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Non-Fiction Recommendations

Animal MadnessAnimal Madness, by Laurel Braitman

A historian of science draws evidence from across the world to show how humans and other animals are astonishingly similar when it comes to their feelings and the ways in which they lose their minds. As Laurel spent three years traveling the world in search of emotionally disturbed animals and the people who care for them, she discovered numerous stories of recovery: parrots that learn how to stop plucking their feathers, dogs that cease licking their tails raw, polar bears that stop swimming in compulsive circles, and great apes that benefit from the help of human psychiatrists. How do these animals recover? The same way we do: with love, with medicine, and above all, with the knowledge that someone understands why we suffer and what can make us feel better.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham


Blood Royal

Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris, by Eric Jager

On a chilly November night in 1407, Louis of Orleans was murdered by a band of masked men. The crime stunned and paralyzed France since Louis had often ruled in place of his brother King Charles, who had gone mad. As panic seized Paris, an investigation began. In charge was the Provost of Paris, Guillaume de Tignonville, the city's chief law enforcement officer—and one of history's first detectives. As de Tignonville began to investigate, he realized that his hunt for the truth was much more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

A rich portrait of a distant world, Blood Royal is a gripping story of conspiracy, crime, and an increasingly desperate hunt for the truth. And in Guillaume de Tignonville, we have an unforgettable detective for the ages, a classic gumshoe for a cobblestoned era.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham


Bowling AloneBowling Alone, by Robert D. Putnam

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam and his research team have gone to great lengths to study and record the social trends with regard to community in America from the end of WWII until 2000. In a comprehensive and detailed analysis, Putnam traces changes in political, civic, and religious participation; in connections in the workplace and informal social connection; and in altruism, volunteering, and philanthropy. He also examines changes in reciprocity, honesty, and trust.

In several chapters, Putnam provides the “why” for the general American decline as we face new challenges in terms of time and money, mobility and sprawl, technology and mass media, and generational changes in values.

Reviewed and Recommended by Stan V. Harward (see full review here)


Called to TeachCalled to Teach: The Legacy of Karl G. Maeser, by A. LeGrand Richards

“This is an important book about perhaps the most influential educator of the early Church, certainly the early Church in Utah. His vision, understanding, and commitment were remarkable. He was the first official principal of the Brigham Young Academy which was the seed from which Brigham Young University blossomed.

“Dr. Richard’s 10 years of research and careful consideration has given us the most comprehensive, well-documented text about Karl Maeser to date,” said Mike Pratt.

Recommended by Mike Pratt



Chasing Lincoln's KillerChasing Lincoln's Killer, by James Swanson

This book is about the planning, chase, and capture of all those involved in the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. It is an intense book that gives further insight to the motives and desired results of these individuals and brings understanding as to why they were unable to achieve their goal.

Recommended by Tim Pead




Leading Impact TeamsLeading Impact Teams: Building a Culture of Efficacy, by Paul Bloomberg

This book is a must read for those who recognize that collaboration, when done right, results in dramatically improved learning for students.  While many schools and districts recognize the value and basic elements of Professional Learning Community work, there are significant differences between the performance of teams.  Some muddle through the process without serious outcomes while others do the right things and have a considerably high impact on deep learning.  The book focuses upon the specifics that high impact teams embrace.  Dr. John Hattie's work on measuring effect sizes of various attributes of schooling has the education field moving beyond the question of "what works?" to "what works best?"  In looking at the attributes with the highest effect sizes, one that stands out is collective teacher efficacy. The book looks at the sources of efficacy and helps educators recognize the importance of their collective learning.  Key to much of what high impact teams do is grounded in capitalizing on formative assessment, developing and supporting a viable and coherent curriculum, using evidence to inform practice that guides teacher and student action, and building professional capital through collaborative learning. 

                                  Recommended by Patti Greaves

Lessons from a MouseLessons from a Mouse, by Dennis Snow

Dennis Snow, former Disney employee for 20 years, shares 10 principles used by Disney to train their cast members (employees) in great customer service. He illustrates each principle with stories, both good and bad, using humor, drama, and irony. An easy read, this book taught me some important ways to increase the level of my customer service in my office.

Recommended by Joyce Terry




The Bully PulpitThe Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

One of the Best Books of the Year as chosen by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, Time, USA TODAY, Christian Science Monitor, and more.

"A tale so gripping that one questions the need for fiction when real life is so plump with drama and intrigue."

Recommended by Rachel Wadham



The InnovatorsThe Innovators, by Walter Issacson

In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron's daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page.

This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It's also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.

For an era that seeks to foster innovations, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how they happen.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham

The Mockingbird Next DoorThe Mockingbird Next Door, by Marja Mill

The Mockingbird Next Door is the story of Mills’s friendship with the Lee sisters. It is a testament to the great intelligence, sharp wit, and tremendous storytelling power of these two women, especially that of Harper Lee, known to her friends as Nelle.

Mills was given a rare opportunity to know Nelle Harper Lee, to be part of the Lees' life in Alabama, and to hear them reflect on their upbringing, their corner of the Deep South, how To Kill a Mockingbird affected their lives, and why Nelle Harper Lee chose to never write another novel.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham



The Romanov SistersThe Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra, by Helen Rappaport

Over the years, the story of the four Romanov sisters and their tragic end in a basement at Ekaterinburg in 1918 has clouded our view of them, leading to a mass of sentimental and idealized hagiography. With this treasure trove of diaries and letters from the grand duchesses to their friends and family, we learn that they were intelligent, sensitive and perceptive witnesses to the dark turmoil within their immediate family and the ominous approach of the Russian Revolution, the nightmare that would sweep their world away, and them along with it. The Romanov Sisters sets out to capture the joy as well as the insecurities and poignancy of those young lives against the backdrop of the dying days of late Imperial Russia, World War I, and the Russian Revolution. Helen Rappaport aims to present a new and challenging take on the story, drawing extensively on previously unseen or unpublished letters, diaries, and archival sources, as well as private collections. It is a book that will surprise people, even aficionados.

                                             Recommended by Rachel Wadham

The TriggerThe Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War, by Tim Butcher

The Trigger tells the story of a young man who changed the world forever. It focuses on the drama of the incident itself by following Princip’s journey. By retracing his steps from the feudal frontier village of his birth, through the mountains of the northern Balkans to the great plain city of Belgrade and ultimately Sarajevo, Tim Butcher illuminates our understanding of Princip—the person and the place that shaped him—and makes discoveries about him that have eluded historians for a hundred years. Traveling through the Balkans on Princip’s trail, and drawing on his own experiences there as a war reporter during the 1990s, Butcher unravels this complex part of the world and its conflicts, and shows how the events that were sparked that day in June 1914 still have influence today. Published for the centenary of the assassination, The Trigger is a rich and timely work, part travelogue, part reportage, and part history.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham


Thinking Fast and SlowThinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.

Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives, and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble.

                                             Recommended by Al Merkley

This Town

This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America’s Gilded Capital, by Mark Leibovich

Washington, DC might be loathed from every corner of the nation, yet these are fun and busy days at this nexus of big politics, big money, big media, and big vanity. There are no Democrats and Republicans anymore in the nation’s capital, just millionaires. In This Town, Mark Leibovich, chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine, presents a blistering, stunning—and often hysterically funny—examination of our ruling class’s incestuous “media industrial complex.” Through his eyes, we discover how the funeral for a beloved newsman becomes the social event of the year. How political reporters are fetishized for their ability to get their names into the predawn email sent out by the city’s most powerful and puzzled-over journalist. How a disgraced Hill aide can overcome ignominy and maybe emerge with a more potent “brand” than many elected members of Congress. And how an administration bent on “changing Washington” can be sucked into the ways of This Town with the same ease with which Tea Party insurgents can, once elected, settle into it like a warm bath.

                                             Recommended by Al Merkley

TrillionsTrillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology, by Joe Ballay, Mickey McManus, and Peter Lucas

We are facing a future of unbounded complexity. The challenges and opportunities—technical, business, and human—that this technological sea change will bring are without precedent. There are already many more computing devices in the world than there are people. In a few more years, their number will climb into the trillions. But more significant than mere numbers is the fact we are quickly figuring out how to make those processors communicate with each other, and with us. We are about to be faced with a trillion-node network. Written by the leaders of one of America’s leading pervasive computing design firms, this book gives a no-holds-barred insiders’ account of both the promise and the risks of the age of Trillions. It is also a cautionary tale of the head-in-the-sand attitude with which many of today’s thought-leaders are, at present, approaching these issues. Trillions is a field guide to the future—designed to help businesses and their customers prepare to prosper in the information.

                                             Recommended by Al Merkley

UnbrokenUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, Zamperini survived against all odds, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; and brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand

Recommended by John Wilkinson