Ask the grumpies: What non-fiction books do you read?

Leah asks:

You post a lot about books you read for fun/stress relief. What are some non-fiction reads you enjoy? I really liked both Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Becoming by Michelle Obama

Those are great books.  We’ll always talk about books.  Here are some of my recent nonfiction reads:

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jenkins – relatively new and quite a ride.  Pass it around your friend group.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson – I like this better than her first book, although I wouldn’t want to live with the author.  I recently re-read this.

Get Your Shit Together – you know, like ya do.  One of Sarah Knight’s books, which are often swearily helpful.

Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson – hilarious and great.  Get it.

I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi – extremely worth reading and sharing.

This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

Buffering: Unshared Tales of a Life Fully Loaded by Hannah Hart – this and the one above are memoirs, which I like.

I’d Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel – by the author of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski (I might have talked about this one)

Can’t Help Myself by Meredith Goldstein – surprisingly moving.  Written by an advice columnist about her own life.

Wild Things by Bruce Handy – a trip down memory lane.  Reading as a child is great.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit – read it and pass it around.  Another of her books is Hope in the Dark.

Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar

The Chick and the Dead by Carla Valentine – a weird area of my reading interest is what happens to bodies after we die. [#2 read Stiff many years ago.  It was ok.]

Hunger by Roxane Gay – more people should read this!

House of Cards by David Ellis Dickerson – an interesting memoir about stuff I hadn’t read much about before.

Novel Interiors: Living in Enchanted Rooms Inspired by Literature – just lovely to look at all the time.

These are all pretty good-to-excellent. I regularly trawl the library’s “new non-fiction” section and just pick up whatever looks good.

#2 reads a lot of non-fiction for work.  Not including the work stuff, she tends to go for pop-psychology research summaries (sometimes written by economists).  The last book she read in this vein was Practice Perfect.  She is looking forward to reading Defining Marriage by Matt Baume which she got for her birthday this year, which is closer to the kind of book she sometimes reads for work, but she hasn’t done a project on gay marriage.  She is not a fan of advice books that are based on neither quantitative empirical research nor qualitative research (forums count).  She hates books that are all about the “one true way” that come with no evidence other than the author says people should do it.  She also reads a lot of cookbooks.  She used to read humor, but that was a couple of kids ago.

Do y’all have more book recommendation questions?  What kind of non-fiction do you like?

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9 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: What non-fiction books do you read?”

  1. NessieMonster Says:

    Oooh, non-fiction recs! I realised I much prefer reading non-fiction on my tablet and fiction as paperbacks.

    Emily Nagoski and her twin sister Amelia have a new book out, called Burnout which high highly recommend. All about dealing with stress and patriarchy smashing on the side. So much in there for me to take away and use.

    I also really enjoyed The Secret Life of Trees, about trees and forests and what we are learning about how they actually work. Fascinating stuff.

  2. Steph Says:

    My non-fiction reading tends to be a bit random; I go through phases where I read a lot of it. The last few years I’ve been enjoying books about single women – either history books or vintage advice guides.

    Rebecca Traister’s “All the Single Ladies” basically covers the ways in which single women have interacted with or been ignored by society, especially the various feminist movements, over the last 100ish years.

    I’m halfway through Saidiya Hartman’s “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments“, which tries to pull together a picture of life for young black women in the early 1900s, which is hard because basically none of their personal writing or records have survived. She uses newspaper articles, court documents, sociology writings, etc, that were all written *about* them (usually portraying them as a problem), and turns them around to paint a picture of freedom and expression in the face of a society that didn’t want them to have anything.

    Marjorie Hillis’s advice guides are very entertaining—as are Helen Gurley Brown’s, except she’s way more problematic and cringey. I’ve also read biographies of both of them: “The Extra Woman” by Joanna Scutts for Hillis; “Bad Girls Go Everywhere” by Jennifer Scanlon and “Enter Helen” by Brooke Hauser for Brown. “Enter Helen” especially is good for putting Brown’s advice into the context of both her life/experiences and the 2nd wave feminist movement. (There’s a 3rd biography of Brown out there but it’s awful and I didn’t finish it)

    I also read Blair Braverman’s “Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube” after following her on Twitter for the last few months (including through her completion of her first Iditarod race) – it’s a well-written and moving story about how she found herself through living and learning to dog-sled in northern Norway and Alaska. (TW for a lot of discussions of sexual harassment and violence, though)

  3. rose Says:

    Secret Life of Trees mentioned in comments above really is wonderful and a reminder that is important about what is not being considered in some current policies. U LeGuin’s No Time To Spare (essays) is fun and and insightful about age.

  4. FF Says:

    I’ve been reading some books related to health care–An American Sickness by Elisabeth Rosenthal and What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear by Danielle Ofri. The former is a very readable explanation of how and why our health care system got to be such a mess. There are also a few useful resources in the appendix including how to write letters to get exorbitant bills reduced and resources for price information. The latter book interested me because I’ve had some upsetting/frustrating experiences with doctors recently. Another good book in this vein is How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman.

    One of my favorite nonfiction books is Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body by Armand Leroi. If you have any interest in human genetics and/or developmental biology, this is a fascinating and extremely well-written book for the general public that uses human examples (e.g., conjoined twins, thalidomide) to explain how they reveal the underlying biology. Note: there are photographs and illustrations, which some people could find disturbing.

  5. Xin Says:

    I’ve read a lot of excellent nonfiction in the last year of so, most of which were memoirs. Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know is great, and I enjoyed Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason (even though I’m not religious). I found both of those to be more “quiet”, contemplative, and understated memoirs, though some of the themes are still quite serious.

    Tara Westover’s Educated and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy are both extraordinary, but touch on some things i find very heavy (in the case of the former, a very abusive family and in the case of the latter, his life’s work is about fighting some really profound injustices in our criminal justice system). These days, I’m not often able to get through more serious nonfiction (legal work is already too serious), but both were so well-written that I couldn’t help but keep going.


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