So a while back I did this post for a group blog that I was a part of, but I never posted anything about it here. There are a lot of YA readers who ask me how to get into reading non-fiction or biographies. They’re actually more similar to the structure of a fiction book than you might think if you don’t read these genres that often. So these are some of my favorites. I tried to make my selections diverse, so there should be something for everybody. I also tried to include ones I haven’t reviewed yet. So in no particular order:
A Queer & Pleasant DANGER: A Memoir by Kate Bornstein
This book is loud, unapologetic, & the most entertaining memoir I’ve ever read. Bornstein is that lady you’d meet while waiting in a grocery line who tells you way too much information about herself, but you actually think she’s fascinating. The cover reads “The true story of a nice Jewish boy who joins the Church of Scientology and leaves Twelve Years later to become the lovely lady she is today.” Bornstein is now a performance artist, a playwright, & an advocate. Plus there’s a movie about her: http://katebornsteinthemovie.com/
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Most people love Hemingway, but I didn’t until I read this one. This is like the gateway Hemingway drug. Once you read this, suddenly all of his other books make more sense to you. Or maybe I was just more interested then? It’s his recount of his years spent in Paris, but the best part is the guest appearances. You read about his rocky relationship with friend & contemporary, F. Scott Fitzgerald, & queen of the lost generation, Gertrude Stein. He’s pretty much broke too, so it also makes you feel a lot better about yourself when you’re a starving college student who can’t afford a meal, not that I’m talking about myself or anything…
Bossypants by Tina Fey
I added this one because a) it’s feminism awesomeness. b) it’s hysterical & c) It’s Tina Fey. I’ve read bits of Amy Poehler’s & Mindy Kaling’s. But Tina Fey’s was the one that really held my attention & made me think, “Yes. You are my spirit animal. How do you understand me so?” I literally laughed out loud & read the whole thing in under a day. From the SNL years to being a BOSS. She will give you advice, tell you funny life stories, & make you wish she was your best friend.
Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn by Amanda Gefter
Other than my love for The Big Bang Theory, I don’t know anything about physics. But Gefter tells the amazing story of how her & her father became physic enthusiasts, snuck into conventions, & tried to to answer the completely outrageous question “How do you define nothing?” While the language does get a little lost in science lingo at times, if you brace through those moments, & are really willing to learn a little (or a lot, I had to youtube some basic info on quantum theory), Gefter repays you by linking stark scientific facts with a romantic love of the universe. It also weaves in her beautiful relationship with her father & their path to discovering the world & each other.
Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich
Ever seen the movie 21? That was a true story. Boom, mind blown. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a group of MIT students who take on Vegas. They become card counters & make some serious bank. There are a lot of discrepancies between the movie & the book. But Mezrich is great at weaving his past into a compelling story. It was a quick & easy read, I definitely recommend this one.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
You’ve probably heard of him before. He can be hypocritical & I don’t always agree with him. But he is always funny. Instead of summarizing his essays, here’s one of my favorite quotes:
“I’m thinking of parceling off portions of my brain,” I once told her [his drug dealer]. “I’m not talking about having anything surgically removed, I’d just like to divide it into lots and lease it out so that people could say, ‘I’ve got a house in Raleigh, a cottage in Myrtle Beach, and a little hideaway inside a visionary’s head. What do you think about that?”
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell examines what makes people successful by analyzing their culture, their good luck, & their hard work. He covers everything from The Beatles to Bill Gates, from why Asians are better at math to why most hockey players are born in January. The beginning accounts are the strongest, but feel free to skip around. I found this book to be a great talking point during the holidays with my family. A lot of interesting information to discuss even with those who haven’t read it. It’s absolutely worth the read & it’s not long at all.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
This book is not for you if: you have incredibly intense feminist views, you can’t take a joke, you hate debauchery & nonsense, you hate curse words, or you’re a very young child. But if you don’t mind all that, when it comes right down to it: This guy is funny. Here’s how he describes himself:
“My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more woman than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead,”
Humor is a complicated & sometimes controversial little thing. If anything, read it because it’s fun to hate on this idiot. The true (but probably exaggerated) stories have also made their way to the big screen in 2009: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXTmNApNrxM
Other non-fiction books I loved: Without You by Anthony Rapp, Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintergration by David Wojnarowicz, & Naked Angels: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs by John Tytell.