Nonfiction November: Favorite Nonfiction Reads

Hello, hello! Finally a Nonfiction November prompt that I feel I can approach with confidence: nonfiction favorites. This week’s prompt is hosted by Leann at Shelf Aware. You can see her host post here! All book title links will take you to their information on Goodreads. While you’re there, go ahead and follow me! (Insert winking emoji here)

I read a lot, objectively speaking; I didn’t know this was actually true (I mean, I knew I was a reader, but I didn’t know what the term A LOT actually meant to people) until I told people how many books I generally read per year and was met with blank stares and disbelief. Because of my vague reading obsession, a few nonfiction books trickled in, even though I do consider myself a reader of fiction primarily.

The Books

For our purposes today, I will limit the nonfiction favorites to five selections. Okay, maybe six. Screw it, let’s just do ten.

Drumroll, please.

  • Columbine, Dave Cullen
  • Things My Son Needs to Know about the World, Fredrik Backman
  • Inspired, Rachel Held Evans
  • The Wondering Years, Knox McCoy
  • Born a Crime, Trevor Noah
  • Educated, Tara Westover
  • Furiously Happy, Jenny Lawson
  • A Prayer Journal, Flannery O’Connor
  • Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl
  • Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham

By Category: Memoir

Born a Crime: I will extol the wonders of this book until the day I die. It’s so well done. Sometimes you read a memoir that is too self-indulgent, too self-important; this is neither of those things. Trevor Noah’s voice is both wholly original and wholly relatable (the online dictionary is telling me this isn’t a word. How is that possible?). It feels like you’re talking to a good friend. But also, it’s illuminating. I think it’s really important that we listen to the experiences of other people, experiences that are so very different than our own. How are we to develop empathy or understanding for others if we don’t take the time to listen to the stories they have to tell? It’s important. It really is.

Educated: Gah, THIS BOOK. If you want something that will blow your mind, well here you freaking go. I can’t even tell you how quickly I read this, simply because it was so compelling, so well done, so shocking. I had to know how her story ended– like reading a domestic thriller, almost. Except real. It’s possible that I enjoyed this so much because I’m an educator, but I don’t think that actually makes much of a difference. I do think it’s important for educators to read this, though. We take major advantage of the educational opportunities our country gives us, even though there are flaws in the educational system. At least we have the opportunity and hope that obtaining an education provides. It’s so refreshing to read the account of someone who truly valued that, who grasped for education and made her life what she longed for it to be by those means.

Furiously Happy: This is a FUN book. I listened to it on Audible, but I don’t think it actually matters whether you read it traditionally or as an audiobook. It’s that good. I also should probably say that others preferred Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I read Furiously Happy first; therefore, I liked it more. Jenny Lawson is unabashedly honest; she describes her struggles with mental health and general life situations, and she also describes how she has worked to overcome those struggles. She’s obsessed with taxidermy as well, which is weird but humorous. Also, her twitter account is a gem.

Talking as Fast as I Can: I love Lauren Graham. I have gone through phases of my life where I either loved/hated Lorelai Gilmore (Pretty sure that’s because I’m an Enneagram 5 trying to not to be perpetually exhausted by an Enneagram 7), but I LOVE Lauren Graham. I think she’s a national treasure. And yes, this is an intimate, behind-the-scenes telling of Gilmore Girls, but it’s more than that. We get to learn about Graham’s life leading up to the show that gave her fame, and also what came after. If you listen on audio, it’s doubly fun. Highly recommend; I think maybe this is the best Hollywood memoir I’ve ever read.

By Category: Kind of a Memoir? Specified Memoir?

Things My Son Needs to Know about the World: I talked about this book in my Week 1 Nonfiction November post, but I’ll briefly discuss it here. Fredrik Backman is a freaking legend, and everything he writes is fantastic. This one has the added bonus of being a little peek into his personal life and personal humor. It’s hilarious. In short, this is a nonfictional account of what he has learned in the first few years of fatherhood and the lessons he feels it necessary for his son to learn.

The Wondering Years: If you haven’t listened to The Popcast with Knox and Jamie yet, you should be. It’s the most perfect weekly update about pop culture and pop culture related things, and as hosts they’re objectively wonderful. Knox McCoy is my personality twin (Meyers Briggs and Enneagram), so I read his book and felt like it was honestly just recounting stories of things similar to those I’d lived through myself. It’s really funny, but more than that, he discusses big life stuff in conjunction with things that are not so serious– that makes these heavy topics a lot less daunting. You will laugh at the things that Knox has experienced, felt, and said, but simultaneously think “This dude gets me.” It’s genuinely a good time.

Garlic and Sapphires: I love books about food. And yes, they make me hungry 90% of the time, but I still torture myself this way. Ruth Reichl* is kind of a legend. She’s totally reliable and qualified for food writing as a former New York Times restaurant critic and editor for Gourmet magazine. Her nonfiction books are delightful. I have read this one and Tender at the Bone, and I can say that I overwhelmingly enjoyed both (they ended up on my “keep” bookshelf; there’s no higher honor in the Lowrey household). This book tells of Reich’s experience as a restaurant critic, during which time she wore different disguises as she made reservations and tasted dishes at some of the most noteworthy restaurants in New York City. It’s, forgive me, delicious.

*Use this link to read the New York Times review of Garlic and Sapphires. It’s a good one.

By Category: Faith-Based

A Prayer Journal: I love Flannery so much. I love that I feel comfortable calling her Flannery (I feel like she’s my homegirl) despite her legendary literary status. I love that she writes with honesty and candor. I love that she is unflinchingly realistic about religion. More than anything, I am grateful for this text, this text that made me feel a kinship to her in my approach with God and faith. She’s the best. The absolute best.

Inspired: This is a great book. It approaches faith in a way that is both nontraditional and fully biblical. Mostly, I loved that this book challenged me; it required that I think about scripture from a new lens, and I fully appreciate that. Please, if you have any interest in faith-based books, take the time to read this.

By Category: Journalistic Nonfiction

Columbine: This is probably my favorite nonfiction book of all time. Cullen does a fantastic job discussing an intensely difficult subject. He doesn’t cower in the face of the monster that is gun violence (specifically gun violence exacted on children), and he simultaneously provides an in-depth inquiry into basically every facet of the Columbine tragedy. I really respect the work he has done in this book, and I do highly suggest it. There are many trigger warnings, be warned, and it is quite a large book. Still, I think it’s worth it.

If you have read any of my previous posts, you will be aware that I have a hard time actually picking favorites and limiting myself– that I was able to provide a list of only ten is quite an accomplishment for me. Do you see any of your own favorites on this list? Are there are books you think I might really enjoy? If so, drop a note below!

Until next time, happy reading!

19 thoughts on “Nonfiction November: Favorite Nonfiction Reads

  1. We’re reading “Educated” for our book club and it’s AMAZING. So glad it made your list. I’ve seen “Furiously Happy” a bunch this Nonfiction November, I must be missing out. It sounds fun.

    Liked by 1 person

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