Happy Friday friends! I can’t believe it’s the last Friday of 2017. I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilled to say goodbye to 2017 and hello to a brand new year! Yesterday, I chatted about my top 5 fiction books of 2017. Today, I’m back with my top 5 non-fiction books of 2017. I’m not going to lie – today’s selection was a whole lot harder to narrow down than yesterday’s, which really surprised me!
My Top 5 Non-Fiction Books of 2017
As I combed through my non-fiction reads of 2017, I was kind of shocked by how many awesome books I read. I read good fiction books, yes, but my non-fiction books were nothing short of amazing. I had a hard time whittling my selection to my top 5 non-fiction books, so there are a few honorable mentions at the end (not sorry!).
“I am hyperconscious of how I take up space. As a woman, as a fat woman, I am not supposed to take up space. And yet, as a feminist, I am encouraged to believe I can take up space. I live in a contradictory space where I should try to take up space but not too much of it, and not in the wrong way, where the wrong way is any way where my body is concerned.”
This is the 99th book I read (well, listened to) in 2017. Talk about ending the year on a high note. I don’t feel like I can do justice to describing this book, and that is partly because my experience reading it was so personal. If you’ve been reading since I blogged on Racing Bananas, you know that I’ve had a lifelong struggle with my body and body image. In Hunger, Roxane Gay describes what led to her becoming “morbidly obese” (I hate this terminology) and how gaining more and more weight protected her. While I don’t share her specific background or experiences, the relationship she has with her body and how the world views her body was all too familiar to me. This was an incredibly difficult book to listen to, but it is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
“People always ask me, ‘You have so much confidence. Where did that come from?’ It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl … It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it.”
This book came out of left field as a favorite for the year. I’m a sucker for a “celebrity memoir,” but this book is so much more than that. Gabourey Sidibe (from Precious, The Big C, Empire) shares stories from her life growing up in New York, living with her parents, a US citizen and Senegalese immigrant, her experiences with her body (theme here!), her time working as a phone sex operator, and eventually becoming an actress. To me, this book felt real. It was about someone who didn’t necessarily want to be famous, but instead about someone who grew up in difficult circumstances and how that shaped her as a person. I loved it. Plus, she’s ah-mazing as a narrator.
“I’m sorry, but eeeeeeeww. A woman telling another woman that she’s not likable because she’s smart is gross. It’s a big F-U to all the women who have fought and continue to fight for ladies’ equality, and furthermore, it continues the cycle of discouraging women from being as well rounded as men are allowed to be.”
This book was another one that shocked me with how good it was. I knew Phoebe from 2 Dope Queens (love the podcast!), but not from much else. I bought this book when it was on sale on Audible for $4.99 (#cheap!). I’m so glad I did. Phoebe is hilarious. I related to her as a millennial who loves pop culture. She shared her perspective and experiences as a black woman, as a feminist, as someone who isn’t perfect but is real. I would full-on be crying I was laughing so hard, and then would be nodding my head in agreement with her thoughts on feminism. If you’re in the millennial (30-ish) age range, I think you’d like this.
“Pajamas? Poor people don’t wear pajamas. We fall asleep in our underwear or blue jeans. To this day, I find the very notion of pajamas an unnecessary elite indulgence, like caviar or electric ice cube makers.”
Skiiiiiirt, change of pace here! I listened to Hillbilly Elegy back in January or February, as I was trying to piece together an understanding of where the country was politically (at least, NPR told me that’s what this book would help me do). While it didn’t do that entirely, what this book did provide was a perspective on what it’s like to live in Kentucky, in a poor town with little prospects, in a poor family strife with struggle, and helped me think about how different that experience is from my own. I don’t think I’m being political when I say our country is torn right now, and in my perspective, much of that is derived from people struggling in a way they haven’t before, and villainizing other people as a way to explain that struggle. For me, J.D. Vance provided a perspective on his life, and what it was like growing up in a part of the United States where the American Dream isn’t guaranteed, where college isn’t guaranteed, where you work for that American Dream without the promise of achieiving it. This book provided me perspective, and I appreciated that.
“This is every reader’s catch-22: the more you read, the more you realize you haven’t read; the more you yearn to read more, the more you understand that you have, in fact, read nothing. There is no way to finish, and perhaps that shouldn’t be the goal.”
This book was recommended to me this summer, and I am so glad I picked it up. Pamela Paul is the editor of the New York Times Book Review, and she shared her story of BOB. BOB is her book of books, and is diary, a tribute, a history of the books she read throughout her life – but also to her life itself. This book is mostly a light read; while it does touch on some tougher times in her life, My Life With BOB is really a celebration of books – of the books we read and the role they play in our lives. As someone who started keeping track of all of the books I read since 2015, I loved that someone else does that and knowing that tracking those books provide not only a list of books read, but a reflection of the life she’s lived. If you’re a reader, this is a must read and I highly recommend!
There are a few more books that I just have to mention because they were that good.