Non-fiction: Not Just "Heavy" Reading

Some people associate non-fiction with textbooks and other weighty reading. It ain't necessarily so! Offered here is a mere sampling of books that are fascinating, mystifying, entertaining, or just plain fun - and all true.

Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-45

By Leo Marks

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"In 1942, with a black-market chicken tucked under his arm by his mother, Leo Marks left his father's famous bookshop, 84 Charing Cross Road, and went off to fight the war. He was twenty-two. Soon recognized as a cryptographer of genius, he became head of communications at the Special Operations Executive (SOE), where he revolutionized the codemaking techniques of the Allies and trained some of the most famous agents dropped into occupied Europe."

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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary

By Simon Winchester

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There are two tales in this page-turner. One is how the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was compiled, which is fascinating in itself; and the other is a gripping story of a convicted murderer who spends his life sentence as a major contributor to the OED. This one stays in your mind for a long, long time.

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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

By Erik Larson

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"Before the turn of the 20th century, a city emerged seemingly out of the ash of then dangerous Chicago, a dirty, grimy, teeming place ravaged by urban problems. Daniel Burnham, the main innovator of the White City of the 1892 World's Fair, made certain that it became the antithesis of its parent city, born to glow and gleam with all that the new century would soon offer. While the great city of the future was hastily being planned and built, the specially equipped apartment building of one Herman Webster Mudgett was also being constructed. Living in a nearby suburb and walking among the hundreds of thousands of visitors who would eventually attend the fair, Mudgett, a doctor by profession more commonly known as H.H. Holmes, was really an early serial killer who preyed on the young female fair goers pouring into Chicago."
Also available on audio.

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Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral

By Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays

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"In this deliciously entertaining slice of Southern life (and death), inveterate hostess Gayden Metcalfe explains everything you need to know to host an authentic Southern funeral, such as: Can you be properly buried without tomato aspic? Who prepares tastier funeral fare, the Episcopal ladies or the Methodist ladies? And what does one do when a family gets three sheets to the wind and eats the entire feast the night before a funeral?"

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