Starting the year off with my best nonfiction books of 2020!
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Looking for something to read this year? I’ve got you covered! I put together a list of my best nonfiction books of 2020.
This year’s list has been shaped by 2020, that’s for sure. My nonfiction tastes range from travel, memoir, social commentary, faith, and more.
Best Nonfiction Books of 2020
The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates
The main thing I love about The Moment of Lift is that Melinda Gates addresses issues both globally and in our own backyards, with the overarching goal of finding solutions to human needs. I’m doing a poor job of summing it up here – Gates does it with quantitative research and compelling storytelling.
Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama
I know the irony of reading this one in the same year Obama’s other book came out, but it seemed like a good place to start. I always love an origin story, and reading a presidential autobiography that was more focused on family than his time in office was fascinating.
Following his family through Kansas, Hawaii, Indonesia and Kenya, his story is so compelling – his story reflects so much of who makes up America in the 21st century. Obama also voices the audiobook and I highly recommend it. The feel is so much more story than recounting when it’s him telling it.
Bella Figura, Kamin Mohammadi
This kind of story is catnip for me. Woman moves to a foreign country for a year, embracing all that the new culture and language has to offer. In another life, I would do this annually and be a long term nomad.
She shapes her story around each month of the year, highlighting a seasonal food and an Italian saying as she tells the story. It’s a really fun read, and inspiring to grab hold of life with both hands.
How to Be An Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi
I confess that the term anti-racist is a new one to me in 2020, and it’s opened so many mental doors. Many people default to interpreting racism as overt choices individuals make directly against people of color, which leads to the impasse we’ve seen so often in talking about race and racism. The language of anti-racism has created space to think and talk about the ways that it’s so built into the system beyond the comments your grandma used to make.
The book is so much more that this measly paragraph. I highly recommend it. It’s a great place to start if you want to read more.
Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist
I started Bittersweet at the beginning of 2020, before things turned into … 2020. Oh, the irony. Bittersweet is a series of essays about change and hard things in life, and living in the midst of hardships.
Niequist is one of my top five authors. I’ve loved the way honesty pours out of her writing regardless of topic. Her love of gathering her people over food echoes something we all deeply crave, and it shows in every page of her books.
White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo
White Fragility approaches the subject of race from more of a group interactive perspective, because the author is a researcher, professor and facilitator.
This book gave me some language for the ways that my being white influences the even the most well-meaning of conversations I may have about race. This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have them, on the contrary! But it means that I need to know the ways that my best efforts to listen, sympathize, and interact are still shaped by the fact that I’m white.
Bored and Brilliant, Manoush Zomorodi
Okay this book was a super interesting concept. How have smartphones changed us? More importantly, how has the companying access to entertainment, knowledge, communication, and productivity potential changed us?
She explores how the potential upsides and downsides have impacted our neurobiology, our creativity, productivity, mental health and more. Also, she’s decidedly not anti-tech; her goal is to be more mindful of it. She’s quick to acknowledge where it’s anecdotal vs. scientific, but also points out the simple perspective changes we can make. I don’t think it’s made me use my phone significantly less, but it’s helped me be way more cognizant of how I use it. The easiest thing has been setting daily time limits on my social media and games. I like playing phone games but now, my phone at least reminds me when I’ve already done it for 30 minutes.
Salt Fat Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat
If you took away all my cookbooks/pinterest/internet and just gave me Salt Fat Acid Heat, I could happily cook every day for a year. Samin Nosrat strikes the perfect balance of unpretentious and authentic recipes, and every single thing has been delicious.
Beyond her recipes, the first half of the book is a fantastic explanation of each of the title’s core components. It’s basic enough for even the most beginner, but helpful enough for anyone to learn from!
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott has been one of my favorite nonfiction writers forever. This year, I finally got around to reading her book on writing and loved every minute of it!
This book isn’t just for people who want to write the next great American novel. If you enjoy writing in any context, you’ll enjoy this. It reads like a conversation but with so many gems about writing and life.
An Everlasting Meal, Tamar Adler
I’m almost embarrassed how long it took me to read this. I received it as a wedding gift, and somehow never got around to reading it. I kept picking it up when I was in a phase without regular access to a kitchen, but had dreams of cooking my way through it and kept putting it down.
This has to be one of my favorite books ever. The way Adler talks about food is so great: she’s unfussy and uncomplicated while still loving every minute and every ingredients. An Everlasting Meal has much of the real food movement in it but without aggression or pretense. Her core concept is that food should be nourishing, inexpensive, and a delight to eat. What more can you ask of a chef?