Each week, Bookstr scans bestseller lists across the internet to learn what people are reading, buying, gifting, and talking about most — just so we can ensure consistent, high-quality recommendations. This week’s nonfiction picks center around the theme of current best-sellers, showcasing what nonfiction books are the biggest hits with audiences! Pick these up to see what everyone is talking about!
5. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Image Via Amazon
The Good Immigrantis an anthology of stories reflecting on the current state of immigrants and their relationship to America. The United States is consumed by hostile rhetoric over who is welcome across its borders and it seems that everyone’s rights are under attack. In this anthology, numerous writers offer stories about their cultural heritage and their complicated stories in the midst of this crisis. From analyzing cultural appropriation, to a detailing one author’s journey from Nigeria to America, and another author reconnecting with their Korean roots, these stories are emotional, tear jerking, but mandatory for anyone to read in this age.
4. The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’meara
Image via Amazon
The Lady From the Black Lagoonby Mallory O’Meara examines the forgotten history of one of Hollywood’s best talents, a woman who was discriminated against and lost to history despite creating one of the most iconic monsters of all time. This is the story of Milicent Patrick, who was one of Disney’s first female animators and created The Creature From the Black Lagoon, a monster that became a staple of Universal’s library of nasties next to Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. O’Meara sheds light on the history of Milicent Patrick, uncovering her early beginnings to her career in Hollywood, giving the woman the legacy she’s deserved for years.
3. The Sakura obsession by Naoko Abe
Image via Amazon
The Sakura Obsessionby Naoko Abe tells the true story of how an English eccentric saved Japan’s cherry blossoms from extinction. Collingwood Ingram visited Japan numerous times in the early 1900s, but by 1926 he was horrified to find the flowers were in sharp decline. Determined not to lose them, Ingram’s story chronicles how he used specimens he had taken to England and ferried them back to Japan, reintroducing them to the land and allowing them to flourish. A history of both cherry blossoms and a crazy English man with one hell of an obsession, this work is for any flower or history lover out there.
2. Surviving the Forestby Adiva Geffen
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Surviving the Forest tells the true tale of a Jewish holocaust survivor from WWII, known as Shurka, who lived a quiet, lovely existence in Poland. But then, World War II broke out and the Germans invaded Shurka’s hometown. She was taken to a Jewish ghetto, where the Nazis were taking Jews to concentration camps, never to be seen again. Managing to escape the camp with her family, Shurka ends up in the dark forest wilderness of Poland. This is her story of survival, avoiding not only German patrols but the world around her, from wild animals, to natural hazards, to starvation. This is a remarkable work that isn’t easy to read but showcases one woman’s tenacity for survival in the darkest of circumstances.
1. Furious Hours by Casey Cep
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Furious Hoursby Casey Cep uncovers the mystery surrounding beloved writer Harper Lee and the events that led to her beginning to write a true crime book in the vein of her childhood friend Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. A reverend named Willie Maxwell was acquitted for the murder of a family of five before being shot dead himself. Harper Lee in later years was trying to write another book and chose the reverend as the central character of a nonfiction book about the murders. The case is told in three sections, the first part about Maxwell, the second about his lawyer that helped him avoid justice, and the third about Harper Lee herself trying to write about his case. This book not only offers research into a murder mystery but paints an evocative portrait of Lee herself, chronicling her life, her success, and her slow decline as she struggled with fame. This is a wonderfully researched work, full of brilliant detail that doesn’t leave a stone unturned.
Happy anniversary to The Great Gatsby! Written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this seminal work was published on this day (April 10th) in 1925, at the height of the Roaring Twenties. Fitzgerald’s novel takes place in the fictional towns of West and East Egg in Long Island, centering around the mysterious billionaire Jay Gatsby as told from the point of view of character Nick Carraway. The novel’s themes harshly critique the decadence of the American lifestyle, deconstructing idealism, social upheaval, hedonism, and resistance to change to reveal Gatsby’s story to be more tragic than aspirational, a cautionary tale about the American Dream itself. Masterfully written, the novel is considered a classic today for its themes, intimate portrait of the characters, and flowing prose.
Image Via Wikipedia
But the American dream was as elusive for Fitzergald as it is for Gatsby: initially, the author’s master work looked like more of a mistake. The book sold poorly upon its release and received mix to negative reviews. Fitzgerald himself died young in 1940, sadly believing that his book was a failure. Of course, the story wasn’t over, even if Fitzgerald’s was. The Great Gatsby received a resurgence in popularity during World War II and today is considered a contender for the Great American Novel. Doubtless you’ve read it in high school, and hopefully, you liked it.
Gatsby has been adapted several times, its most famous ones being two big screen movies in 1974 and 2013. The former starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow while the latter starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, and Tobey Maguire. Although both received mixed reviews, the latter was a massive box office success. Cheers to that!
Happy birthday, The Great Gatsby. We’ll send you off with an appropriate GIF…
March was Women’s History Month—but, while we appreciate the sentiment, we also know that women make history every month. In the entire world, men outnumber women only slightly, with a ratio of 102 men to every 100 women. We also know (or should know) that, in certain region, the infanticide of female children has impacted this figure. In the United States, women outnumber men. And yet, women’s stories are frequently placed into their own categories. Women’s stories are frequently deemed less universal. This week, we delve deeply into those stories: the professional, the political, and the historic. So often, women’s stories are all three of these things at once. (Let’s just note that these stories in particular share one more important quality—they’re damn good reads.)
So, although it may be April, here are Bookstr’s Three to Read: Women’s History edition. Why? Because we know it matters!
our HOT PICK:
Trailblazing food writer and beloved restaurant critic Ruth Reichl took the risk (and the job) of a lifetime when she entered the glamorous, high-stakes world of magazine publishing. Now, for the first time, she chronicles her groundbreaking tenure as editor in chief of Gourmet, during which she spearheaded a revolution in the way we think about food.
When Condé Nast offered Ruth Reichl the top position at America’s oldest epicurean magazine, she declined. She was a writer, not a manager, and had no inclination to be anyone’s boss. And yet . . . Reichl had been reading Gourmet since she was eight; it had inspired her career. How could she say no?
This is the story of a former Berkeley hippie entering the corporate world and worrying about losing her soul. It is the story of the moment restaurants became an important part of popular culture, a time when the rise of the farm-to-table movement changed, forever, the way we eat. Readers will meet legendary chefs like David Chang and Eric Ripert, idiosyncratic writers like David Foster Wallace, and a colorful group of editors and art directors who, under Reichl’s leadership, transformed stately Gourmet into a cutting-edge publication. This was the golden age of print media–the last spendthrift gasp before the Internet turned the magazine world upside down.
Complete with recipes, Save Me the Plums is a personal journey of a woman coming to terms with being in charge and making a mark, following a passion and holding on to her dreams–even when she ends up in a place she never expected to be.
Women never have to apologize for their success. So it’s complicated to realize that we are often expected to. This book is a fascinating look at the career trajectory of an accomplished professional at the height of her power. Ruth Reichl asserts herself and her capabilities as she takes on a massive leadership role with talent and personality, inspiring all readers to not only live their dreams but also CRUSH them. Beyond the feminist elements of Reichl’s boss rise to success, Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoiris a colorful story of big-time creative professionals, sure to add plenty of flavor (bad pun, accurate description) to your reading list. Reichl has also written a number of other successful books that draw upon her relationship with food, including the successful Delicious!: A Novel. As a bonus, this cover design is especially inventive—we look at the tantalizing first page of an open, glossy magazine, a nod to Reichl’s role in Gourmet that perfectly captures the feeling of such a prestigious publication. Also, we love food. We assume you feel the same.
our COFFEE SHOP READ:
The dramatic true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade–codename Hedgehog–the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days.
In 1941, a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour became the leader of a vast Resistance organization–the only woman to hold such a role. Brave, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. Marie-Madeleine’s codename was Hedgehog.
No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence as Alliance–and as a result, the Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including her own lover and many of her key spies. Fourcade had to move her headquarters every week, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, yet was still imprisoned twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape, once by stripping naked and forcing her thin body through the bars of her cell. The mother of two young children, Marie-Madeleine hardly saw them during the war, so entirely engaged was she in her spy network, preferring they live far from her and out of harm’s way.
In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson tells the tense, fascinating story of Fourcade and Alliance against the background of the developing war that split France in two and forced its citizens to live side by side with their hated German occupiers.
Culturally, we’re fascinated with female spies and operatives: consider the sheer number of listicles starring Hedy Lamarr, film actress, inventor, and WWII radio operator. Perhaps its appeal comes from something inherent in the subversion of gender roles. War is a man’s game, pop culture and history dictates. But, if that were true, why are women so good at playing? The reality is that men are frequently the ones writing the history they populate, removing the narratives of these compelling women. In Madame Fourcade’s Secret War, Lynne Olson explores the multifaceted life of a fascinating woman—a woman whose motherhood (and womanhood) does not make her any less of a Nazi-fighting badass. Olson is a prolific writer of non-fiction, and you don’t have to take my word for it: former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dubbed Olson “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.”
OUR DARK HORSE:
Based on exclusive interviews and access to the Supreme Court archives, this is the intimate, inspiring, and authoritative biography of America’s first female Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor- by New York Times bestselling author Evan Thomas.
She was born in 1930 in El Paso and grew up on a cattle ranch in Arizona. At a time when women were expected to be homemakers, she set her sights on Stanford University. When she graduated near the top of her class at law school in 1952, no firm would even interview her. But Sandra Day O’Connor’s story is that of a woman who repeatedly shattered glass ceilings–doing so with a blend of grace, wisdom, humor, understatement, and cowgirl toughness.
She became the first-ever female majority leader of a state senate. As a judge on the Arizona State Court of Appeals, she stood up to corrupt lawyers and humanized the law. When she arrived at the Supreme Court, appointed by Reagan in 1981, she began a quarter-century tenure on the court, hearing cases that ultimately shaped American law. Diagnosed with cancer at fifty-eight, and caring for a husband with Alzheimer’s, O’Connor endured every difficulty with grit and poise.
Women and men today will be inspired by how to be first in your own life, how to know when to fight and when to walk away, through O’Connor’s example. This is a remarkably vivid and personal portrait of a woman who loved her family and believed in serving her country, who, when she became the most powerful woman in America, built a bridge forward for the women who followed her.
It’s a rare biography that fully juxtaposes the human with the historic, the personal with the political. The New Yorker contributor Evan Thomas‘ First: Sandra Day O’Connoris one such work… and it’s worth putting first on your reading list. While the biography may center around O’Connor’s professional accomplishments, it also portrays her as a complex person. All of us craving that Game of Thrones content (specifically, the gossip and artifice of power dynamics) will feel the hypnotic pull of the Supreme Court’s political intrigue… without as much of the baggage of contemporary political discourse. There’s an inherent (if slightly voyeuristic) appeal in looking at the secret side of stories we’ve seen play out on the news, people we’ve seen on television made whole and complete. Thomas grants us access to rivalries hidden from the media, to the intimate accounts of friends and colleagues. This biography captures that same appeal of reality television—just with fewer beach hookups and parking lot fights. (By ‘fewer,’ we mean absolutely none. Just to clarify.)
The Costa Book Awards are a unique combination of prestige and populism, their esteem recognized throughout the world. The aim of these awards is to honor serious literary achievement while also recognizing books that spread the joy of reading to as broad an audience as possible. Their consideration of the general public-not just the literary elite-is their main distinction from the Booker Prize. Named for their sponsor, Costa Coffee, the awards honor authors who have resided in the UK or Ireland for at least six months in each of the past three years.
Image Via Waterstones
There are five total award categories: novel, first novel, children’s book, poetry, and biography. When deciding its Book of the Year, the Costa Book Awards’ panel of judges (all professionals in the field of literature, from authors to editors to bookstore owners) chooses from one of the five winners. The 2018 winners garnered serious media buzz: Sally Rooney‘s Normal Peoplewon attention, acclaim, and the Costa Novel Award. At twenty-seven, Rooney is the youngest Costa Award-winner. With such an impressive lineup, it’s with great honor that the Costa Awards acknowledge Bart van Es‘ Holocaust survivor biography, The Cut Out Girl.
Lien de Jong, Holocaust survivor
Image Via Penguin UK
The biography follows the life of Lien de Jong, a Holocaust survivor now in her 80s. At the age of nine, the young Jewish girl found refuge with van Es’ grandparents after her own parents were condemned to Auschwitz. When Lien later estranged herself from the family, van Es committed himself to finding out why. Van Es was the only person to whom Lien would tell her story. “Nobody spoke about it during the war or after the war… The time before that, I had no words. I never thought I had a story,” she confessed, “but Bart wrote it down and it was a story.” De Jong was present at the ceremony.
Biographer van Es and subject de Jong
Image Via The Times
Since receiving the prize, van Es has spoken on the book’s timeliness and value:
There’s a scary way in which anti-Semitism and extreme nationalism and conspiracy theories are around in a way they weren’t 10 years ago. But also another way in which it is quite a healing book.
The book has thus far sold around 6,000 copies. Do you plan to give this one a try?
Image Via Amazon
The extraordinary true story of a young Jewish girl in Holland during World War II, who hides from the Nazis in the homes of an underground network of foster families, one of them the author’s grandparents.
Bart van Es left Holland for England many years ago, but one story from his Dutch childhood never left him. It was a mystery of sorts: a young Jewish girl named Lientje had been taken in during the war by relatives and hidden from the Nazis, handed over by her parents, who understood the danger they were in all too well. The girl had been raised by her foster family as one of their own, but then, well after the war, there was a falling out, and they were no longer in touch. What was the girl’s side of the story, Bart wondered? What really happened during the war, and after?
So began an investigation that would consume Bart van Es’s life, and change it. After some sleuthing, he learned that Lientje was now in her 80s and living in Amsterdam. Somewhat reluctantly, she agreed to meet him, and eventually they struck up a remarkable friendship, even a partnership. The Cut Out Girl braids together a powerful recreation of that intensely harrowing childhood story of Lientje’s with the present-day account of Bart’s efforts to piece that story together, including bringing some old ghosts back into the light.