2015 favorite nonfiction

Favorite Nonfiction of 2015

In the past, creating a top ten for nonfiction seemed a little unfair when a great majority of my reading was fiction. This year, though, so much of my interest was focused on nonfiction that it made up over a third of what I read and picking favorite nonfiction titles was easy.


Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

“She imagined a world where men transformed themselves alongside women and where sexual and reproductive freedom was grounded in women’s equality, and then she worked to make it real.”


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“A society that protects some people through a safety net of schools, government-backed home loans, and ancestral wealth but can only protect you with the club of criminal justice has either failed at enforcing its good intentions or has succeeded at something much darker.”


Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed by Meghan Daum

“I was never particularly opposed to the idea of having kids—let no one say that I don’t love kids! It always seemed like an interesting future possibility, the same way that joining the Peace Corps someday seemed like an interesting future possibility.”


Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger

“We scholars had to put the search for evidence before anything else, even when the evidence pointed to facts we did not want to see. The world needed that of us, to maintain—by our example, our very existence—a world that would keep learning and questioning, that would remain free in thought, inquiry, and word.”


Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm

“But just as Auschwitz was the capital of the crime against Jews, so Ravensbruck was the capital of the crime against women. Deep in our collective memory, throughout literature of every period and every country, atrocities against women have always horrified. By treating the crime that happened here as marginal, history commits a further crime against the Ravensbruck women, and against the female sex.”


Negroland by Margo Jefferson

“Privilege is provisional. Privilege can be denied, withheld, offered grudgingly and summarily withdrawn. Entitlement is impervious to the kinds of verbs that modify privilege. Our people have had to work, scrape for privilege, gobble it down when those who would snatch it away weren’t looking.”


Missoula by Jon Krakauer

“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering….”


Hold Still by Sally Mann

“Before the invention of photography, significant moments in the flow of our lives would be like rocks placed in a stream: impediments that demonstrated but didn’t diminish the volume of the flow and around which accrued the debris of memory, rich in sight, smell, taste, and sound. No snapshot can do what the attractive mnemonic impediment can: when we outsource that work to the camera, our ability to remember is diminished and what memories we have are impoverished.”


The Monopolists by Mary Pilon

“Many of the symbols in Darrow’s version of the game – a man in jail, railroads, collecting money when passing Go – could easily be read as positive takes on capitalism rather than as the critiques that Lizzie Magie had intended thirty years earlier, a fantasy interpretation of a financial system that had drawn such cynicism.”


NeuroTribes by Steve Silberman

“Viewed as a form of disability that is relatively common rather than as a baffling enigma, autism is not so baffling after all. Designing appropriate forms of support and accommodation is not beyond our capabilities as a society, as the history of the disability rights movement proves. But first we have to learn to think more intelligently about people who think differently.”



Need more recommendations?