Monday, January 5, 2015

2014: A Year in (Book) Review - Nonfiction Edition

My last post was getting far too wordy, so I thought it would be best to split it up into fiction and non-fiction.  I guess I just enjoyed a lot of books this year.  Sure there were a few bombs, but for the most part I had pretty good luck.

I try not to let myself by too many books until I've finished the previously-purchased stack.  It's so hard, though, because when I head up to the library book sale and beautiful hard-bound books are only 50 cents each, I invariably want to carry out a whole box full.  I know, I know, there are worse problems to have.

Before I run the risk of a second excessively wordy post, here are my top nonfiction reads for 2014 (again, in no particular order):

1.  They Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.
    Wow. Just wow.  I never would have thought that reading about crew/rowing would be exciting, but I found myself gripping my kindle with sweaty palms during much of the book.  That's the mark of a great story-teller and a well-researched subject.  I would recommend reading this in conjunction with Unbroken.  It has some overlap with the cast of characters, but is much less depressing and stressful.

2.  Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.
   I'll recommend this with a disclaimer.  There is some language and explicit content, but it's pretty tame.  I barely made it through one episode of the Netflix series, but the book was SO MUCH BETTER.  It was a great look at the inside of the women's prison system.  I really had no idea how things worked in prison and it was a fascinating read.  I laughed, I flinched, I was grossed out.  Unsurprisingly, it made me want to learn more about prison reform.  

3.  Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.
   I'm never disappointed by Michael Lewis.  I enjoyed/was terrified by this look at investment and the stock market.  I'm also fairly certain that maybe I need to just hide all my money under my mattress.

4. Marley and Me by John Grogan.
    I knew going into this that it would make me cry - nay bawl my eyes out.  And it delivered.  Grogran does a great job of describing life with a dog.  Also, he's a pretty engaging writer, which is a definite plus.  Read if you need a good therapeutic cry.

5.  Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.
   Susannah Cahalan was a young journalist working in NYC when she started having a series of strange medical woes.  Think Exorcist type terror.  It turns out to be an autoimmune disease that is attacking her brain, but it takes ages and teams of doctors to figure out what is wrong.  I loved that it was a memoir told first-person.  Sure, that means its through a filtered lens, but she does a great job of researching the disease and looking at it all subjectively.

6.  Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin.
   Having never learned much about Chairman Mao's reign in China, I was shocked by the information in this memoir.  In western schools we learn so much about WWII and problems in Europe, but almost nothing about China (or Asia) in general.  This wasn't the most beautifully written memoir, but what it lacked in literary genius, it made up for in fascinating information.

 7.  The Black Count by Tom Reiss.
    There were portions of this book that I found fairly boring, but as a lover of French history, it was mostly a page-turner.  I hadn't realized how much of Alexandre Dumas' novels were somewhat biographical (using stories from his father's life).  Also, I loved learning about slavery and black history in France.  I had no idea how progressive France was prior to Napoleon's reign.  Tons of great information that appealed to my love of random facts.

8.  On Writing by Stephen King.
    I haven't read much Stephen King (I'm not a huge fan of scary stories), but I adored this book.  It was fun to get inside the mind of such a successful writer and made me excited to sit down and write on my own.  That, my friends, is quite a feat.

1 comment:

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