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And now for something completely different

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Quick — name the last non-fiction book you read for fun. Do you need to stop and think or else look through your list of titles you’ve read? (you do keep such a list, don’t you?) For me, it was “Marmalade Diaries: the True Story of an Odd Couple” by Ben Aitken, about a 30-something adult male (the author) who moves in with Winnie, an 85-year-old widow living in London, just before lockdown.  

As the library’s circulation statistics show, most of our readers prefer fiction, which includes the genres of mystery, romance, sci fi/fantasy, and westerns. And it’s safe to say I’d fit into that category but there’s some mighty fine nonfiction sitting on our shelves that deserve to be checked out (literally and figuratively).  

My go-to nonfiction recommendation is Daniel James Brown’s “Boys in the Boat,” a most fascinating history of the 1936 Olympic rowing team. It is such a heartwarming book and you’ll be reading as fast as you can as Brown recounts the Olympic race. Why would a landlocked Kansan want to read this book? Because it’s a great story and a very readable history of the time period.  

I also liked “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson — the man knows how to research topics and then write a readable account about it. This one is about the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, which is fascinating enough but then he throws in the story about Henry Holmes, one of the country’s first mass murders on record, for good measure. All of Larson’s books make for fascinating reading and you feel quite virtuous afterwards because you’ve learned so much.  

Perhaps you’re looking for something a bit lighter, in which case I’d point you in the direction of Bill Bryson. His earlier books tend to be travel memoirs — you’ve probably heard of “A Walk in the Woods” about the Appalachian Trail — but he’s moved on to other topics such as the body, Shakespeare, homes, and the summer of 1927.  

People are always interested in regional history which is why “Hell’s Half-Acre: the Untold Story of the Benders” by Susan Jonusas is never on the shelf — I have yet to read it but have heard good reviews from those who have. Set a little farther south, “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann has been a popular choice since it came out in 2017. You’ll want to read it before the movie comes out.  

Looking at my list, it leans heavily towards historical topics but our staff will happily help you find any how-to books (including cookbooks, another favorite of mine), true crime, sociology, poetry, and literary collections to name just a few. If you find yourself needing to get out of a reading rut, turning to nonfiction might be just be the best way to find something new — and then dazzle your family and friends with your new-found knowledge. 

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