Most people know I’m passionate about reading and recommending books that are thought-provoking. Reading across many genres is a lifelong habit, but today’s post is about one of my favorite genres: non-fiction.
Why read non fiction?
It’s important to learn across a range of topics and to read alternating points of views to get a well rounded idea of the subject matter. This year I included history, science and technology, law, women’s studies, the human body, and biographies.
Simply put, writers should read. You can’t write well if you aren’t willing to pick up a book. Non fiction allows writers to collect facts for their own writing, while fiction helps writers to explore their imagination and how other writers see the world or imagine the world.
Being able to educate yourself is the best gift you can give yourself.
My list of top 10 non fiction books of 2019
The most interesting topics I read about in 2019 are space travel and pioneering exploration travel. After exploring Shackleton’s 1914 polar adventures to the South Pole in Alfred Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’ Incredible Voyage and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild it seemed natural to jump to the next giant expedition of this century – the space race.
One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon helped me understand the massive effort it took to get us to the moon. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff was a natural segue-way into this topic with his snarky tales of fighter pilots and astronauts.
As usual, I spent a lot of time learning more about the human body. I started at the end of life with Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, followed by a microscopic adventure inside our bodies with I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and A Grander View of Life by Ed Yong.
The other subject I enjoyed reading about is feminism. I found my university textbooks while I was home this summer, so I read them before taking them to the second hand book shop. That reading journey led to new authors that are writing about women’s rights and modern-day feminism.
At the beginning of this year, I thought I’d do the GoodReads Non Fiction challenge for 2019, but decided to pump up my numbers after I blew through 19 non fiction books by July.
I finished the year at my goal of 45 non-fiction books out of a total of 150 books in 2019. I picked five female and five male non-fiction writers for my list this year. There is no order to this list in terms of which reads were my favorite.
My Top 10 Non Fiction Books of 2019
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
“A grand tour through our microbial partners.”
Ed Yong introduces us to the pioneering scientists on the front lines of microbe research and how this will change our view of nature.
Microbes are part of our immune system and protect us from disease, help us with our health, and help to shape our identities. We can’t live without them.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
The story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s voyage aboard the Endurance in the South Atlantic sea in August 1914 is an unbelievable journey about endurance and human resilience.
In October 1915, the Endurance is trapped and crushed to splinters in the ice. The men aboard escape the ship and spend months on drifting ice packs under the leadership of Shackleton.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage is a great story of the human spirit and courage to prevail against all odds.
One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us To The Moon by Charles Fishman
Anything you’ve ever wanted to know about the race to the moon and how America achieved this in a decade can be found right here in this incredible novel about the space race.
This book was fascinating!
There are so many great facts packed into this book, I felt like I got a first-rate education on the 60s and the giant effort it took for Americans to put a man on the moon.
Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham
Midnight in Chernobyl covers a huge range of topics related to the history of the Pripyat and Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Higginbotham writes about the men and women involved in this devastating event. He also covers the massive clean-up effort and ongoing research that continued well after Reactor 4 melted down on April 25, 1986.
We also learn why the incident was covered up. A massive amount of brain power went into coming up with ideas to clean up this disaster, some of which worked, while others proved fruitless. All in all, a fascinating read.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller reveals her name and reclaims her identity from Emily Doe over the Standford rape case, while also telling readers everything that happened from her point of view. Her memoir highlights a justice system that punishes victims and protects rapists, further adding to her trauma from that night. This woman is one to watch. She’s an exceptionally talented writer and artist and I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing about her a lot more.To girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. ~ Chanel Miller Click To Tweet
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
If you’re a woman and you’ve wondered about how so many things in life don’t seem to fit, have a read through Criado Perez’s years of research that showcase the many inconveniences that women have to accept as a result of gender bias.
She includes in-depth studies about how the world is designed for men and how women are often ignored in design considerations, including public transportation. The problem is male-biased design. For example, while designers might think that allocating the same amount of floor space to men and women is fair, they overlook the fact that women need more space for children and for changing diapers, for example. No one took into account how women use the bathroom differently from men.
From phones that were not made for our hands to cars built for men’s bodies, to how medical research and guidelines have historically excluded women, this book will open your eyes to the inconveniences of the world women live in today.
The Women’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss
As a Canadian woman, I am familiar with Canadian women’s suffrage efforts, but not that of the USA. This book is well researched and it read like fiction, which made it quite enjoyable.
It’s hard to believe how long women fought for the vote. The women who started this movement never saw their efforts rewarded. The women who ended it and achieved the vote for American woman hadn’t even been born when the movement began. *White women received the right to vote in 1920. Men and women of color continued to fight against discriminatory voting practices in certain states through the 50s and 60s. Voting rights are still an issue for millions of Americans in 2019.
Anyone who is interested in the United States and the ongoing fight for women should read this book. The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote is one of the greatest political victories the US has ever seen.
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister
Rebecca Traister explores the transformative power of angry women and how their anger can move a political movement forward. Not only does Traister track the history of female anger, but she also provides a rich history of women whose anger pushed the women’s movement forward. We must keep pushing.
We learn about the ways that anger is perceived by its owner and the different ways that history has delegitimized female anger. This book shows how society and the media condemn females who show rage and emotion, and what the resulting impact is from releasing these emotions publicly.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Reading Michelle Obama’s memoir felt like having a good friend sitting in my room with me and telling me all their intimate life details.
I started my year on this book and it was so good, I ended up giving copies to friends. There is nothing this woman can’t do.
Of all the women I could meet in the world today, Michelle Obama is at the top of my list along with a few other inspiring women.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
This is beautiful and haunting storytelling. Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a letter written from a son to his illiterate mother. Vuong’s family immigrated to the US from Vietnam and reveals the struggles that his family endured in both countries. This is one of the best LGBT novels I’ve read. It explores many themes that include racism, class, PTSD, and ideas of masculinity in a voice that rings with poetry and aching sorrow.
Having the strength to tell our stories is one of the most empowering things we can do. We hear you, Ocean.
“All this time I told myself we were born from war– but I was wrong, Ma. We were born from beauty. Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence–but for that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.” ― Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Here is my list of 45 non-fiction from 2019
(35 books are listed below)
Enjoy! Please feel free to add me on GoodReads.
Science, Technology, and Health
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Silence in the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge
For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of Experts’ Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrennreich and Deidre English
The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation by Jay Elliot, William L. Simon
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
History and Law
My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Erin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Women’s Studies and Feminism
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dear Ijeawele or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly
The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
A Burst of Light and Other Essays by Audre Lorde
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
The Book of Lilith by Barbara Black Koltuv, PhD
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, and A Prayer by Eve Ensler
Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston
Educated by Tara Westover
Autobiographies, Biographies and Memoirs
In Pieces by Sally Field
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Her Again by Meryl Streep
The Concubine’s Children by Denise Chong
Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler
An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Twe by Annejet van der Zijl – Translator Michele Hutchison
Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums
This Time Together by Carol Burnett
A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Check here for a list of my favorite books of 2018. I’ve updated my book followers each year. Did you read any of these books this year? I’d love to hear what your favorite non fiction reads are.