We didn't plan it this way, but there are a lot of local connections on this year's list of our favorite nonfiction. The majority of books that made the cut were written by authors who either live in our state, have visited our store, or both. As a result, some might say that our interests are parochial, but we think it's because everyone else is finally catching up to the way we think around here. Feel proud, fellow Washingtonians!
Alexie's unvarnished memoir of his complicated relationship with his charismatic, problematic mother was not only one of the best books to come out of the Northwest this year (it won the PNBA Book Award) it was one of the best books period. It's a staggeringly good read from an inimitable author.
For a brief period in the early part of the 20th century, the Osage tribe in Oklahoma became the wealthiest population on earth, thanks to the oil discovered on their reservation. But their sudden riches, and even more their sudden rise in status, threatened the white establishment, leading to a series of homicides and attempts to seize control of the oil and cash flow. The local constabulary had little interest in solving the murders, forcing the federal government to step in to investigate, which led to the creation of an entirely new branch of law enforcement. Killers of the Flower Moon is a gripping true-crime drama and an important slice of American history.
Yuval Harari's previous book, Sapiens, surveyed the history of our entire species, giving new insight about nearly every aspect of human nature and society, and it was an Island Books Best of the Year pick. His new study, Homo Deus, looks to the future of humanity and is at least the equal of his marvelous earlier volume. If you're interested in anything related to the physical or social sciences, this is a necessary addition to your bookshelf.
More than thirty years ago, Finn Murphy dropped out of college to become a long-haul trucker. Since then he’s covered more than a million miles packing, loading, and hauling people’s belongings all over America. The Long Haul is a memoir of life on the road that’s a great series of entertaining yarns, but it’s much more than that. Politicians and media types from both sides of the spectrum like to praise the American Working Class and lament its decline, but most of what they say isn’t based on personal experience. The Long Haul is a real report from the field by someone who knows what he’s talking about, and as such it couldn’t be more relevant. It’s not just a good read, it’s an important one.
Read more of what James and Miriam had to say about The Long Haul on our blog.
Maynard's true story of love in later life achieves the heights of joy and plumbs the depths of sorrow. Keep a box of tissues handy as you indulge yourself in this finely wrought, emotional memoir.
"We were eight years in power" was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America's "first white president." These are the essays that will represent our time to historians generations from now.
Hesse's account of a spree of fire-setting in Virginia is compelling as a police procedural, but it's the ramifications of the crimes that make her book one of the year's best. The misguided romantic motivations of the arsonist, and especially the panorama of a rural region that's already been burned by modern economics, turns this into a quintessential American story.
Washington writer Claire Dederer takes stock of her middle years, confronting as she does so the specter of her passionate younger self. Love and Trouble is frank, fierce, and highly amusing,
Valeria Luiselli is an award-winning novelist and essayist who is always worth reading, but this may be her most essential work. Her account of time spent helping refugees interpret the bureaucratic labyrinth of the American immigration system is eye-opening and life-altering.
We're cheating slightly with our Best Nonfiction list for this year by including three books about Seattle past, present, and maybe even future. The future part is represented by Seattle Walks, David B. Williams's guide to touring our fair metropolis by foot. There's plenty of history within its pages, of course, and also nature and geology--enough of everything, really to make this a fantastic read even if you never hit the sidewalks or trails that Williams writes about. But make it a resolution that your 2018 and beyond will include plenty of strolling with this book in your pocket.
Read about the test trip James took with Seattle Walks on our blog.
We're cheating slightly with our Best Nonfiction list for this year by including three books about Seattle past, present, and maybe even future. Waterway, by local history experts David B. Williams and Jennifer Ott, takes readers from the past to the present as it explores the engineering marvel that is our vital ship canal. Whether you've lived around here your whole life or are just passing through, you'll want to own this book as a record of your time here.
We're cheating slightly with our Best Nonfiction list for this year by including three books about Seattle past, present, and maybe even future. Among them is Chief Seattle and the Town that Took His Name, the first-ever comprehensive study of the man whose name and deeds inspired our city's founding fathers. Seattle (to use his Anglicized name) led his people first against the European settlers and then in concert with them. It's an invaluable resource for understanding the complexity of the pre-existing native culture disrupted by the immigrants who've left their names on our streets and natural landmarks, and it should be required reading for anyone who wants to feel a real part of our Puget Sound community.