Nonfiction Book Picks | Alissa Wolenetz, Library Director

I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately, so I thought I would pass along a few recent recommendations. These books are great windows into other times and places. They left me interested in subjects I’d never really thought of before. 

Right now, I’m reading “How to Be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life” by Ruth Goodman. It’s a lovely glimpse into what life was like over 100 years ago. I’ve been reading this book to relax before bedtime, but it’s surprisingly thrilling. I never knew I could be so invested in Victorian soap, or so fascinated by how changes in cloth production drove fashion innovation, or so horrified by the state of Victorian toilets. 

I also just started another page-turner, “Aloha Rodeo: Three Hawaiian Cowboys, the World’s Greatest Rodeo, and a Hidden History of the American West” by David Wolman and Julian Smith. It follows the history of ranching and rodeo in Hawaii. I’m not very far in yet – I’ve learned a little about how cattle came to be in Hawaii, and I’ve just gotten to the establishment of the first ranches – but it looks like a very promising book so far. 

The last nonfiction book I finished was “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law” by Mary Roach. It’s an engaging book on animal control practices around the world. I can’t say I agree with all of Roach’s ideas, but I can say that her book was an interesting look into how different cultures handle animal problems. 

My favorite of all the nonfiction I’ve read this year so far is “The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece” by Laura Cumming. It’s a wild story about an 1800s print shop owner who thought he purchased a lost painting by Velázquez, a Spanish artist from the 1600s whose works are rare and often very expensive. This book was beautiful and tragic in turns, and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in art or good stories. 

You can find all these and more at your local library!

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