Personalized Reading Lists: Dive Into Some Great Recent Nonfiction Reads

Our librarians love creating Personalized Reading Lists for DPL customers. If you haven't requested your list yet, we want you to know what you're missing! Each month in this column, we feature a recently-created reading list to give you a taste of what to expect from the service.

Last month, a customer asked us for nonfiction recommendations (plus maybe a little contemporary fiction). She enjoys learning about different topics in books like Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, but is also drawn to absorbing, well-written fiction like Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Here's the response she received from a librarian on our team:

Thank you for requesting a personalized reading list and sharing a few of your favorite reads. Based on your recommendation, I have added Far from the Tree to my "must read" list. I am eager to return the courtesy and highlight a few books you may enjoy.

If you like contemporary fiction, check out A Permanent Member of the Family, a wonderfully varied collection of short stories by Russell Banks. Insightful and funny, Banks looks at relationships from all angles.

Lessons from the Heartland: A Turbulent Half-century of Public Education in an Iconic American City, by Barbara J. Miner, is more than a social history about the "isms" in education in Milwaukee. Their story may be a wake-up call for other cities and the American public school system.

The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories, by Frank Rose, is an interesting read if you want to learn more about the personalities and Internet tools shaping entertainment. Published in 2011, it is still relevant and provides context for what we are seeing today.

Zero Decibels: The Quest for Absolute Silence, by George Michelsen Foy, is a quick and informative read. Foy takes his aversion to incredibly loud noises and delves into the history and the essence of sound.

Two memoirs that read like any of the best fiction are Fairyland, by Alysia Abbott, and  Just Kids: From Brooklyn to the Chelsea Hotel, by Patti Smith. In Fairyland, Abbott recalls her life growing up with a single father, the poet/activist Steve Abbott. She shares her own shame in sometimes not loving him or understanding the world they shared in San Francisco during the 1970s-80s. This is roughly the same time period Smith chronicles her complicated relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe in Just Kids, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2010.

Abbott reminds me that April is National Poetry Month and I am compelled to recommend a poetry read. Check out Chasing Utopia: A Hybrid by Nikki Giovanni, which links narrative autobiographical sketches with poetry. Truly a remarkable book!

If you want to see what titles we can find just for you, fill out our online form today. Happy reading!

Written by Brett on April 8, 2014



Along the lines of Lessons from the Heartland I would also recommend Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth From the Front Lines of American Public Education by John Owens recounting the author's frustrating experiences as a first year teacher in New York. What sets this book apart is his professionalism in describing those frustrations and problems and his inclusion of suggestions for improvement, especially offering more on-the-job training, mentorship, and support for beginning teachers.

Tisha on May 7, 2014


I second the recommendation for Just Kids by Patti Smith. Even better, check out the audio version. Patti reads it and it's outstanding.

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