Holly was once called a "nonfiction queen" and she has proudly taken up the title. Within that genre, she typically reads lesser-known history, anything social scienc-y, and memoirs. When it comes to fiction, she has a soft spot for elderly protagonists and stories that involve resilience, hope, and honesty. Recommending books is Holly's love language.
Sparse and affecting, this novel follows one Colombian family who, through fateful yet ordinary decisions, is fractured between their native Bogotá and the U.S. The story is rich with ambient language and poignant observations. In just under two hundred pages, Engel encapsulates the human toll of a bordered world and the tensions inherent in loving across distance. I was struck by the way Engel crafted the story to be both coherent and disparate, descriptive yet lean. It was as though the book’s style reflected the family’s situation. Masterfully, the novel balances heartbreaking circumstance with remarkable resilience in a way that does not reduce any character to an inspirational story. They are fiercely loyal to one another and so they press on, simply because they must.
Nearly unbelievable and quite engrossing, this book covers the covert operations of WWII’s impressive American spy Virginia Hall as she works to equip and liberate France from Nazi control through subversion and sabotage. Overcoming discrimination not only as a woman but also an amputee, Ms. Hall proved to be one of the most vital operatives of the SOE and OSS, arming rebel groups and gathering intel in Lyon and southern France. Multiple times while reading this was I utterly floored that her story is not widely known, as at times it reads like a straight-up 007 adventure. At the halfway point, enough had already happened to fill two action-packed feature films. Virginia Hall’s story is absolutely worth reading & admiring.
"I. Loved. This. Book. Gilda, the protagonist, is a wildly anxious lesbian atheist who haphazardly finds hers in a job as a secretary at a Catholic church. Gilda’s worries and thoughts make up the majority of the novel — and it’s so very good. What I loved most about it was how real the depictions of anxiety and depression are. Austin wrote Gilda’s inner monologues with deftness and humor and humanity all baked in. Kindhearted yet debilitated by both fear & apathy, Gilda makes for a maladroit heroine that must attempt to navigate the world alongside her emotional chaos."
"The best way I can describe this novel is fable-like. Miller's writing is captivating and atmospheric. As a reader, you feel wrapped up in the town's stories and the outcome of a single impulsive action. One of my favorite fiction reads to date!"
"In this remarkably powerful book written with clarity and honesty, Lacy Crawford recounts her sexual assault while at a prestigious New England boarding school and the dramatic ensuing efforts by the administration to silence her. This memoir is gripping and important. I was floored by her candor and perspicuity."
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"Fascinating history and a well-argued premise, this book is a winner, especially in the current climate. Gallagher presents a thorough and readable account of the post office, starting even before the Declaration of Independence. And curve-ball: there are daredevil characters reaching out of moving trains and flying the earliest airplanes!"
This book will leave you with your heart in your throat, tears in your eyes, and hope in spite of it all. It’s poignant, affecting, devastating, extraordinary, masterful. I struggle to outright recommend it because it’s such a unique and powerful book, but it will likely not be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, it remains one of the most moving and memorable books I have ever read.""
"A fascinating look at the 2008 crash / housing crisis as delivered by Ryan Dezember who was both reporting on real estate for the Press-Register and experiencing the rollercoaster first-hand as a homeowner on the Gulf Coast. Interspersing a well-researched report with personal anecdotes, Dezember paints a thorough picture of both the speculation frenzy and the devastation of the crash on Average Joe homeowners. This book was well-written and well-research, terrifying, and wild."
"This book is remarkable. Author Susan Abulhawa weaves an engaging story complete with complex characters and gorgeous language. The story follows Nahr, a fiery and determined Palestinian refugee, as she navigates a world that regularly devalues and displaces her kin. Her relationships are intricately woven and believable. The descriptions of Kuwait, Jordan, and Palestine are detailed and immersive. The prose is written with a deep resonance that leaves you feeling both filled and emptied all at once. It's just so good. I urge you to read it!"
"This well-written, thoroughly-researched book presents the argument that popular prison “reforms” are simply expansions of the prison industrial complex and do not ultimately make us any safer. In fact, for the most part, these alternatives reinforce existing narratives of criminality, personal responsibility, racism, and disdain for the impoverished. They convincingly show that often these solutions cause more harm than rehabilitation, layering on penalties for poverty and systemic obstacles. Ultimately, the adoption of these alternatives expands the net of incarceration, with a narrow, unimaginative focus on control and confinement over true justice and holistic healing. The book is rife with compelling examples. People are left with limited choices, no support, basic needs unmet, and significant stigma, then expected to rebuild their lives or maintain a functioning position in society. This paradigm is broken and unfair. In the final chapter, Schenwar and Law offer a broader vision for moving beyond alternatives, championing community-based interventions and a societal shift from being punishment-oriented to being liberation- and healing-oriented. This book is worth your time. Michelle Alexander wrote the foreword and Angela Davis endorsed it, so if you don’t take it from me, take it from them."
"This affecting novel follows Gifty, an Alabaman daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her passion stems in part from her brother's death as a teenager due to an overdose. The story is slow-moving, reflective, and tenderly poignant. Gifty spends much of her time attempting to find a bearable balance between her faith and her profession. She struggles with the questions that plague her — first as a girl in youth group, implacable by platitudes but desperately eager to be good, then as a scientist, guarded yet drawn to the beautiful, comforting mystery of belief. Gyasi found a way to engrossingly bring us along on the introspective journey of an earnest, thoughtful, brilliant woman sorting through her pain and grasping at hope."
"Giridharadas covers the philanthropy of the wealthy elite and how in many ways it maintains rather than challenges the status quo. The charity world often turns the rich into heroes without addressing root issues. Giridharadas is a fantastic writer, and I recommend this book all the time."
"This book covers the under-celebrated women who are responsible for one of the most world-changing technologies in our lifetime: the internet. Covering both the physical hardware & the development of internet culture, Claire Evans does a remarkable job shining a light on the women who solved problems, organized information, and envisioned new uses for the nascent technology. I was entranced & fascinated!"
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"As a big fan of memoirs, this is one of my top 10 I've ever read. Both incredibly informative and remarkably reflective, Camas Davis offers a compelling account of her induction into ethical butchery and its coincident timing with some major transitions in her personal life. Also, a good chunk of this book takes part in rural France, and it's totally atmospheric and made me want to fly to the farm and lounge with the whole motley crew."
Winner, James Beard Award for Best Book in Vegetable-Focused Cooking
Named a Best Cookbook of the Year by the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Bon Appétit, Food Network Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, USA Today, Seattle Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Library Journal, Eater, and more
"Addario writes with clarity about a job that is both meaningful & all-consuming, offering an unglamorous but heartfelt portrait about her life as a conflict photographer. Throughout, she muses on the lessons she learned about the world and herself along the way. This is a memoir that has everything you want: adventure, cultural reckoning, honesty, and reflection."
"An incredibly thoughtful and practical guide to structuring your time and resources to make an impact in whatever areas matter to you. Authors Tammy and Christen do not rely on platitudes or vague statements, but rather, drawing on their own experiences as nonprofit leaders, help readers develop a clear plan for how to make a difference. I'd recommend it to anyone who has the desire to shape the world in some way but is overwhelmed about how to do so most effectively. It'd make an excellent grad gift, too, as we approach that season!"
"I just loved this book. Girl, Woman, Other follows the stories of twelve loosely connected, wildly diverse Black women throughout the UK as they navigate life's ups and downs. The experience of reading it felt like being at a huge dinner party where everyone knows and loves each other and is telling overlapping stories with lots of laughter. The writing style is like nothing I've ever read before with train-of-thought run-on sentences that really accentuates the storytelling vibe. I was sad when it was over!"
"I thought this book was utterly delightful. It's slow and soft, charming in a way that is unique to stories that feature inter-generational relationships. It'd be a great pick for folks who enjoyed A Man Called Ove or Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. I laughed and I cried and I was sad when it was over."
"A remarkable, essential book that will certainly become one of my top anti-racist education recommendations. Hamad writes with extraordinary clarity and thoughtfulness, exposing the persistent systemic oppression of women of color and the intentionally cultivated cultural disdain for anything that even remotely threatens white supremacy. Would pair very well with Ijeoma Oluo's Mediocre."
This memoir-infused essay collection offers a candid, incisive reflection on a variety of topics related to art, Asian American identity, performance, and relationship. It is obvious when reading this book that Hong’s primary medium is poetry. Along with sentences steeped intention, rich vocabulary permeates each chapter and gives the personal, thoughtful reflections an urgency and intensity that makes this book particularly remarkable. A relatively short book by page count, Hong wastes not a word throughout the collection. Excellent choice for readers of The Undocumented Americans.
This cookbook is a total gem! Andrea Bemis challenged herself to cook using only ingredients sourced within 200 miles of her home. Through that experience, she developed some hyperlocal recipes that celebrate her immediate geography. She offers adaptations for wherever you are located, noting what ingredients to swap and what can be improvised. The squash Gorgonzola butter recipe is insanely delicious.