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Life at the Library

Posted on: August 20, 2018

Nonfiction that blew our minds!

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As summer winds down and the back-to-school season begins, we got to thinking about great true stories that have taught us something new. This month our staff shared some of the nonfiction we've read, loved loved, and felt like changed our perspective about the world. 

favorite nonfiction 1


The Explosive Child by Ross W. Greene

The Explosive Child was referred to me by a librarian before I was a librarian! My second grade son was unhappy at school and at home, and I was at my wit’s end as to what to do to help him. We used to visit the library every Saturday, and the librarian and I would often get into long conversations about our lives and our children. She recommended this book, and it was absolutely life-changing! The book taught me a new way to communicate with my ultra-logical, extremely literal child. Now as a librarian, I recommend it to anyone who expresses the same kind of fear and frustration. – Tina Kaple, Administration

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This amazingly beautiful book has captured my attention many times. As a botanist, member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, and mother, Robin Wall Kimmerer writes how living entities teach us lessons while also nourishing us. She demonstrates to the reader not only the worth of indigenous knowledge bases but also the need for all of us to better understand our environment. I learn more each time I pick up Braiding Sweegrass and never hesitate to recommend it to friends who may appreciate it. – Katelyn Martens-Rodriguez, Oakdale Library

The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker  

We always hear about how much worse things are now and how violent the world is. The Better Angels of Our Nature gives the long view complete with numbers to point out that while there are peaks and valleys, overall humans are becoming less violent and more open. Pinker documents this thoroughly and argues that despite temporary setbacks, the future holds promise and the “good old days” were not necessarily so for all. – Martha Riel, Lake Elmo Library and Valley Library

favorite nonfiction 2

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

Brazen is a nonfiction graphic novel about butt-kicking ladies from around the globe who knew what they wanted and went after it. This book goes beyond the well-known women and introduces its reader to lesser known women who have created big changes. The book is full of facts and smattered with humor through amazing illustrations – it’s one of the best collections of awesome women that I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot! – Megan Olson, Wildwood Library

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Sometimes celebrities are awful writers, but Trevor Noah is informative, humorous, and witty in Born a Crime. Noah’s dad is white and his mom is black, but having mixed race kids is illegal, hence his title: he was literally born a crime. Noah’s reflective essays on hard times are unlike anything I’ve ever read. While it’s clear from his time on Comedy Central that he’s a funny guy, this book proves he is also thoughtful. He writes about how language saved his life. He knows six languages and would frequently switch back and forth during childhood to appeal to bullies. He opines that when we hear a different language, we are threatened. If someone starts speaking in our language, we become accepting. 5/5 stars for an insightful AND hilarious book. – Margaret Gardner, R.H. Stafford Library

The Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

I like the central question that Alex Soojung-Kim Pang asks in The Distraction Addiction: “Can we stay connected without diminishing our intelligence, attention spans, and ability to really live?” It’s a good question because it acknowledges that our mobile devices can be both good and bad, depending on how you use them. Reading this book inspired me to cut back on all of the notifications my phone was pushing in my face, set boundaries about my use of technology, and take some steps to disconnect from devices in a mindful way. – Kim Ukura, Administrationfavorite nonficton 3

American Nations by Colin Woodard

A revolutionary look at the development of North America, American Nations traces the rise and spread of the eleven regional cultures across the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico, and the impact they have had on past and present politics. Woodard makes the argument that there is no such thing as a singular American culture, but rather, eleven, based on analysis of voting patterns, linguistic differences, and the cultures of the Europeans who settled there. Each culture is given a chapter summarizing the overall characteristics of the area, with the last two chapters of the book covering the impact that the cultures have had on modern-day American politics. Overall, it’s a fabulous read that offers a rational explanation for American history and politics. – Meg Walter, Oakdale Library

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

My mother is a hoarder. She loves looking back at old things and remembering different times. I am not this way. For years, I lugged around boxes and boxes of things I didn’t need because my mother insisted that I “might use them someday” or I “will want to have these memories when I’m older.” As I got older, I got more resentful of the boxes sitting in the back of my closet. That’s when I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I finished in two days, and I immediately went to work on discarding everything. Three years later, my home is still free of clutter and not once have I missed the boxes or the things. I have more pride in my home now than I ever imagined I could. – Cate Triola, Park Grove Library

The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui

This graphic novel memoir is a sad and beautiful recollection of one Vietnamese family's journey to America. Bui reflects on her family's hardships and what it means to be a parent after the birth of her first child. After fleeing Vietnam, Bui recalls an imperfect childhood and the shortcomings of her parents. However, Bui perfectly places you in her own emotional landscape for while you feel the anger at the shortcomings of her parents, you see the difficult times they faced being in new country and the hardships they endured to give their children a better life - and the ultimate feeling of love for one's family. Bui also touches on her own difficulty adjusting to living in a new country as well as being a first time mother. I loved The Best We Could Do, and think of it often. – Kirsten Redding, Hardwood Creek Library

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