2013 Recommended Reads from UW Madison Librarians
From the 2013 UW--Madison Librarians' Assembly Annual Book-Sharing Event, comes a master list of fiction & non-fiction recommendations! This is straight from the librarians' mouths, you guys.
The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir by Kao Kalia Yang | In search of a place to call home, thousands of Hmong families made the journey from the war-torn jungles of Laos to the overcrowded refugee camps of Thailand and onward to America. But lacking a written language of their own, the Hmong experience has been primarily recorded by others. Driven to tell her family’s story after her grandmother’s death, this is Yang’s tribute to the remarkable woman whose spirit held them all together.
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson | Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. This book is a wonderful and witty tour of the evolution of cooking around the world, revealing the hidden history of everyday objects we often take for granted.
Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World by Sharon Waxman | For the past two centuries, the West has been plundering the treasures of the ancient world to fill its great museums, but in recent years, the countries where ancient civilizations originated have begun to push back, taking museums to court, prosecuting curators, and threatening to force the return of these priceless objects. Loot opens a new window on an enduring conflict.
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail - But Some Don't by Nate Silver | Silver observes that the most accurate forecasters tend to have a superior command of probability, and they tend to be both humble and hardworking. They distinguish the predictable from the unpredictable, and they notice a thousand little details that lead them closer to the truth. Because of their appreciation of probability, they can distinguish the signal from the noise.
You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers | Heather Sellers has prosopagnosia, a rare neurological condition that prevents her from reliably recognizing people's faces. Growing up, unaware of the reason for her perpetual confusion & anxiety, she took what cues she could from speech, hairstyle, & gait. She feared she must be crazy. Two decades later, she took the man she would marry home to meet her parents and began to discover the truth about her family and about herself.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson | It begins with a simple ritual: Every Saturday afternoon, a boy who loves to cook walks to his grandmother’s house and helps her prepare a roast chicken for dinner. The grandmother is Swedish, a retired domestic. The boy is Ethiopian and adopted, and he will grow up to become the world-renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations.
The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt's Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer by Anne-Marie O'Connor | O'Connor tells the galvanizing story of the Lady in Gold, Adele Bloch-Bauer, a dazzling Viennese Jewish society figure; daughter of the head of one of the largest banks in the Hapsburg Empire, head of the Oriental Railway, whose Orient Express went from Berlin to Constantinople; wife of Ferdinand Bauer, sugar-beet baron.
The Rape of Europa: The Fate of Europe's Treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War by Lynn H. Nicholas | From the Nazi purges of "Degenerate Art" and Goering's shopping sprees in occupied Paris to the perilous journey of the Mona Lisa from Paris and the painstaking reclamation of the priceless treasures of liberated Italy, The Rape of Europa is a sweeping narrative of greed, philistinism, and heroism that combines superlative scholarship with a compelling drama.
The Last Conquest of Ireland (perhaps) by John Mitchel | Mitchel's account of the Repeal campaign, the Famine and the 1848 Rising, which originally appeared in Mitchel's Tennessee-based newspaper. The Southern Citizen. Mitchel was a significant and controversial figure. Last Conquest is well known in Famine debates for its claim that the Famine was a deliberate act of genocide by the British government.
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham | In this magnificent biography, the Pulitzer Prize–winning author brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. This book gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power.
Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff | Redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, but Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. Instead, LeDuff shares a deeply human drama of colossal greed, ignorance, endurance, and courage. Detroit is an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer—and a black comic tale of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century.
The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England by Dan Jones | The first Plantagenet king inherited a blood-soaked kingdom from the Normans and transformed it into an empire stretched at its peak from Scotland to Jerusalem. In this epic history, Dan Jones vividly resurrects this fierce and seductive royal dynasty and its mythic world.
Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch | Ben Hatch is on the road again. Commissioned to write a guidebook about France (despite not speaking any French) he sets off with visions of relaxing chateaux and refined dining. Ten thousand miles later his family's been attacked by a donkey, had a run-in with a death-cult and, after a near drowning and a calamitous wedding experience involving a British spy, his own marriage is in jeopardy.
Are We Nearly There Yet? : 8,000 Misguided Miles round Britain in a Vauxhall Astra by Ben Hatch | They were bored, broke, burned out, and turning 40. So when Ben and his wife Dinah were approached to write a guidebook about family travel, they embraced the open road, ignoring friends' warnings: "One of you will come back chopped up in a bin bag in the roof box." It's a story about love, death, falling out, moving on, and growing up.
After Visiting Friends: A Son's Story by Michael Hainey | Michael Hainey had just turned six when his father was found alone near his car on Chicago’s North Side, dead, of an apparent heart attack. Died “after visiting friends,” the obituaries said. But the details beyond that were inconsistent. This book is the story of a son who goes in search of the truth and finds not only his father, but a rare window into a world of men and newspapers and fierce loyalties that no longer exists.
Bough Down by Karen Green | With fearlessness and grace, Bough Down reports from deep inside the maelstrom of grief. In this profoundly beautiful and intensely moving lament, artist and writer Karen Green conjures the inscrutable space of love and loss, clarity and contradiction, sense and madness. She summons memory and the machination of the interior mind with the emotional acuity of music as she charts her passage through the devastation of her husband's suicide.
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin | How Abraham Lincoln soothed egos, turned rivals into allies, and dealt with many challenges to his leadership, all for the sake of the greater good, is largely what Goodwin's fine book is about. Had he not possessed the wisdom and confidence to select and work with the best people, she argues, he could not have led the nation through one of its darkest periods.
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race around the World by Matthew Goodman | On November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly, a crusading young female reporter, left New York City by steamship on a quest to break the record for the fastest trip around the world. Also departing from NY that day—and heading in the opposite direction by train—was a young journalist named Elizabeth Bisland. Each was determined to outdo Jules Verne’s fictional hero and circle the globe in under 80 days.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell | The most successful may not be the smartest or hardest working. Shift rather to where they are from. What is their culture, family, generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing? Where and when were they born? From Asian math students to the British Beatles, stereotypes can be addressed through different eyes.
The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert, M. Edsel and Bret Witter | At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, he had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy. A special force of American and British museum directors, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 by William Dalrymple | From the prizewinning historian, a masterly retelling of the first Afghan war, perhaps the West's greatest imperial disaster in the East: an important parable of neocolonial ambition and cultural collision, folly, and hubris.
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson | Based on years of intensive primary document research, this book definitively overturns received wisdom on how the modern Middle East was formed. Sweeping in its action, keen in its portraiture, acid in its condemnation of the destruction wrought by European colonial plots, this is a book that brilliantly captures the way in which the folly of the past creates the anguish of the present.
The Uglies (series) by Scott Westerfeld | Tally is about to turn 16, and she can't wait. In Tally's world, your 16th birthday brings an operation that turns you from an "ugly" into a stunningly attractive "pretty" and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. But Tally's friend would rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn't very pretty.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein | A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun. When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.