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ICPL Top Picks for 2020 NONFICTION

by Sam

Each winter the ICPL staff vote on TOP PICKS comprising our favorite books published during the current year. Our ten categories for TOP PICKS include Fiction; Young Adult, Picture Books; Middle Grade and Children’s; Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy; Biographies and Memoirs; Nonfiction; and Graphic Novels.

We want to hear about your favorites too! Do our TOP PICKS for NONFICTION match your favorite reading experiences from 2020?

Stay tuned for the BEST OF THE BEST list for the year which will be awarded from each TOP PICKS category. The title with the most staff nominations will be awarded the honor of ICPL BEST BOOK of 2020. We'll announce the BEST OF THE BEST for 2020 and our pick for BEST BOOK of 2020 on December 31.

We hope you enjoy our favorite NONFICTION books of 2020 and would love to connect you with any titles that you find interesting!

Caste : the origins of our discontents

Isabel Wilkerson

305.5122 /Wilkerson

The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power-- which groups have it and which do not. Wilkerson explores how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. She discusses why the cruel logic of caste requires that there be a bottom rung for those in the middle to measure themselves against. Finally, she points forward to ways America can move beyond the artificial and destructive separations of human divisions, toward hope in our common humanity. -- adapted from jacket

Finna : poems

Nate (Poet) Marshall

811.6 /Marshall

"Definition of Finna, created by the author: fin na /'fine/ contraction: (1) going to ; intending to. rooted in African American Vernacular English. (2) eye dialect spelling of "fixing to." (3) Black possibility ; Black futurity; Blackness as tomorrow. A lyrical and harp celebration, these poems consider the brevity and disposability of Black lives and other oppressed people in our current era of emboldened white supremacy. In three key parts, Finna explores the mythos and erasure of names in the American narrative; asks how gendered language can provoke violence; and finally, through the celebration and examination of the Black vernacular, expands the notions of possibility, giving us a new language of hope"--

Hidden Valley Road : inside the mind of an American family

Robert Kolker

616.890092 /Kolker

"Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don's work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins--aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony--and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after the other, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family? What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institutes of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother, to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amidst profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations. With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family's unforgettable legacy of suffering, love and hope"--

Home body

Rupi Kaur

811.6 /Kaur

"Rupi Kaur constantly embraces growth, and in home body, she walks readers through a reflective and intimate journey visiting the past, the present, and the potential of the self. home body is a collection of raw, honest conversations with oneself - reminding readers to fill up on love, acceptance, community, family, and embrace change. Illustrated by the author, themes of nature and nurture, light and dark, rest here."--Amazon.com

Homie : poems

Danez Smith

811.6 /Smith

"Homie is Danez Smith's magnificent anthem about the saving grace of friendship. Rooted in the loss of one of Smith's close friends, this book comes out of the search for joy and intimacy within a nation where both can seem scarce and getting scarcer. In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living. But then the phone lights up, or a shout comes up to the window, and family--blood and chosen--arrives with just the right food and some redemption. Part friendship diary, part bright elegy, part war cry, Homie is the exuberant new book written for Danez and for Danez's friends and for you and for yours."--

Joy at work : organizing your professional life

Marie Kondō

650.1 /Kondo

"The workplace is a magnet for clutter and mess. Who hasn't felt drained by wasteful meetings, disorganized papers, endless emails, and unnecessary tasks? These are the modern-day hazards of working, and they can slowly drain the joy from work, limit our chances of career progress, and undermine our well-being. There is another way. In Joy at Work, bestselling author and Netflix star Marie Kondo and Rice University business professor Scott Sonenshein offer stories, studies, and strategies to help you eliminate clutter and make space for work that really matters. Using the world-renowned KonMari Method and cutting-edge research, Joy at Work will help you overcome the challenges of workplace mess and enjoy the productivity, success, and happiness that come with a tidy desk and mind."--Amazon.

Just us : an American conversation

Claudia Rankine

305.896 /Rankine

"At home and in government, contemporary America finds itself riven by a culture war in which aggression and defensiveness alike are on the rise. It is not alone. In such partisan conditions, how can humans best approach one another across our differences? Taking the study of whiteness and white supremacy as a guiding light, Claudia Rankine explores a series of real encounters with friends and strangers - each disrupting the false comfort of spaces where our public and private lives intersect, like the airport, the theatre, the dinner party and the voting booth - and urges us to enter into the conversations which could offer the only humane pathways through this moment of division. Just Us is an invitation to discover what it takes to stay in the room together, and to breach the silence, guilt and violence that surround whiteness. Brilliantly arranging essays, images and poems along with the voices and rebuttals of others, it counterpoints Rankine's own text with facing-page notes and commentary, and closes with a bravura study of women confronting the political and cultural implications of dyeing their hair blonde."--Publisher's description.

The last stargazers : the enduring story of astronomy's vanishing explorers

Emily Levesque

520.922 /Levesque

"For readers of Labgirl and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, The Last Stargazers combines the exciting travels of award-winning astronomer Emily Levesque with the misunderstood antics of a scrappy (and shrinking) crew of scientists working with stars and telescopes. She dissects both the romance and the real human curiosity that is so important to our exploration of space. Amidst the lonely quiet of stargazing to wild bears loose in the observatory, these love stories of astronomy show how scientists are going beyond the machines to infuse important creativity and intimate passion into the stars, inspiring future generations to peer skyward in pursuit of the universe's secrets"--

The little gardener : helping children connect with the natural world

Julie A. Cerny

635.083 /Cerny

The Little Gardener is an engaging illustrated guide for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and educators who want to help children explore the natural world through gardening. Part how-to, part teaching tool, and part inspiration, The Little Gardener is a thoughtful combination of detailed instructions, tips, anecdotes, and seasonal activities designed to connect gardeners to natural systems. With fun projects, useful charts, and creative journal prompts, The Little Gardener shows gardeners of all ages how to envision and build their garden together by making the process an adventure to be treasured, with much to learn along the way.

Mending life : a handbook for repairing clothes and hearts

Nina Montenegro

646.6 /Montenegro

The act of mending strengthens not only the object we are repairing, but ourselves as well. The Montenegros encourage us to cherish our things by repairing them rather than discarding them. By changing our consumption habits, small mends here and there will extend the life of our garments and other household items. They introduce basic techniques such as patching, but will have options to take it a step further with decorative sashiko stitching. You'll also learn how to darn socks and mend sweaters, bedsheets, and down jackets. -- abridged from information provided

Memorial Drive : a daughter's memoir

Natasha D. Trethewey

BIOGRAPHY Trethewey, Natasha D.

At nineteen Trethewey's world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma. Here she explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became. Moving through her mother's history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a 'child of miscegenation' in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985. -- adapted from jacket

Overground railroad : the Green Book and the roots of Black travel in America

Candacy A. Taylor

973.00496 /Taylor

The first book to explore the historical role and residual impact of the Green Book, a travel guide for black motorists. Published from 1936 to 1966, the Green Book was hailed as the "black travel guide to America." At that time, it was very dangerous and difficult for African-Americans to travel because black travelers couldn't eat, sleep, or buy gas at most white-owned businesses. The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses that were safe for black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and 'Overground Railroad' celebrates the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up against segregation. It shows the history of the Green Book, how we arrived at our present historical moment, and how far we still have to go when it comes to race relations in America.

Paper bullets : two artists who risked their lives to defy the Nazis

Jeffrey H. Jackson

RECEIVED

"The true story of an audacious resistance campaign undertaken by an unlikely pair: two French women -- Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe -- who drew on their skills as Parisian avant-garde artists to write and distribute wicked insults against Hitler and calls to desert, a PSYOPs tactic known as "paper bullets," designed to demoralize Nazi troops occupying their adopted home of Jersey in the British Channel Islands"--

Shit, actually : the definitive, 100% objective guide to modern cinema

Lindy West

791.4375 /West

Reexamines iconic movies from the past forty years to identify laugh-worthy plot holes and fictional misrepresentations in such esteemed blockbusters as "Forrest Gump," "The Lion King," and "Top Gun."

Sisters in hate : American women on the front lines of white nationalism

Seyward Darby

322.42 /Darby

"After the election of Donald J. Trump, journalist Seyward Darby went looking for the women of the so-called "alt-right" -- really just white nationalism with a new label. The mainstream media depicted the alt-right as a bastion of angry white men, but was it? As women headlined resistance to the Trump administration's bigotry and sexism, most notably at the Women's Marches, Darby wanted to know why others were joining a movement espousing racism and anti-feminism. Who were these women, and what did their activism reveal about America's past, present, and future? Darby researched dozens of women across the country before settling on three -- Corinna Olsen, Ayla Stewart, and Lana Lokteff. Each was born in 1979, and became a white nationalist in the post-9/11 era. Their respective stories of radicalization upend much of what we assume about women, politics, and political extremism. Corinna, a professional embalmer who was once a body builder, found community in white nationalism before it was the alt-right, while she was grieving the death of her brother and the end of her marriage. For Corinna, hate was more than just personal animus -- it could also bring people together. Eventually, she decided to leave the movement and served as an informant for the FBI. Ayla, a devoutly Christian mother of six, underwent a personal transformation from self-professed feminist to far-right online personality. Her identification with the burgeoning "tradwife" movement reveals how white nationalism traffics in society's preferred, retrograde ways of seeing women. Lana, who runs a right-wing media company with her husband, enjoys greater fame and notoriety than many of her sisters in hate. Her work disseminating and monetizing far-right dogma is a testament to the power of disinformation. With acute psychological insight and eye-opening reporting, Darby steps inside the contemporary hate movement and draws connections to precursors like the Ku Klux Klan. Far more than mere helpmeets, women like Corinna, Ayla, and Lana have been sustaining features of white nationalism. Sisters in Hate shows how the work women do to normalize and propagate racist extremism has consequences well beyond the hate movement."--Amazon.

This is all I got : a new mother's search for home

Lauren Sandler

362.5 /Sandler

"More than forty-five million Americans attempt to survive under the poverty line, day by day. Nearly 60,000 people sleep in New York City-run shelters every night--forty percent of them children. This Is All I Got makes this issue deeply personal, vividly depicting one woman's hope and despair and her steadfast determination to improve her situation, despite the myriad setbacks she encounters. Camila is a twenty-two-year-old new mother. She has no family to rely on, no partner, and no home. Despite her intelligence and determination, the odds are firmly stacked against her. Award-winning journalist Lauren Sandler tells the story of a year in Camila's life--from the birth of her son to his first birthday--as she navigates the labyrinth of poverty and homelessness in America. As Camila attempts to secure a college education and a safe place to raise her son, she copes with dashed dreams, failed relationships, and miles of red tape with grit, grace, and resilience. This Is All I Got is a dramatic story of survival and powerful indictment of a broken system, but it is also a revealing and candid depiction of the relationship between an embedded reporter and her subject and the tricky boundaries to navigate when it's impossible to remain a dispassionate observer"--

When the light of the world was subdued, our songs came through : a Norton anthology of Native nations poetry

811.6080897 /When

"United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo gathers the work of more than 160 poets, representing nearly 100 indigenous nations, into the first historically comprehensive Native poetry anthology. This landmark anthology celebrates the indigenous peoples of North America, the first poets of this country, whose literary traditions stretch back centuries. Opening with a blessing from Pulitzer Prize-winner N. Scott Momaday, the book contains powerful introductions from contributing editors who represent the five geographically organized sections. Each section begins with a poem from traditional oral literatures and closes with emerging poets, ranging from Eleazar, a seventeenth-century Native student at Harvard, to Jake Skeets, a young Diné poet born in 1991, and including renowned writers such as Luci Tapahanso, Natalie Diaz, Layli Long Soldier, and Ray Young Bear. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through offers the extraordinary sweep of Native literature, without which no study of American poetry is complete"--

White blood : a lyric of Virginia

Kiki Petrosino

RECEIVED

"In her fourth full-length book, White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia, Kiki Petrosino turns her gaze to Virginia, where she digs into her genealogical and intellectual roots, while contemplating the knotty legacies of slavery and discrimination in the Upper South. From a stunning double crown sonnet, to erasure poetry contained within DNA testing results, the poems in this collection are as wide-ranging in form as they are bountiful in wordplay and truth. In her poem "The Shop at Monticello," she writes: "I'm a black body in this Commonwealth, which turned black bodies/ into money. Now, I have money to spend on little trinkets to remind me/ of this fact. I'm a money machine & my body constitutes the common wealth." Speaking to history, loss, and injustice with wisdom, innovation, and a scientific determination to find the poetic truth, White Blood plants Petrosino's name ever more firmly in the contemporary canon"--