Monday, December 30, 2019

The Best Non-Fiction Of 2019

It's the end of 2019 which means it's time to look back and remember some of the great books I've spent time with over the past 365 days.  I didn't get quite as many books read this year as I did in 2018, which has allowed me a little bit of time to savor some of what I read instead of rushing through each book as quickly as I can.  

I've broken my favorites down into three separate groups: fiction, non-fiction and YA/middle grade.

Today I'm sharing nine of my favorite non-fiction reads with you:

1. Once More We Saw Stars: a Memoir by Jayson Greene  - I'm always ready for good heartbreaking story, and this truly fits the bill.  Greene's toddler daughter, Greta, was sitting on a park bench in NYC with her grandmother when a loose piece of brick fell from the building they were near, hitting Greta in the head. She is rushed to the hospital, but there is nothing that can be done to save her.  This is Greene's account of Greta's accident, their journey to parenthood, their lives after losing Greta, and their path forward.  Although devastating, there is also great hope in Greene's memoir which is beautifully written.

2.  Maybe You Should Talk To Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb - Gottlieb shares the stories of several of her patients in her memoir along with her own life story and need to see a therapist after a recent breakup leaves her questioning things.  Gottlieb's patients are interesting and I was as invested in their lives as I was in Gottlieb's, which she shares with honesty and candor.  

3.  The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death and Everything That Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams- while book #1 on my list is sad, this memoir absolutely devastated me, and yet I couldn't put it down. Yip-Williams' life is one she chose to view as miraculous: born blind, her parents were encouraged by her grandmother to kill her because they could see no value in her life or future for her. Instead, the family emigrated to America, Julie's eyesight was somewhat corrected (she was still legally blind), and she graduated from Harvard with a law degree, married and had two children. And then she was diagnosed with terminal metastatic colon cancer at age thirty-seven. This is her story, one she shares with honesty, some humor, gratitude and hope.  

4.  The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us by Paul Tough - this is such an interesting book about college.  With a senior daughter the topic definitely hits home, but I think this book is for any parent or educator who wants to understand how the college admissions game really works.  The book is full of facts and statistics, but isn't dry and boring, instead focusing on a few different students and sharing their stories.

5.  Tiger by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian- I've watched Tiger Woods play golf for decades now, and the child prodigy I first knew has changed over the years. This biography begins with the unfortunate night that Tiger fled his home, crashing his car, after his now ex-wife Elin Nordgren discovered he had been cheating on her.  This is an honest - and not horribly flattering- look at this golf legend.  It was written before Tiger's comeback, but it is well-researched and many friends and colleagues were sources for this biography.  If you want to believe that Tiger is an amazing human, pass on this one, but if you are OK getting to know who Tiger Woods really is, this is a great biography to pick up.

6.  Becoming by Michelle Obama- I love a good memoir, and Obama's is excellent.  I knew the outline of her life story prior to reading her book, but I enjoyed hearing it in Obama's own words.  Her writing style makes it feel like the two of us could meet for coffee and sit back and chat and have plenty in common.  I've heard this is a great book to listen to on audio, and someday I may do just that.

7.  The Only Plane In The Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett Graff- this is a book I read in short bits and pieces.  Graff has interviewed so many different people from 9/11, providing a well-rounded perspective on how things unfolded on that fateful day.  I was a young mother home on maternity leave during 9/11 so this day is forever etched in my mind and I spent all day unable to take my eyes off of our television.  Revisiting this critical moment in our nation's history and one that was so impactful in my own life was a little bit like reliving that horrible day.  Graff's account reacquainted me with names I hadn't heard in years, but also brought to light new accounts of this dreadful event.  Because this is an oral history, most of it is written in short snippets. This slowed my reading down, but the story itself is not one I could have read quickly or in big chunks.

8.  I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott - Philpott writes her life story in a manner that will leave you thinking you'd like to be friends with her.  I was able to identify with enough of her life story to really feel connected to her and finished this memoir wanting to be friends.  

9.  Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart - I read this biography in just a day and then went to see the movie based on Ginsburg's life.  The two complement each other nicely but I'd always choose a book over a movie, and there are many parts in this biography that are not included in the movie version.  Ginsburg's life is impressive and reading this book allowed me to learn so much about her childhood and marriage, parts of her life that were not as well known as her professional life. Learning more about this woman has made me a fan.  

1 comment:

Kay said...

I enjoyed Lori Gottlieb's book too and it made my most favorite non-fiction selection of 2019. I have The Only Plane in the Sky to listen to at some point, but will wait until I'm in the right mood for it. We all remember that day, don't we? You were home on maternity leave. We had taken our daughter to college a couple of weeks before for her freshman year. I wanted to go get her and bring her home. I'm sure I'll get very emotional listening to that one. I, too, have heard that several of these are good. Thanks for sharing them!