Category Archives: Non-fiction

March: Book Three and 2017 YALSA Nonfiction Awards

Today’s featured library book is March: Book Three, the recently released concluding volume of the graphic memoir trilogy by John Lewis, co-authored by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. The trilogy tells the riveting true story of Congressman Lewis’ fight for justice alongside civil rights heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The book is a finalist for YALSA’s 2017 Nonfiction Award. Check it out!

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Alimentary, my dear readers

This is not a poetry book, even though it’s still April. But I’ve been enjoying it so much, I just had to talk about it.

Mary Roach has written some fascinating books. Want to know about death? Try Stiff. Want to know about the afterlife? Spook. (Maybe some of you who were part of The Unexplained might want to read that one.)  Want to know about life in space? She has tips on Packing for Mars.

20160429_091849But today’s book is about what happens when you eat. It’s called Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal. If you’ve even wondered about the process of eating, this is the book for you. Things I’ve learned so far:

  1. The average human produces 2-3 pints of saliva a day.
  2. There was a guy who, as a result of being accidentally shot, lived the rest of his life with part of his stomach exposed. The doctor who treated him used this strange feature to do all sorts of experiments about digestion and stomach acid.
  3. Mexican dogs prefer spicier kibble than American dogs.
  4. It takes about 30 hours for food to pass through our bodies…the same amount of time it takes to travel by Amtrak from Seattle to Los Angeles.
  5. April 27th was National Hairball Awareness Day…and I failed to do something special for Skitty, my cat.

I’m only at the beginning of Chapter 6.

One of the things I love about Roach’s books is that she totally enjoys the research and the things she’s writing about. That means that her books are really fun to read. She makes everything interesting. And she’s wickedly funny.

If you want to learn something odd and laugh a lot while learning, pick up one of her books. We have all of the books mentioned in this post. I promise you’ll enjoy them.

Poor Pluto

Spring break is creeping up on us, so I know many of you are working on putting your spring break reading lists together. Today I have two books about everyone’s favorite Disney dog and former planet. (Although, just to be clear, the planet is named for the Roman god of the Underworld and not the Disney dog.)

Anyway, when I was growing up we memorized the order of the planets with, “My very earnest  mother just sent us nine pickles.” As of 2005, the pickles were gone and mother sent nine…I don’t know what. Pluto was official demoted to “dwarf planet” and our solar system was reduced to just 8 planets. These two books tell the story of Pluto’s fall from the big leagues.


Some people credit (blame?) American Museum of Natural History astrophysicist and pop icon Neil DeGrasse Tyson for Pluto’s demise. In his book The Pluto Files (also available on mp3 disc) he talks about a decision they made at the museum to group the planets together by type, which led to Pluto’s isolation and to a remark from a little kid, overheard by a New York Times reporter that became a headline. The book explores why people, particularly Americans, were so upset with Pluto’s change in status. Bonus for the book…he includes pictures of the hate mail he got from 2nd graders.

In How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, astronomer Mike Brown recounts his discovery of a 10th planet, Eris, which was just a bit bigger than Pluto. However, his discovery started the scientific debate that led to Pluto’s reclassification and the category of “dwarf planet.” I haven’t had  a chance to read this one yet (and if no one checks it out, it may be on my spring break reading list), but the blurb on the back also promises hate mail from school children!

Brown’s book is also included on the 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound list.


On Friday, the news broke that the writer Harper Lee had passed away. Those of you in the upper school (and maybe some middle schoolers) should be familiar with her because I know Mr. Betteridge and Mr. Sedgwick both taught her novel To Kill a Mockingbird. On the Mrs. Gillespie List of Fabulous Literature, this one ranks in the Top 5. Easily. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. We even have the audio book in the library. If you’re really against reading it, watch the movie. It’s equally fantastic.


If you’d like to know more about the woman who gained a reputation for herself and earned a Pulitzer Prize for her debut – and until this summer, only – novel check out I Am Scout. This is a biography of Ms. Lee. She has often said that the character Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird is somewhat autobiographical – that she was a tomboy and a little rebellious as a kid. She also grew up best friends with the writer Truman Capote (you may have read his short story A Christmas Memory with Mr. Betteridge). All in all, she was an amazing person and her story is fascinating. So, read about her.

Oh, and since they were friends and supported one another’s writing, you may also want to check out Capote’s book In Cold Blood. It’s non-fiction, and often considered to be the first “true crime” book published. There’s even speculation that one of the reasons Harper Lee never wrote another book is because she spent a lot of time helping Capote with his own writing. There’s also speculation that she never wrote another book because he actually wrote Mockingbird. I’m not sure I believe either statement, but they’re out there. I do, however, love Capote’s writing almost as much as I love Lee’s.

Spring Break Reading – Nonfiction Edition

So, for those of you who prefer reality reading, I have three new nonfiction selections for you. All three of these books were nominated for Best Nonfiction by YALSA.

James L. Swanson’s “The President Has Been Shot!” is an account of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He starts with an overview of Kennedy’s life and his political impact. In the second half of the book, Swanson gives a detailed account of November 21st through the 25th. The book is packed with photos, diagrams, and resources for anyone who wants to learn more. And this isn’t Swanson’s first foray into presidential assassinations. He also wrote Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer about the search for John Wilkes Booth (which is also available in the library).

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II looks at the treatment of Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Author Martin Sandler looks at what life was like for the families sent to relocation camps. He includes a lot of pictures and other artifacts including poems written by people in the camps.

Finally, there’s the Nonfiction Award winner, The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb. This is the story of the hunt for Adolf Eichmann. I haven’t read it yet, but it looks like there’s a lot about spy craft, team work, and survival.

Another Book for Black History Month

Yesterday was like Christmas in the library…a new box of books came in. That’s one of the fun things about being a librarian. I have to order books on a regular basis and it’s still so exciting to me every time a new box arrives.


One of those books was an finalist for YALSA’s Non-Fiction Award this year. Courage Has No Color is the story of America’s first black paratroopers. I haven’t read it yet, but the story sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to dive into it (although both the audio book and the print book have already been checked out…if you want to be on the waiting list, let me know…I’ll even put you ahead of me!).