Top Non Fiction Books Read 2016

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Top Non Fiction Books Read 2016

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dec 29, 2016, 10:44 pm

What did you love this year?

dec 29, 2016, 11:21 pm

I have to vote for Devil in the Grove which won the Pulitzer this year. Amazing read. I listened to this one and it was a great way to hear the story because it was so supsenseful.

dec 29, 2016, 11:37 pm

I ended up reading very little non-fiction but from the ones I did read, I cannot pick my favorite ones - it is a tie between two books:

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond which allowed me to see a part of the nation that I've never really seen before. And on top of it, it is a very absorbing story (and the best non-fiction I read this year).

The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria by Janine Di Giovanni - for the courage and for the description of a war that we all prefer not to be here... but we cannot ignore

In a way both are books about war and misery - one declared war, one not; one in the States, one half-way across the world. But both heartbreaking.

And despite not being perfect, these three were worth reading and might have been my favorite non-fiction if I had not read the previous 2 this year:

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates - even if I did have some reservations, it is a book that needs to be read

The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue by Frederick Forsyth- especially if you are a fan of his novels

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli for its apparent simplicity while explaining very hard concepts

Why Save the Bankers?: And Other Essays on Our Economic and Political Crisis by Thomas Piketty had the same issue as the Rovelli book - because it was written as a series of articles, it did end up with a lot of repetition and lacked internal cohesion - but still was a great read.

dec 30, 2016, 8:19 am

Possibly the most important book is Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, though post-election, it is more discouraging than before.

When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II was a love story for books and freedom of thought.

Green Urbanism Down Under : learning from sustainable communities in Australia details many excellent local and state initiatives for green living, in a society that takes the climate and resources issue much more seriously than we in the US.

Aptly read in this awful political year is The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Still trying to learn more on this topic as it becomes even more important.

Lentil Underground is a very hopeful book, describing a mid-scale farmers' revolution in Montana.

Children of the Blitz : memories of wartime childhood is a collection of photos and reminiscences of the London Blitz, and it does a remarkable job of covering many facets of the time.

Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? was enlightening as well.

Elephant Company : the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II has been the most fun. Billie Williams reminds me of my deceased husband. It's great spending time with him.

For an intro to post-carbon survival thoughts, this is a summary of a talk by Richard Heinberg, who has been tracking the oil peak for decades: Fifty Million Farmers. There is a link to it in the book description box.

two documentary films I thought were excellent are:

Merchants Of Doubt (film)


Between the Folds: a film about finding inspiration in unexpected places. This one will just make you grin with joy for human ingenuity.

Is that too many? Sorry.

dec 30, 2016, 8:25 am

My favorites this year were:

Gut by Guilia Enders - a look at how the gut is integral to the working of the body, told in a humorous fashion

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan - a study of the Dust Bowl in 1930s America, excellent narrative nonfiction

Pioneer Girl - an annotated coffee table book that is the original autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the source for many of her children's books

The Boys in the Boat - story of the development of the rowing team that won the 1936 Olympics in Germany

dec 30, 2016, 1:50 pm

5 - I loved The Boys in the Boat. I'm not generally a fan of of sports books, but this one was an exception.

Redigerat: dec 30, 2016, 10:33 pm

>5 japaul22: If I read The Boys in the Boat this year, it certainly would be in my top list but I read it last year. Awaiting the movie with glee!

dec 31, 2016, 6:59 am

>7 JulieLill: Movie?!! I hadn't heard that!

>8 JulieLill: I also loved The River of Doubt, though I really haven't felt the same way about her other books. ANd I keep meaning to read Quiet and haven't gotten there yet.

Redigerat: dec 31, 2016, 9:46 am

>8 JulieLill: I also loved the bio of Hahn. She was a new author to me this year LovedNo Hurry to get Home and China to Me as well.

dec 31, 2016, 10:24 am

I'm reading Luther, der Ketzer : Rom und die Reformation, which is very good, as it is written by a historian who searched the Vatican archives for relevant material. A good preparation for the 500 years celebration coming up. However, I see no sign that an English translation is planned. This can't be called 'telling the other side of the story'. Reinhardt tells both sides and concentrates a lot on the politics. Basically, the Roman side didn't take German culture seriously, nor the bad feeling that had arisen between the 'cultured' Italians and the 'barbarian' Germans. Rome's main diplomat in this matter spoke no German, and seems to have misread public opinion.

dec 31, 2016, 7:09 pm

I have added several of your recommendations to my never ending reading list. Thanks to everyone for the great suggestions!

dec 31, 2016, 7:31 pm

Fiction dominated my reading this year, but I did step into the real world a few times.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt's New World – Andrea Wulf
Annals of the Deep Sky, Vol. 3 – Jeff Kanipe & Dennis Webb
How To Use An Astronomical Telescope – James Muirden
The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts – Graham Robb
Dune Boy: The Early Years of a Naturalist – Edwin Way Teale
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania – Erik Larson
The Amateur Astronomer's Introduction to the Celestial Sphere – William Millar
House of Rain: Tracking a Vanished Civilization Across the American Southwest – Craig Childs

Of these, The Invention of Nature and House of Rain are the standouts.

jan 1, 2017, 1:25 pm

There were five non-fic books in my top ten of the year ...

Lisa Jackson – Your Pace or Mine? – removed the last traces of shame at being a slow runner and the author even emailed me on marathon day.

David Kynaston – Modernity Britain – his volumes of social history always make my top ten.

Joan Russell Noble – Recollections of Virginia Woolf – such a special book of pieces by her contemporaries.

Simon Armitage – Walking Home – a bloomin good read about a long walk.

Bob Stanley – Yeah Yeah Yeah – the definitive history of pop and SO entertaining.

Reviews not on here yet but you can find them on my blog if interested

jan 13, 2017, 4:55 pm

Just noticed this thread now. Here are 2016 nonfiction entries that I'd feel comfortable recommending:

Everywhere I Look -- a brilliant series of essays by Australian writer Helen Garner.

Ghostland -- American history through the framework of "haunted places" by Colin Dickey. Even the most hardened anti-spook sceptic ought to appreciate this one.

In Gratitude -- Jenny Diski's memoir of what it's likely to actually BE a terminally ill person. Fans of Doris Lessing will especially appreciate Jenny's having been her foster daughter for years.

Following Fish -- Part travel, part history, part sociology of India via the theme of "fish".

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes -- author's stories of working at a crematorium.

Walking the Kiso Road -- modern exploration of a historic Japanese route which I thought especially well done.

Trip to Echo Spring -- parts travel narrative/bio/lit crit as the author travels USA to sites that were part of the lives of six American authors.

This Victorian Life -- author and her husband live almost completely Victorian lives on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

I'm the Teacher, You're the Student -- a school year through the eyes of a dedicated history professor.

Redigerat: jan 14, 2017, 6:12 pm

>16 Seajack: Definitely adding Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and The Victorian Life looks interesting.

Redigerat: jul 16, 2017, 11:12 am

Ok, my list is uhm, a bit eclectic, but 'here goes:

The Invention of Air
Shit My Dad Says
Being Mortal

My best non-fiction for 2016 was definitely The Swerve

Redigerat: jan 15, 2017, 10:30 am

Zealot was my fav nf read a few years back. I have some background in the the time period, the Jewish history, and the development of Christianity, but his take on it opened my eyes to so much I didn't realize.

jan 17, 2017, 8:04 am

>18 Sandydog1: Can you fix your touchstone for Zealot, please, or give the author's name? TS goes to a Highlander TV show at the moment.

jan 22, 2017, 3:27 am

River of Doubt, The Invention of Air and Dead Wake are all on my TBR list. Glad to see some good reviews!

jul 16, 2017, 11:13 am

>20 2wonderY:, 22
Oops! It is a fantastic book. Probably a few orders of magnitude better than the original touchstone!

nov 10, 2017, 10:28 pm

I read Island of the Lost for book club. I thought it was excellent.