A lot of times people are surprised by the amount of nonfiction I enjoy, because I mostly discuss my love of fiction. The truth is I usually have one work of fiction, one work related piece, and one piece of nonfiction going all at the same time. I’ve also been adding some Zen Buddhist philosophy to mix to help me counteract some of the uglier aspects of my job.

When I started to consider my favorite pieces of non fiction, I realized that I needed to separate out my favorites in two categories: Books that made me smarter and books that I read for pure pleasure. There are a few nonfiction riders that I count among my favorites – Bill Bryson especially deserves his own post from me. Some of these books such as Demon Haunted World and Knowledge society I read over twenty years ago, but I imagine they still hold true.

Books that Made me Smarter or at Least Gave Me a Lot to Consider:

  1. A Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan – this helped me – a Catholic school girl with a scientific mind – make sense of the world me
  2. Knowledge Society, Peter Drucker – this ended up predicting our economy that we live in now.
  3. The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf – this helped name and parse out the bullshit I was experiencing as a young woman in our society.
  4. Guns, Germs, and Steel – really explains why some societies are more affluent than others. Fascinating.
  5. A Brief History in Time, Hawking – this made me love the universe
  6. Collapse: How societies fail or choose to succeed – Again, another take for why some cultures die out.
  7. A Grief Considered, C.S. Lewis – I read a lot of Lewis concurrent with Sagan. It was an interesting time.
  8. Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin – This gave me insight into how there are different Americas depending on your race.
  9. The Last Days of Hitler, Trevor-Roper –
  10. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, Frederick Douglas
  11. The Fourth Turning – this is about how generations operate on a pattern. Very interesting theory.

Nonfiction that I absolutely loved:

  1. In Cold Blood, Capote
  2. Cleopatra, Stacy Shiff
  3. The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Allison Weir
  4. Home, Bill Bryson
  5. The Things They Carried, O’Brien
  6. I know why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou

Fun Diversions:

  1. Turn Right at Machu Picchu, Adams
  2. A Walk in the Woods, Bryson

Books that are on my desk, but I haven’t had time to read yet:

  1. Hotel Scarface, Farzad – I met the author and this is about the rise of the cocaine trade in Miami in the 80s.
  2. Between the World and Me – Ta’neshi Coates




About vanva

I am an educator, writer and mother.
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