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Summer Reading 2016: Nonfiction

Find all of the Urban School book recommendations for summer 2016

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Recommended by Andrew Packard, Performing Arts

Dubbed "the poet laureate of medicine" by the New York Times, Dr. Oliver Sacks was among the most influential and most inquisitive minds of our time. His writings on neurology blend the world of literature and the human brain and captured the attention of generations of curious people. In this collection, his best known book, he shares fascinating case studies about patients living with the most beautiful and bizarre brain disorders. They are studies of life struggling against intense and personal adversity. Through these strange yet sympathetic tales Dr. Sacks reveals a universal humanity.

This book will appeal to fans of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

In previous years, Andrew has recommended A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (2014) and Born Standing Up by Steve Martin (2015).

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
Recommended by Richard Lautze, Math & Cal Studies and Brooke Roberts, History

Richard says:
The book The Boys in the Boat is a wonderful true story about overcoming tremendous hardship, difficult family situations, poverty by not one person but by a entire crew team of eight young men.  Also takes place during the rise of Hitler's Germany; a time when the nation would listen to crew races on the radio. Very inspiring and may make you want to row...

This book will appeal to fans of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen.

In previous years, Richard has recommended The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (2012). Brooke has recommended Chinese Lessons by John Pomfret (2008) and The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (2012).

Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Recommended by Amy Argenal, Service Learning, and Ben Slater, English

Ben says:
Toni Morrison says, on the cover of the book, "This is required reading." This pouring forth of personal experiences and reflections is a necessary counterpart to fact-based arguments (like Coates's "The Case for Reparations"); it aims straight for the reader's heart to communicate the subjective, visceral experience of racism. If you ever feel stuck in denial or in data, in apathy or in arguments, dedicate a few hours to take in this short book over the summer. From what I've seen, it truly is required reading for BART, if not for the whole Bay Area. 

This book will appeal to fans of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

In previous years, Amy has recommended Angry Black White Boy by Adam Mansbach (2012), Caucasia by Denny Senza (2013), Redefining Realness by Janet Mock (2014), and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Ben has recommended Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (2014) and Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (2015).

Emperor of Maladies

Emperor of all Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Recommended by Library Leaders

Emperor of all Maladies is an in depth history of cancer that provides the reader a glimpse into the struggle. It covers everything from its first appearance centuries ago, to the modern day fight. Going beyond the science, Siddhartha Mukherjee critically examines the lives of survivors and the pain they have had to endure. Also, check out the related documentary of the same name. 

This book will appeal to fans of Stiff by Mary Roach, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

The Power Broker by Robert Caro

The Power Broker by Robert Caro
Recommended by Riley Maddox, 9/10 Dean & Math

Are you a fan of large biographies that aren't available as e-books? If so, The Power Broker is for you!​ You'll meet all kinds of interesting people when lugging this book around. They'll say things like "That's the best book I've ever read about a city, ever!" and "What a crazy story about the most powerful non-elected person in American History." You might hear "The United States - the World, perhaps - has never seen a greater builder," or alternately, "No man ever ruined a city as thoroughly as Robert Moses." If you ask me, I'd say, "I wish I had read this book over a summer in high school" and "I've never read a biography that reads simultaneously like a rich work of history and an unbelievable novel." For a sprawling epic about cities and a lesson in the costs and benefits of GETTING THINGS DONE, check out The Power Broker. It also makes an excellent door-stop.

This book will appeal to fans of The Big Short by Michael Lewis, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, and The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli.

In previous years, Riley has recommended Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey (2011), In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick (2012), The Plague by Albert Camus (2013), and The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft (2014).

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Recommended by Cathleen Sheehan, English

Fever Pitch is a great read for anyone. You don't even need to be a Premier League English Football* fan.
Yes, really. (*That's "soccer" to you uninformed Yanks.) The book is a very amusing and engaging memoir
about Hornby's life as an Arsenal fan--and the resulting moments of euphoria and depression that follow if
you commit your sense of well-being to the highs and lows of a football season. If you are a sports fan,
you will relate. If not, you will learn to relate. (The same author wrote About a Boy and High Fidelity, by
the by, so you know he's funny.) And who knows? The book may also turn you into an Arsenal fan--which places you among the coolest people on the planet.

This book will appeal to fans of Among the Thugs by Bill Buford, Friday Night lights by H.G. Bissinger, and Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.

In previous years, Cathleen has recommended Fever Pitch (2009), Among the Thugs by Bill Buford (2014), and The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (2015).

Fire Shut Up In My Bones by Charles M. Blow

Fire Shut Up In My Bones by Charles M. Blow
Recommended by Deborah Dent-Samake, History and Shafia Zaloom, Health

This book will appeal to fans of The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

In previous years, Debbie has recommended Mississippi Trial 1955 by Chris Crowe (2010) and The Heartbeat of a Struggle by Diane C. Fujino (2015). This is Shafia's first recommendation.


Parkland by Vincent Bugliosi
​Recommended by Library Leaders

Parkland (previously published as Four Days in November) follows the fast paced narrative the occurs immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It begins with the assassination of the President and then illustrates those hectic few days afterward through the eyes of all those involved; everyone from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to the not-so-lucky cameraman that captured the event that shook the world on 8mm film.

This book will appeal to fans of 11/22/63 by Stephen King, The Devil in the City by Erik Larson, and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.