2016 Library Challenge: A Nonfiction Book

Not in the mood for a novel but still want something to read?

Looking for a book that qualifies as “nonfiction” for the library challenge?

Love nonfiction but unsure of what’s been recently released?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this post is for you!

If you love history:

William Geroux’s The Mathews Men: Seven Brothers and Their War Against Hitler’s U-Boats (2016)


There are a lot of gripping stories about World War II, but a neglected aspect of the war is certainly the story of the Merchant Marines, who were tasked with delivering much-needed cargo to the United States on unarmed ships at the mercy of German U-boats. The title incorrectly implies the book’s focus is on a family of seven brothers who all served in the Merchant Marine during the war, and this family–the Hodges–certainly does make appearances in the book. But the actual focus is more on their home county, Mathews County, Virginia. An area with a long maritime tradition, most families in the area had sons, husbands, and brothers serving on Merchant Marine ships. Pick up Geroux’s book to learn more about the often-overlooked contributions the Merchant Marine made to the war effort and that the citizens of Mathews County made to the Merchant Marines.

Recommended for those who enjoy reading about World War II and/or seafaring.

If you enjoy true crime:

Kate Summerscale’s The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer (2016)


There is never any mystery in this book about who committed the crime in question. Nobody–including the accused–disputed the fact that thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes murdered his mother in 1895 and then, with his younger brother, pretended that she wasn’t dead for days on end. Coombes captured the Victorian imagination–and deeply shocked their sensibilities–with his apparent lack of both repentance and motive. Kate Summerscale, however, turns her attention to more than just chronicling the details of the crime. She follows Robert’s surprising fate after he is sent to prison and also examines Robert’s motives, including the role pulp fiction may have played into it, and how the case fueled contemporary fears about crime culture.

Recommended for those who enjoy historical true crime and why-dun-its.

If you like biographies:

John Boessenecker’s Texas Ranger: The Epic Life of Frank Hamer, the Man Who Killed Bonnie and Clyde (2016)


If you’ve heard of Frank Hamer, you probably know him only within the context of his role in the story of Bonnie and Clyde–as the man who killed the two Depression-era bank robbers. But there is a lot more to Hamer than that single moment in his decades-long career as a Texas Ranger. In fact, his career began when the organization was still using horses and spans historical events that range from the Bandit War of 1915, the Mexican Revolution, and Prohibition. John Boessenecker provides a look at the entirety of Hamer’s career, which spanned over 40 years.

Recommended for those who enjoy reading about the American West.


Laura P. Claridge’s The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire (2016)


Another recent biography that has generated positive reviews for shedding light on an unexplored historical figure, The Lady with the Borzoi concentrates on giving Blanche Knopf the credit she is due for her role in helping develop her husband Alfred’s famous publishing company. Follow along as Laura Claridge chronicles Blanche Knopf’s central role in introducing American readers to hardboiled writers like James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler; Harlem Renaissance authors like Langston Hughes; journalists like  William Shirer and John Hershey; literary legends like Willa Cather; and French absurdists like Albert Camus.

Recommended for those who enjoy reading about literary history.


If you want to read about science:

Luke Dittrich’s Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets (2016)


If you enjoy reading science and medicine, consider Patient H.M. This book delves into the sad backstory of the man who a considerable amount of the research on memory was based on. Henry Molaison was suffering from severe epilepsy in 1953 when he underwent a lobotomy. The surgery was intended to alleviate his seizures, which it did, but it also rendered him with a short term memory of only 30 seconds. For the rest of his life, he was a research subject for scientists interested in better understanding how memory works. Written by the grandson of the man who initially operated on Molaison, Patient H.M. chronicles the life of the man who history and science had forgotten, as well as the history of psychosurgery and the studies derived from his case.

Recommended for those who enjoyed Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

If you prefer sports:

Debbie Clarke Moderow’s Fast into the Night: A Woman, Her Dogs, and Their Journey North on the Iditarod Trail (2016)


If you want a tale of adventure, try this memoir. Written by Iditarod competitor Debbie Clarke Moderow, Fast Into the Night details her frustrating initial Iditarod run. The forty-something mother who decided to combat empty nest syndrome by racing for 1000 miles with a dog sled found her race suddenly over when, within a couple of hundred miles from the finish line, her dogs simply refused to go any farther. However, that’s not the end of the story because even though that experience was demoralizing, Moderow was determined to return and finish 2 years later. . . .

Recommended for those who enjoy reading about Alaskan adventures, comeback stories, and/or women athletes.


John Feinstein’s The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and the Story of an Epic College Basketball Rivalry (2016)*


If you love college basketball and one of the highlights of your year is March Madness, then give this book a try. Noted sports writer John Feinstein takes readers behind-the-scenes of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s fierce rivalry between the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and North Carolina State while focusing specifically on the 3 legendary coaches at these schools. The story, thus, starts in 1980, when within a few days, a relatively unknown man, Mike Krzyzewski, was hired by Duke and another new coach, Jim Valvano, was hired by North Carolina State. Both teams were hoping to challenge the University of North Carolina and their highly successful head coach, Dean Smith.

*Ebook also available on Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoy college basketball.


P.S. Don’t forget that we’re having a nonfiction writer as a guest speaker at the library on November 15th, at 6 pm. Historian, Missouri State professor, and native Arkansan Brooks Blevins–whose book Ghost of the Ozarks I reviewed earlier this year–will be speaking about writing and local events and the complications that occur when the two intersect. He gave a great talk at Books and Bloom back in May, and we’re excited for him to visit our library. Call us at 870-423-2323 or stop by and ask at the circulation desk for more details.

Also, for more information on any of these books discussed in this post, please visit our online library catalog.

What nonfiction have you been reading this year? What’s your favorite genre of nonfiction? Tell us in the comments!


Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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