Top BCPL Staff Picks for Historical Nonfiction

Historical nonfiction tells about real people, real places, and real events in the past.  Here is a list of Historical Nonfiction top picks by our BCPL staff.

Julie Bockstiegel, Collection Services, recommends one of her favorite historical nonfiction books, Double Cross: The True story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre. Macintyre tells the story of British Intelligence officials during WWII, who conceived a scheme to confuse German military commanders about where the Allies might land for an attack on the Axis armies in Europe. He profiles the intelligence planners, spies and double agents involved in the deception. It is really a motley crew; their personalities and actions are humorous, unbelievable and daring – and thankfully, successful.  It is “nonfiction that reads like fiction” at its best. Macintyre specializes in researching old documents, many declassified after several years, and has a great knack of bringing history to life. Julie has enjoyed many of his books.


Kathleen Piercefield, Circulation Assistant, recommends The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman.  It tells the story of Polish zookeepers, Jan and Antonina Zabinsky, whose zoo in Warsaw became a refuge for Polish Resistance activists and Jews during World War II.  Along with relating the human story, the author (who is also a poet) includes reflections on animal life, human nature, and the intangible sources of hope that sustain the heart through difficult times.




Kathleen also recommends Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Vine Deloria which recounts the history of Native American interaction with westward-advancing settlers and the United States government.  All of the accounts that standard history books omit are included here — misguided efforts at blending the First Nations into “civilization”, outrageous cruelty, broken treaties and betrayals.  Kathleen finds it to be a sad but eye-opening book.


Cindy Yeager, Youth Collection Development Librarian, recommends The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  Cindy has always been interested in medical history and this book, written as a narrative, was right up her alley. Henrietta Lacks was a poor tobacco farmer whose cells were taken without her knowledge as she was being treated, unsuccessfully, for cervical cancer almost 70 years ago.  These cells, improbably, impossibly, never died in culture and were used to cure many diseases and used in many therapies over the years, with no compensation to Ms. Lacks, or to her family who did not even know about the HeLa cells for decades.  This truly fascinating book is a collision of medical ethics, race and an author who would not let go until she exposed the truth.

Ginger Stapp, Early Literacy Specialist, was also moved by The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  Ginger is thankful for the scientific discoveries that were made as a result of her cells, but was saddened by the toll this has taken on her family.  Ginger found it interesting and remarks that it makes you consider medical ethics in a more concrete way.

Kelley Brandeberry, Public Service Associate, recommends When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning. According to Kelley, the book offers a fascinating look at the importance and power of books during World War II. The work that librarians, authors, and publishers did to provide books to servicemen was interesting to read about. The stories about what our soldiers endured and how books helped them were very moving and gave her a richer understanding of the war. Kelley especially enjoyed reading the soldiers letters.


Kelley also recommends Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. Right from the beginning of the book, Kelley was fascinated by the story of the Osage tribe. She had never heard anything about this bit of American history from the 1920s, and Grann wove a fascinating tale. Kelley says, “Even though this book is nonfiction, it is well-written and not dry at all. The pacing was fantastic, and it held my interest.”

Edge of the Seat Picks by BCPL Staff

Boone County Public Library staff members share their favorite Suspense/Thriller novels. Suspense/Thriller novels are fast-pace stories with plot twists and often involve pursuit and escape. The novels force the reader to use their imagination while feeling anxious.  If you like to read on the edge of your seat, try one of the recommendations from BCPL staff.  Click on the book titles to see the books in our catalog.

Youth Services Associate Cayla Robinson recommends one of her favorite thriller novels, Marisha Pessl’s Night Film . It is about an investigative journalist named McGrath who has fallen out of favor due to his relentless investigation of a horror filmmaker named Cordova who hasn’t entered the public light in over 30 years. Cordova’s daughter turns up dead which reinvigorates McGrath to continue his investigation and finally expose Cordova for the evil man that he is. Cayla says this is the perfect thriller/horror/mystery novel that really gets you thinking. It is great to get you in the mood for Fall!


Youth Services Circulation Assistant Emily Woodruff recommends Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People. Emily says, “This book is a beautifully written page turner. It’s a spooky tale that blends the story between the turn of the 20th century and the present day. West Hall, Vermont is a town where people go missing without explanation. This remote small town has its secrets and wants to keep it that way. Emily was eager to keep reading it to see what was going to happen!



Emily also recommends Caroline Kepnes’s You which is about a stalker and manipulator who meets his victim in a bookstore and learns all he needs to know about her through social media. The stalker will not let ANYTHING stand in his way. This eye opener to how exposed we are through social media is a new TV show premiering September 9 on Lifetime!




Early Literacy Specialist Ginger Stapp really likes Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. It’s a psychological thriller with a lot of twists and turns and great characterization.  Ginger doesn’t want to give anything away, but found it compelling.  She listened to it through the Overdrive app and the narrator was wonderful. Ginger loved her English accent.



Page Supervisor/Public Service Associate Karen Helmle recommends Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind.  Daniel, the son of a bookseller in 1945 Barcelona, is introduced to The Cemetery of Forgotten Books.  He must pick out one book and chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. After finishing the book, Daniel attempts to find other books by this author only to discover this may be the last book in existence by Carax. Someone else is also looking for the works of Carax, but destroying them as they are found.  Daniel begins a journey to find out who is destroying these books and why.