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The best non-fiction books of 2016


For this final Book Nook column of the year here are my favorite non-fiction books of 2016.

“The Romanovs 1613-1918” by Simon Sebag Montefiore (Knopf, 744 pages, $35).

Russia has been in the news a lot lately. If you want to obtain a better understanding of Russia’s past and how Russian history impacts their current government then let me suggest that you read “The Romanovs 1613-1918” by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

The Romanov monarchy ruled Russia for over three centuries. Under the Romanovs Russia became a massive domain and a world power. Their history is filled with court intrigues, scandalous behavior, sadistic brutality, visionary schemes, and intellectual achievements.

The family produced many kinds of rulers. Romanov rulers like Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, and Catherine the Great shaped Russia. The Romanov influence did not end with the execution of the last tsar in 1918. Vladimir Putin, the current Russian leader, possesses many tsar-like qualities.

“Truevine - Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South” by Beth Macy (Little, Brown, 420 pages, $28).

It happened around the year 1900. Two young brothers, George and Willie Muse, were out working in a tobacco field when a man approached to take them away. The Muse brothers had albinism, a rare skin pigmentation that made them stand out in any crowd. Their unusual looks had attracted this freak hunter who then sold them to a circus.

George and Willie became enslaved as circus sideshow freaks. They were told that their mother was dead. This wasn’t true. What is true is this fascinating story that Beth Macy has assembled. Their mother never gave up. The day that she found her sons had to be one of the most amazing days ever.

“How the Post Office Created America” by Winifred Gallagher (Penguin Press, 326 pages, $28).

America would not be the country that it is today if it were not for the creation of the U.S. Mail. In this important book readers can discover how the Post Office was instrumental in laying our foundations and building up our infrastructure. Roads were built. Stagecoach lines, railroads, and airlines were put into service to carry the mail. This inspiring book is filled with informative facts about the U. S. Mail.

“The Fortress - a Love Story” by Danielle Trussoni (Dey St. 324 pages, $27.99).

Danielle Trussoni fell in love with a novelist from Bulgaria. They got married. Early on there were warning signs. Trussoni ignored them. This is her story of the decline and eventual end of that marriage. The final meltdown took place in an ancient building in France where they had been living, the “fortress” of the title. Trussoni’s writing here is brave and brilliant.

“Trespassing Across America - One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland” by Ken Ilgunas (Blue Rider Press, 267 pages, $27).

Ken Ilgunas had a wild notion. He wanted to hike from Canada to Texas along the proposed route of the Keystone XL pipeline. So he did. Ilgunas had many adventures along the way. He met some kind people. There were mean dogs and lots of cows. This is the great American adventure story of 2016. He’s a fabulous writer-this story is incredible.

Next week: my favorite crime novels from 2016.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.



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