A Non-Fiction Retrospective

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your friends and family!

2016 is officially, actually winding down which means that it’s time to look back at some of the reading that was done this year!

Normally I forget to do this until early in the new year, so I’m well ahead of schedule already. Like last year, I don’t have a number of best reads in mind. I’m just going to go through what I’ve read and make a list of the ones that I kept thinking about long after I finished them.

However, this year I will at least break it down into fiction and non-fiction.

Keeping you all on your toes.

We’re starting with…NON-FICTION!

I thought that I was in love with all things  non-fiction last year but oh man! I read some great non-fiction this year. And, for the first time ever, participated in Non-Fiction November which meant that I got to connect with loads of other readers who love it.

And so, in no particular order, here are the non-fiction titles that I loved this year (that weren’t necessarily published this year):


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Life and Love from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. If ever your soul needs comfort, take some time and read a few pages from this joy restoring little book.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I feel like reading this book at the beginning of the year, informed all my reading for the rest of the year. I feel fundamentally changed having read it. I never wrote about it because it felt too big. Just read it?

Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston. This is another book that actually changed me. My own relationship to alcohol looks very different than this time last year because of this book.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. I mean, I “wrote” about this book using gifs because I didn’t have the words. Still true.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Since reading, I’ve heard Stevenson on a podcast (an episode of Criminal) and as part of the incredible documentary 13th from Ava Duvernay. If you don’t have time for the book (it’s emotionally draining), watch the documentary on the same subject.

Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation by Judith Mackrell. I will always enjoy reading about badass women ahead of their time. Six at once is a bonus.

In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters and the Price They Paid for Glory by Julia P. Gelardi. I just want to know that Gelardi is working on something else because I’ve read all of her work and I love it! If you are nominally interested in Royal women,  I can’t recommend her books enough.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. A collection of essays and short stories from a talented voice who was tragically killed right after she graduated from college. A joyful, layered collection from a talent that was mature beyond her years.

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen. This was the first non-fiction book I read that took me closer to understanding Scandinavian living.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock and Fear…and Why by Sady Doyle. Entertaining, infuriating, exhausting, eye-opening – this book met me at the intersection of gossip and feminism and I loved it.

You Can’t Touch My Hair And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson. This is going to be a name that you start hearing all over the place – Robinson is going to be a big deal. This collection of essays on race, dating and pop culture is a delight.

Darling Days: A Memoir by iO Tillett Wright. A deeply personal coming of age story that was brimming with love for a mother who was difficult to live with. It’s not perfect but I still think about it often.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I laughed a lot reading this book. I also raged, cried, and then loaned it to another loud woman I knew would appreciate it.

Forty Autumns: A Family’s Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner. The most extraordinary thing about this book is that it’s true.

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. I gifted this to a friend struggling and what she wrote about it on Goodreads afterwards made me cry. So, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, read this. It will make a difference.

Born a Crime: Stories of a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. I expected a funny, intelligent memoir about how he became famous. I ended up getting a book about what it was like growing up in a place that hated him for what he was, who could only see the colour of his skin, not who he was.

How to Kill a City: The Real Story of Gentrification by Peter Moskowitz. Was lucky to get to read an ARC of this book. It’s completely changed the way I look at my own city and how we got to this point. The subject matter felt personal to Moskowitz and it certainly struck a chord with me.

The Marriage Bureau: True Stories of 1940s London Matchmakers by Penrose Halston. A proper review of this is coming, I swear. Suffice it to say this book was a DELIGHT. It reads like fiction, is totally manageable for even the most die-hard fiction reader and is in development from the people who brought us Downton Abbey. I will be slipping this into a pile for a friend who insists she doesn’t read non-fiction, see if she notices.

Guys, that’s only 18! I don’t want to think about what the fiction list will look like…

I have a stack of non-fiction reads all ready to get into in 2017! Can’t wait!

17 thoughts on “A Non-Fiction Retrospective

    • Oh I love Malcolm Gladwell!! I’ve gotten so much out of his work.
      I don’t think much about what I pick to read non-fiction wise. I just choose what I’m interested in. But someone else recently made a similar observation, that I read all over the place.

  1. Awesome list – I think I’ll just mark this for my 2017 nonfiction TBR. I enjoyed Darling Days and Missoula. And, I LOVED TBT…finally listened to it on audio this year.

  2. Pingback: Fictional Year | The Paperback Princess

  3. I just finished Just Mercy, and it GUTTED me. But a good gutting. A necessary gutting. I just bought Phoebe Robinson’s book after starting to listen to her podcasts. Love! And Missoula is waiting for me on one device or another. Scared of it, but I know I HAVE to read it!

    • I know. Just Mercy was an incredibly difficult book to read. But like you say, SO necessary. I love Phoebe Robinson’s voice.
      You definitely have to read Missoula. It will be a terrifically shitty reading experience but again, necessary. I also recommend the documentary The Hunting Ground. Same material, less time to rip out your heart.

  4. Wow – what a list! I think I would like The Marriage Bureau. And I’m always drawn to books about addiction for some reason (really… I don’t know why!), so I’m pretty sure I’d also like Drink. I’ve probably already marked it as to-read after your review of it!

  5. I just calculated my %age of NF to F for the past year and I’ve read only about 10% NF which makes me wince. Even though I know that fiction will always have my heart, I really do need to make more time for some other reading, and you’ve got some terrific suggestions here: thanks!

    • I’ve been having a conversation with friends recently about the state of the world and the kind of entertainment we then seek out. I think when things are really hard in our lives, we gravitate towards escapist entertainment. But personally, I’m drawn more to non-fiction right now. It feels like a way to fight what’s happening. Five days into 2017, I’m hovering at 50/50 on the fiction/non-fiction front.

      • I’m with you on that one; I don’t think I really cared too much to shift the balance until recently (10% was an improvement on the year before, if you can believe that). I still believe you can find a lot of truth in fiction, but over the past year I’ve been craving non-fiction more often and I definitely see a connection between the sense of powerlessness in the wider world and the desire to know and understand more about it. It does feel like a way to stand strong! And 50/50 sure seems like a fair goal (though I’m not sure I’ll get anywhere near it in my first year of trying)!

  6. Pingback: Easy on the heart: The Marriage Bureau | The Paperback Princess

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