PSB book of the year: Hidden Figures

Where should we start?

Hidden Figures has everything: It's a new look at a familiar topic, it's based on solid and thorough research, and Margot Lee Shetterly pulls it all together into a well-written story that keeps you turning the pages even if you already know how it's going to turn out.

(If, for instance, you saw Katherine Johnson receiving the Medal of Freedom in 2015, when she was 97.)  

Hidden Figures is the story of dozens of black women who worked at NASA (and predecessor agencies), hand-calculating complex math for aeronautics in the days before computers. (And once computers came along, some of them added programming to their already-impressive skills.)

They were also human beings with kids, husbands, and personal lives, and one thing the book does particularly well is balance those two aspects of the womens' stories. The characters are all full human beings, not math-nerd stereotypes.

Many of the women who worked as computers are still around, and Shetterly was able to interview them -- and you know they have some stories to tell.

Shetterly brings the threads of their individual stories together into a cohesive narrative. Hidden Figures is an important story, packed with historical details, but reading it is a pleasure, never a chore.