I read a lot of really great nonfiction books in 2016! I actually think I had better luck with nonfiction than fiction. The first three listed are my top three favorites; everything is listed in alphabetical order.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (2016)
When Breath Becomes Air focuses on Kalinithi’s a career as a neurosurgeon, which was cut short by a rare and terminal form of lung cancer. The memoir — which he was still striving to complete at the time of his death — offers reflections on life and death. In doing so, he reflects on past interactions with patients who had been on the receiving end of bad news that came from him. It’s a gorgeous book.
The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing (2016)
Mixing memoir, biography, and art history, Olivia Laing explores the different meanings of loneliness in New York City through the lives of different artists who lived there. The essays offer beautiful, elegant explorations of human interactions (or the lack thereof).
So Sad Today by Melissa Broder (2016)
Steeped in dark humor, So Sad Today is a collection of autobiographical essays by Melissa Broder. She writes about her struggles with extreme anxiety low, self-esteem, and addiction, but she also throws in some off-the-wall essays about sex and relationships. There’s one essay in there revolving around sexting that had me going, “This woman is completely nuts. I love her.”
Last year, one of the tasks for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge was to read a feminist book. I saw how people seemed to be stuck in a rut, listing the same books over and over, so I came up with feminist book recommendations for every task in the 2016 challenge.
The 2017 Read Harder tasks were announced a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling these topics over ever since. So what the heck…here are 100+ more feminist book recommendations that should cover most of the tasks (alas, I’m afraid I can’t recommend a book you’ve already read as I am not a mind reader). The micropress task had me stumped for a while, but I got that one too. And hey! For those of you panicking about your library acquiring a micropress book, an added bonus: Native Realities offers Deer Woman for free as an ebook download! Am I good or what?
A lot of titles overlap with other tasks, but each author is only listed once. Happy reading!
Task 1: Read a book about sports.
- Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX by Ginny Gilder
- Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports by Susan Ware
- Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution by Deborah L. Brake
- Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape by Jessica Luther
Task 2: Read a debut novel.
- 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
- The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Task 3: Read a book about books.
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
- Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
- The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
In her latest book, Jessica Valenti recounts the numerous ways that she has been sexually objectified throughout her life. Encounters with frotteurs on the subway, inappropriate overtures from teachers, and abusive/predatory behaviors from boyfriends are just a few of the experiences that have shaped her life. From being a young girl in Queens who developed early to becoming a high profile, oft-trolled feminist, Valenti continues to deal with a lot.
In her introduction, Valenti writes, “Being a sex object is not special. This particular experience of sexism — the way women are treated like objects, the way we sometimes make ourselves into objects, and how the daily sloughing away of our humanity impacts not just our lives and experiences but our very sense of self — is not an unusual one…The individual experiences are easy enough to name, but their cumulative impact feels slippery.” She tries, though, compiling her lived experiences into the testimony that is this book.
In 1963, James Baldwin published The Fire Next Time, a book about race in America. More than half a century later, Jesmyn Ward soberly reflects in her introduction, “It is as if we have reentered the past and are living in a second Nadir: It seems the rate of police killings now surpasses the rate of lynchings during the worst decades of the Jim Crow era. There was a lynching every four days in the early decades of the twentieth century. It’s been estimated that an African American is now killed by police every two to three days.”
In The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, contributors including Edwidge Danticat, Kiese Laymon, Daniel José Older, Claudia Rankine, and Isabel Wilkerson pick up where Baldwin’s book left off. Most of the essays look to the past, several consider the present, and a couple look to the future. Considering we’re living in a period where it’s still considered radical to insist that black lives matter, the publication of this collection couldn’t be more timely.
Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary was published eight years ago, back when Hillary Clinton was first running for president. I’d wanted to read it at the time, but then election fatigue took its toll and down the TBR list it went. But now here we are again: Hillary Clinton is running for president and new election dramas are unfolding. Even with people still feeling the Bern, she’s the formidable front runner this time around. And though you still can’t exactly call her “cool,” she managed to pick up some more social currency during her stint as Secretary of State. It is with this hindsight that I dove into this book.
I’d been hoping for a more elevated conversation about Hillary. With thirty women, many of whom probably identify as feminist, you’d think that the conversation would move beyond aesthetics and wrestle with Hillary’s ideology, place in pop culture, etc. And some authors did. But mostly, the writers took the title a little too literally: Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary mostly busies itself by looking at Hillary.