Favourite Non-Fiction books of 2018

If you had told me a few years back that I would read enough non-fiction in a year (for fun that is) to be able to name favourites, I would not have believed you. This year, however, I have read more non-fiction than ever before. Around a quarter of the books I read this year were non-fiction and some of those were absolutely breathtaking. Today I want to talk about five of those.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333I adored this. One of the first books I read this year, this has stuck with me. It took me a few essays to get on board with the writing style but once I did, it blew me away. Myriam Gurba’s impeccable structure tore my heart out once I realized what she was working towards and I am in awe by her command of her tone. Do read this, please. My review can be found here.

Dopesick by Beth Macy

40821527I still have not written a review for this and at this point I am not sure I will still do it. I have fallen of the waggon a bit (I really should not wait this long to get my thoughts down). This book is still absolutely worth reading. It is an impeccably researched overview of the US-American opioid crisis, enriched by case studies of people affected. Macy manages to show both the immediate, private reach of this crisis and the overarching problems in the health system that led to it.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates talks about sexism here, the small acts and the larger acts and how they together form a society that is not particularly nice to women (or men for that matter). Drawing on the extensive collection of women’s experiences with sexism and an impressive amount of research, Bates has written an incredibly important book here and one that should be required reading. My mini review can be found here.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524Another book dealing with sexism, this anthology edited by the brilliant Roxane Gay is brilliant and heartbreaking and absolutely stunningly put together. There was not a single weak essay here and the diversity of voices shows the impact rape culture has on us all. Some essays hit me hard, some made me angry, all of them are needed. I cannot wait for the upcoming works of some of these brilliant women (mostly Lyz Lenz’ non-fiction book about her faith and her own failed marriage and Aubrey Hirsch’s graphic memoir she is working on). You can find my review here.

Heart Berries by Terese Mailhot

35840657I adored this fragmented, short, impressive memoir. Terese Mailhot put all her pain and anger on the table and refuses to back down – I have so much respect for this. I still do not have the words to adequately talk about this book other than that it spoke to me. My review can be found here.

What was your favourite non-fiction book this year? I am always looking for recommendations.

Recommendations for Non-Fiction November

As every month is non-fiction month for me, I will not officially be participating in Non-Fiction November but I still wanted to talk about some of my favourites and recommend a few books that those of you who are looking to read more non-fiction might want to check out. Disclaimer first: my non-fiction reading is heavily dominated by memoirs written by women, feminist essays, and creative non-fiction. I rarely read biographies (but really want to more) and general non-fiction, so here your recommendations are very welcome. Recommendations are always welcome, in fact.

I have based my recommendations on other genres, so that this is also accessible to those who don’t ever read non-fiction.

If you usually read contemporary, then memoirs might be the way to go. Usually fairly accessible, memoirs often deal with that weird period of life between being a child and being properly “grown up” and for me offered a much-needed glimpse into other people’s lives. (I have written a whole post on why I love memoirs which can be found here.)

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

35840657One of my absolute favourite books of the year, this short memoir packs an enormous punch. Written in fragments and often in a spiralling way, Mailhot chronicles her fight with mental illness and what it means to be Native. She does not claim to speak a universal truth, but only her truth and I found this incredibly effective. Her language is poetic and abrasive and I am very much in love. I still don’t have the words to talk about this properly, but in my review I tried.

Mean by Myriam Gurba

34381333This book took me totally by surprise. It took me a while to find my bearing and to get used to the abrasive writing style, but once I did and once I realized what Gurba’s essays were working towards, I was hooked and in awe. The book is a total punch to the gut, but so very brilliantly executed that I cannot help but adore it. My review can be found here.

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch

9214995No list would be complete without me recommending this book. In fact, if you only read one book from this list, maybe choose this. It was my favourite book of last year and just a complete masterpiece. Lidia Yuknavitch has a brilliant way with words and her memoir is raw and honest and just perfect. My longer review can be found here.

If you are really invested in politics, then some of these feminist essay collections might be of interest for you.

Not That Bad ed. by Roxane Gay

35068524One of the best books I have read this year, this collection of personal essays on rape culture really is a must read. I am obviously a huge fan of Roxane Gay’s work and I was very impressed by the way she curated these wonderful essays. There was not a single essay in this collection that I did not appreciate and I found a lot of people whose next work I am eagerly awaiting and whose other essays I am reading religiously. If you can deal the subject matter, I really do recommend picking this up. My longer review can be found here.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

25175985Laura Bates is the founder of the Everyday Sexism project and her collection of essays on the subject and on the project is definitely worth checking out. I listened to the audiobook, which Laura Bates narrates herself and I found myself really immersed in her writing. Her book is impeccably researched and wonderfully realized; she draws both on literature and statistics and on the more personal anecdotes shared on the Everyday Sexism page and builds a really convincing whole. It also did not end with me wanting to burn the world down, which is always a plus. My review is here.

If you usually read literary fiction, then creative non-fiction might just be the thing for you. It is usually exceptionally well-written and for me at least, has a poetry to the sentences that I just adore (and closely mirrors the very best literary fiction in that sense).

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson (or any book written by Maggie Nelson)

28459915Maggie Nelson is possibly the queen of creative non-fiction. Her sentences are crisp and she flits between different ideas and styles in a highly impressive way. The Argonauts deals with her relationship with her gender-fluid husband and chronicles the changes to her body due to pregnancy and the changes to Harry’s body due to hormone therapy. It also deals with so much more, drawing on gender theory and sociology and everything inbetween, and as a reading experience is highly rewarding. Bluets by the same author is also highly recommended.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

22244927This book is seriously short but packs an unbelievable punch. Sarah Manguso writes about her complex relationship with her diary, which she kept religiously for most of her adult life, and about why she stopped keeping one. I found this moving and thought-provoking and incredibly well-done. You can find my review here.

Vanishing Twins: A Marriage by Leah Dieterich

37690295Leah Dieterich writes about her marriage, but she also writes about dance and art and polyamory and everything in-between. I absolutely adored her short and snappy essays that build to a much larger whole. She made me think and smile and sad and in general this book just really worked for me. You can find more of my thoughts on the book here.

Are you planning on participating in Non-Fiction November? What books are you planning on reading? Also, what is your favourite non-fiction book?

Tag: How I Choose My Books

I was tagged (a while ago, sorry) by Hadeer over @ Cairene Librarian for this absolutely wonderful tag. Thank you so much!

Find a book on your shelves with a blue pink cover. What made you pick up the  book in the first place?

The first book with a pink cover I found on my shelves is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, one of my favourite authors. I bought this because I enjoyed The Bone Clocks enough to feel like he is somebody I want to read more of – and that book I chose because the cover just spoke to me in a book shop (and it sounded JUST like my type of book). I am in general a huge fan of the way Mitchell’s books look. Continue reading “Tag: How I Choose My Books”

Wrap Up: February 2018 or I read so very many memoirs

I had an okay to good reading month. I read some absolutely brilliant books, finished a few meh books, and have also been stuck on some books for longer than I would like to admit (How I Lose You is taking me forever). I did read a lot of books though.

These are the books I read this month:

  1. I Am I Am I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale: 2 out of 5 stars
  3. Mean by Myriam Gurba: 4,5 out of 5 stars
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: 3 out of 5 stars
  5. Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot: 5 out of 5 stars
  6. All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells: 4 out of 5 stars.
  7. The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn: 3 out of 5 stars.
  8. This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins: 4 out of 5 stars.
  9. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie: left unrated.
  10. Meaty: Essays by Samantha Irby: 4 out of 5 stars.

Favourite of the Month

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot was just so unbelievably stunning that I still don’t really have the words to talk about it. It is hypnotic and mesmerizing, honest and raw, and most of all poetically beautiful. And also the opposite of cathartic.

Mean by Myriam Gurba is another memoir that I can only recommend.

Stats (ish)

My reading month was dominated by memoirs and genre fiction. More than half of the books I read were memoirs or essay collections or something in between. This has never happened but I am loving every second of it.

I finished 2929 pages worth of books. Of these ten books I read six memoirs, two science fiction books (one of those was a novella), one post-apocalyptic book, and one fantasy book. Three books were written by men, seven by women. six books were written by people of colour (so at least I seem to be succeeding with parts of my resolutions).

How did I do with my TBR:

This month I set myself a TBR; I don’t usually do this but I had so much fun thinking about the books I might read this month. I think I will keep doing this, if only for the fun. Because sticking to a TBR? Not that much my thing. I read a lot more non-fiction than I thought I would this month. But memoirs seem to be the kind of books I gravitate to right now. I will take that into account for my TBR next month.

I read two books of my TBR… Oops.

Currently Reading:

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson: I am absolutely loving this. I am listening to the audio book of this and Juno Dawson is hilarious.

The Sea Beast takes a Lover by Michael Andreasen: I am nearly finished with this and have a few thoughts that I still need to organize in my head.

How I Lose You by Kate McNaughton: This is taking me forever. While I enjoy parts of it, others drag. I will finish this though, hopefully before the release date on the 8th.

(Some of the) Blog posts I loved:

I wasn’t very good at remembering to bookmark the posts I loved this month. So this list is “slightly” shorter this month.

I loved Paula’s review of a book I had never heard of before.

I am glad I am not the only one with way too many unfinished series. Also Jeroen agrees with my assessment of The Name Of The Wind.

And finally, Sarah compiled a brilliant list of upcoming SFF-releases.

How was your reading month? What was the best book you read?

Review: Mean – Myriam Gurba

34381333Verdict: Incredible.

My rating: 4,5 out of 5 stars. (It’s my blog, I can change my rating rules if I want to)

Published by Coffee House Press, 2017

Find it on Goodreads.

Myriam Gurba’s debut is the bold and hilarious tale of her coming of age as a queer, mixed-race Chicana. Blending radical formal fluidity and caustic humor, Mean turns what might be tragic into piercing, revealing comedy. This is a confident, funny, brassy book that takes the cost of sexual assault, racism, misogyny, and homophobia deadly seriously.
We act mean to defend ourselves from boredom and from those who would cut off our breasts. We act mean to defend our clubs and institutions. We act mean because we like to laugh. Being mean to boys is fun and a second-wave feminist duty. Being mean to men who deserve it is a holy mission. Sisterhood is powerful, but being mean is more exhilarating.

Being mean isn’t for everybody.

Being mean is best practiced by those who understand it as an art form.

These virtuosos live closer to the divine than the rest of humanity. They’re queers.

This was absolutely stunning. The only reason this was not quite a five star read for me was because it took me about 60 pages to find my rhythm with this book (and the book is not particularly long). But once I did, it was beyond incredible. Myriam Gurba has a way of structuring her thoughts, of coming at her point from different angles that I found particularly brilliant. And I might still change my rating. This memoir will for sure stay with me and I can already see it featuring on my best of the year list (which is still a long way off).

Myriam Gurba’s tone is abrasive and funny, like my favourite essayists she is unapologetically honest and herself and, yes, sometimes mean. She puts herself at the centre of her art and I adore that (nothing new here). Her art is clever and intellectual without losing an emotional heart, the whole book being intricately structured (not unlike a dance) while still packing a punch you would not believe. The last half builds like crescendo and when I realized what she was leading up to, I was knocked aside – her way of reaching her points from different angles really took me unawares here. The reaction I had cannot be overstated.

I cannot recommend this highly enough: if you like memoirs, if you like voices that are unique, if you like to be viscerally moved, if you like good books. This is brilliant. Myriam Gurba is brilliant.

2018 Book Haul #1: I bought too many books

Oh boy, it has been a while since I have done one of these posts and well, let’s just say, I bought way too many books. Which on the one hand is super cool because I like books and I like owning them and looking at them, but on the other hand, I am not making it any easier for me to choose which book to read next. I have also recently written a blogpost about the novellas I bought. I obviously feel like reading genre fiction and memoirs more than anything else.

These are the (physical) books I have bought:

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

34666764Blurb: I AM, I AM, I AM is a memoir with a difference – the unputdownable story of an extraordinary woman’s life in near-death experiences. Intelligent, insightful, inspirational, it is a book to be read at a sitting, a story you finish newly conscious of life’s fragility, determined to make every heartbeat count.

A childhood illness she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. A terrifying encounter on a remote path. A mismanaged labour in an understaffed hospital. Shocking, electric, unforgettable, this is the extraordinary memoir from Costa Novel-Award winner and Sunday Times bestselling author Maggie O’Farrell.
It is a book to make you question yourself. What would you do if your life was in danger, and what would you stand to lose?

Why I Bought This: I have been wanting to read this FOREVER and was declined for an ARC more than once. But, now I own it, and it is pretty, and I cannot wait to read this.

Continue reading “2018 Book Haul #1: I bought too many books”