Monday, December 23, 2019

Favorite Nonfiction 2019

I've already recapped my favorite audiobooks of the year, and today I'm telling you about my favorite nonfiction. It was a great year for memoir reading, and all five of my picks fall in that genre. I'm also including two repeats from the audiobook list because I can't help it. I thought about just listing three here because I only read eleven works of nonfiction this year; but all five of these are utterly stellar, so I feel justified.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
I loved this so much that when I finished it, I actually went to the author's website and typed out a fan letter. Usually, I just write a tweet and call it a day, but my admiration for this book overwhelmed me. Chung writes such beautiful sentences and layers such depth of emotion, the effect is sort of translucent. You see straight through to the hard truths and the big themes, and still, each line is lovely in itself. This is a memoir about adoption, reunion, race, identity, and sisters. 

Good Talk by Mira Jacob
This work is frankly magical. Jacob writes and draws and collages the conversations that force her to question and clarify her identities. She begins and returns to exchanges with her six-year-old, based on his hilarious and also heart-wrenching queries: "Was Michael Jackson brown or white?" "Are white people afraid of brown people?" "Is Daddy afraid of us?" As a reader, you also question and clarify your identities. AND I thought about culture, race, complicity, family, honesty, and love. I also cried a little while I remembered the nights when Obama and Trump were elected. 

Heavy by Kiese Laymon
I picked this as a favorite audiobook this year. I'll just add today that this book is like a long poem, which Laymon addresses to his mother. Threads and refrains run through the whole painful and redemptive work. I'll also repeat that I think you should read this book, especially if you're white and you care about dismantling white supremacy and systemic racism.

Becoming by Michelle Obama
I wrote about Obama's book in the audiobooks post. I'll just add here that I especially loved the segments about this book about being a working mother. And then, I loved the stories Obama told to augment the book during her live interview in St. Paul, which I attended last spring. Among my favorites: Barack asking Malia, then 8 years old, whether it was okay with her that he run for president and subsequently using her permission as justification for their crazy life, and the story about Joe Biden being an aggressive youth basketball fan when his granddaughter and Sasha played on the same team that Barack coached.

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott
This is an utterly delightful essay collection about everyday mid-life -- the horrendous drop-off/pick-up circuit, the awkward interactions with the neighbors, the accidental overinvestment in the PTA, and also the feelings of loneliness, purposelessness, and guilt. Philpott perfectly describes the all-too-familiar panic attached to the pace at which I do or do not acquire gold stars. Gold star to HER, though, for this charming and honest memoir.


1 comment:

LH said...

I read All You Can Ever Know. So good. I think I'll go with Good Talk for my next nonfiction.