Adult Nonfiction

01.27.2021

Freedom Libraries:
The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South
by Mike Selby
published October 2019
ISBN: 9781538115534
★★★★★

An excellent and necessary remembrance of the community center libraries that sprang up to serve Black residents in a few locations during and around the Freedom Summer of 1964. Volunteers both local and out of state faced everything from crumbling infrastructure to assassination attempts to introduce libraries into communities that were systematically denied them.

This is important for two reasons -- one, to remember. This struggle happened here involving some people who are still alive today, not in a far-away time and place. Second, even now, this book is a lesson in what could happen when we completely reimagine the library and it's role in the community. What would it look like if we built it from the bottom up, basing it entirely on the needs and wants of the community it serves?

Overall, an excellent and quick read, and recommended for library lovers and history buffs everywhere.

[Link to this review]

12.16.2020

How to Survive in Ancient Rome
by L. J. Trafford
out December 30, 2020
ISBN: 9781526757869
★★★★

A spritely hop through deep and heavy history of ancient Rome, touching on several different topics with a lightness that will irritate the hardcore history crowd and delight casual readers. As someone with a light-to-moderate interest in ancient Rome (as in, I'll watch a documentary, but it's unlikely I'll read a book larger than this) it was just enough to keep me entertained and give me a handful of fun facts to spout off when there's a lull in conversation.

(Like, did you know ancient Romans washed their clothes in pee? Fun.)

Also, I laughed out loud many times.

Recommended for people who like to breeze through some miscellaneous nonfiction now and then.

[Link to this review]

09.01.2020

A Libertarian Walks into a Bear
by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling
out September 15, 2020
ISBN: 9781541788510
★★★

There were several instances while reading this that I laughed out loud and had to tell my husband about it. There were also several instances where I skimmed pages at a time because I was growing disinterested.

Packed full of ursine-pun-laced schadenfreude, this reads like a cross between a journal article and a standup act. It tells the story of the growth and (inevitable) dissolution of a libertarian settlement in New Hampshire. To put it simply and use a metaphor from Parks and Recreation -- the town would have worked if everyone who showed up was a self-sufficient and industrious Ron Swanson...

...but instead, they got a lot of lazy and entitled Jean-Ralphios. (And hippies and sex offenders.)

In sum: living in a government-free utopia sounds great until you realize that no one is filling potholes, repairing bridges, putting out house fires, or controlling the surprisingly out-of-control bear population.

A fun read that could've benefited from more aggressive editing. Still recommended.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

09.01.2020

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation
by Kristin Kobes Du Mez
out June 23, 2020
ISBN: 9781631495731
★★★★★

Instead of venerating a first century Palestinian who said things like "Blessed are the meek/merciful/peacemakers," American evangelicalism has adopted as its ideal the swaggering, aggressive, thrice-married John Wayne, the author argues.

At the center of the author's argument is the idea that American evangelicalism has become indelibly tainted by a machismo toxic masculinity that is harmful to women and men alike and has distorted the Gospel to fit its narrative of strongman (white) dominance. Dominance, aggression, and violence are considered something holy and God-given rather than sinful temptations to be wrestled with, allowing fertile ground for other sins to thrive, such as abuse, hubris, and corruption. The book eloquently argues this point by walking through a history of these strongmen and the way they have channeled or manipulated well-meaning believers into providing them outsized resources to enrich themselves and their friends and grab power for themselves.

It reads easily and quickly and is clearly well researched and sourced. Recommended for readers who want to get a better understanding of why the religious right rallies around its favorite issues but seems much less interested in the issues that Black churches and progressive Christians are interested in like racial justice, de-escalation of war, or alleviating poverty. Also recommended for people from evangelical backgrounds (positive or negative) who are trying to understand the differences between cultural evangelicalism and the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

02.25.2020

Every Drop of Blood: The Momentous Second Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln
by Edward Achorn
out June 23, 2020
ISBN: 978-0802148742
★★★★★

An immersive look at the world surrounding President Lincoln's second inauguration March 4th, 1865. As someone who has read several books about Lincoln's presidency, I was pleasantly surprised to learn some new things, and topics are covered with a mix of solemnity and humor.

Also, I laughed out loud at the chapter discussing how Vice President Johnson showed up at the inauguration incredibly drunk and launched into an hour-long diatribe, horrifying Republicans and thrilling Democrats.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]

02.18.2020

The Kitchen without Borders:
Recipes from Refugee and Immigrant Chefs and Stories of the Journey to Make a New Home
by The Eat Offbeat Chefs
out February 18, 2020
ISBN: 9781523504046
★★★★★

I love this book for so many reasons.

First off, it gives a face to the refugee crisis. These are people like you or me who like to cook a good meal.

Second off, it features flavors and recipes from cuisines I'm otherwise unfamiliar with, like Nepal, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela, for example.

I am excited to tear into this.

arc received from the publisher for review

[Link to this review]