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?