My favorite nonfiction of 2019!
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This year I read 129 books! That’s an all-time high for me. As usual, most of them were fiction, but I read some excellent nonfiction as well. I always do a roundup of my favorite books from the year, and this year was especially tough to cull down to just five. (Well, six. I included an honorable mention. Oops.)
So without further introduction, here are my favorite nonfiction reads of 2019!
Best Nonfiction of 2019
Save Me the Plums, Rachel Reichl
Here’s how great this book is: it’s a memoir from the editor of a magazine I’ve never read. But I do have a deep love of good food, and the stories around good food, and her story is just that. It’s the kind of book that tricks you into thinking that you’re actually listening to Reichel tell her story rather than reading words on a page. And the recipes scattered through the book don’t exactly hurt either.
Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist
The food theme continues, right? Not exactly. Niequist is one of my favorite authors, and this book just oozes with honesty and sincerity about the good and the bad and hard of the small parts and big parts of everyday life. To be completely honest, this book felt like going to therapy. Reading her stories about life and community and marriage and parenthood and chasing your dreams in a very localized sense feels so deeply relatable that I’d recommend this book to pretty much every single person.
Becoming, Michelle Obama
This was probably on everyone’s recommended reading list already, so I won’t pile on too much more. But I will add that this is a great candidate for getting the audiobook version, because who doesn’t want to listen to Michelle Obama tell her story? She writes/speaks in such a way as to make you forget that she’s arguably one of the most loved first ladies ever, but instead a lawyer and wife and mom sharing about her life.
Braving the Wilderness, Brene Brown
While this isn’t Brene Brown’s most recent book, this is my favorite of hers that I read this year. Her premise is simple: “True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” In a world where we’re all seeking belonging, she argues that the crucial problem of disconnection has more to do with what’s going on within ourselves rather than within our neighborhoods, families, friend groups, or workplaces. As usual, she backs everything up with scientific findings and continues to blow my mind with every book she writes.
For the Love, Jen Hatmaker
This book isn’t new, I just hadn’t gotten around to reading it before last winter. Jen Hatmaker has a unique ability to say tough things with an abundance of humor – but with a delivery that enhances rather than downplays the reality of the situation. Also, is it bad that several of the comments she made about turning 40 resonated with me as I turned 30? Asking for a friend.
Honorable mention: Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
While this one is both not new and had a huge upswing after Bourdain’s death, I only got around to reading it this year. I find Anthony Bourdain to be such a contradiction: much of the time he comes across arrogant and off-putting, but his deep love of food and travel show a softer side of him that endears him to me. While this first of his books about the chef world has the least of that gentler side, it’s a fascinating look into kitchens and into Bourdain himself.
What’s on the list for 2020? I’d love to read more historical nonfiction: living in Europe has highlighted for me how much my knowledge of world history is colored by growing up in the US and having a bit of literal and figurative distance from European history. Everywhere we travel unlocks a new era of history I want to learn more about: the Cold War! The Austro-Hungarian Empire! The fall of the Roman Empire! There’s just so much that I don’t know. I’d love any suggestions you have for great nonfiction!
Does this list have you craving more book suggestions? Check out previous roundups for plenty of inspiration!