The best books of the year, as selected by Los Angeles Public Library staff. For more book lists and featured book reviews, check LAPL Reads.
Woody Allen's memoir is in two parts. The first half of the book is an illuminating, literary depiction of the author's childhood in Brooklyn and his early career in the entertainment industry. The second half of the book is a gossipy, backbiting chronicle of Mr. Allen's career as a film director and life as a celebrity.
By looking at the life, struggles and work of James Baldwin, Princeton professor Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., reminds us that the fight for equitable change is always with us. Baldwin's brilliant insights are matched by Glaude's brilliant ability to bring new light to old problems, and that complacency and weariness are not acceptable.
This is a compelling examination of America's history of racism and injustice through the lens of caste systems, comparing American society to caste systems of Indian and Nazi Germany. The connections are startling, disturbing,awakening and offer us a different framework and vocabulary to come to terms with the fractures in our society today.
André Leon Talley is one of the best educated fashion journalists, who has been analyzing and reporting about fashion for over 40 years. And, he has seen it all, and then some. Without pettiness or anger, he melds memoir and fashion history.
A playful history of what makes Los Angeles unique. This looks at the cultural, economic, technological, social anomalies and literature of the City of Angels. From surf-girls to the Manson murders to JPL.
What are cowboys, with stables, horses, and riding gear, doing in the city? These friends are doing good things for themselves and the community, by putting the kibosh on racial and neighborhood stereotypes, and instilling a sense of purpose and pride in children, teens, and adults.
David Shariatmadari takes us on a tour of what the study of linguistics tells us about language in this fascinating book that is written for the non-linguist’s enjoyment.
Thomas E. Ricks takes us back to the founding of our country, and even further back--to the thoughts, concepts and works of the Greeks and Romans. The first four Presidents had foundational knowledge of the ancient classics, and Ricks examines how each man was influenced by thos works.
A book that is as unusual in format and style as is its subject, Octavia Butler. This work is based on the research done by Lynell George, who had access to Butler's archive of more than 300 boxes, housed at The Huntington Library. Butler saved so much, and there are clues to the history of her life, how she created, and what it was like to be a woman of color during her time. The timing of this book's publishing is a match for the incredible work being done at the Los Angeles Public Library's Octavia Lab.
Tina Turner is known as the Queen of Rock 'n Roll, but for this reader she is also the ultimate Queen of Survival 'n Success. Having overcome poverty, spousal abuse, racism and multiple personal tragedies, she turned her professional and personal life around. In this book, she offers guidance and hope for everyone who feels they want and deserve something better out of life.
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is indefatigable and not at all ready to retire, as she reflects on her life, her work, the state of our country and the world.
The Turnabout Theatre was a unique theatrical experience, and its creators, ensemble of actors, writers and other artists were equally unique and talented. There is a wealth of history in this book about a Los Angeles theatrical gem. The Turnabout Theatre archive is kept at the Los Angeles Public Library's Central Library, and is the resource for the book and an exhibit that was planned for April 2020. For now, you can see the exhibit virtually, and it is absolutely fabulous! For aficionados of Los Angeles, for theatre lovers, and everyone else, the book is a great holiday gift and can be purchased at the Library Foundation's Library Store.
Friend, advisor, sidekick and writer, Mark Salter reminds us about the life of a very decent man, John McCain, whose life encompassed many lives. "The luckiest man on earth," is how McCain felt about his own life that was full of adventures and misadventures, gains and losses, good and bad decisions, but always moving forward to better serve the country he loved.
Poet and writer Nikki Giovanni's insights and words are as sharp and precise as ever. She speaks truth not only to power, but to all of us, and in language that is clear, bold and cannot be misconstrued.
James Beard is the doyenne of American cooking and cuisine. The James Beard Award is given out annually, and there is a James Beard Foundation. Behind the ebullient and happy demeanor, there was sadness and secrets. This is the first in-depth biography of the man who put American cuisine on the world map.
To create good bread that has texture, substance and flavor has been the goal of Marc Vetri. This master baker and award-winning chef shows us how to achieve the same results at home that he has done for many years as a professional.
The most articulated expression of Asian-American -- to be clear, specifically of East Asian descent -- anxiety, and how to transform this anxiety into a palpable bridge to other oppressed groups and true self-liberation. Cast off the shackles of capitalist drive at the expense of the moral and political. Yes, yes, yes!
International journalist Clarissa Ward has reported from every major battle front, natural disaster and troubled spot all over the world. Part memoir and commentary on what it is like to be among the few women who do this kind of reporting and what motivates these journlists to do this type of dangerous work.
This is not a book for the faint of heart, but is a much-needed investigation into the lives of women who are the victims of international wars and conflicts. Even though there have been significant gains in women's rights, it is only recently that rape as a weapon of war has been internationally acknowledged. Rape used as a weapon to intimidate, to silence, to coerce women and young girls into submission, and the after effects on survivors are what Christina Lamb writes about.
Former President Barack Obama's memoir is his most revealing and honest look at his personal and professional life. He writes openly about his wife and daughters and how being President affected all their lives. Most importantly he expresses his concerns for the future of the United States and the world.
MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff traces the heart-rending history of family separations at the southern border. What will surely go down as one of the biggest scandals of the Trump administration is presented in both macro and micro levels for a disturbing portrayal of migrant and asylum-seeking families being torn apart, sometimes permanently, in a bid to dissuade further families' attempts to enter the United States.
The title is a riff on Joan Didion's Slouching towards Bethlehem, and is an homage to the insightful work of a great journalist, essayist and novelist.
In Allie Brosh’s follow-up to her bestseller Hyperbole and a Half, she uses a deft combination of humor and empathy to delve into her grief, mental health struggles, and occasionally absurd coping mechanisms. While interweaving text and drawings Brosh works through her relationships with strange children, strange dogs, and her own strange psyche. This book is unique in format and could be considered a graphic novel.
With his signature wit, Lavery details his journey through transition. There are hilarious modernist-meets-Western-European-Classics-inspired spins on literature, fairy tales, and American TV culture (e.g., Dirtbag Sappho and transmasculine relationships in the Addams Family). Newer are the Biblical analyses and personal passages directly addressing Lavery's personal odyssey, all of which are illuminating, and dare I say it--hopeful?
Noé Álvarez is a writer, a runner, and the son of Mexican immigrant parents descended from the indigenous Purépecha people. Raised in Yakima, Washington, he is the first-time author of thus memoir. As a disillusioned, nineteen-year-old first-generation college student, he left school, seeking deeper meaning and fellowship, to run with other Native Americans in a grueling relay run called the Peace and Dignity Journeys (PDJ). During months of running across America, anywhere from 10-30 miles a day, he learned to connect with himself, with the land and with Indigenous communities from Canada to Guatemala. His own memories are intertwined with the stories and struggles of his parents and the other PDJ runners, seeking healing from their painful pasts.
An absorbing account chronicling the dismantling of the Mexican American community of Chavez Ravine that paved the way for Dodger Stadium. Nusbaum revives the shady dealings and power players that have become part of L.A. lore, but his decision to focus on a single Chavez Ravine family instills a sense of humanity in this vivid and engrossing narrative.
Pulitzer Prize-winning, married, international correspondents, Kristof and Wudunn, focus on the United States. They visit the rural Oregon community where Kristof grew up, and many other communities across the country, to chronicle the lives of places rife with economic and spiritual despair. Kristof and Wudunn offer an empathetic portrait of working class Americans struggling to survive.
John Brennan, former CIA Director, comes clean about his early life as the son of an Irish immigrant, his curiosity, rebellious behavior and demeanor (he once had a diamond earring and rode a motorcyle), and his rise through governmental ranks to become a trusted keeper of America's security in a very dangerous world.
Karla Cornejo Villavicenco was one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard. She writes lovingly about her family, friends and otherts who have come to this country in search of the American Dream, trying to escape from violence and hopelessness in other countries. With her personal knowledge and experience about the sacrifices that are made, she writes about the mental and physical damage that undocumented people endure for a better life and future.
At the time of the Watergate investigation, she became known as "the girl" in the mini-skirts. Woman, attorney and legal analyst, Jill Wine Banks gives us the inside scoop about the investigation and eventual prosecution of those who were involved in the Watergate crimes. The legal calculations and strategies provide insights into what goes into these major prosecutions. It was beyond three-dimensional chess, where legal contingencies were weighed against pending indictments and testimony. Add to this, Ms. Wine Banks' experiences as to what it was like being the only "girl" who was a lawyer on the team.
If there are some people who need a reason to get outside and do some gardening, then this is the book for you. Sue Stuart-Smith presents well-documented scientific evidence about the benefits of gardening. For those who are home gardeners, this book will validate their addiction.
Ariana Neumann grew up as the daughter of a very successful businessman in Venezuela. Time stopped at her father's willingness to talk about his past life in Europe, but Ariana's curiosity opened up another world of family, friends and others who filled in blanks and opened up pain, sorrow, and some resolution.
Australian journalist Ruby Hamad exposes the phenomenon by which some white women, leaning into the trope of the damsel in distress, can weaponize their literal or figurative tears to get what they want at the expense of BIPOC. For example, a white woman accused of racism by a BIPOC co-worker can employ strategically shed tears to evoke sympathy from other co-workers, effectively inverting the positions of villain and victim. This phenomenon was particularly apparent in the summer of 2020 as people agitating for a racial reckoning butted heads with ostensible allies unprepared to turn their attention inward.
Swimming is not a natural activity for humans, the way running, walking, engaging in all kinds of sport are. Tsui sets out to explore why humans make the effort and take the time to learn how to swim. She investigates unique forms of swimming: in extremely cold water, deep depth diving without equipment, swimmers who have very unique bodies for regular swimminng, and the psychological effects of swimming for pleasure and for competition.
Another hilarious and heartbreaking collection of essays regarding everyday trials and tribulations of the author's life.
From one of China's modern leading writers, Fang Fang, comes this book that began as a blog, detailing what it was like living in Wuhan China, during the nascent days of COVID-19. She was candidly critical about the government's lack of communication, its corruption in dealing with the administration of the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which may have been the source of the virus, and she wrote about daily life in a lockdown. At the present time, she is being trolled as a traitor and liar, and publication of her books in China has stopped.
Globalization is not a modern concept, but goes back centuries. Yale scholar Valerie Hansen takes us back centuries as she writes about the ancient world, where globalization was a practical way of life. A fascinating book for borth history lovers and for those who think the subject is dull, dry and boring.