Monday, December 28, 2015

Year-End Programming, Part 2

Today I'm naming my favorite five nonfiction books I read this year.  I read 23 books of nonfiction, up from 15 last year.  Here are the best five in alphabetical order by author:

El Deafo by Cece Bell. This is a charming memoir about the ubiquitous experience of feeling different.  In the case of the author, she begins a new school with a conspicuous hearing aide strapped to her chest and navigates the usual middle school friend minefield with this visible difference.  Bell draws herself as a rabbit with gigantic ears, a feature I particularly enjoyed.  It's for kids, but adults love this book, too, as far as I can tell.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. You might know that this book has recently won the National Book Award.  I'm having a heavy feeling in my chest as I'm writing this blurb.  It's about lots of things, but mostly about the danger of being black in America in that your body - your life - are consistently threatened.  It's about that and the author's wishes and fears for his son, whom he feels he cannot protect. It's pretty much required reading.  Lots of people are saying that.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.  I keep thinking about these essays, which range in topic from bad television to competitive scrabble to sexual violence to performing gender and racism.  Some are laugh-out-loud; some are excruciating.  Lots of them are sticking with me and guiding my reading into 2016.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I blurbed this yesterday in my best audio books post.  Here, I'll just add that interspersed in her advice about living a creative life, she injects the stories and philosophies of artists and intellectuals who have, in fact, cultivated their creativity.  Inspirational.

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time with the Sons of North Korea's Elite by Suki Kim.  This is a fascinating account of the author's experience at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a school for the sons of North Korea's most powerful families.  In order to secure and maintain her post, Kim has to feign Christianity, follow the exacting and oppressive directives of the "counterparts" - the North Korean supervisors of the teachers, take notes for her journalistic memoir in secret, and censor her every sentence when speaking to the students and her colleagues.  This is empathy-building, emotional, and informative - I learned all sorts of things about the Korean War and the devastating separation of the two Koreas.

That's the top 5!  Here are my next favorites. An asterisk indicates the book was written specifically for children or young adults.  I think all of them would be equally enjoyed by adults:
March: Book 2* by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights* by Steve Sheinkin
Smile* by Raina Telgemeier

Here are the others I liked, minus the one I wouldn't recommend:
Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different* by Karen Blumenthal
Counting Coup: A True Story of Basketball and Honor on the Little Big Horn by Larry Colton
The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jensen and Amy Ellis Nutt
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Sisters* by Raina Telgemeier
Why Do We Fight? Conflict, War, and Peace* by Niki Walker

Here are the titles that apply specifically to teachers.  I liked them all, but the ones by Johnston are practice-changing:
The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, and Critical Readers by Nancie Atwell
Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children's Learning by Peter Johnston
Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives by Peter Johnston
Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Every Reader by Penny Kittle
Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We'd Like Them to Be by Teri Lesesne
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller


mm said...

H is for Hawk appears again. It must be a sign. I think I'm going to read El Deafo today.

Martha Pettee said...

Just bought big magic - reading it on the plane!!

Unknown said...

Add Just Mercy to your 2016 list; I can't stop thinking about or recommending it. Without You, There is No US sent me on a North Korea binge read- Escape From Camp 14 and Nothing to Envy were also eye-opening.

LH said...

Loved EL DEAFO so much.


I bought H is for Hawk for my mom. Loved the reviews.

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