The Address Book is about street addresses, street numbers, and street names, which sounds dreadful, like the textbook for a course on municipal planning, but Deirdre Mask makes it fascinating. This is maybe my favorite type of nonfiction, the deep dive into subjects you never knew you cared about.
Some writers attempt this, but instead of crafting a compelling narrative, they produce a book full of the neat facts they found while doing their research. Those books read more like encyclopedias than stories.
There are neat facts aplenty, to be sure. If you ever wondered why the vaguely dirty sounding Grope Lane is so prevalent in English towns, you may be surprised to find this is the cleaned up version. Grope C*nt Lane used to be the name of the place where you could find prostitutes, which is a fine example of truth in advertising.
But Mask hangs all these neat facts on the larger human interest story. In the United States and throughout the world, a physical address is a crucial component for getting out of poverty. You can't open a bank account to save money or receive direct deposits if you don't have a home address. You can't apply for jobs. You can't receive mail.
This is a blend of history, social science, human rights, geography, medicine, and various other areas of interest, recommended for fans of Mark Kurlansky and Mary Roach. It was published in April 2020, when we were reading sourdough bread recipes and reports of mounting casualties and overwhelmed hospitals, so you probably missed it when it came out. Go back and give it a read.
When Covid first hit, I started doing book talks on social media as a way to keep in touch with people. I never got out of the habit. I don't discuss books by my clients, and if I don't like a book, I won't discuss it at all. While I will sometimes focus on craft or offer gentle critical perspectives, as a matter of professional courtesy, I don't trash writers. Unless they're dead. Then the gloves come off.