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From the Staff Picks Archive - Nonfiction for a New Year

The start of a new year is a popular time to reflect on the past, plan for the future, or decide to learn something new. It is also a time when the days are often short, dark, and cold, especially for those of us on the shore of Lake Michigan! The nonfiction books below offer guides for reflection, entertaining new knowledge, or just plain comfort for those long winter nights.

Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy – Martin Gayford

Eighty-three-year-old artist Hockney and art critic Gayford have been friends for a quarter of a century. When Covid lockdown hit, Hockney was already ensconced with his dog Ruby on a farm in the same region of France where Braque and Van Gogh painted. Spring Cannot Be Cancelled is essentially a conversation shared between the two old friends in the French countryside. The books is also rich in illustrations and photographs of Hockney’s paintings and the art that inspires him.

Recommended by Maureen. Available in regular print.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants – Robin Wall Kimmerer

Botanist and professor Robin Wall Kimmerer takes readers on a personal and hopeful journey into the world of plants. Blending her formal scientific training with her indigenous ways of knowing as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Kimmerer’s collection of essays explores the reciprocal relationship between people and the natural world, including a new introduction in the 2020 hardcover edition. A young adult adaptation by Monique Gray Smith was also published in 2022.

Recommended by Natalie. Available in regular print, paperback, eBook, and eAudiobook formats. The young adult version is available in regular print.

How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question – Michael Schur

If you like moral philosophy and/or cult television shows, give this a read or a listen. The showrunner for the acclaimed series The Good Place gives an accessible overview of the philosophy behind the brainy sitcom set in the afterlife. The audiobook contains guest readings from cast members including Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, and more.

Recommended by Jake. Available in regular print, eBook, eAudiobook, and CD Audiobook formats.

Everybody: A Book about Freedom – Olivia Laing

In her sixth book (published in 2021), Olivia Laing once again uses the lives of famous figures as a backdrop for thinking through issues of power, history and crucially, what it means to be free. This is a great airplane book, with chapters strong enough to be read as standalone vignettes and chock full of fun facts (including the surprising origins of a certain Kate Bush song). Perhaps the strongest of Laing’s recent publications, Everybody truly has something for everyone.

Recommended by Evan. Available in regular print.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men – Caroline Criado-Perez

In a thoroughly researched work, Criado-Perez examines how a gender gap in data perpetuates bias and disadvantages women. It is thought-provoking and compelling in its writing and will have you mad about snow removal within the first chapter!

Recommended by Andrea. Available in regular print and eBook formats.

The Comfort Book – Matt Haig

Looking for some comfort and perspective? This uplifting nonfiction book is full of words of wisdom and is like warm soup on a cold day. Author Matt Haig (The Midnight Library) discusses little islands of hope, including books, songs, and movies, that have helped him through the years.

Recommended by Shira. Available in regular print, large print, eBook, eAudiobook, and CD Audiobook formats.


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