4 recommended non-fiction reads

Looking for something to read? Here are recommendations from our staff.

Jeff Jones:

I’m spending this summer learning more about the ancient mound-builders in the Midwest.

In addition to the handful of mounds in Indian Mounds Park in St. Paul, there are more than 12,000 mounds around Minnesota.

Just down the Mississippi in Iowa, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves a more advanced set of mounds built in the shape of animals common to the region.

But it’s even further downstream, across the river from St. Louis in the Illinois countryside, that the mound-builders (whoever they were) built their masterpiece. Cahokia was a city that – at its peak around A.D. 1200 – was home to between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

Anthropologist Timothy Pauketat’s 2010 book, “Cahokia: Ancient America’s Great City on the Mississippi” explains what we know – and how much we still do not – about the people who built Cahokia. And he advances a theory about why they disappeared, leaving only mounds of earth behind.

Maddy Mahon:

Given our current Waterworld situation in Minnesota, it’s only fitting that I’ve been reading some of the great pieces from the Longform guide to sea creatures. It’s wonderful.

Under varied lighting, Jellyfish swim in an aquarium at the Blue Zoo Aquarium in Beijing on August 3, 2010. Jellyfish are free-swimming members of the phylum 'Cnidaria' and are found in every ocean in the world, from surface to the deep sea. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Tom Weber:

I just finished this new book, “American Crucifixion,” which tells the story of the years, months, weeks, and days leading up to the murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith in Carthage, IL.

Growing up in Illinois, I knew very little about this part of the state (west-central) and only had a vague knowledge that the Mormons settled there after being driven out of Missouri. This book includes a very interesting telling of the Mormons’ time there and Smith’s actions leading up to his murder.

Emily Kaiser:

I just finished “Five Days at Memorial” by Sheri Fink. I was expecting a really intense retelling of a hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, but wasn’t expecting it to make me really think about my stances on quality of life, euthanasia and other choices medical professionals are faced with during disasters. My feelings on the topics seemed to shift back and forth as new developments in the plot unraveled. Perfect combo: Great storytelling that makes you think about really hard topics in a meaningful way.