Monday, December 19, 2016

Top Ten Favorite Nonfiction Reads of 2016

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Like I did two years ago, I'm going to share two different top ten lists for the year, one of my top nonfiction reads and another of my top fiction reads. This week I'll share my favorite nonfiction reads in 2016. As in past years, these are alphabetical, as it's hard enough to narrow it down to ten without also trying to rank them!

1. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
This was a truly enjoyable collection of stories from a country veterinarian in the 1930s. The stories are memorable, the characters are colorful, and the descriptions of the location were beautiful. Although the book was on the longer side, I wanted to pause after each story just to savor the writing.

2. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
This is one of those rare books that I wish I could make required reading for everyone. Gawande takes us from nursing homes to hospitals to show how modern medicine's triumphs in extending life have made it harder and harder for us to accept the true end of life when it approaches. We focus on safety and longevity over quality of life. This is an especially important book for medical professionals, but ultimately is valuable for everyone who will one day face death.

3. Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood? by Fred Rogers
This little book is now in my collection of favorite parenting books to reread. It's not a parenting book per se, but I learned a lot in seeing how Mister Rogers responded to the wide variety of letters he received over the years and reading some of his commentary on those responses. This is definitely worth picking up, whether you're a parent or not. Many of Mister Rogers' life lessons apply no matter how old you are.

4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This book is challenging but very, very necessary to read. It takes the statistics I already knew about the problems with our criminal justice system and illustrates them with personal stories of blatant discrimination and injustice. This should be required reading for every American.

5. Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki
This was the method overwhelmingly recommended for potty training on a mothers' Facebook group I'm part of, so I decided to give it a shot. We used her method with our 22-month-old over Thanksgiving weekend, and we were able to send him back to daycare that Monday with no diapers and have had minimal accidents since. It's intense but SO worth it to get your kid on track quickly.

6. Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans
This is my favorite of Evans' books to date. A blend of memoir, reflection, and church history, it uses the seven sacraments as touchstones to take the reader on a journey through what makes church wonderful and infuriating. I haven't had the ups and downs of Evans' church experience, but I still teared up with recognition more than once while listening to this one.

7. Take This Bread by Sara Miles
Miles shares about her journalistic background, her unexpected conversion to Christianity, and her journey to set up and grow a food pantry out of her new church. In between, she meditates on the mystery of the Eucharist, the way food brings people together, and the challenge of actually being as radically welcoming as Jesus. It's definitely worth a read.

8. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
This was a beautifully written memoir of Kalanithi's transition from doctor to patient as he faced his own terminal diagnosis. His meditations on time, values, and legacy were incredibly powerful. I'm glad this has gotten the attention it has.

9. With Burning Hearts by Henri Nouwen
This deceptively slim book was infinitely better than I expected. Nouwen invites the reader to revisit the parts of Mass with fresh eyes, and his straightforward and relatable writing helped me reap tons from this tiny volume.

10. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Although I've never been in Didion's shoes (with a suddenly deceased husband and a daughter in intensive care), I found her story somehow utterly relatable. Her process of grief was a combination of logical and illogical thoughts, a search for answers among literature and research, and a constantly failed attempt to stay out of the "vortex" of memory. It was compelling and well-written.

What were your favorite nonfiction reads of the year?

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