Tuesday, November 04, 2014

My Favorite Nonfiction Reads of the Year

This week’s question for Nonfiction November asks:

Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

My favorite nonfiction read of the year:

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book The Shadow of the Sun. Kapuscinski worked as a news correspondent for a Poland paper for over 40 years.  This book is a collection of essays where he shares his observations from several of the African countries he visited.  I learnt more about Africa, its climate, politics, history, culture, economy and people from this book than in any other book I’ve read. I also enjoyed Kupuscincki’s writing and hope to read more of his books in the future.


The book I quote most often:

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancerby Siddhartha Mukherjee.  This book is the book I mention most often in conversation.  It is incredibly comprehensive and discusses many different cancers, treatments, causes and related diseases.  I can’t help but be reminded of it when these topics come up in conversation.

The book that gave me biggest aha moment:

Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfectionby Debora Spar. While reading this book I realized how my life was influenced by those perfume commercials of the 70’s that led me to believe women (I) could have it all. 

The book that was the most therapeutic:

Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendshipby Gail Caldwell which I wrote about here.

The best story:
Undress Me in the Temple of Heavenby Susan Jane Gilman was my biggest page-turner.  In this honest memoir Gilman writes about her 1986 backpacking trip to China with former college classmate Claire.  Her experience in pre-Tiananmen Square massacre China along with Claire’s story and the people they encounter is fascinating.  It is interesting to note she and Claire for the most part were treated with incredible kindness and hospitality by the Chinese people while they acted like spoiled brats, were rude and at times down-right mean.  

My favorite nonfiction books are those that help me better understand the world or books where I am motivated to pull out my notebook and begin taking copious notes. To be honest, I haven’t read many of these types of books lately and hope to discover a few new titles to add to my reading list this month.  I’m also looking forward to participating in the read-a-longs and book discussions.    

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

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  1. That seems like a wide (and interesting!) variety of titles and subjects! None of which I've yet read, but I should.

  2. The Shadow of the Sun sounds like an amazing read. Learning, whether it's about history, other cultures, or almost anything else, is the reason why I'm such a big fan of nonfiction. :D

  3. Anonymous2:31 PM

    What you said about reading nonfiction to have a better understanding of the world really stood out for me. It's one of the reasons why I would like to read more nonfiction.

  4. I love how you have this book broken down into different categories. The Emperor of Maladies is one that I've started listening to a few times but the timing never seems to be right (for my brain to concentrate). The Shadow of the Sun is one I'll be putting on my list!

  5. I don't mention The Emperor of All Maladies all that often, but I did think it was a fantastic book. I haven't heard of most of the other book you mention, but you've given me a lot of books to add to my goodreads list!

  6. I love the way you formatted this post. I've shared thoughts from The Emperor of All Maladies with quite a few people since I read it too.

  7. You may just be the tipping point for me with Mukherjee's book. It's been on my shelf for ages and everyone always talks about how informative it is, I've just always scooted past it.

    I'm not big on memoirs but there is something about backpacking/hiking memoirs that just pull me in. I've read quite a few and still don't know why. Gilman's book is 'new to me' and I'm certainly going to have to track down a copy. Thank you for listing it here!

  8. Amy,
    Thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the list.

  9. Nice list. We're in the process of finding some nonfiction books for my daughter. She has already read all the fiction books for the school year, now she has to finish the allotted number of fiction books for the school year.

  10. Wow! What a diverse list of reads! I have been doing a lot of reading this year but I have not come across any of these titles - thank you for sharing! Some of my favorites have been The Dream Giver, The Promise of A Pencil, 29 Gifts, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Have you read any of those? Thank you for sharing your favorite reads!

  11. Been meaning to pop by and take note of this page, being it in my twitter feed :) I think I may have to pick up the last one and read that. My husband and I traveled for nearly a year around the world, didn't make it to China and would be interested in reading about their experience,

  12. Jennifer,
    The Shadow of the Sun was an amazing read. If you like learning about other cultures and history I guarantee you will like this book.

  13. So many interesting books here! I've never heard of The Shadow of the Sun, but it sounds like a great read. I have Let's Take the Long Way Home on my shelves and I'm definitely looking forward to reading it. I'm going to head over to read your post now. Thank you for joining in Nonfiction November!

  14. These sound interesting! This year, I really enjoyed reading "Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin" by Jill Lepore.

  15. These are great recommendations. Thanks for sharing!

    Stopped by via SITSblogging!
    xx, Kelly

  16. i don't read a lot of nonfiction. i think the last one was 'lean in.' in fact, in our book club, we've kind of outlawed nonfiction because most every wants to read fiction.

    that said, i would highly recommend 'the orphan master's son' which is fiction, but helped me learn about north korea. i really had no idea. it's a fascinating read depicting the lives the north koreans lead. it's all propaganda, no freedom.

  17. I've been looking for a new nonfiction reading list - it's all I do in my spare time now that it's freezing out. I have a thing for nonfiction, you know :) Right now I'm in the middle of Truman Capote's short stories. Going to have to check some of those out!

  18. ebookclassics,
    I'd appreciate recommendations if you come across a good one.

    p.s. I've also read those who read more nonfiction also earn more money - though this is probably skewed because men tend to read mostly nonfiction.

  19. Trish,
    I think Emperor of Maladies would be a hard one to listen too. I doubt if I could have stayed with it either.

  20. Doing Dewey,
    "I haven't heard of most of the other book you mention, but you've given me a lot of books to add to my goodreads list!"

    That is exactly why I am enjoying Nonfiction November. I am discovering so many new books.

  21. Kim,
    I'm sure I originally discovered Emperor on your blog. Thanks for hosting this event again this year. I am really enjoying it.

  22. Trav,
    Ah, I would love to be your tipping point. Would love to hear what you think of Gilman's memoir if you do read it.

  23. Mrs. AOK,
    Love it that your daughter reads nonfiction.

  24. Tiffany,
    Thank you for the comment. The only book I've read from your list is Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I read it a long time ago, but remember it influencing me to think more long-term about my money goals and wealth.

  25. British Mum USA,
    Thanks for stopping in. Would love to learn more about your travels some day.

  26. Lu,
    You are welcome. Thank you for hosting it.

  27. Midnight Cowgirl,
    One of my favorite things about this blog is receiving a great nonfiction book recommendation. And Book of Ages about Jane Franklin - Ben Franklin's sister is a great one. I'm adding it to my reading list.

  28. Kelly,
    Thanks for stopping in.

  29. Catherine Gacad,
    You will be my go to person for fiction recommendations. Thanks for the suggestion.

  30. Jennifer,
    In Cold Blood has been on my reading list for years, but I can never bring myself to read it. Let me know what you think of his short stories?