Top Five Favorites: Nonfiction

It’s November! And I’m excited to be participating in Nonfiction November, so to kick that off, I wanted to share some of my favorite nonfiction reads. There are so many others I could mention, but I’ll leave you with five for now, and hopefully talk about more over the course of the upcoming month!

Each of the books below opened my eyes to a world I hadn’t known before and that is why I love reading. I’ll just write a few notes on the books here, but I’ll link to their Goodreads Page so if you’re interested, you can check them out there!

A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah

My high school had truly amazing history classes for a high school, and I read this one for a class called African Issues. This is probably the only book I read in high school that I read every page of on the day it was assigned, and enjoyed it. I was obsessed with this book and wanted to get Beah to come talk at our high school. Unfortunately Beah was in high demand and couldn’t make it, but the fact remains that learning about the Boy Soldiers and the Sudanese Civil War was life changing to someone growing up in Western Pennsylvania. Can’t recommend this book enough!

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Erik Larson was a go to author for me after reading Devil in the White City in high school (it was a required summer reading selection!). I found Dead Wake to be insanely readable and eye opening. Larson is able to share intimate details from both a presidential romance and the experience of being in a German U-boat in WWI. It was a truly remarkable work of narrative nonfiction and I didn’t want it to end.

The Profiteers by Sally Denton

This book is the definition of an eye opener. In my senior year of college I took a course called “History and the Environment”. It was an absolutely fascinating class that tied things going on in nature, with those going on in politics. One major topic we focused on was the oil and the Iraq War. As an engineering major, some of this was over my head, but all the holes were filled in when I read The Profiteers. I read this right around the 2016 election and it felt so timely — and when the CEO of Exxon was appointed as Secretary of State, I felt that I understood the motives completely and knew exactly why I was not OK with it. If you want to be clued in to the financial motives spearheading politics, check this book out.

Ranger Games by Ben Blum

I haven’t read a slew of military nonfiction, but I imagine this is one of the most open and honest books in the genre out there. Written by a close cousin of Alex Blum, a former golden boy turned criminal by way of the army, the answer at the heart is what happened to Alex when he left home to become a U.S. Army Ranger. While this book is not for the feint of heart, its dives incredibly deep in to the psyche of our soldiers going through this intense training process. I really enjoyed it and recommend it to everyone I know.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

I posted about this recently, but I’ll just repeat a bit of that here: This book is a nonfiction account of a town in Montana that had way too many rapes of high school and college students. Be prepared for a brutal read – this book takes you through trials where no details are spared, but if you want to know the facts about rape, read this book. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t want to hear the facts necessarily (because they’re hard to hear), but they’re so important. I learned so much and my life has never been the same.

Do you read much nonfiction? Do you have any recommendations for me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Required Reading Regarding Brett Kavanaugh

Alright, internet. We’re getting political. A couple weeks ago I wrote a post on “diverse books” and mentioned that I don’t like to talk about political or serious things if I feel like I may not know exactly what I’m talking about. But here’s the thing — over the past year, I’ve read two of the best books I’ve ever read that have taught me the importance of spreading knowledge of the prevalence and effects of sexual assault in our society.

I agree that it’s obvious – men shouldn’t rape women, and men who rape women shouldn’t be appointed to the Supreme Court (and yes, I know it was an attempted rape). But beyond the obvious there is so much that can be learned from reading about this topic. So I have two recommendations for you:

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Missoula by Jon Krakauer

This book is a nonfiction account of a town in Montana that had way too many rapes of high school and college students. Be prepared for a brutal read – this book takes you through trials where no details are spared, but if you want to know the facts about rape, read this book. I mean, let’s be honest, you don’t want to hear the facts necessarily (because they’re hard to hear), but they’re so important.

This book will teach you that a rape between friends is a rape, that someone who commits one rape is extremely likely to commit rape again, that being raped can ruin your life, that rape victims feel a disproportionate amount of guilt, and that trying to get a rape case prosecuted is so much harder than it sounds. Seriously though, I learned so much and my life has never been the same. I’ve never been so blown away by a book, and I cannot. stop. thinking. about. this. book.

So read it — here’s the amazon link, because trust me it’s worth it. AMAZON LINK.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Does this blog really need to talk about Beartown again? (For real, if I need to I will.) This book is one of the most informative and moving pieces of fiction of I’ve ever read. Central to this story is a rape – ok sorry I ruined the plot twist, but you probably saw that coming. The response from the community – her family, her friends, and her enemies rings so true after reading Missoula and this book moved me beyond words. If you think you want to be understand what a rape victim goes through after the event, this book will illustrate that for you, and you’ll be better for it.

So again – please read this book. It’s one of my absolute favorites and I think it’s so important. Some of my best friends and book club pals have read it and not one has disliked it, so if you don’t trust me, trust them. And here’s the AMAZON LINK. Just do it.

Other Feel Learn Wonder content on Beartown: Beartown Review, Us Against You Review, Meeting Fredrik Backman, Should You Read Beartown?

And finally I just have to point out that both of these books are written by men, so the proof is in the pudding that not all men are bad, but also.. some of them are. Read these books. Be educated. Be passionate. Fight back.

Review: Missoula

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Published: 2015
Genre: Non-fiction
FLW Rating: 5/5

A couple months ago, I had a conversation with a coworker about some of our favorite narrative non-fiction authors and Jon Krakauer was at the top of that list. So the next time I found myself in a bookstore, I decided to check out out what books he had written aside from Into Thin Air. I posted a photo of his book Missoula and that photo became my most popular post by far in terms of comments. So many people said that they read it, were so affected by it, and that I should absolutely read it next. I requested it from the library and read it in two days over Christmas break – not exactly cheery Christmas reading, but when the writing is as good as this was, it’s easy to make an exception.

In Missoula, Krakauer tackles the tough issue of rape on a college campus. Most rapes that occur in the US today happen in private homes between acquaintances, making the cases notoriously difficult to prosecute, causing even more trauma for the victim.

Krakauer follows the cases of two women who decide to pursue charges against their alleged rapists. He documents their stories from the first friendly interaction, all the way through the justice system proceedings. For brevity, some sections of the court proceedings were left out, but the latter half of the book feels as though the reader is a fly on the wall in the court room, so crudely exposed to the arguments of both the prosecution and the defense. The language used is blunt because it is factual – no euphemisms are used to soften the blow of accused actions. I think this language and the unrelenting use of it throughout the court proceedings are what cause many readers to cringe and warn others about the challenges associated with reading this book.

However, as Krakauer is so famous for, he masterfully weaves together the experiences of these two women to tell their stories in a way that isn’t dry nor boring. I felt captivated and invested in the outcome of the cases, which kept me flying through the pages the whole time.

Missoula is thoroughly researched and rich in statistics – statistics that I wish more people knew. One of the facts often cited about rape is that 45% of rape accusations are fabricated. Krakauer, through his research, discovered that the two papers which cited for this statistic were debunked soon after publication. The true statistic of false accusations ranges from 2-10%. Similarly, a DOJ study found that 2% of women in America experienced rape, however a more inclusive study conducted by the CDC found that the number is a much more staggering 19.3%. And worst of all, if someone is raped in this country, the rapist has a 90% chance of getting away with no penalty while the victim will suffer from a lifetime of psychological effects.

There are many dimensions of this book worth exploring – from the role of the local prosecutors, to the varying obligations of the prosecution and defense in the court room, to the role of the universities, but it would take too much time to dive in to them here. While these topics may seem very technical, Krakauer makes them a part of the story, so that they are both understandable and interesting to the reader.

I would highly suggest Missoula to another reading looking for a social justice narrative non-fiction read – or really anything to make you feel engaged and fired up.

Have you read it? Let me know below in the comments!