Monday, December 28, 2020

Best Non-Fiction of 2020

 In 2020 I read (or will have by December 31) 200 books. Of those books 35 were non-fiction.  I feel like I could definitely read more than that because I have lots of non-fiction titles I would love to get to.  But, fiction reads faster as do middle grade and YA books, and I like switching things up and reading a wide variety of books.  

These ten are the highlights of my year, books I want other people to read and enjoy and would love to talk about with them.

In no particular order here are my best non-fiction reads of 2020:

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam- there's nothing like some non-fiction that makes you think about your own life.  This is probably considered self-help, but Vanderkam's writing is interesting and full of good information and had me reflecting on how I use my time. This is a book that could be revisited every little while because it's got plenty to think about.  

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Minds of An American Family by Robert Kolker - I loved this book which alternates chapters with medical information on mental illness and schizophrenia and the story of the Galvin family who had six sons (they had twelve children in all) that all suffered from schizophrenia. The story is heartbreaking but fascinating.

Four Friends: Promising Lives Cut Short by William D. Cohan- I feel like this book is misnamed - instead it should be Four Men Who Attended the Same College.  Friends is a stretch, but I guess that is more marketable. Anyway, Cohan writes of four men who all attend Andover and who all died tragic deaths. One of these men was JFK, Jr., and one was Harry S. Truman's grandson if you need name recognition to pick this one up. It's divided into each man's story, all of which were fascinating.

A Knock At Midnight by Brittany K Barnett - if you read Just Mercy and enjoyed it (perhaps not quite the right word for finding it amazing and important but horribly tragic), then you also need to read A Knock At Midnight. This book falls in the social justice category and Barnett tells her own story intertwining it with how she came to represent people who have been wrongly convicted.  This is another must read, and the fact that this is reality for some people is heartbreaking.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner -a backlist title that I've put off reading because as soon as I read the word 'polygamist' in the description, I just never felt in the mood to pick it up. But, it is a great memoir.  If you liked Educated or Glass Castle, both fantastic memoirs about dysfunctional families, this one is perfect for you.  I'm always amazed by how resilient some people are. 

Dare by Barry McDonough - this is by far the most important book I read this year as I have had issues with anxiety for much of my life, but it was noticeably worse the past eighteen months.  I felt like everything McDonough said was something I needed to underline, like he knew every single thing I was thinking.  I'd recommend this to any anxiety sufferer along with his app and daily recordings.

Everything Beautiful in Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager- I love JBH and the Bushes, and I loved reading her reminiscences of her grandparents. I loved reading the various anecdotes of the privates lives of the Bushes, but I also walked away with a great respect for this family and the love JBH has for her parents' parents.

Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham - I remember this happening when I was a child, walking downstairs one morning to watch the news. Seeing this panicked me.  And then so little was ever known or said about it because the Russians tried to keep it under wraps. I am fascinated by this event, and will pretty much read anything about it. There is more technical information in it than I need because I'd much rather read about the people affected and their lives, but this is solid nonfiction that will certainly provide more details than you had previously.

We Keep The Dead Close by Becky Cooper - I don't read a lot of true crime, but this is part true crime, part memoir, part a history of Harvard at the time....the murder of Jane Britton was never solved, so Becky Cooper does a great deal of research during her time at Harvard, piecing a few things together.  My uncle was a student at Harvard when Britton was killed, making it a little more personal to me as he does remember the murder from the news.  This is a book enjoyed by both my husband and me - a rare occurrence.  

And one last non-fiction selection I read just a couple weeks ago and loved:

Gildiner is a therapist who tells the story of five of her patients who she successfully treated. I loved each patient and was totally amazed by the resilience each of them displayed.  

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