Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 non-fiction

2018 was a good reading year for me. I read 38 books, including two that were 800-plus pages.

I think acquiring a Kindle did much to boost my reading. Being able to download a book from the library onto a screen presents convenience and speed that's a tremendous help to me at this point in my life -- still with a fulltime day job and traveling two to three days most weeks.

Interestingly, more than two thirds of the books I read last year were non-fiction. This was not by design. As usual, I kept a running list of books I wanted to read (the TBR list), in no particular order (and it's largely a mental list). One at the bottom of the list, or not even on the list, could make its way to the top if it was what I decided I wanted to read at the time. And for whatever reason, the books that made it to the top in 2018 were predominantly non-fiction.

I mentioned some of these in past posts, so I apologize for the redundancy. Here are my favorite non-fiction reads of the year, in no particular order:

--  Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I've read a number of Lamott's books, but had never read this, one of her earlier ones. The subtitle, "Some Instructions on Writing and Life," is an apt description. Lamott is edgy, there's no doubt about it, and often edgier than I would prefer, but her writing is compelling which is why I keeping coming back.

-- Team of Rivals and Wait Till Next Year by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I wrote about both of these books last April. "Team of Rivals" is the book the movie "Lincoln" was based on, and was one of the 800 pagers. "Wait Till Next Year" is Kearns-Goodwin's memoir of growing up in Brooklyn and her relationship with her father and their mutual lover for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I learned about this author from blog friend Jeff ("Sage") and am most appreciative.

-- A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. I'm a big fan of the political post-mortems, in spite of their biases. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Self-serving? Without question. An agenda? Of course. Wouldn't you have one if you had been fired (very publicly) by the President of the United States?

-- The Restless Wave by John McCain. Ditto my first comment on the Comey book. I read this shortly before McCain passed away. He was a true statesman and patriot, and this was a great read.

-- Educated by Tara Westover. This one is still making bestseller lists. A young woman who was denied an education by her quirky parents practicing an extreme form of Mormonism took matters into her own hands and eventually earned her PhD. Her narrative is well written and her story is captivating. I highly recommend.

-- Theft by Finding, Me Talk Pretty One Day, and The SantaLand Diaries by David Sedaris. I have heard about Sedaris for years, and have read some short pieces by him, but had never read any of his books. Hilarious, poignant and beautifully written, these were all great, fun reads that made me laugh a lot and from time to time made me think.

-- Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant. This one made it to the top of my pile based on Kelly's excellent review last year. I was not disappointed. A British writer buys a home in the Mississippi Delta and while immersing himself in the culture there, receives a lesson in race relations that surprises him. I loved this.

-- Everybody Always by Bob Goff. The sequel to his popular "Love Does," Goff continues with his emphasis of radical love toward his neighbor, with more stories of the remarkable work he has done in third world countries.

-- Learning to Speak God from Scratch by Jonathan Merritt. Wow. I'm going to have to read this one again. The subtitle is "Why Sacred Words are Vanishing -- and How We Can Revive Them." There is so much here. Not only does Merritt delve into words and their meanings, he challenges norms and calls us to a stronger faith life -- to discover a faith worth talking about. I recommended this one to Kelly and she reviewed it on her faith blog here.

-- Hamilton by Ron Chernow. The other heavyweight for the year, I'm so glad I read this before I saw the play. (See my summary here from late 2018).

I hope you might find something that piques your interest here, and please let me know when you read something good yourself. I'll be back soon with my favorite fiction of the year.


Kelly said...

I always love your book posts, Bob, and thanks for the mentions.

I'm so glad you enjoyed "Dispatches". We had some good discussion about that one in our book club. Speaking of... our choice for April is "Educated"! I've already got it loaded on my Kindle and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Interested to see your fiction choices next...

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

It sounds like a lot of good ones. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but most of these sound really interesting to me, especially "Educated". I will check it out! I saw Hamilton, but had not read the book before. I'd like to but it is a daunting read.

Ed said...

The only two I have read are the Dispatches from Pluto and Hamilton. Others that you write about intrigue me but currently, my "need to be read" bookshelf is overflowing and my list of books on my virtual list is quite long as well. I've always said that if the world ends tomorrow, I'm probably good with books for at least a decade!

sage said...

I enjoyed Bird by Bird years ago... Right now I am engrossed in Chernow’s massive biography of Grant. Interesting list and thanks for the shout-out on Wait Till Next year.

Debby said...

My son and DIL got me Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family. It is the perfect bedside book, easy to read and funny and poignant and rich. I read snippets out loud to Tim. Last night I related the story of how king cobras sometimes came in the house (Ceylon) and that their parents would take a shotgun to them inside the house, with two notable exceptions. Once one was comfortably coiled on the desk. Since the key to the gun case was stored in that desk drawer, they had to wait that one out. He described the damage to the walls and floors but also told about one who came inside and curled up on top of the old radio for warmth. The radio was their only source of music and entertainment, so he was only watched, warily.