Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Let's continue exploring the best, or what the Los Angeles Times calls the most important, books of the past year. 2016 was a majestic year for fiction and non-fiction; take a look at some non-fiction titles chosen by NY Times, Washington Post, Wall St. Journal, and LA Times critics. 

Find these titles at the Monrovia Public Library!

Susan Faludi until recently has been best known for her book Backlash about feminism. She returned with the much-lauded personal story In the Darkroom. Having been estranged from her difficult father for years, Ms. Faludi was surprised to receive communication from this man whom she always saw as a dark presence. He had completed gender reassignment surgery and was no longer Steven and was now Stefanie. Faludi backs up her family saga with great research and the book delves into concepts of family and identity.

History readers will love the e-book Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, A Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill, which chronicles a little-known event in the life of a man about whom much has been written. Author Candice Millard did deep research and read many biographies of Churchill to tell the little known story of how this ambitious and self-confident man was captured in South Africa in 1899 and then performed a daring escape through enemy territory.

One of the books of the year and much sited as giving background to the recent presidential election Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis is about the decline of white working class Americans. Author J.D. Vance tells the story of his poverty-stricken Appalachian family that is riddled by alcoholism, addiction and family troubles and how it failed to enter the middle-class. Vance, who rose to graduate from Yale writes with insight, elegance and humor in his debut book. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


2016 was a majestic year for fiction and non-fiction. Let’s take a look at some of the non-fiction titles chosen by NY Times, Washington Post, Wall St. Journal and LA Times critics.  Find these titles at the Monrovia Public Library! 

Siddhartha Mukherjee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, continues to draw kudos with his second title The Gene: An Intimate History. The Gene is a saga about the discovery of genes, how they operate and the pursuit to manipulate them. Mukherjee also includes a fascinating genetic investigation into his own family. The science, the scientists and the ethics of genetic research are all present in this masterful work by an exceptional writer.

Siddhartha Mukherjee's The Gene

 So much has been written about the intelligence of primates, but The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman reveals that our avian friends are not bird brains. Instead they are smart, tool-using creatures. The author wisely mixes science with fascinating tidbits to make this a marvelously readable book. You will never think of birds, particularly crows, in the same way.

Jennifer Ackerman's The Genius of Birds

Climate change denial and the drive to stop income equality are just two of the topics researched in Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer. The author examines how wealthy business people, like the Koch brothers, have used their money and political beliefs to try to influence politicians and legislation.  The author is a seasoned journalist and this book has been called remarkable and an essential book for all Americans to read.

Jane Mayer's Dark Money