Favorites of 2011: Nonfiction

I’m doing something a little different with my nonfiction lists this year. 50 of the books I read in 2011 were nonfiction; about a third of them were memoirs and a third were specifically related to feminism. I decided to split my “best of” lists accordingly. These are my five favorite general nonfiction books listed in alphabetical order by title:

Columbine by Dave Cullen (2009)

You think you know why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold went on their killing spree at Columbine High School like they did, and you think you know what happened during the subsequent investigation…but you don’t! The media quickly jumped to conclusions, and that’s been the official story ever since. Cullen’s meticulous research shows that nearly everything that was fed to the public was a lie.

Book cover: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach LemmonThe Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (2011)  

After the Taliban took over Kabul, women were forced to stay home and couldn’t work. In order to support her siblings, a determined young woman named Kamila Sidiqi started her own dressmaking business from home and was eventually able to help local women support themselves as well. Amazing story. Read my review here.

Book cover: Enrique's Journey by Sonia NazarioEnrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario (2006)

Sonia Nazario recreates the journey of an undocumented immigrant who made the dangerous journey from Honduras to the United States in search of his mother. It’s an incredible look at what many undocumented immigrants suffer through for a chance at a better life. Based on Nazario’s Pulitzer-winning newspaper series. Read my review here.

Plastic: A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel (2011)

If I could put this book into everyone’s hands, I would. Freinkel focuses on the cultural histories and environmental impacts of eight plastic items: the comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle, and the credit card. It’s jarring to see just how much plastic has infiltrated our lives. Read my review here.

Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook (2011)

Estabrook provides an alarming behind-the-scenes look at where most of those tomatoes you see in the produce section come from (answer: the sandy, chemical-laden fields of Florida where modern-day slavery is still in effect). Now, I love tomatoes? But haven’t bought a “fresh” tomato from the grocery store ever since I read this book. I just can’t. Read my review here.

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5 comments

  1. pagesofjulia

    I loved both your best-of lists and your year’s wrap-up. Great work! I’ve been enjoying your blog for many months now (even though I don’t comment as often as I could, either), so thanks. Thanks too for the feminist reading recommendations you made; I’ll let you know when I get to them!

  2. Alison

    I’ve been wanting to read Tomatoland since I listened to the author on (I think it was) Fresh Air a few months back. Definitely should move that one up the list. Also now adding Lemmon’s book, as it sounds really intriguing in your review.

    A few of my favorite non-fiction reads in 2011 were Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry, The Means of Reproduction by Michelle Goldberg, and The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. Definitely recommend all three to anyone interest in social justice and community and all that jazz 🙂

  3. Vasilly

    I just have to say “wow”. After reading your small paragraph about Tomatoland, my mouth was hanging open. We don’t really eat tomatoes in my family and when we do, they’re heirlooms. I think I’ll give this book a try along with Columbine.

  4. Melissa

    @pagesofjulia: Thank you!

    @alison: I just asked my school to purchase Sister Citizen so that I can finally read it!

    @vasilly: Tomatoland was nuts. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did!

    @Dave: And thank you for writing it! It’s amazing. 🙂

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