Art, Books, Current Events, Reviews

5 Non-fiction Books You Need to Read Now

Like those of you who have visited my blog recently might already know, I am reading — nay, devouring — lots of non-fiction reads currently. While I do read a lot of children’s/YA non-fiction, this time, it is intentional – for the Cybils Awards. So today I bring you 5 non-fiction books you need to read now (if you haven’t already)!! You will love them, no matter your age, and you can thank me later! These are all recent – 2020 – publications – my required (and truly still relished) reading.

I love how books (both fiction and non-fiction ones) never fail to leave me feeling enlightened, inspired, and so much more.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.”William Styron

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5 Non-fiction Books You Need to Read Now

The Fabled Life of Aesop

Non-fiction Books : The Fabled Life of Aesop

Title: The Fabled Life of Aesop: The extraordinary journey and collected tales of the world’s greatest storyteller
Author: Ian Lendler 
Illustrator: Pamela Zagarenski 
Length: 64 pages
Genre/Age: Children’s Biographies (4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (March 10, 2020)

My Thoughts

What It Is

Part picture book biography and part concise retelling of Aesop’s most child-friendly fables, this book reaffirms the power of words and wisdom. Ian Lendler starts the book with how Aesop, a child born into slavery, used his wit and unique skill of storytelling to fight for freedom and justice for those who were in need. Pamela Zagarenski’s stunning illustrations complete the brilliant weaving of biography and fables.

The How (I Felt)

While I grew up reading Aesop’s fables, I did not know much (or TBH, anything) about Aesop himself. This book is a brilliant interspersing of Aesop’s own life story with the tales he told.

We watch as Aesop learns to weave stories using words that would ensure he would not get in trouble with the slave-masters; and these stories helped others like him talk in code, learn something, and simply enjoy the fable.

The included fables themselves are told simply, minimally, and perfectly for the intended audience.

The illustrations are frame-worthy indeed, switching between a more ‘Greek’ look for the biography part, and then bits of fantasy and whimsy (like the lion sporting a napkin for his meal) transport us to fable-land.

Don’t miss the afterword in this book.

Great for reading together, as while the language is simple, some of the concepts are deep indeed, and reading together is anyways fun!

Perfect Pairing

Read more of the fables by Aesop, like this one here.

In Summary

A unique look at familiar tales, and a lot to learn about Aesop himself, as well as the history of the fable. So worth it for your home library no matter your age, simply because of its unique presentation and visual delightedness!

Get It Here

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers

Fred's Big Feelings

Title: Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers
Author: Laura Renauld 
Illustrator: Brigette Barrager 
Length: 40 pages
Genre/Age: Children’s Biographies (4 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 14th 2020)

My Thoughts

What It Is

A picture book biography about Fred Rogers, the very likeable host of the TV show, Mr.Roger’s Neighborhood. This book focuses on the impact one person can have on others’ lives, and on feelings – that all feelings are normal, and on constructive ways to express them. It is wonderful how much information is included about Fred Rogers in this 40 page book, and in easy to understand language for its audience.

The How (I Felt)

Having grown up in India, I did not watch Fred Rogers’ show as a kid. But I did watch a couple after moving here to the US and loved them. Mr. Rogers never failed to have a calming effect – both the show and the man himself. You know the kind that comes from watching Bob Ross paint!

That said, this book is a gem!! Laura Renauld does a wonderful job of the important and relevant aspects from Fred Rogers’ life, and captures it perfectly. We learn about his childhood, how he ended up starting Mr.Roger’s Neighborhood, and lots more that I did not know before.

I loved how the emotion words were italicized throughout the book, effectively and subtly highlighting them; this also opens up room for discussion about feelings. Renauld’s writing is simple yet almost lyrical.

Brigette Barrager’s gouache-style colorful illustrations complement Renauld’s text wonderfully. She includes details in the artwork that will be familiar to those who watched the show, and fun for those who are not.

Both text and art capture Fred Rogers’ likeness very well, portraying his warmth and geniality across the pages.

Perfect Pairing

Read the book and watch an episode of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.

In Summary

A must-have for all libraries – at home or in the classroom; for all ages too.

Get It Here

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

Immigrant Architect

 Immigrant Architect

Title: Immigrant Architect: Rafael Guastavino and the American Dream
Author: Berta de Miguel and Kent Diebolt
Illustrator: Virginia Lorente
Length: 60 pages
Genre: Children’s Biographies/Architecture/Immigration (6 – 8 years, and up)
Publisher: Tilbury House Publishers (April 7th 2020)

My Thoughts

What It Is

Immigrant Architect is the story of Rafael Guastavino Sr, and his son, as well the company they founded after immigrating to America in the 1880s. The book is written in first-person mode, as told by the son, and while it threw me off in the beginning, it was a delight to read it this way once I got used to it (on page 2!).

The How (I Felt)

This is such a delightful book; both in the true story it tells filled with inspiration and hope and dreams that can be achieved, as well as in the illustrations that show the beauty of the architecture and also explain/add to the story.

I learned a lot that I did not know before. Familiar beloved structures made more sense and gave me aha moments as I read the book. And I loved the included timeline at the bottom of each page, updated as relevant to the page.

Perfect Pairings

A lot of options here! Pick a companion book (Iggy Peck the Architect maybe), or a set of Legos, or a map to mark out the places you visit through this book, or food from those cities! Or a combination!

In Summary

Yes, a must read that will delight you both visually and in the information you will have gotten by the end.

Get It Here

Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack

Nacho's Nachos

Title: Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack
Author: Sandra Nickel 
Illustrator: Oliver Dominguez 
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Multicultural Biographies (6 – 11 years, and up)
Publisher: Lee & Low Books; Illustrated Edition (August 11, 2020)

My Thoughts

What It Is

Necessity is definitely the mother of invention! Ignacio Anaya, nicknamed Nacho, was born in 1895 in Mexico. His love for food, and his natural charm, led him to the position of head waiter at the popular Victory Club in Piedras Negras, Mexico. And then serendipity, followed by necessity, led to the invention of this loved snack!

The How (I Felt)

I truly loved this look at the story behind a highly popular, widely-favorited snack for many – nachos. It shows us how nachos — both the snack itself, and its name — came into being.

The partnership between the simple narrative and the vibrant illustrations is powerful indeed. We journey with Ignacio from the humble home of his childhood to that crowning glory of his own restaurant.

The detailed, realistic, and historically accurate illustrations are expressive and beautiful. The details lend a sense of delight as well as emotion and nostalgia to the story while holding the attention of the youngest audiences as adults read to them.

Perfect Pairings

A plate of nachos, of course (handy original recipe at the end of this book!) since the reader (no matter the age) is bound to crave nachos by the end, if not before!

In Summary

A delicious and delightful look into the history of a beloved snack. So yes, pick it today.

And it is total coincidence (since I just realized it towards the end of the 20th here in California) that October 21st, 2020 is the International Day of the Nacho!!

Get It Here

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

The Old Man and the Penguin

Non-fiction Books - Old Man and the Penguin

Title: The Old Man and the Penguin
Author: Julie Abery
Illustrator: Pierre Pratt 
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction (3 – 7 years, and up)
Publisher: Kids Can Press (Oct 6th, 2020)

My Thoughts

What It Is

Totally adorable true story of the friendship between an old man and a penguin. João Pereira de Souza of Brazil, found and cared for a Magellanic penguin that had been caught in an oil spill. His first attempt to return Dindim (as he eventually named the penguin) failed when the penguin promptly returned to João. Dindim did finally leave but only for a few months, and has since returned to João to spend a few months with his human friend every year without fail.

The How (I Felt)

The rhyming verse adds a gaiety and sweet energy to the story. And the lively, colorful illustrations are oh-so-charming! When I went looking for photos of João Pereira de Souza and his penguin, I could immediately see the resemblance between the real life João and the one in the book. And even with this life-like resemblance, the artwork manages to be whimsical and warm, transporting the reader to the beaches of Brazil where this book is set.

Don’t forget to check out the author’s note at the end, as it includes a lot of useful information. This book can serve as a base for many discussions:

  • what friendship means
  • values of kindness and empathy
  • oil-spills and wildlife conservation
  • about wildlife itself
  • and more
Perfect Pairing(s)

Watch a penguin based movie (March of the Penguins, or Madagascar, or Mr.Popper’s Penguins, or Happy Feet) or read those related books.

In Summary

This sweet, heartwarming, tugging at your heartstrings, delightful read is a much needed one for our times.

Get It Here

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

A bonus book

Non-fiction Books - Cat Man of Aleppo

The Cat Man of Aleppo: I read this book a while ago and you can see my complete review here. It is a heartwarming true story that does restore faith in the wonder that is humanity.

 Book Depository ||  IndieBound || Bookshop

Note: Thanks to Edelweiss and the publishers for the digital review copies of Nacho’s Nachos, The Old Man and the Penguin, and The Cat Man of Aleppo. All others are library copies. Thanks to NetGalley as well for the digital review copy of The Old Man and the Penguin

And I know I am going to get these delightful books for my home library. Each one has charmed and delighted me so much that I am in love with them!

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5 Non-fiction Books You Need to Read Now

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read any of these non-fiction books? Or any other books about these men? Yes, if you noticed, this post features men across the ages – from Aesop who lived 2500 years ago to Alaa, aka the Cat Man of Aleppo who is working on taking care of cats and other animals in war-torn Syria today!

Each of these books is truly wonderful on its own, and leaves the reader smarter, happier, brighter, more inspired, or well, in one way or more, better than before. Just like I hope you feel when you read my posts!

If you have to yet read any of these non-fiction books featured today, pick them today and get reading. You can use the individual links for each book above; or you can check out my BookShop page (click image below). Shopping through these links not only supports me but also independent book stores who need all the support they can get at this time – so a heartfelt thank you for your support always.

12 thoughts on “5 Non-fiction Books You Need to Read Now

  1. Lovely choices! I haven’t read any of them, but they all sound interesting.
    Several of my friends met Mr Rogers when he came to McMinnville to receive an honorary degree from Linfield College (now University), and said he was as kind and charming in person as on screen. He even visited a early childhood classroom, to the joy and amazement of the kids!

  2. Thanks for these really interesting recommendations! People think they need to read fiction to be really moved, but your 5 choices prove otherwise. I am touched just by the description of The Old Man and the Penguin; many others have nursed an animal back to health and found it returned from time to time. I need to get that one!

  3. What a great and interesting non fiction books to read on this fall season and I need to get a copy if The Old Man and The Penguin.

  4. I love that you listed Fred’s Big Feelings. It’s a favorite. <3 Thank you for the other suggestions, I’ve been looking for something to read, so this is a good direction to go.

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