Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012 Staff Favorites - Nonfiction

With so many "Best Books" lists for 2012 being named by sources ranging from the New York Times to NPR,our staff decided to put our collective reading experience together to come up with a list of our favorite books from the past year.

This list is subjective and merely reflects the wide reading tastes of your favorite librarians!  Without further ado, here is the list of our staff's favorite nonfiction books of 2012:

Ninety Days by Bill Clegg
"A memoir by Clegg, a former alcohol and drug abuser about his struggle to be sober for ninety days after being released from rehab. I found myself rooting for Mr. Clegg every step of the way and cringing and yelling at the book when it seemed he was going to fall. He stumbles a few times and ultimately he may stumble again, but he finally finds reasons to honestly try to stay sober."
Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie 
Presents a reconstruction of the eighteenth-century empress's life that covers her efforts to engage Russia in the cultural life of Europe, her creation of the Hermitage, and her numerous scandal-free romantic affairs. "Excellent book about a fascinating person."

Drift by Rachel Maddow
"Rachel Maddow always backs up her barbs with research and a desire for pragmatic policy reform. She makes all the nuts and bolts of the development of military and foreign policy over the past four decades very accessible and shocking, all in the service of a book-long plea to restore both the costs and decisions of making war to the people and their representatives."


I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag:A Memoir of a Life Through Events--the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don't by Jennifer Gilbert
At 22, Jennifer Gilbert was attacked in the hallway of a New York City apartment building and stabbed multiple times. She survived, told very few people what had happened to her and went on to found her own event planning business, Save The Date, at the age of 24. The company has since done millions of dollars in revenue, and at 29 Gilbert was named Ernst and Young's Entrepreneur of the Year. Now 43 and a mother of three, in 2012 Gilbert published this memoir detailing the attack and how it motivated her to approach her life and work with the mentality, "You picked the wrong girl." (Summary from HuffPost Women)

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
"A story about the diplomat sent to man the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, along with his family, during the rise of the Nazi party.  He is totally unprepared for the role and does not fit the “old boy” image of previous ambassadors.  You get the feeling that he is expected to fail.  Reads like a novel, but is a true story which makes it that much more gripping." 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Although our culture undervalues them dramatically, introverts have made some of the great contributions to society – from Chopin's nocturnes to the invention of the personal computer to Gandhi’s transformative leadership. Cain argues that we design our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions for extroverts, and that this bias creates a waste of talent, energy, and happiness. Based on intensive research in psychology and neurobiology and on prolific interviews, she also explains why introverts are capable of great love and great achievement, not in spite of their temperaments -- but because of them.
Shadow of the Titanic by Andrew Wilson
Stories of Titanic survivors and the families of Titanic passengers and how their experience shaped their later lives.  The author puts a face and context on some of the passengers. 

Steve Jobs: A Biography by Walter Isaacson
Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering...His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

The Astaires: Fred and Adele by Kathleen Riley
"This biography is about Fred and Adele Astaire.  I knew Fred Astaire from the movies but, didn’t realize he and his sister, who was more famous than him, had a fabulous career long before motion pictures and were the toast of English royalty before WWII."

The President’s Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs
"This book is about the most exclusive club in the world – living U.S. Presidents.  The book tells some fascinating, behind the scenes stories, about the presidents—how they helped each other, no matter their personal feelings, how they interacted with one another, how far back their relationships went, etc. and their behind the scenes impact on decision making and as ambassadors for the U.S.—often on delicate missions."

We will have another list tomorrow when we'll post a selection of our favorite fiction titles from 2012!

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