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Great Reads: Carnegie Medals 2024 NonFiction Longlist

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Great Reads: Carnegie Medals 2024 NonFiction Longlist

carnegie nf medals

The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, established in 2012, recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. in the previous year and serve as a guide to help adults select quality reading material. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the American Library Association and reflect the expert judgment and insight of a seven-member selection committee of library professionals who work closely with adult readers. 

Forty-five books (21 fiction, 24 nonfiction) have been selected for the longlist for the 2024 Medals. The six-title shortlist—three each for the fiction and nonfiction medals—will be chosen from longlist titles and announced on November 14, 2023. The two medal winners will be announced Saturday, January 20th, 2024 at 9:45 a.m. Eastern time.  Carnegie Medal winners each receive $5,000.

Here are some longlisted nonfiction titles available in the Livingston Library’s collection that will make for great additions to your fall reading list.  

amerikan family

An Amerikan Family : the Shakurs and the Nation They Created by Santi Elijah Holley

A history of the rise and lasting impact of Black liberation groups in America, as seen through the Shakurs, one of the movement’s most prominent and fiercely creative families, home to Tupac and Assata, and a powerful incubator for today’s activism, scholarship, and artistry.

Better Living Through Birding : Notes From a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper

Cooper is a self-described Blerd (Black nerd), an avid comics fan, and an expert birder who devotes every spring to gazing upon the migratory birds that stop to rest in Central Park, just a subway ride away from where he lives in New York City. When birdwatching in the park one morning in May 2020, Cooper was engaged in the ritual that had been a part of his life since he was ten years old. But when a routine encounter with a dog-walker escalates age-old racial tensions, Cooper’s viral video of the incident would send shockwaves through the nation. Here Cooper tells the story of his extraordinary life leading up to the now-infamous encounter in Central Park and shows how a life spent looking up at the birds prepared him, in the most uncanny of ways, to be a gay, Black man in America today. 

Brave the Wild River:the Untold Story of Two Women Who Mapped the Botany of the Grand Canyon by Melissa L. Sevigny

The riveting tale of two pioneering botanists and their historic boat trip down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. In the summer of 1938, botanists Elzada Clover and Lois Jotter set off to run the Colorado River, accompanied by an ambitious and entrepreneurial expedition leader, a zoologist, and two amateur boatmen. With its churning waters and treacherous boulders, the Colorado was famed as the most dangerous river in the world. Journalists and veteran river runners boldly proclaimed that the motley crew would never make it out alive. But for Clover and Jotter, the expedition held a tantalizing appeal: no one had yet surveyed the plant life of the Grand Canyon, and they were determined to be the first. Through the vibrant letters and diaries of the two women, science journalist Sevigny traces their daring forty-three-day journey down the river, during which they meticulously cataloged the thorny plants that thrived in the Grand Canyon’s secret nooks and crannies. 

The Burning of the World : the Great Chicago Fire and the War For a City’s Soul by Scott W. Berg

The enthralling story of the Great Chicago Fire and the power struggle over the city’s reconstruction in the wake of the tragedy In October of 1871, Chicagoans knew they were due for the “big one”-a massive, uncontrollable fire that would decimate the city. There hadn’t been a meaningful rain since July, and several big blazes had nearly outstripped the fire department’s scant resources. On October 8, when Kate Leary’s barn caught fire, so began a catastrophe that would forever change the soul of the city. Leary was a diligent, hardworking Irish woman, no more responsible for the fire than anyone else in the city at that time. But the conflagration that spread from her property quickly overtook the neighborhood, and before too long the floating embers had spread to the far reaches of the city. Over the course of the next forty-eight hours, Chicago saw the biggest and most destructive disaster the United States had ever endured, and Leary would be its scapegoat.

The Country of the Blind : A Memoir At the End of Sight by Andrew Leland

A witty, winning, and revelatory personal narrative of the author’s transition from sightedness to blindness and his quest to learn all he can about blindness as a distinct and rich culture all its own.  He grew up with full vision, but starting in his teenage years, his sight began to degrade from the outside in, such that he now sees the world as if through a narrow tube. Soon-but without knowing exactly when-he will likely have no vision left. Full of apprehension but also dogged curiosity, Leland embarks on a sweeping exploration of the state of being that awaits him: not only the physical experience of blindness but also its language, internal debates, politics, and customs. He also negotiates his changing relationships with his wife and son, and with his own sense of self, as he moves from sighted to semi-sighted to blind, from his mainstream, “typical” life to one with a disability. 

fever in the heartland

A Fever in the Heartland : the Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them by Timothy Egan

A historical thriller that tells the riveting story of the Klan’s rise to power in the 1920s, the cunning con man who drove that rise, and the woman who stopped them. The Roaring Twenties — the Jazz Age — has been characterized as a time of Gatsby frivolity. But it was also the height of the uniquely American hate group, the Ku Klux Klan. Their domain was not the old Confederacy, but the Heartland and the West. They hated Blacks, Jews, Catholics and immigrants in equal measure, and took radical steps to keep these people from the American promise. And the man who set in motion their takeover of great swaths of America was a charismatic charlatan named D.C. Stephenson. Stephenson was a magnetic presence whose life story changed with every telling. Within two years of his arrival in Indiana, he’d become the Grand Dragon of the state and the architect of the strategy that brought the group out of the shadows – their message endorsed from the pulpits of local churches, spread at family picnics and town celebrations. Judges, prosecutors, ministers, governors and senators across the country all proudly proclaimed their membership. But at the peak of his influence, it was a seemingly powerless woman – Madge Oberholtzer – who would reveal his secret cruelties, and whose deathbed testimony finally brought the Klan to their knees.

The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration by Jake Bittle

The untold story of climate migration in the United States—the personal stories of those experiencing displacement, the portraits of communities being torn apart by disaster, and the implications for all of us as we confront a changing future. What we often don’t realize is that the consequences of climate change are already visible, right here in the United States.  From half-drowned Louisiana to fire-scorched California, from the dried-up cotton fields of Arizona to the soaked watersheds of inland North Carolina, people are moving. In the last few decades, the federal government has moved tens of thousands of families away from flood zones, and tens of thousands more have moved of their own accord in the aftermath of natural disasters. Insurance and mortgage markets are already shifting to reflect mounting climate risk, pricing people out of risky areas. Over the next fifty years, millions of Americans will be caught up in this churn of displacement, forced inland and northward in what will be the largest migration in our country’s history. 

He/She/They : How We Talk About Gender and Why It Matters by Schuyler Bailar

He/She/They uses storytelling and the art of conversation to give us the fundamental language and context of gender so that we can meet people where they are and pave the way to understanding, acceptance, and inclusion. As a transgender man, inclusion advocate, and LGBTQ educator, Bailar is more than familiar with the myriad questions that come up. Here he addresses them head on, such as why being transgender is not a choice, why pronouns are important, and what is biological sex.

A Man of Two Faces : A Memoir, a History, a Memorial by Viet Thanh Nguyen

With insight, humor, formal invention, and lyricism, Nguyen rewinds the film of his own life. He expands the genre of personal memoir by acknowledging larger stories of refugeehood, colonization, and ideas about Vietnam and America, writing with his trademark sardonic wit and incisive analysis, as well as a deep emotional openness about his life as a father and a son. At the age of four, Nguyen and his family are forced to flee his hometown of Ban Mê Thuot and come to the USA as refugees. After being removed from his brother and parents and homed with a family on his own, Nguyen is later allowed to resettle into his own family in suburban San José. But there is violence hidden behind the sunny facade of what he calls AMERICA TM.

Master Slave Husband Wife:An Epic Journey From Slavery to Freedom by Ilyon Woo

The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave. In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North. Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.

new guys

The New Guys : the Historic Class of Astronauts that Broke Barriers and Changed the Face of Space Travel by Meredith E. Bagby

The never-before-told story of the barrier-breaking NASA class of 1978, which for the first time consisted of a diverse crew of women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people, and more, and their triumphs and tragedies working on the newly launched space shuttle program, with the exclusive cooperation of five astronauts.

Okinawa by Susumu Higa

A peaceful, independent kingdom until its annexation by the Japanese Empire in the 19th century, Okinawa was the site of the most destructive land battle of the Pacific War. Today, the archipelago is Japan’s poorest prefecture and unwilling host to 75% of all US military bases in Japan. Okinawa brings together two collections of intertwined stories by the island’s pre-eminent mangaka, Susumu Higa, which reflect on this difficult history and pull together traditional Okinawan spirituality, the modern-day realities of the continuing US military occupation, and the senselessness of the War. The first collection, Sword of Sand, is a ground level, unflinching look at the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa. Higa then turns an observant eye to the present-day in Mabui (Okinawan for “spirit”), where he explores how the American occupation has irreversibly changed the island prefecture, through the lens of the archipelago’s indigenous spirituality and the central character of the yuta priestess.

Our Migrant Souls : a Meditation On Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino” by Hector Tobar

Tobar delivers a definitive and personal exploration of what it means to be Latino in the United States right now.  Taking on the impacts of colonialism, public policy, immigration, media, and pop culture, this book decodes the meaning of “Latino” as a racial and ethnic identity in the modern United States, and gives voice to the anger and the hopes of young Latino people who have seen Latinidad transformed into hateful tropes and who have faced insult and division–a story as old as this country itself.

The People’s Hospital : Hope and Peril in American Medicine by Ricardo Nuila

Where does one go without health insurance, when turned away by hospitals, clinics, and doctors? In physician Nuila’s stunning debut, we follow the lives of five uninsured Houstonians as their struggle for survival leads them to a hospital where insurance comes second to genuine care. Each patient eventually lands at Ben Taub, the county hospital where Dr. Nuila has worked for over a decade. Nuila delves with empathy into the experiences of his patients, braiding their dramas into a singular narrative that contradicts the established idea that the only way to receive good healthcare is with good insurance. As readers follow the movingly rendered twists and turns in each patient’s story, it’s impossible to deny that our system is broken–and that Ben Taub’s innovative model, which emphasizes people over payments, could help light the path forward.

Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages? In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologistDesmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor.

Project 562 : Changing the Way We See Native America by Matika Wilbur

A photographic and narrative celebration of contemporary Native American life and cultures, alongside an in-depth examination of issues that Native people face, by celebrated photographer and storyteller Matika Wilbur of the Swinomish and Tulalip Tribes.

riders come out

The Riders Come Out At Night : Brutality, Corruption, and Cover Up in Oakland by Ali Winston

The first authoritative account of the Oakland Police Department’s troubling history of violence, secrecy, and mismanagement, and the city’s unfulfilled promise to implement constitutional policing. By examining cases of police violence and corruption in one of America’s most iconic cities, the Polk Award-winning investigative duo, Ali Winston & Darwin BondGraham, illustrate why criminal justice reform has proven an elusive goal for the entire nation.

The Talk by Darrin Bell

This graphic memoir by a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning offers a deeply personal meditation on the “the talk” parents must have with Black children about racism and the brutality that often accompanies it, a ritual attempt to keep kids safe and prepare them for a world that-to paraphrase Toni Morrison-does not love them. Darrin Bell was six years old when his mother told him he couldn’t play with a white friend’s realistic water gun. “She told me I’m a lot more likely to be shot by police than my friend was if they saw me with it, because police tend to think little Black boys-even light-skinned ones-are older than they really are, and less innocent than they really are.” Bell examines how “the talk” has shaped nearly every moment of his life into adulthood and fatherhood. Through evocative original illustrations, this is a meditation on this coming-of-age-as Bell becomes painfully aware of being regarded as dangerous by white teachers, neighbors, and strangers, and thus of his mortality. 

The 272 : The Families Who Were Enslaved and Sold to Build the American Catholic Church by Rachel L. Swarns

In 1838, a group of America’s most prominent Catholic priests sold 272 enslaved people to save their mission, the fledgling Georgetown University. Journalist, author, and professor Swarns has broken new ground with her prodigious research into a history that the Catholic Church has edited out of its own narrative. Beginning in the present, when two descendants of a family enslaved by the church reconnect, Swarns follows their ancestors through the centuries to understand how slavery enabled the Catholic Church to establish a foothold in America and fuel its expansion.

We Were Once a Family: A story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America by Roxanna Asgarian

The shocking, deeply reported story of a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of six children-and a searing indictment of the American foster care system.

Wonder Drug : the Secret History of Thalidomide in America and Its Hidden Victims by Jennifer Vanderbes

When the application for a new sedative called Kevadon–commonly known as thalidomide–landed on Frances Kelsey’s desk at the FDA in 1960, it seemed destined to sail through the review process. The drug, billed as entirely risk-free, was already being sold in forty-six countries. But when Kelsey learned that the drug caused terrible birth defects, she and a team of dedicated doctors, parents, and journalists fought Merrell, the drug’s American manufacturer, and Chemie-Gruenenthal, the German company founded by former Nazis that first synthesized the drug, to recall the product. It marked a rare victory in America’s perennial battle between capitalism and consumer protection. Though Kelsey received a presidential medal and a LIFE magazine photo spread of European children missing limbs shocked American readers, an essential chapter laid buried for decades. Vanderbes discovered that even though Frances Kelsey refused to approve Merrell’s application to “sell” thalidomide in the United States, the drug firm, under the guise of clinical trials, had quietly sent millions of pills to doctors nationwide.

Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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