BookPeople Best of 2012: NONFICTION

In no particular order….

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

“Every so often, a book coincides perfectly with a moment in your life. I’m not talking about simply getting lost in a book, when you forget the world around you by tumbling into a new world on the page. I’m not even talking about a book that reflects your life back to you, the type that seems to document an experience you’ve had with uncanny precision. What I’m talking about is an alchemical reaction. This Book + Your Life At This Very Moment = a gleaming, glittering, unbelievable chunk of gold. It’s about timing and transformation. About turning those paper leaves at the very instant that your life is changing, and knowing that the words printed there are—somehow, magically—contributing to that change. That is what Cheryl Strayed’s Wild has been for me…In this book, Strayed portrays herself as both weak and strong, daunted and determined, desperately lonely and fiercely independent. She is very humble and very proud. She is human. And as she moves between these contradictory feelings, as she shifts and moves and becomes someone new, it was a truly magical experience to watch my life changing, too.” – Liz W., Classiest Events Leader this side of the Mason Dixon – or any other – line (Read Liz’s full review.)


Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

“If you like things such as having a good time and also books that make you laugh out loud so often you make other people reading other, not-so-funny books in the same room with you writhe with jealousy, pick up this book. Right now. Critics have compared Lawson’s style to David Sedaris, and while both writers are certainly hilarious, Lawson’s tone is all her own. Her conversational style draws you right into her sometimes wild, often bizarre, endlessly fascinating world. Most of us will never take a job as an elf at Macy’s; many of us will, however, create whole universes of anxiety out of marriage, child-rearing, and whether or not our new house was built on an Indian burial ground and that’s why the vultures are descending….right, see, that’s why Jenny Lawson’s awesome, because she says the things we’re all too afraid to say we’re really worried about.” – Julie W., Bookseller Extraordinaire


Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

“Anyone who tells you art is fun and easy probably isn’t doing it right. Austin Kleon can attest to how hard the creative process can be. It consumes you, it’s exhaustive, and it can feel like it’s all for nothing. It questions your values and challenges your character. Steal Like an Artist is a testament to the noble spirit and the long road of those who create. But in order to move along that path…you gotta steal. No, not like that, you hooligan. You have got to copy from those you love; let their work inspire you, and one day the rock tumbler that is your own creative process will spit out something golden. Whether you’re an aspiring artist or just care for someone who is, Steal Like an Artist is a refreshing reminder of why we fight this good fight.” – Nolan, Bookseller & Fine Art Painter Extraordinaire (Read more from Nolan about this book.)


Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid

“I’ve read many historical and political biographies. The description “page turner” is not often applicable. Jan Reid’s biography of Ann Richards is exactly that. From start to finish, it’s a compelling read. Let the Peole In is a vibrant full palette portrait of the most important woman in the history of Texas politics. The Lone Star State has produced more than its fair share of colorful and influential political figures. This fully detailed, unflinching look at Ann Richards’s life tells the remarkable story of how she earned her place among those colorful, influential folks. Wife, Mother, Feminist, Friend, and Politician, Ann Richards the whole human is uncovered. It’s not always pretty. It’s never boring. You won’t want to put it down.” – Bosco, Manager


Quiet by Susan Cain

“Susan Cain examines the idea of success’s correlation to extroversion. She charts our culture’s shift from a culture of character to a cult of personality. It’s a misconception that introverts are less successful in life and business, two prime examples are Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet. It’s really interesting, you should read it.” – Salvador, Bookseller Extraordinaire




The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club is an incredible memoir that details the relationship between Will and his mother Mary Anne, and how the two of them shared books in a two person book group after Mary Anne was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The first thing to know–Mary Anne was an incredible woman; she was the first female head of admissions at Harvard University, and she was a lifelong leader in championing education and literacy around the world.  She taught her children to love books, so it was a natural question for Will to ask his mother “What are you reading?” as they waited for a doctor’s appointment.  Thus began their journey together through cancer and family as told through the books they shared.  From Crossing to Safety to The Hobbit to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, they ranged freely from book to book, discussing the unimaginable–the knowledge of life and death and fear and anger and faith–through the stories they shared.” – Liz, posted on Liz and Gianna’s Adventures in BookLand (click through to read the full review)


Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace by D. T. Max

“I approached this biography with great trepidation. So much has been written about Wallace posthumously. If you want to know the author, read his work, right? But a copy of the book landed across my desk and I said, all right. I read Raymond Carver’s bio; I often read the bios of authors whose work has meant something to me. Why was I resisting this? Because perhaps I was holding someone sacred and then accusing other people of over-sanctifying that same person? Okay, fine. So I read it. And? I was impressed with the pains D. T. Max took to cite his sources, to in fact go as close to the source as he could – friends, family, colleagues, the work itself – to present his portrait of Wallace. What I found most interesting was how much attention was paid to Wallace’s own reflections upon and understanding of his shifting perspective regarding literary theory, which I found both fascinating and inspiring.” – Julie, Bookseller


Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

We’re particularly fond of Anne Lamott’s recent quote about the book, found in the New York Times in answer to the question “What was the last truly great book you read”: “Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo, about life in a Mumbai slum. It’s nonfiction that is as riveting as a great novel — so absolutely exquisite that it made me sort of sick. I will never write anything nearly that good and accomplished.



Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

“Thoughtful and astute . . . This is an important book not only because of what it has to say about a man of principle who, under the threat of violence and death, stood firm for freedom of speech and freedom of religion, but also because of its implications about our times and fanatical religious intolerance in a frighteningly fragile world.”—USA Today



The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro

“The latest in what is almost without question the greatest political biography in modern times . . . Nobody goes deeper, works harder or produces more penetrating insights than [Caro].” —Patrick Beach, Austin American-Statesman

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