatory? What if you could step off the hamster wheel and start taking control of your time and attention? That’s what this book is about.

 

 


Mindfulness for beginners : reclaiming the present moment– and your life / Jon Kabat-Zinn

We may long for wholeness, suggests Jon Kabat-Zinn, but the truth is that it is already here and already ours. The practice of mindfulness holds the possibility of not just a fleeting sense of contentment, but a true embracing of a deeper unity that envelops and permeates our lives. With Mindfulness for Beginners you are invited to learn how to transform your relationship to the way you think, feel, love, work, and play–and thereby awaken to and embody more completely who you really are.

 

 


The stress-proof brain : master your emotional response to stress using mindfulness & neuroplasticity / Melanie Greenberg

The Stress-Proof Brain offers powerful, comprehensive tools based in mindfulness, neuroscience, and positive psychology to help you put a stop to unhealthy responses to stress–such as avoidance, tunnel vision, negative thinking, self-criticism, fixed mindset, and fear. Instead, you’ll discover unique exercises that provide a recipe for resilience, empowering you to master your emotional responses, overcome negative thinking, and create a more tolerant, stress-proof brain.

 

 


How to relax / Thich Nhat Hanh

Stop, relax mindfully, and recharge to control stress and renew mental freshness and clarity.

The fifth book in the bestselling Mindfulness Essentials series, a back-to-basics collection from world-renowned Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh that introduces everyone to the essentials of mindfulness practice.

 


Martha Stewart’s organizing : the manual for bringing order to your life, home & routines / Martha Stewart

The ultimate guide to getting your life in order–with hundreds of practical and empowering ideas, projects, and tips–from America’s most trusted lifestyle authority.

 

 


Joy at work : organizing your professional life / Marie Kondo

Declutter your desk and brighten up your business with this transformative guide from an organizational psychologist and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The workplace is a magnet for clutter and mess. Who hasn’t felt drained by wasteful meetings, disorganized papers, endless emails, and unnecessary tasks? These are the modern-day hazards of working, and they can slowly drain the joy from work, limit our chances of career progress, and undermine our well-being.

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

Millions of Americans are affected by mental health issues each year, though widespread stigmas and misunderstandings about mental illness remain. Mental health issues cover a range of conditions and present a variety of challenges for those affected by it and their loved ones. The following non-fiction titles highlight different forms of mental traumas – from depression to PTSD to dementia – to offer personal perspectives about mental health issues and remind those struggling with mental illness that they are not alone.


Cover ImageBecause We Are Bad: OCD and a Girl Lost in Thought by Lily Bailey

By the age of thirteen, Lily Bailey was convinced she was bad. She had killed someone with a thought, spread untold disease, and ogled the bodies of other children. Only by performing an exhausting series of secret routines could she make up for what she’d done. But no matter how intricate or repetitive, no act of penance was ever enough. Beautifully written and astonishingly intimate, Because We Are Bad recounts a childhood consumed by obsessive compulsive disorder.

 

 


All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton

Sheila Hamilton missed the signs as her husband David’s mental illness unfolded before her. By the time she had pieced together the puzzle, it was too late. Her once brilliant and passionate partner was dead within six weeks of a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, leaving his wife and nine-year-old daughter without so much as a note to explain his actions. It details their unsettling spiral from ordinary life into the world of mental illness, examines the fragile line between reality and madness, and reveals the true power of love and forgiveness.

 


Cover ImageThe Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris was already known as a crusading physician delivering targeted care to vulnerable children. But it was Diego—a boy who had stopped growing after a sexual assault—who galvanized her journey to uncover the connections between toxic stress and lifelong illnesses. Adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, parental addiction, mental illness, and divorce change our biological systems, and lasts a lifetime. The fascinating scientific insight and innovative health interventions in The Deepest Well represent vitally important hope for preventing lifelong illness for those we love and for generations to come.

 

 


Cover ImageIn the Jaws of Black Dogs: a Memoir of Depression by John Bentley Mays

Weaving intimate recollections with excerpts from the diaries he kept for thirty years, Mays illuminates the struggle that leads to breakdown and the uneasy truce achieved through psychotherapy. Along the way, he offers provocative commentary on the allure of cure, the cultural scripts of normality, and the distorting mirror of clinical language. A literary tour de force that began with an award winning essay, In the Jaws of the Black Dogs is not an objective analysis composed from the safety of hindsight. It is a writer’s attempt to evoke the silent and distorting malignancy–as well as the moments of reprieve–of the only life he has ever known.

 

 


Cover ImageThe Evil Hours: A Biography of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by David J. Morris

Just as polio loomed over the 1950s and AIDS stalked the 1980s and 1990s, post-traumatic stress disorder haunts us in the early years of the twenty-first century. Over a decade into the United States’ “global war on terror,” PTSD afflicts as many as 30 percent of the conflict’s veterans. But the disorder’s reach extends far beyond the armed forces. In total, some twenty-seven million Americans are believed to be PTSD survivors. Yet to many of us, the disorder remains shrouded in mystery, secrecy, and shame. Morris crafts a moving work that will speak not only to those with the condition and to their loved ones but also to all of us struggling to make sense of an anxious and uncertain time.

 


Cover ImageDemon Camp: The Strange and Terrible Saga of a Soldier’s Return from War by Jennifer Percy

In 2005 a Chinook helicopter carrying sixteen Special Ops soldiers crashed during a rescue mission in Afghanistan, killing everyone on board. In that instant, machine gunner Caleb Daniels lost his best friend, Kip, and seven members of his unit. Back in the US, Caleb begins to see them everywhere—dead Kip, with his Alice in Wonderland tattoos, and the rest of them, their burned bodies always watching him. But there is something else haunting Caleb, too—a presence he calls the Black Thing, or the Destroyer, a paralyzing horror that Caleb comes to believe is a demon. Alone with these apparitions, Caleb considers killing himself. There is an epidemic of suicide among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, men and women with post-traumatic stress disorder who cannot cope with ordinary life in the aftermath of explosions and carnage. Author Jen Percy finds herself drawn to their stories.

 


Cover ImageMemory’s Last Breath: Field Notes on My Dementia by Gerda Saunders

Based on the “field notes” she keeps in her journal, Memory’s Last Breath is Gerda Saunders’ astonishing window into a life distorted by dementia. She writes about shopping trips cut short by unintentional shoplifting, car journeys derailed when she loses her bearings, and the embarrassment of forgetting what she has just said to a room of colleagues. Coping with the complications of losing short-term memory, Saunders, a former university professor, nonetheless embarks on a personal investigation of the brain and its mysteries, examining science and literature, and immersing herself in vivid memories of her childhood in South Africa.

 

 


If you or someone you know are struggling with a mental illness, the National Alliance on Mental Illness offers resources for support and education to tackle tough challenges that you, your family or friends are facing.

Worthwhile Non-Fiction

Worthwhile Non-Fiction

Get lost in these non-fiction tales that read like fiction.


Cover ImageSPIRIT RUN by Noe Alvarez

At nineteen, Noe Alvarex learned about a Native American/First Nations movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys, epic marathons meant to renew cultural connections across North America. He dropped out of school and joined a group of Dené, Secwépemc, Gitxsan, Dakelh, Apache, Tohono O’odham, Seri, Purépecha, and Maya runners, all fleeing difficult beginnings. Telling their stories alongside his own, Álvarez writes about a four–month–long journey from Canada to Guatemala that pushed him to his limits. He writes not only of overcoming hunger, thirst, and fear—dangers included stone–throwing motorists and a mountain lion—but also of asserting Indigenous and working–class humanity in a capitalist society where oil extraction, deforestation, and substance abuse wreck communities.


Cover ImageTHE ADVENTURER’S SON by Roman Dial

In the predawn hours of July 10, 2014, 27-year-old Cody Roman Dial, the son of preeminent Alaskan scientist and National Geographic Explorer Roman Dial, walked alone into Corcovado National Park, an untracked rainforest along Costa Rica’s remote Pacific Coast that shelters miners, poachers, and drug smugglers. He carried a light backpack and machete. Before he left, he emailed his father: “I am not sure how long it will take me, but I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle and a day to walk out. I’ll be bounded by a trail to the west and the coast everywhere else, so it should be difficult to get lost forever.”  They were the last words Dial received from his son.


Cover ImageTHE ESCAPE ARTIST by Helen Fremont

Fremont writes with wit and candor about growing up in a household held together by a powerful glue: secrets. Her parents, profoundly affected by their memories of the Holocaust, pass on, to both Helen and her older sister, a penchant for keeping their lives neatly, even obsessively compartmentalized, and a zealous determination to protect themselves from what they see as danger from the outside world.

 


Cover ImageYELLOW BIRD by Sierra Crane Murdoch

When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. In her absence, the landscape had been altered beyond recognition, her tribal government swayed by corporate interests, and her community burdened by a surge in violence and addiction. Three years later, when Lissa learned that a young white oil worker, Kristopher “KC” Clarke, had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became particularly concerned. No one knew where Clarke had gone, and few people were actively looking for him.  Yellow Bird traces Lissa’s steps as she obsessively hunts for clues to Clarke’s disappearance.


Cover ImageTHE HUNT FOR HISTORY by Nathan Raab

A box uncovered in a Maine attic with twenty letters written by Alexander Hamilton; a handheld address to Congress by President George Washington; a long-lost Gold Medal that belonged to an American President; a note that Winston Churchill wrote to his captor when he was a young POW in South Africa; paperwork signed and filled out by Amelia Earhart when she became the first woman to fly the Atlantic; an American flag carried to the moon and back by Neil Armstrong; an unpublished letter written by Albert Einstein, discussing his theory of relativity.  Each day, people from all over the world contact Nathan Raab for help understanding what they have, what it might be worth, and how to sell it.


Cover ImageUNCANNY VALLEY by Anna Wiener

In her mid-twenties Anna Wiener—stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.  Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.

Herstory: Exploring Women’s History

Herstory: Exploring Women’s History

Celebrate Women’s History Month by discovering real life stories of extraordinary women.

A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

In centering Black women’s stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women’s unique ability to make their own communities while combatting centuries of oppression is an essential component in our continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism. Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross offer an examination and celebration of Black womanhood, beginning with the first African women who arrived in what became the United States to African American women of today.

A Black Women’s History of the United States reaches far beyond a single narrative to showcase Black women’s lives in all their fraught complexities.


My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.


Jefferson’s Daughters by Catherine Kerrison

Thomas Jefferson had three daughters: Martha and Maria by his wife, Martha Wayles Jefferson, and Harriet by his slave Sally Hemings. Although the three women shared a father, the similarities end there. Martha and Maria received a fine convent school education while they lived with their father during his diplomatic posting in Paris. Once they returned home, however, the sisters found their options limited by the laws and customs of early America. Harriet Hemings followed a different path. She escaped slavery—apparently with the assistance of Jefferson himself. Leaving Monticello behind, she boarded a coach and set off for a decidedly uncertain future.

For this groundbreaking triple biography, history scholar Catherine Kerrison has uncovered never-before-published documents written by the Jefferson sisters, as well as letters written by members of the Jefferson and Hemings families.


A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell

In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”

The target in their sights was Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the spy organization dubbed Winston Churchill’s “Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.” She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines and–despite her prosthetic leg–helped to light the flame of the French Resistance, revolutionizing secret warfare as we know it.


The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

In the mid-nineteenth century, the Harvard College Observatory began employing women as calculators, or “human computers,” to interpret the observations their male counterparts made via telescope each night. At the outset this group included the wives, sisters, and daughters of the resident astronomers, but soon the female corps included graduates of the new women’s colleges—Vassar, Wellesley, and Smith. As photography transformed the practice of astronomy, the ladies turned from computation to studying the stars captured nightly on glass photographic plates.

Elegantly written and enriched by excerpts from letters, diaries, and memoirs, The Glass Universe is the hidden history of the women whose contributions to the burgeoning field of astronomy forever changed our understanding of the stars and our place in the universe.


Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif

Manal al-Sharif grew up in Mecca the second daughter of a taxi driver, born the year fundamentalism took hold. In her adolescence, she was a religious radical, melting her brother’s boy band cassettes in the oven because music was haram: forbidden by Islamic law. But what a difference an education can make. By her twenties she was a computer security engineer, one of few women working in a desert compound that resembled suburban America. That’s when the Saudi kingdom’s contradictions became too much to bear: she was labeled a slut for chatting with male colleagues, her teenage brother chaperoned her on a business trip, and while she kept a car in her garage, she was forbidden from driving down city streets behind the wheel.

Daring to Drive is the fiercely intimate memoir of an accidental activist, a powerfully vivid story of a young Muslim woman who stood up to a kingdom of men–and won.


The Doctors Blackwell by Janice P Nimura

Elizabeth Blackwell believed from an early age that she was destined for a mission beyond the scope of “ordinary” womanhood. Though the world at first recoiled at the notion of a woman studying medicine, her intelligence and intensity ultimately won her the acceptance of the male medical establishment. In 1849, she became the first woman in America to receive an M.D. She was soon joined in her iconic achievement by her younger sister, Emily, who was actually the more brilliant physician.

Exploring the sisters’ allies, enemies, and enduring partnership, Janice P. Nimura presents a story of trial and triumph. Together, the Blackwells founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, the first hospital staffed entirely by women.


 

Presidential Matters

Presidential Matters

 

The Defining Moment:  FDR’s hundred days and the triumph of hope by Jonathan Alter

Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in March of 1933 as America touched bottom. Banks were closing everywhere. Millions of people lost everything. The Great Depression had caused a national breakdown. With the craft of a master storyteller, Jonathan Alter brings us closer than ever before to the Roosevelt magic. Facing the gravest crisis since the Civil War, FDR used his cagey political instincts and ebullient temperament in the storied first Hundred Days of his presidency to pull off an astonishing conjuring act that lifted the country and saved both democracy and capitalism.


The General vs. the President:  MacArthur and Truman on the brink of nuclear war by H.W. Brands

At the height of the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman committed a gaffe that sent shock waves around the world. When asked by a reporter about the possible use of atomic weapons in response to China’s entry into the war, Truman replied testily, “The military commander in the field will have charge of the use of the weapons, as he always has.” This suggested that General Douglas MacArthur, the willful, fearless, and highly decorated commander of the American and U.N. forces, had his finger on the nuclear trigger. A correction quickly followed, but the damage was done; two visions for America’s path forward were clearly in opposition, and one man would have to make way.


The Man who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in war and peace by H.W. Brands

Ulysses Grant emerges in this masterful biography as a genius in battle and a driven president to a divided country, who remained fearlessly on the side of right. He was a beloved commander in the field who made the sacrifices necessary to win the war, even in the face of criticism. He worked valiantly to protect the rights of freed men in the South. He allowed the American Indians to shape their own fate even as the realities of Manifest Destiny meant the end of their way of life. In this sweeping and majestic narrative, bestselling author H.W. Brands now reconsiders Grant’s legacy and provides an intimate portrait of a heroic man who saved the Union on the battlefield and consolidated that victory as a resolute and principled political leader.


First Women: the grace and power of America’s modern First Ladies by Kate Anderson Brower

One of the most underestimated—and challenging—positions in the world, the First Lady of the United States must be many things: an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own; a savvy politician, skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington; a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny; and an able CEO responsible for the smooth operation of countless services and special events at the White House.


The Residence:  Inside the private world of the White House by Kate Anderson Brower

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.


 

Adopted Son:  Washington, Lafayette and the friendship that saved the Revolution by David A. Clary

They were unlikely comrades-in-arms. One was a self-taught, middle-aged Virginia planter in charge of a ragtag army of revolutionaries, the other a rich, glory-seeking teenage French aristocrat. But the childless Washington and the orphaned Lafayette forged a bond between them as strong as any between father and son. It was an unbreakable trust that saw them through betrayals, shifting political alliances, and the trials of war.


 

Flawed Giant:  Lyndon Johnson and his times 1961-1973 by Robert Dallek

Flawed Giant–the monumental concluding volume to Robert Dallek’s biography of Lyndon Baines Johnson–provides the most through, engrossing account ever published of Johnson’s years in the national spotlight. Drawing on hours of newly released White House tapes and dozens of interviews with people close to the President, Dallek reveals LBJ as a visionary leader who worked his will on Congress like no chief executive before or since, and also displays the depth of his private anguish as he became increasingly ensnared in Vietnam.


Guest of Honor:  Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and the White House dinner that shocked a nation by Deborah Davis

In 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to have dinner at the executive mansion with the First Family. The next morning, news that the president had dined with a black man sent shock waves through the nation. Fueled by inflammatory newspaper articles, political cartoons, and even vulgar songs, the scandal escalated and threatened to topple two of America’s greatest men.

 


Inside Camp David:  the private world of the presidential retreat by Rear Admiral Michael Giorgione

Never before have the gates of Camp David been opened to the public. Intensely private and completely secluded, the president’s personal campground is situated deep in the woods, up miles of unmarked roads that are practically invisible to the untrained eye. Now, for the first time, we are allowed to travel along the mountain route and directly into the fascinating and intimate complex of rustic residential cabins, wildlife trails, and athletic courses that make up the presidential family room.


The Family:  the real story of the Bush dynasty by Kitty Kelley

They have wielded enormous financial power and dominated world politics for more than half a century. They have been appointed to positions of great power and have been elected as governors, congressmen, senators and presidents. They have shaped our past and, with our country at war under the leadership of their number one son, they are, more critically than ever, shaping our future.


 

Ike and McCarthy:  Dwight Eisenhower’s secret campaign against Joseph McCarthy by David A. Nichols

Behind the scenes, Eisenhower loathed McCarthy, the powerful Republican senator notorious for his anti-Communist witch hunt. In spite of a public perception that Eisenhower was unwilling to challenge McCarthy, Ike believed that directly confronting the senator would diminish the presidency. Therefore, the president operated with a “hidden hand,” refusing even to mention the Senator’s name.


 

The Hour of Peril:  the Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower

In February of 1861, just days before he assumed the presidency, Abraham Lincoln faced a “clear and fully-matured” threat of assassination as he traveled by train from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration. Over a period of thirteen days the legendary detective Allan Pinkerton worked feverishly to detect and thwart the plot, assisted by a captivating young widow named Kate Warne, America’s first female private eye.


Being Nixon:  a man divided by Evan Thomas

Evan Thomas delivers a radical, unique portrait of America’s thirty-seventh president, Richard Nixon, a contradictory figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. One of the principal architects of the modern Republican Party and its “silent majority” of disaffected whites and conservative ex-Dixiecrats, Nixon was also deemed a liberal in some quarters for his efforts to desegregate Southern schools, create the Environmental Protection Agency, and end the draft.


Friends Divided:  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams could scarcely have come from more different worlds, or been more different in temperament. Jefferson, the optimist with enough faith in the innate goodness of his fellow man to be democracy’s champion, was an aristocratic Southern slaveowner, while Adams, the overachiever from New England’s rising middling classes, painfully aware he was no aristocrat, was a skeptic about popular rule and a defender of a more elitist view of government. But late in life, something remarkable happened: these two men were nudged into reconciliation. What started as a grudging trickle of correspondence became a great flood, and a friendship was rekindled, over the course of hundreds of letters.


Accidental Presidents:  eight men who changed America by Jared Cohen

Eight men have succeeded to the presidency when the incumbent died in office. In one way or another they vastly changed our history. Only Theodore Roosevelt would have been elected in his own right. Only TR, Truman, Coolidge, and LBJ were re-elected.

 

Notable Historic Non-Fiction Titles

Notable Historic Non-Fiction Titles

Longing to learn while you read? Get your history lesson with these notable non-fiction titles.


Parisian Lives: Samuel Beckett, Simone de Beauvoir and Me by Deidre Bair

In 1971 Deirdre Bair was a journalist and a recently minted Ph.D. who managed to secure access to Nobel Prize-winning author Samuel Beckett. He agreed that she could be his biographer despite her never having written a biography before. The next seven years of probing conversations, intercontinental research, singular encounters with Beckett’s friends, and peculiar cat-and-mouse games resulted in Samuel Beckett: A Biography, which went on to win the National Book Award and propel Bair to her next subject: Simone de Beauvoir.

From Russia with Blood by Heidi Blake

They thought they had found a safe haven in the green hills of England. They were wrong. One by one, the Russian oligarchs, dissidents, and gangsters who fled to Britain after Vladimir Putin came to power dropped dead in strange or suspicious circumstances. One by one, their British lawyers and fixers met similarly grisly ends. Yet, one by one, the British authorities shut down every investigation — and carried on courting the Kremlin.

Give Me Liberty by Richard Brookhiser

Award-winning historian and biographer Richard Brookhiser offers up a truer and more inspiring story of American nationalism as it has evolved over four hundred years. He examines America’s history through thirteen documents that made the United States a new country in a new world: a free country. We are what we are because of them; we stay true to what we are by staying true to them.

The Anarchy by William Dalrymple

In August 1765, the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and set up, in his place, a government run by English traders who collected taxes through means of a private army. The creation of this new government marked the moment that the East India Company ceased to be a conventional company and became something much more unusual: an international corporation transformed into an aggressive colonial power.

The Shadow of Vesuvius: a Life of Pliny by Daisy Dunn

When Pliny the Elder perished at Stabiae during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, he left behind an enormous compendium of knowledge, his thirty-seven-volume Natural History, and a teenaged nephew who revered him as a father. Grieving his loss, Pliny the Younger inherited the Elder’s notebooks―filled with pearls of wisdom―and his legacy.

Wounded Shepherd by Austin Ivereigh

This deeply contextual biography centers on the tensions generated by the pope’s attempt to turn the Church away from power and tradition and outwards to engage humanity with God’s mercy. Through battles with corrupt bankers and worldly cardinals, in turbulent meetings and on global trips, history’s first Latin-American pope has attempted to reshape the Church to evangelize the contemporary age. At the same time, he has stirred other leaders’ deep-seated fear that the Church is capitulating to modernity―leaders who have challenged his bid to create a more welcoming, attentive institution.

Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers by Brian Kilmeade

In March 1836, the Mexican army led by General Santa Anna massacred more than two hundred Texians who had been trapped in the Alamo. After thirteen days of fighting, American legends Jim Bowie and Davey Crockett died there, along with other Americans who had moved to Texas looking for a fresh start. It was a crushing blow to Texas’s fight for freedom. But the story doesn’t end there. The defeat galvanized the Texian settlers, and under General Sam Houston’s leadership they rallied. Six weeks after the Alamo, Houston and his band of settlers defeated Santa Anna’s army in a shocking victory, winning the independence for which so many had died.

Blowout by Rachel Maddow

In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia—including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove—was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events.

Peace, War and Liberty by Christopher A. Preble

Has the United States been a force for liberty around the world? Should it be? And if so, how? To answer these questions, Christopher A. Preble traces the history of U.S. foreign policy from the American Founding to the present, examining the ideas that have animated it, asking whether America’s policy choices have made the world safer and freer, and considering the impact of those choices on freedom at home.

Betrayal in Berlin by Steve Vogel

Its code name was “Operation Gold,” a wildly audacious CIA plan to construct a clandestine tunnel into East Berlin to tap into critical KGB and Soviet military telecommunication lines. The tunnel, crossing the border between the American and Soviet sectors, would have to be 1,500 feet (the length of the Empire State Building) with state-of-the-art equipment, built and operated literally under the feet of their Cold War adversaries. Success would provide the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service access to a vast treasure of intelligence. Exposure might spark a dangerous confrontation with the Soviets. Yet as the Allies were burrowing into the German soil, a traitor, code-named Agent Diamond by his Soviet handlers, was burrowing into the operation itself. . .

 

Titles on Strength and Resilience

Titles on Strength and Resilience

 

Sometimes having the capacity to withstand life’s pressures can feel impossible. The characters in these titles find strength and resilience, despite the odds against them.


Cover ImageThe Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s sequel to THE HANDMAID’S TALE picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

Britt Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman

When Britt-Marie walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg, she is more than a little unprepared. Employed as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center, the fastidious Britt-Marie has to cope with muddy floors, unruly children, and a rat for a roommate.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.

And Then There were None by Agatha Christie

Ten…Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion off the Devon coast by a mysterious U. N. Owen. Nine… At dinner a recorded message accuses each of them in turn of having a guilty secret, and by the end of the night one of the guests is dead. Eight…Stranded by a violent storm, and haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one . . . as one by one . . . they begin to die.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, Victoria Jones is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Read more

Starting Over

Starting Over

Ready for 2021? These stories about starting over will bring you inspiration as we journey into the new year.


Up for Renewal: What Magazines Taught Me About Love, Sex and Starting Over by Cathy Alter

By age thirty-seven, Cathy Alter had made a mess of her life. With a failed marriage already under her belt, she was continuing down the path of poor decisions, one paved with a steady stream of junk food, unpaid bills, questionable friends, and highly inappropriate men. So Cathy gave over her life to the glossies for the next twelve months, resolving to follow their advice without question.

Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen

Kusang never thought she would leave Tibet. But then the Chinese army invaded, and their peaceful lives were destroyed forever. Kusang’s granddaughter, Yangzom, born in safety in Switzerland, has written the story of her inspirational mother and grandmother’s fight for survival.

It’s Never too Late to Begin Again: discovering creativity and meaning at midlife and beyond by Julia Cameron with Emma Lively

When someone retires, the newfound freedom can be quite exciting, but also daunting. Cameron shows readers how cultivating their creative selves can help them navigate this new terrain. She tells the inspiring stories of retirees who discovered new artistic pursuits and passions that more than filled their days—they nurtured their souls.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. Along the way his quest teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

From one of America’s iconic writers, a stunning book of electric honesty and passion. Joan Didion explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage–and a life, in good times and bad–that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child.

Cover ImageUntamed by Glennon Doyle

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table.

What is the What by Dave Eggers

What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with thousands of other children —the so-called Lost Boys—was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom.

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes

A small stone house deep among the olive groves of Liguria, going for the price of a dodgy second-hand car. Annie Hawes and her sister, on the spot by chance, have no plans whatsoever to move to the Italian Riviera but find naturally that it’s an offer they can’t refuse.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

In small town Maine, Evvie Drake is picking up the pieces after the death of her husband. Dean Tenney rolls into town to get out of the spotlight and figure out what’s next for a major leaguer who’s got the yips.

 

Fifty Acres and a Poodle: a story of love, livestock and finding myself on a farm by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Jeanne Marie Laskas had a dream of fleeing her otherwise happy urban life for fresh air and open space — a dream she would discover was about something more than that. But she never expected her fantasy to come true — until a summer afternoon’s drive in the country.

Present over Perfect: leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living by Shauna Niequist

“A few years ago, I found myself exhausted and isolated, my soul and body sick. I was tired of being tired, burned out on busy. And, it seemed almost everyone I talked with was in the same boat: longing for connection, meaning, depth, but settling for busy. But over the course of the last few years, I’ve learned a way to live, marked by grace, love, rest, and play. And it’s changing everything.”

Her by Christa Parravani

A blazingly passionate memoir of identity and love: when a charismatic and troubled young woman dies tragically, her identical twin must struggle to survive.

Starting Over by Robin Pilcher

Liz Dewhurst is devastated when she discovers that her husband Gregor is having an affair. After years of security every day feels like a struggle for survival. But things soon begin to change when Liz’s son suggests renting out a room to bring in some extra income.

When I was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiagoh

Esmeralda Santiago’s story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture.

One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-regrets Life by Kerry and Chris Shook

What if you learned you had just one month to live? Without a doubt, you’d stop living on autopilot and determine to make the most of every moment. You don’t have any time to waste. Why wait to answer the longings of your heart?

Cover ImageSafe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

In a small North Carolina town, a mysterious and beautiful woman running from her past slowly falls for a kind-hearted store owner . . . until dark secrets begin to threaten her new life.

Dear Fang with Love by Rufi Thorpe

After a frightening psychotic break at a high-school party in California, Vera has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suddenly, she and her family are plunged into the absurdity and banality of the mental health system.

Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler

Married with three almost-grown children, Delia Grinstead has vanished without trace or reason. But for Delia, walking away from it all is an impulse that will lead her into a new, exciting, and unimagined life.

Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan by Jamie Zeppa

Jamie Zeppa was 24 when she left a stagnant life at home and signed a contract to teach for two years in the Buddhist hermit kingdom of Bhutan. Much more than just a travel memoir, Beyond the Sky and the Earth is the story of her time in a Himalayan village, immersed in Bhutanese culture and the wonders of new and lasting love.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island.

 

Librarian’s choice: Stephanie’s Favorite Books of 2020

Librarian’s choice: Stephanie’s Favorite Books of 2020

Here are my favorite reads that came out in 2020. I like to be eclectic in my reading, so there is a little bit of everything in this list. Some mystery, some romance, a little nonfiction, and all just plain good writing.


Guest List by Lucy Foley

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. And then someone turns up dead.

Another title by Foley, The Hunting Party, is available on Hoopla.


Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford

It’s 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine’s father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church – a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.

Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine–a mixed-blood Cherokee woman– and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma’s Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn’t easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world–of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados–intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.

Also available on Hoopla.


Beach Read by Emily Henry

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.  They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Also available on Overdrive.


Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald

In Vesper Flights Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing the massive migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk’s poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds’ nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

Also available on Hoopla.


Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . . From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” ( Kirkus Reviews ) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico.

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find–her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Also available on Overdrive.


Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny, moldy room at the side of a garage where she works on the novel she’s been writing for six years. At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.

Also available on Hoopla.


Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; now, in the twenty-first century, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world.

Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what it is about water that seduces us, despite its dangers, and why we come back to it again and again.

Also available on Hoopla.