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 Privilege can be denied, withheld, offered grudgingly and summarily withdrawn.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?
  • That’s great that 1/3 of your reading this year was nonfiction! Increasing my nonfiction is one of my goals for next year – and I def didn’t read enough this year to make a nonfiction Best of list. But, Missoula was one of my favorites. I still want to read Negroland as well.

  • I haven’t read any of these yet, but want to read them all! Hmm. I might have to prioritize.
    I read a few more nonfiction titles this year than in the past, and I hope it continues – I know I can always come here for good recommendations!

    • I don’t know what pushed me toward so much nonfiction this year, but I’m glad I was able to pick up so many great books!

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    Great list! Between the World and Me will definitely be on my ‘best of’ this year. Still on the library hold list for Notorious RBG and plan to listen to Missoula soon. Most of the others are on my wish list.

  • Thank you for this list! One of my big goals for 2016 is to read more non-fiction. I keep seeing “Hold Still” floating around but I didn’t really know what it was about. That line from the book has me intrigued; I feel like I need to photograph everything because my memory is so bad. Maybe the reverse is true.

    The only book I’ve read so far from your list is “Between the World and Me.” I like the quote you chose — that stuck with me too.

  • That quote from Missoula is so powerful. That one is definitely on my tbr list!

  • Between the World and Me and Missoula are two that I’ve wanted to ease me into the pool of non-fiction (with this anti-non-fiction reader kicking and screaming, of course). They really caught my eye this year. Maybe in 2016, when I read my oldies but assumed goodies that I missed this year.

    • They’re both so great! It can certainly tricky to find the right style of non-fiction that works at first, but then you just might fall down the rabbit hole :)

  • You have become my favorite resource for nonfiction reviews and suggestions! Thanks for this round-up of the best you read this year – it is helpful. You have several on this list that I’ve been wanting to check out! Side note – I didn’t realize you had changed your look (the old look pops up on my email subscription) – I LOVE it!

    • Thank you so much! Glad there are a few you are interested in. I actually just switched over to the new theme today, so you’re on top of things :)

  • I kind of sucked at nonfiction this year, but the books I did read, I loved.

  • What about The Argonauts? That didn’t make your list. I just saw it in the paper as one of the year’s best. You think not? I’m just not sure whether to pick it up. thx like the list.

    • I actually really liked The Argonauts, but it didn’t quite make the top ten. It took a bit of time to get into, but I really appreciated it when I was done.

  • I’m happy I got to read more nonfiction this year than I have in years previous. It’s a good reminder of how much I LIKE good nonfiction, both of the essay/memoir/feelings type and the academic type. I’m hoping I can keep at about 15-20% nonfiction in the new year, especially if I carry on with my Africa reading project.

  • Thank you for the list. I read very little non fiction so a top few of the year is very helpful to me. And the writing about what to expect in the book is super helpful

  • Sarah Says Read

    SUCH A GREAT LIST. I can’t wait to dive into Notorious RBG. It’s on audio on Scribd right now, so tempting.

  • Amanda

    Love this list! I am so mad I forgot about the Monopolists. Must read it next year

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  • I love that you’ve been reading so much nonfiction lately! Great list :)

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