We are offering select services at 38 library locations, including Central Library.


Best of 2012: Non-fiction

Updated: April 5, 2013

Behind the beautiful forevers
Boo, Katherine.
Call Number: 362.50954 B724

Winner of the 2012 National Book Award for nonfiction, Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a deftly written, creatively composed, and painstakingly researched work of narrative nonfiction that provides insight into the lives of a group of residents of Annawadi, a large, fast-growing Mumbai slum. Boo’s deference to and respect for her subjects and their stories is evident and ensures that the narrative, while often heartbreaking, is never mawkish or patronizing.

Bill Veeck : baseball's greatest maverick
Dickson, Paul.
Call Number: 796.231 V417Di

Bill Veeck was a baseball owner like none other, irreverent and often ill-dressed. Much of what is known about Veeck’s life comes from his own autobiographies (Veeck as in Wreck and The Hustler’s Handbook). Dickson pores through primary sources to come up with a picture of Veeck as he may have really been, perhaps a little more concerned with the bottom line, but still an advocate for the “little guy.”

Blue Sky Metropolis: The Aerospace Century in Southern California
Call Number: 338.4A17 B6585

The aerospace industry, more than the entertainment industry, created a monumental population growth within a short period of time and changed the Southern California region in unimagined and unthought of ways which still have repercussions today. This unique collection of essays examines various aspects of the growth of that industry and brings attention to another major aspect of the history of Los Angeles.

Books to die for : the world's greatest mystery writers on the world's greatest mystery novels
Call Number: 809.3 B7239

This is a list of the greatest mystery novels compiled by some of the greatest living mystery writers. The work is arranged chronologically by each book’s publication date, from 1841 to 2008, with essays discussing why the writer likes a particular book, how they came to read it, and more. This is a book that does not need to be read sequentially and there is a complete index of authors, combining reviewers and reviewed. A mystery/suspense lover's delight with a double-bang for the buck.

Bringing up bébé : one American mother discovers the wisdom of French parenting
Druckerman, Pamela.
Call Number: 372.1 D794

When former Wall Street Journal reporter Pamela Druckerman moves to Paris with her husband and child, she is fascinated by the way French children behave. There is no fussing at the table, no screaming or temper tantrums, infants learn to sleep through the night, and the children are anything but repressed. Some of the French ways for bringing up baby are scientific and others are cultural. A fresh look at child-rearing with some old-fashioned common sense that could result in less stress and more contentment for parents and children.

Col. William N. Selig, the man who invented Hollywood
Erish, Andrew A., 1958-
Call Number: 791.92 S465Er

Forgotten film pioneer William Selig finally gets his due, as author Erish dives into the filmmaker’s personal papers to reveal the story of the man who established the first permanent film studio in Los Angeles and set the stage for cowboy movie stars, extended feature films, and much, much more.

Consider the fork : a history of how we cook and eat
Wilson, Bee.
Call Number: 643.309 W746

This is a history of culinary technology from knives and fire to ice cream makers and microwaves. This survey of machines used to prepare food travels backwards and forwards in time, from culture to culture, in order to give the reader a wide-ranging and entertaining tour of food preparation and our attitudes towards it.

The end of your life book club
Schwalbe, Will.
Call Number: 616.994 S398

Will Schwalbe’s absorbing and heartfelt memoir recounts the last two years of his mother’s battle with cancer as they exchange and discuss a variety of books from contemporary fiction to classic literature. It speaks not only to the shared love of reading but how the discussion of literature is a language in and of itself that has the power to connect people to one another.

The entertainer : movies, magic, and my father's twentieth century
Talbot, Margaret, 1961-
Call Number: 812.092 T139Ta

Margaret Talbot, a staff writer for the New Yorker and daughter of stage, screen, and TV actor Lyle Talbot, combines her own meticulous research with the recollections of her father to paint an engaging portrait of the transformation of American popular entertainment in the 20th century.

Honky tonk girl : my life in lyrics
Lynn, Loretta.
Call Number: 789.14 L989-2

Crammed with photos from back in the day, Honky Tonk Girl recounts, in Loretta’s unmistakable voice, the stories behind some of her most celebrated songs, from 1960's “Honky Tonk Girl” to 2004’s Grammy-winning “Van Lear Rose.” Over the course of her 50-year career, Loretta has worked with everyone from Buck Owens and Tammy Wynette to Pavarotti and Jack White. If you love to get your Loretta on, you will enjoy every page.

How to cook everything : the basics : all you need to make great food
Bittman, Mark.
Call Number: 641.5 B624-1 2012

Add pasta to simmering water, instead of boiling water, and you can end up with a messy glob of starch instead of al dente or toothsome. Not to worry, let Mark Bittman show you the way through concisely written instructions and the most incredible photographs. If you want to learn the basics, or even if you think you know it all, this book is a winner!

Jerusalem : a cookbook
Ottolenghi, Yotam.
Call Number: 641.5956 O91

This is a gorgeous cookbook, not only for the color photographs and recipes, but because it pays homage to the diversity, history, and glory of a city that has endured over the centuries. Ottolenghi and Tamimi present us with the complex history of this ancient city through the historical origins of different types of foods and recipes. As in his previous books, Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi and Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi keeps bringing us recipes for exceptionally good food.

Joseph Anton : a memoir
Rushdie, Salman.
Call Number: 823 R953R

Salman Rushdie feels so disconnected from his life in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against the author of The Satanic Verses that he writes his memoirs in the third person. The book is both a memoir of the carefree existence Rushdie had prior to the Ayatollah’s death decree, and a recounting of the events after the fatwa (the title itself refers to the alias Rushdie went by during that time). Rushdie is a defiant defender of civil rights and liberties, particularly the freedom of expression.

Life after death
Echols, Damien.
Call Number: 365.973 E18

After being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and spending 18 years on Death Row, Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three was finally released in the summer of 2011. This book details, from Damien’s perspective, what it was like growing up poor in Arkansas, the murder trial that led to him being incarcerated, what life was like in prison, and how he managed to survive and hold out hope all those years. Many of the chapters are taken directly from journal entries he wrote in prison.

Hitchens, Christopher.
Call Number: 616.994 H674

Christopher Hitchens’s Mortality is a seven-essay meditation on death and illness from an avowed atheist. The work was published posthumously - Hitchens died in December 2011 from esophageal cancer.

Piecing together Los Angeles : an Esther McCoy reader
McCoy, Esther.
Call Number: 720.910941 M131
Esther McCoy was one of modern architecture's most important critics and writers. She was the first architectural critic to take Los Angeles architecture seriously. This is a new anthology which includes a variety of her work.

Prague winter : a personal story of remembrance and war, 1937-1948
Albright, Madeleine Korbel.
Call Number: 943.7 A342

An engrossing and enlightening multi-layered history of Czechoslovakia, the Albright family, and World War II, through the eyes of the Czech girl who grew up to be the first female Secretary of State. A must-read for World War II history buffs or anyone wanting to gain a clear understanding of the events and decisions that led to the war.

Roger Williams and the creation of the American soul : church, state, and the birth of liberty
Barry, John M., 1947-
Call Number: 92 W726Ba

John Barry, whose best-known work Rising Tide dealt with the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, goes much further back in time here to the early English colonization of New England. Roger Williams, a man who fled religious persecution in England only to find it even worse in the new Massachusetts colony, established Rhode Island, a new colony that truly embraced religious freedom - an idea that was almost more revolutionary than the American Revolution.

A ship without a sail : the life of Lorenz Hart
Marmorstein, Gary.
Call Number: 811 H3257Ma

In this well written and researched bio, Marmorstein examines the life of lyricist Lorenz Hart, half of one of the most highly regarded songwriting teams of the twentieth century. Along with composer Dick Rodgers, Hart turned out such classics as “My Funny Valentine,” “Blue Moon,” and “The Lady is a Tramp,” just to name a few. His lyrics reinvigorated the popular music scene between the two world wars, but the real life of Larry Hart was not a romantic tale. Painfully short, alcoholic, with a cigar always clamped in his teeth, the homosexual Hart was a gifted but troubled man. F. Scott Fitzgerald referred to him as “the poet laureate of America,” but like Fitzgerald, Hart would die young - a life too short for such a giant gift.

Swimming studies
Shapton, Leanne.
Call Number: 796.9092 S529

This stylish memoir by artist and author Leanne Shapton recounts the author’s youth spent in intense training for a spot on Canada’s Olympic swim team and the important role that swimming has played in her adult life. Shapton poetically describes the meditative, repetitious, and often painful nature of competitive athletics and draws interesting parallels to her professional practice as an artist.

Tiny beautiful things : advice on love and life from Dear Sugar
Strayed, Cheryl, 1968-
Call Number: 170 S913

Writing anonymously as Dear Sugar, the advice columnist for The Rumpus between 2010 and 2012, Cheryl Strayed earned a cult following with her compassionate, no-nonsense advice, as well as with the searing, heartfelt storytelling that would make her memoir, Wild (also published in 2012), such a hit. Whether or not you've ever been worried about your looks or your life or your future, or lost a child, or wronged a friend, or been entangled in a toxic relationship, there's truth and beauty in Strayed’s columns that will touch your heart.