2013 Non-Fiction Read:
Lauren Elkin and Scott Esposito, The End of Oulipo?Justin Landon and Jared Shurin (eds.), Speculative Fiction 2012Carolyn Dalgliesh, The Sensory Child Gets OrganizedMartín Arias and Martín Hadis, Professor Borges: A Course on English LiteratureNaoki Higashida, The Reason I JumpGiacomo Leopardi, ZibaldoneWendy Lower, Hitler's FuriesJohn Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book OneAl Gore, The FutureDenise Kiernan, The Girls of Atomic CityGene Yuen Yang, Boxers/SaintsUmberto Eco, Storia delle Terre e dei Luoghi LeggendariUmberto Eco, Le Sette MeraviglieGeorge Packer, The Unwinding
Monday, December 30, 2013
I read more non-fiction in 2013 than in any of the previous four or five years. There were popular histories, collections of essays (including one in which two 2012 pieces of mine appeared), autobiographies, graphic novel renderings of histories, art books in Italian, translations from Italian and Japanese, guides to help people understand special needs children, and a transcription of a college lecture series. Even the one book on the above list that appears on my Most Disappointing Releases list will hold quite a bit of interest for the lay reader (alas, I cannot claim to be such when it comes to the Nazi era). I learned a lot from reading these books (the Dalgliesh and Higashida in particular opened my eyes further when it came to sensory/children with autism and both provided insight that has helped me immensely at both of my current jobs) and hopefully in the years to come I will discover even more excellent non-fictions that will educate me as much or more as these did this year. Now for the list of the three that have stuck with me the most:
3. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book One
I discussed my reasons for liking this graphic novel rendering of Rep. John Lewis's early life up to the 1960 Nashville sit-ins in my previous listing of graphic novels and anthologies read this year. It is a book that I would love to use as a supplementary reading material if I ever choose to teach 11th grade US History again.
2. Umberto Eco, Storia delle Terre e dei Luoghi Leggendari
Excellent art/history of how people over the centuries have envisioned both real and legendary lands near and far. See my earlier comments in my listing of the best foreign language works released this year.
1. George Packer, The Unwinding
Winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Non-Fiction. Packer interviewed several Americans from all walks of life, from tech founders to those who lost their jobs when the physical economy began to shift toward a service economy in the late 1970s. Each of these Americans' stories are fascinating and Packer does an excellent job in breaking these narrative threads into chronological years that show the various ways in which people even conceive of "America" has changed since 1980. One of the best books I've read this year.