Monday, December 24, 2018

Top Ten Nonfiction Reads of 2018

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is about books we want Santa to bring, but since I so rarely ask for hard copies of books, I decided it was a good chance to go back to the format I used before last year's crappy reading year and share my ten favorite nonfiction reads from this year, followed next week by my ten favorite fiction reads of the year. I had so many good nonfiction reads this year that it was hard to narrow it down! Here are my favorites.

1. Ask a Manager by Alison Green
This book is a must-read for anyone in the workforce. It's a compilation of useful scripts for the most common and most difficult conversations you're likely to have at work. Of course, I also highly recommend the Ask a Manager blog.

2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Noah explores the complexity of race and class in South Africa not through the shock value of dredging up his worst memories, but in between the lines of the stories about his pranks, his friendships, his failed attempts at dating, and his complex family relationships. I laughed, I cried, and I wished it were longer.

3. Fed Up by Gemma Hartley
It's not an exaggeration to say that this book has transformed my marriage. Hartley articulated my personal experience (and that of many, many women in different-gender relationships) so perfectly that I told my husband, "I'd do almost anything to get you to read this book." He listened to the first 15 minutes, said everything suddenly clicked for him, and before I knew it I had an equal partner in the running of our daily lives. Women will appreciate it, but men need to read it.

4. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
This puts aside common paradigms of the Bible as a handbook for living or a puzzle to be solved and instead highlights the themes that recur throughout this book of stories, why they're there, and how they're relevant to our daily lives.

5. March (Vols. 1-3) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
These books tell the story of Lewis' involvement in the civil rights movement in clear and compelling detail. I knew some of the key pieces about this history already, but it was fascinating to be told the entire story as a complete narrative, and the integration of the story with the artwork was excellent.

6. Radical by Michelle Rhee
This is both a memoir of Rhee's controversial career in education reform and a battle cry for parents, teachers, students, and politicians to use their voices to fight for every student to have a quality education. Rhee focuses heavily on the importance of teachers — both why effective ones should be better rewarded and why incompetent ones should not be protected.

7. Small Animals by Kim Brooks
Brooks captures perfectly what it is like to be a parent in modern-day America, how the majority of your decisions are spurred by fear — fear of what will happen to your child if you don't do everything correctly and/or fear of what others parents will say or do if they believe you aren't parenting correctly.

8. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Through the lens of a specific girl's medical drama, Fadiman shows just how difficult it is for Hmong culture and Western medicine to even begin to understand one another if neither has the time or resources or inclination to make the effort. It's a comprehensive look at the importance and difficulties of crosscultural communication.

9. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
This was a difficult but important read about the way Tea Partiers and Trump supporters think about themselves, their country, and the environment. It doesn't provide a clear plan for getting these folks to use the same set of facts as the rest of us, but it does provide a fuller picture that can hopefully prevent progressives from making missteps in trying to reach across the aisle.

10. The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose
Roose's story of leaving his liberal bubble to spend a semester at Liberty University was at turns fascinating, amusing, enlightening, and confirming of my own thoughts and beliefs. I'm astounded that he wrote this while in college, as the writing ranks up there with some of the best memoirs I've read.

What were your favorite nonfiction reads this year?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Sophie's Choice and Americanah
Five years ago I was reading: Code Name Verity and War and Peace
Ten years ago I was reading: Traffic

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