“I’m usually a big fiction reader,” says June Koffi, a senior librarian at The Brooklyn Public Library. “I love getting lost in worlds that may resemble mine, but are clearly of the authors own creation (Marquez, I’m looking at you). Lately though, I’ve gravitated toward a number of non-fiction books. At once inspiring, enlightening, empowering, and down-right scary, I think you will find that these five books are as gripping and captivating as any novel.” Continue below for June’s recommendations for this month!

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west elm + Brooklyn Public Library - 5 Books To Read This Month

Vincent Van Gogh – The Life
by Steven Nalfeh and Gregory White Smith

This enormous book brilliantly encompasses the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. As Nalfeh and Smith chart his artistic journey, we also learn about his tumultuous relationships with his brother Theo, his parents, Gaugin, his employers, and ultimately the world at large. Through various bouts of illnesses both physical and mental, Van Gogh’s relentless pursuit of expression is placed amidst other art and literature movements of the same era, some that he embraced and others that he angrily rebelled against. I was amazed by the extent of his travels, with the nations of England, the Netherlands, and France becoming characters as much as the people he encountered on his spartan-like journeys, one journey that would end sadly without the realization of his monumental effect on the world of art.

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit
by Barry Easterbrook

I was captivated by Tomatoland which reads like a history book, a mystery, and hard hitting expose all in one. Barry Easterbrook lays out in illuminating detail how the convergences of commerce, agriculture, capitalism, and corporations have resulted in tomatoes that are available year-round but ultimately tasteless and devoid of nutrients. From its origins in South America to our favorite grocery store, from acres of farmland in Florida, to scientific laboratories, you’ll learn about the heroes, villains, and victims whose lives are devoted to this most ubiquitous of plants. I found Tomatoland to be a shocking, fascinating, and necessary indictment on the food industry. You’ll never look at a salad the same way again.
A new edition has just been released in April – Tomatoland: Third Edition: From Harvest of Shame to Harvest of Hope

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondo

I am organizationally challenged. Like a repeat dieter I’ve tried various approaches that worked for a while, but in the end I was back to square one – disorder. Having tried a number of organizational books, Kondo’s really stood out. The difference to me in Kondo’s book is that her personality shines through the pages. It feels like she’s with you – cheering you on with warmth, humor, and a philosophy that encourages you to keep only the things that bring you joy, and to throw out the rest. Her method is accessible, easy to follow, and adaptable to your own personal lifestyle. I am organizationally challenged, always have been, BUT I’m beginning to make changes.

Revolting New York: How 400 Years of Riot, Rebellion, Uprising, and Revolution Shaped a City
by Nik Heynen author, Neil Smith, Don Mitchell

New Yorkers are a feisty bunch. Opinionated, political, social, and not afraid to make sure their voices are heard. Heynen, Smith and Mitchell describe the issues and events that have compelled New Yorkers of all races, and identities to take to the streets during its 400 year existence. Maps, photos, and prints are skillfully used throughout the book to highlight and illustrate major and minor conflicts, beginning with the Revolt of the Munsee in New Amsterdam to Occupy Wall Street. New York’s history told through its uprisings provides a unique lens at which to look at the city’s changing values, and ideals.

Margaret Palca Bakes: Cakes, Cookies, Muffins and Memories From a Brooklyn Baker
by Margaret Palca

Margaret Palca bakes delicious pastries that are sold from her Columbia Street café, and in stores around New York City. Now you can create her mouth- watering desserts from her just released cookbook containing 80 of her most famous recipes. In addition to being a beautifully photographed guide to baking techniques I was engrossed by her personal story as well. In the book you get to know Margaret, her family, her training and career choices made in her quest to become a premier baker. Her recipe for rugalach is it alone. It’s that good.

Brooklyn Public Library - June Koffi

June Koffi is a Senior Librarian in the Brooklyn Collection at Brooklyn Public Library. She’s also a visual artist, creating historical clothing that tell stories, as well as working in pastel, and watercolor. A former Peace Corps volunteer, she has lived and travelled throughout Southern Africa. She now lives in Brooklyn with her 15 year old twins, and Donna the Russian Blue cat.

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