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Rachel’s Reads – August 2023

“A non-fiction writer is a storyteller who has taken an oath to tell the truth.” – Russell Freedman

I have been on a massive non-fiction kick recently. Every time I go to the bookstore or check out a list of what’s coming out soon, I am immediately attracted to multiple non-fiction titles. A non-fiction writer must communicate a terrific story while also communicating solid information: it is a marriage of art and truth. Below are a list of a few of my recent reads in case anyone else is interested in a fascinating non-fiction read. 

We Were Once A Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America by Roxanna Asgarian
In 2018, a white couple drove themselves and their six adopted Black children off of a cliff. This is the story of the broken foster care system that allowed this horrible tragedy to take place. It focuses on the six victims and their birth families, and although it is intensely heartbreaking, it is one of the best books I have read this year. 

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel
This is the true story of the world’s most prolific art thief, Stéphane Breitwieser, who carried out more than 200 heists in nearly 10 years. He stole from museums and cathedrals throughout Europe and kept them all in his room until the whole thing fell apart. It is utterly compelling, and I finished it in one sitting. 

Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma by Claire Dederer
An excellent book club selection as this book requires discussion. Claire interrogates herself and society about the link between genius and monstrosity, and how we reconcile the horrendous acts committed by a person who has also created great art. She sets out to tackle the question of whether or not we can separate artists from their art. 

G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage
A recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Beverly’s new biography of J. Edgar Hoover draws from never-before-seen sources to dive into a towering figure of American history. She unflinchingly looks at what made him tick, and the trajectories of society based on his influence. 

The People’s Hospital: Hope and Peril in American Medicine by Ricardo Nuila
Written by a doctor at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, this book is part memoir, part incredibly researched history, and part patient stories. Completely moving and full of information, it weaves these three elements together to tell the story of this safety-net hospital in the American healthcare system. 

Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Almost Forgotten History by Jacob Mikanowski
Steeped in folklore and facts, this history tackles the idea that Eastern Europe is disappearing as an idea. It illustrates the challenges that countries in Eastern Europe have encountered, endured, and overcome, including the fact that many of the country lines drawn throughout history have cleaved cohesive areas into multiple pieces. It is a dense, but highly enjoyable, read. 

Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation by Camonghne Felix
This is a beautifully written memoir that is ultimately a story of healing. After a tumultuous breakup ends in a hospital stay, Camonghne examines everything about her mental health and uses her childhood “dyscalculia,” a disorder that makes it hard to learn math, as a metaphor for her miscalculations in love. 

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann
By the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, this book describes the 1740 journey of the British warship, The Wager, from its initial secret mission to its eventual shipwreck and the shocking events that followed including mutiny and murder. It is a tale of human behavior when pushed to extremes and definitely enthralls the reader. 

Featured in the August 5, 2023 issue of The Independent.
Happy Reading!



Rachel became the publisher of The Independent in March of 2017 and then married her husband Jake in May. Their goldendoodle Einstein joined the family last year. Rachel is an avid reader and loves to share book recommendations. (Don’t miss her column, Rachel’s Reads in the Magazine!) She can always be found with a book nearby, especially while traveling (another of her favorite things).

Bailey Pianalto Photography



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