Just over a week until the start of Nonfiction November, which means it’s time for part two of my nonfiction recommendations!
If you missed it last week, Nonfiction November is a monthlong readathon hosted by Olive at abookolive and Gemma at Non Fic Books. You can check out their announcement videos here and here and join the Goodreads group here.
And don’t forget to check out part one of my recommendations series here!
If You Want to Learn About Feminism
This is an area where I’d like to read a lot more, and I have a list that I’d like to get to sooner rather than later. But if you haven’t read read anything about feminism or you’ve been meaning to pick these up but just haven’t yet, I think these two books are amazing pick for Nonfiction November. I also featured them in my Required Reading post, so if you’re only going to read one book from my list, it needs to be one of these two!
Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is such a necessary read, and it’s super short, so there’s really no excuse not to read it! While Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists has deservedly gotten a ton of hype, I actually thought Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was even better. It does an excellent job pointing out a lot of the small ways that feminist matters play out in our everyday lives. People might insist that they’re feminists while failing to realize they’re engaging in un-feminist acts, but Dear Ijeawele maps it all out for you and shows you how we’ve internalized gender inequality and perpetuate it in raising our children. It provides a lot of advice on how to promote gender equality, but it does so in a common sense and easy-to-understand manner that makes it accessible to everyone. I can’t stress enough what an important read Dear Ijeawele is and highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist has gotten a lot of hype, and it’s beyond well deserved. It’s a collection of essays written by Roxane Gay that touch on an array of topics, from Sweet Valley High to Chris Brown to The Help, all centered around feminism.
More than an academic theory or a part of the past, Gay brings feminism into the modern world and makes it relevant to today’s pop culture. She addresses finding some of her favorite things in today’s culture problematic from the perspective of a women as well as how today’s feminist movement is overwhelmingly white and doesn’t address and include the problems unique to women of color. She just hits so many topics that people in today’s world need to be conscious of and address, which makes this a must-read for me. Plus she manages to do this while being relatable and funny, making Bad Feminist an enjoyable read in addition to a necessary one.
If You Like Romance
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge fan of romance novels! Obviously I think they’re super fun to read, but I’m also interested in the history of romance novels and romance in the real world, which has led me to discover these books. I think they’re great for my fellow romance fans, but I would still recommend checking some of these out if you don’t read romance novels.
Dangerous Books For Girls by Maya Rodale
Dangerous Books for Girls is a great history of the romance genre, from its beginnings in the 19th century to the emergence of the modern day romance novel to today’s world of romance. It examines how romance has often been denigrated as a genre written by women for women, but the profound impact it’s had on readers and its continued success as a genre.
As a romance reader, I really enjoyed learning more about the history of the genre and what it is that makes the genre so appealing, since, even though I love romance novels, I sometimes have a hard time articulating why. It’s also very reaffirming in the face of frequent questions about “those trashy books” or “Fabio novels,” which are attitudes that I know romance readers encounter all too often. If you’re not a romance reader, I think you still might want to give this book a try. Romance is one of the largest and most profitable segments of the publishing industry for a reason and I think this book gives good insight into why the genre is so beloved and successful.
One small caveat is that this isn’t the most academic of books. I remember the author referencing a study that was actually a survey of about 200 people, which isn’t necessarily the most reliable source of data. But I don’t think that takes away from the importance of this book’s message and it still offers a lot of valuable insight into the genre.
Bonus: If you’re looking for even more books about the romance genre, I definitely suggest checking out Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan and Everything I Learned About Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell!
Marriage, a History by Stephanie Coontz
Marriage, a History, as the title suggests, is a history of the institution of marriage. It traces marriage back from ancient Babylonia and its role in forging alliances to the rise of the love match during Victorian times and into today.
This is definitely a history book, so be prepared for that going in. That said, I think it’s really informative and interesting and I learned a lot. I picked this book up because I know from reading a fair amount of history that marriage is a much different deal today than it was hundreds of years ago, so I was really interested in seeing how it’s evolved and why. I think this book definitely delivered that and really makes you reevaluate today’s modern institution.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
Modern Romance is a book about modern day dating and how it’s evolved with the rapid advances in technology, touching on topics from Tinder to sexting to cheating. This book involves a fair amount of psychology, like the power of waiting in the context of what difference it makes to delay responding to a text, as well as the history of dating and the rise of online dating. And as you’d expect, there’s a ton of Ansari’s humor sprinkled in as well, making it a really fun and easy book to read.
I enjoyed this book a ton while also learning a lot, which made it a perfect combo for me. I find the whole concept of dating in today’s world fascinating, and this book looks a lot at online dating and how it works and some of the psychology involved, which I really enjoyed learning more about. Plus this book discusses how and why dating today is so different from only a generation or two ago, and it looks at dating differences between cultures, making it a pretty thorough look at modern romance.
I would also recommend checking out this book on audio! It’s narrated by Ansari, which makes it really entertaining to listen to. And while there are some great graphs in the physical book, I thought Ansari did a good job of making sure you got the main takeaways from the graphs via the audio. This actually made me want to go to the gym so I could listen to it, which should give you a better idea of how much I enjoyed it.
I was really hoping I could organize all of my recommendations into these nifty little groupings, but I had a few outliers that just didn’t work with the rest of my list, hence the Extras section. That doesn’t mean I think any less of them or that you shouldn’t check them out!
The Sports Gene by David Espstein
The Sports Gene is a really in-depth look at some of the science behind high-performance athletes. Asking the question of whether stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams are genetic freaks or normal people who overcame their biological limits, the book explores what makes athletes the best of the best.
My husband was so obsessed with this book that he told everyone about it (I literally heard the same stories from the book over and over again as he repeated them to different friends). He definitely harassed me to read it, too, and I actually wound up enjoying it a lot. Like a lot of other books I’ve mentioned in my nonfiction recommendations posts, this book provides a different look at things you think you know. Plus it’s blurbed my Malcolm Gladwell. So I definitely think it’s worth giving this book a look.
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
Alexander Hamilton is a really thorough biography of Alexander Hamilton. This book is loooong! But I thought it was really well researched and well written and surprisingly never felt like too much of a chore to read. Like most people, I picked this up because of the popularity of the musical, but I actually thought Hamilton was a really interesting historical figure to learn about, especially since I hadn’t learned a ton about him in my history classes growing up. So if you’re interested in history, I would definitely recommend checking out this biography.
Bonus: I’ve also read Titan by Ron Chernow and really enjoyed that as well. It’s a biography of John D. Rockefeller, who is a really interesting person to learn about. My favorite part about reading this book has been realizing how many things the Rockefellers have been involved in throughout the years. They’re everywhere!
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
It’s been a while since I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, so I’m struggling to properly summarize it. I remember it being an in-depth look into food production, but not an awful lot else. The blurb says, “Bringing wide attention to the little-known but vitally important dimensions of food and agriculture in America, Pollan launched a national conversation about what we eat and the profound consequences that even the simplest everyday food choices have on both ourselves and the natural world.”
I’m honestly probably due for a reread of this book because I remember so little about it, but I do remember that it had a big impact on (surprise, surprise) making me look closer at what I eat and how it’s produced. It’s a really eye-opening book about something that’s vital to our survival, and I definitely recommend checking it out.
Alright, there you have it. Another batch of books that I think are worth checking out next month as part of Nonfiction November. Let me know in the comments what some of your favorite nonfiction books are!