Kiddosphere: Countdown to 2017: Favorite Adult Fiction and Nonfiction
I am very picky about the adult fiction and nonfiction books that I read. I give each book the “100 page rule”; if I’m not motivated to read past the first 100 pages, or if getting to the 100th page was a chore, I abandon the book (I rarely abandon children’s/YA novels). I am more drawn to adult nonfiction than adult fiction (and historical fiction for much of my adult fiction reading), so despite my best efforts every year, my end of the year list for adult fiction/nonfiction is heavy on the nonfiction. Here are my top 5 favorite adult fiction/nonfiction reads (with a 2016 publication date) for this year:
I’m quite familiar with Jacqueline Woodson’s children’s/YA titles, so I was very curious about her new novel for adults. Set in 1970s Brooklyn, Another Brooklyn is a somewhat quick read (under 200 pages), but full of characters you’ll long remember after finishing the book.
Behold the Dreamers is my favorite adult novel of 2016; this illuminating story about two families–Cameroonian immigrants and the wealthy senior executive at Lehman Brothers–whose lives are changed by the recession is at times both joyful and painful, with a heartbreaking but expected ending.
Kate Anderson Brower’s The Residence is an outstanding and addictive read about the White House, so I was really impatient to read First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s First Ladies. She did not disappoint with the revelatory look at modern first ladies (Kennedy-Obama); it’s a gripping and even-handed look at women who were often reluctantly thrust into a role with few rules but plenty of unspoken expectations.
While there are many books about the Great Depression, A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression focuses on not only how everyday Americans feed themselves during this difficult time, the rise of canned and frozen foods, but also on the assistance programs that were offered, including the home economists who offered budgeting and cooking tips. The extent of the food crisis was such that the Army had to disqualify 40% of its World War II draftees due to poor nutrition; the descriptions (and photographs) of the massive amounts of people lined up for soup kitchens are incredible. Admittedly, this may not have a wide readership; if you’re not into domestic history (history of food, home life, clothing, etc), you probably won’t stay with this book (my undergraduate major was one of the last vestiges of home economics education, so I can’t get enough of this stuff).
The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish is an amazing book about the clothing/accessible fashion aspect of the home economics movement, as well the decline of home ec). Be aware that much of the book also focuses on the governmental response to the food crisis during the Depression; if you are more interested in stories about coupons, ration books, recipes, etc. (as some Goodreads users were expecting), check out The Food of a Younger Land or Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen: World War II and The Way We Cooked.
Sue Macy’s investigation into the kidnapping, exploitation, and eventual return of two African-American albino brothers is an incredible read. Macy brings to life the difficult times faced by the African-American community in the Roanoke area at the time, as well as the bizarre sideshows that were popular in the early 20th century. Most notably, their niece and primary caregiver, Nancy Saunders, fiercely protected them; Macy’s interactions with her are enlightening. Willie Muse lived to be 108 years old; his positivity and faith are humbling. At times, verb tenses are mixed and transitions between time periods are sometimes messy; still, Truevine: Two Brothers, A Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South is one of the most unforgettable reads you will read in some time.
Looking for some first-rate children’s/YA reads for vacation reading? Check out my favorite children’s/YA reads of 2016.
Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!
∼ Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library