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Favorite Nonfiction of 2013

by Kim on December 18, 2013 · 26 comments

Trying to narrow down my favorite nonfiction of 2013 was a daunting task. I read a lot of wonderful books this year that I’ve gushed about in various places on- and offline. To keep this post from getting totally insane, I kept my thoughts on each title brief but included links to my longer reviews.

Because I read a mix of new releases and backlist books, this list is not exclusive to books published in 2013, although it does lean heavily that way. These are also in no particular order — I think it’d be impossible for me to rank them in any meaningful way. Please consider them all equally as well-loved and highly recommended.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

I love David Sedaris. I think he took his writing up a notch with Lets Explore Diabetes With Owls — the essays in this collection felt more understated yet more effective than some of his other recent writing.

Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu

Some books find you at just the perfect time. That was the case with Does Jesus Really Love Me?, which gave me a better understanding of the questions that people of faith grapple with related to homosexuality and an appreciation for the people who approach others with a generous spirit.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

If I had to pick on favorite book of the year… it might be The Boys in the Boat. I fell hard for this engaging story of a college crew team preparing to take on the elite rowers of the world during the tense 1936 Berlin Olympics. The writing in this book, especially during crew races, was spectacular.

Ten Letters by Eli Saslow

Every night, President Barack Obama reads through a carefully curated selection of ten letters written by citizens of the United States. In Ten Letters, Eli Saslow profiles ten letter writers to paint a picture of the relationship between a president and the people exploring the issues that unite and divide us.

The Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

If I had to pick one most important book I read this year for me personally, I’d probably choose The Distraction Addiction. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang looks at the relationship between individuals and technology and explores ways to bring mindfulness into our interactions with new devices and an influx of information.

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed writes like a motherfucker. If you feel like you need a book of tough, honest, loving and generous advice, pick up Tiny Beautiful Things. There will be something in it for you.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

More women are entering the workforce, but there are still very few women in positions of power across governments, corporations and nonprofits. In Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at ways that women sometimes hold themselves back and offers advice for young women just starting on the career ladder.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, medical professionals at Memorial Hospital in New Orleans euthanized terminal patients they didn’t believe could be saved. Sherri Fink provides a balanced, thorough look at what happened in the hospital to lead to such a ghastly decision in Five Days at Memorial and argues for the importance of effective disaster preparation at all care facilities.

Drama High by Michael Sokolove

A good teacher can make all the difference in the world. Drama High is the story of one talented drama teacher at a blue collar Pennsylvania High School, the impact he had on his student actors, and the importance of the arts have in all high school curriculum.

Honorable Mentions: The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall for introducing me to new television and television criticism; A Chance to Win by Jonathan Schuppe for reminding me about playing for the love of the game; Knocking on Heaven’s Door by Katy Butler for helping me think more about the medical industry; and One Hundred Names for Love for showing me a new side of Diane Ackerman, an author I’m excited to read more.

If all goes as planned, I’ll be back Friday with a list of the books I’m going to try and read over the holidays. What was your favorite nonfiction of 2013?

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

tanya December 18, 2013 at 7:09 am

I can’t wait to read Boys in the Boat. At first I wasn’t attracted to it. I thought it was just another sports story, but I’ve heard so many good things about it, I just have to dive in!

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Kim December 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm

It’s definitely a sports book, but I think that DJB does a beautiful job showing how much this sport and the team meant to the boys who participated.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) December 18, 2013 at 7:14 am

The Boys in the Boat is one of my favorites of the year as well. I’m making note of some of your other titles.

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Heather December 18, 2013 at 7:29 am

I’ve been wanting to read The Boys in the Boat since Kathy read it. I have no excuse for not having read it yet, since I have the audiobook. It sounds awesome. There are several of these I want to read, I just have to find the time!

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Adam Henig December 18, 2013 at 9:52 am

Boys in the Boat is a must read. From the opening pages, I was hooked. I was sad to see it end :(

David Sedaris will be added to my wish list.

Thanks for sharing Kim.

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Kailana December 18, 2013 at 10:49 am

Man, I haven’t read any of these. There are some years where I read more non-fiction than fiction. 2013 was not one of those years! I must do better in 2014!

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Kim December 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm

I tend to be about 60-40 nonfiction to fiction, but I still barely crack the surface of all the nonfiction that is published. It’s crazy!

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bookmammal December 18, 2013 at 11:12 am

I really liked “Drama High” when I read it earlier this year. I can’t believe I haven’t heard about “The Boys In The Boat” as I enjoy reading about sports (as long as I don’t actually have to do the sports myself!)–I’ve just added it to my TBR list!

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Kim December 18, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I don’t think The Boys in the Boat got a lot of buzz this year, but I wish it had. I adored it.

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Sandy December 18, 2013 at 11:41 am

I usually have a Non-Fiction list at the end of the year, but it so happened that all my favorites were audio as well, so I threw them on that list. Boys in the Boat was one of them. At this very moment, I am listening to Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” on audio as well. Very inspirational!

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Kim December 18, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I read Wild last year, but I’m certain it’d be great on audio, especially with a talented narrator.

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Kelly from Readlately.com December 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I bought 10 Letters on your recommendation – it’s right up my alley! Now I just have to get to reading it…

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Kim December 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm

I hope you enjoy it. That one hit a sweet spot for me and I thought it was awesome.

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Diane@BibliophilebytheSea December 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Anxious to try five days at the Memorial — glad it made your top list.

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Maphead December 18, 2013 at 11:19 pm

A very impressive list! I’m trying to put together my year-end list and so far it’s been incredibly hard!
I gotta read Five Days at Memorial!!!

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Kim December 19, 2013 at 6:50 pm

I think you’ll really like that one. It’s super interesting and frustrating and just great.

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Jennifer December 19, 2013 at 6:19 am

Wonderful list! Hooray for nonfiction! There are a bunch here that I haven’t read, I’ll have to add them to my list :D

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Athira December 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

Wonderful list! I have been listening to a lot of nonfiction in the car, so I cannot wait to check this list out.

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Kim December 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

I can’t wait to hear which of these work on audio. I don’t think I listened to any of them, actually, which is strange!

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Andi @ Estella's Revenge December 19, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Great list, Kim! I definitely want to read Five Days at Memorial, and I have Diabetes with Owls on my Nook (along with Tiny Beautiful Things, which I need to finish).

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Vasilly December 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Your list is the second that I’ve read today that has Five Days at Memorial on it. I need to read that book soon.

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Kim December 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

It’s a great book — maybe the most important one I read this year.

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Katie @ Doing Dewey December 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Yay! I loved Lean In so much I’m excited to see it on your list. I’ve really enjoyed listening to funny audiobooks narrated by the author, so I’m hoping to read something by Sedaris that way.

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Kim December 30, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Sedaris is absolutely great on audio. Hearing him read his own stories might be my favorite way to experience his work.

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Sophie December 23, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I’ve been meaning to read David Sedaris’s books, and from your note, it seems like Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls is a good place to start. I added Five Days at Memorial to my to-read list after Non-fiction November, and now I need to add Lean In and Tiny Beautiful Things to my list too! Thanks for sharing! :)

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