Six of My Favorite Nonfiction Reads from the Past Year
Six Bossy Favorite Nonfiction Reads
Fridays are for highlighting books I've loved! I thought these titles were fascinating, surprised me, or infuriated me, and all were powerful in their own way.
I've been posting about favorite reads from lots of genres that I've loved reading in the past year:
You can also check out My Very Favorite Bossy 2022 Reads for my absolute favorite reads from last year.
If you've read any of the books mentioned here, I'd love to hear what you think!
What are some of your favorite nonfiction reads, from the past year or from this one so far?
01 Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Keefe offers an infuriating, fascinating, meticulously researched account of the Sackler family and their collective responsibility for the ongoing, devastating opioid crisis.
I listened to Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe's exhaustive, revolting, fascinating history of the Sackler family as traced through their modest beginnings, medical degrees, various interpersonal dramas, multiple marriages, handshake deals, amassing of vast wealth, and ruthless promotion of the family's legacy.
Meticulously researched, always interesting, and consistently infuriating, Empire of Pain is essential nonfiction that details the shocking narcissism, relentless ambition and greed, aggressive delusions, obscene negligence, and dogged maleficence that created our nation's opioid crisis and has led to hundreds of thousands of opioid-related deaths—a number that continues to grow.
Patrick Radden Keefe is a master of compelling, important nonfiction. His book Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland was one of my Six of the Best Nonfiction Books I read that year.
Click here for my full review of Empire of Pain.
02 The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones
In exposing our nation’s troubled roots, the 1619 Project challenges us to think about a country whose exceptionalism we treat as the unquestioned truth. It asks us to consider who sets and shapes our shared national memory and what and who gets left out...
In this hefty expansion of the 1619 Project, which was spearheaded by Nikole Hannah-Jones at The New York Times Magazine, an array of contributors reframe the history of the United States, putting enslaved people and their work and contributions at the center of our past.
While history is what happened, it is also, just as important, how we think about what happened and what we unearth and choose to remember about what happened...
The 1619 Project highlights tragic, uncomfortable aspects of our nation's history in an important work of nonfiction about race. Hannah-Jones aims to better shape how we recognize and address our country's past wrongs and how we might begin to address these travesties in order to move forward.
For my full review, check out The 1619 Project.
03 The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
John Green provides a range of thoughtful, wonderfully absurd, or sentimental examinations along with his ratings on a five-star scale of various concepts, natural phenomena, and inventions of our age.
The Anthropocene Reviewed is a collection of personal essays from John Green.
The title comes from Green's podcast of the same name, in which he rated "facets of the human condition on a five-star scale." His book includes some of the subjects he explored in the podcast, as well as some new topics.
The Anthropocene is the current geological age, and Green delightfully subjects a wide range of aspects of our world (including the QWERTY keyboard, Canada geese, Super Mario Kart, the Bonneville Salt Flats, whispering, the World's Largest Ball of Paint, wintry mix, and teddy bears) to his sometimes absurd, occasionally unfavorable, often effusive star rating system.
Green is thoughtful and self-effacing, curious, sensitive, and I reveled in his explorations of his own glorious favoritism (hello, Diet Dr. Pepper) and deep-seated resentments (I’m looking at you, Canada geese) .
I listened to The Anthropocene Reviewed as an audiobook.
Click here for my full review of The Anthropocene Reviewed.
04 How to Be Perfect
Filled with sometimes playful, often weighty questions, scenarios, and ideas, How to Be Perfect makes considering ethics and morality fun, and Michael Schur's tone is self-deprecating and thoughtful.
The best thing about Aristotle’s “constant learning, constant trying, constant searching” is what results from it: a mature yet still pliable person, brimming with experiences both old and new, who doesn’t rely solely on familiar routines or dated information about how the world works.
In How to Be Perfect, Michael Schur, the creator of Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, relies upon takeaways from morality and ethics writings and lessons to craft this guide to how to behave in the world.
What does being a "good" person mean? What do we owe to each other? What is our duty to our fellow humans in different situations?
I listened to this as an audiobook. Schur comes across as intelligent and kind, thoughtful, and self-deprecating. I watched The Good Place for the third time just before reading this, and I loved hearing Schur's references to the inspirations for the show and hearing his references to specific scenes, which were fresh in my mind.
With sections read by stars of The Good Place, Schur's How to Be Perfect is funny, interesting--and a heartwarming reminder that there are thoughtful, kind, well-meaning people out there spending time reflecting on how best to be a human in today's world. That in and of itself is a comfort.
For my full review, check out How to Be Perfect.
05 The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
Bryson's examination of the human body, its processes, its wonders, and its limitations is surprising, illuminating, and wonderful.
“We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted.”
The Body: A Guide for Occupants is made up of fascinating, funny, odd, and often unexpected information about the complicated corporeal shell we each inhabit.
With his signature wit and curiosity, Bryson delves into everything you didn't know that you didn't know about the body (and, I'm glad to say, he narrates the audiobook edition of the book).
I'm willing to accompany Bill Bryson anywhere he wants to take me, and an adventure through body systems, grievous injuries, and our various, wondrous healing processes is no exception. Bryson considers the body's systems, outside positive and detrimental influences upon the body, and disease and the process of death. He inspires wonder, shares knowledge, and offers sometimes shocking factoids about our bodies and how they work.
For my full review, check out The Body.
06 Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
Heartbreaking and disturbing, this is a fascinating exploration of the motivations behind and the execution of white men's relentless mission of destruction; details of Comanche life; and their position as the most powerful Indian tribe in American history.
Victorious in war, unchallenged by foreign foes in North America for the first time in its history, the Union now found itself unable to deal with the handful of remaining Indian tribes that had not been destroyed, assimilated, or forced to retreat meekly onto reservations where they quickly learned the meaning of abject subjugation and starvation.
In Empire of the Summer Moon, S.C. Gwynne explores the forty-year battle between white settlers and Native Americans in the American West, particularly focusing on Quanah, the chief of the Comanches, the most powerful tribe in American history.
Gwynne traces the evolution of the Comanches--including their captivatingly described, unprecedented skill at breeding, breaking, riding, amassing, and trading horses as well as their revolutionary fighting style of hanging on the sides of their horses and shooting arrows under the horses' heads while galloping at full speed.
Digging into the motivations and machinations that shaped the genocide that is detailed in Empire of the Summer Moon is disturbing and heartbreaking, but appropriately so.
For my full review, check out Empire of the Summer Moon.