It’s time for my favorite books of the year! And I’m starting with nonfiction because – even though I love it – I feel like it might be less exciting for all of you. One of the best reading habits I started is reading at least one nonfiction book a month. Some months (like this one), it’s just one book, but most months, I read more than one. My goal this year was to read at least 25% nonfiction. And we’ll have to check in with my reading stats at the end of the year, but I think I’m just about on track to hit that goal!
Obviously, I read a lot of nonfiction this year. And while I liked all of it, I definitely had some favorites. Here are my top ten nonfiction books of 2019 (in no particular order):
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte. This was the beginning of my obsession with dinosaurs (which made me very popular with my cousin’s two-year-old, who also really loves dinosaurs). They’re just absolutely fascinating and terrifying, and this book was a brilliant overview of the world they inhabited.
Becoming by Michelle Obama. I finally got around to this a few months after it was released, and it was so worth it. I loved the insight into Michelle’s life both before and during the Obama’s time in the white house.
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates. This was such a great read. I listened to the audiobook, which I loved, because it was read by Melinda Gates. But any way you read this, I think it’s such an important book, because it makes an excellent argument for why empowering women makes the world a better place for everyone in it.
Warhead: The True Story of One Teen Who Almost Saved the World by Jeff Henigson. I honestly had no expectations going into this book, but I loved it. It was such a fun read. It’s a memoir about a teen who was diagnosed with brain cancer, and as his one wish asked to meet Gorbachev to discuss avoiding nuclear war.
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. I did study a little bit of Russian history in college (I took an entire course on it), but I didn’t know very much about Catherine the Great. This book made me absolutely fall in love with her and I have zero regrets. Easily one of my favorite biographies.
Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright. I was not expecting a book about plagues to have me literally laughing out loud, but that’s exactly what happened with this book. It was so, so funny (mostly because people were – and are – kind of dumb). But it was also a great overview of the world’s worst plagues. You might not know about the dancing plague, but I won’t be able to forget about it after reading this book.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I have really wanted to read more about racial issues. I am perceived by the rest of the world as white (though I do occasionally experience prejudice once people see my Middle Eastern last name), so I don’t really know what people of color go through on a daily basis. This book not only provided more insight into that, it gave me an idea of what racial issues are like in the UK, since I’m more familiar with what goes on here in the US.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. This memoir was so interesting. I learned so much about what happens to dead bodies. But the reason I loved this so much is just that Caitlin Doughty is a brilliant storyteller. I finished this one and went right on to another of her books – Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? – and definitely plan on reading another next year.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. This book was absolutely fascinating. It’s so interesting to explore why humans are the way they are, and how we got here. My takeaway: I’d probably be dead in a hunter-gatherer society, but I would have been happier before then.
Plight of the Living Dead: What Real-Life Zombies Reveal About Our World – and Ourselves by Matt Simon. This was one of my first nonfiction reads the year, and I haven’t shut up about it since. Ask any of my friends. This is just one of those books that reminds you how absolutely, insanely weird nature is. Seriously. There are wasps that perform neurosurgery on cockroaches! And a worm that turns crickets into kamikazes! Okay, I’ll stop.
I read so much great nonfiction this year, so it was pretty difficult to pick my favorites. But these were definitely the books that stuck with me most this year. I’m definitely looking forward to some more great nonfiction reads in the next year.
Did you read any nonfiction this year? What was your favorite?
Note: most of these were not published in 2019, they were just the ones I read this year.