I like to dive into nonfiction the way I dive into TV series. That is to say I let others test the water first and look for recommendations from a number of sources. I went through several nonfiction best of the year lists for 2021 and came up with the following books I plan to read at the beginning of this year. I have finished the first two and if they sound interesting to you, I recommend them.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders. Saunders reviews seven short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, examining both the writing craft and the deeper meaning of each piece. Saunders is the author of Lincoln in the Bardo and this book was developed from a class on Russian short stories he teaches at Syracuse University.
Enemy of All Mankind: A True Story of Piracy, Power, and History's First Global Manhunt by Steven Johnson. The true story of seventeenth century pirate Henry Every and the global repercussions of his attack on an Indian treasure ship. It’s both a history lesson and an adventure tale in one and would make a great movie.
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner, who had a big year. As the lede singer for Japanese Breakfast her 2021 album was on most “best of” lists and her autobiography topped the New York Times best sellers list.
Taste, by Stanley Tucci is a “memoir of life in and out of the kitchen.”
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson. A biography of an innovator of gene editing and the developer of CRISPR.
The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall and Douglas Carlton Abrams. “In The Book of Hope, Jane focuses on her ‘Four Reasons for Hope’: The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit.”
The Boys : A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, by Ron Howard, Clint Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard. Ron and Clint Howard examine their lives in show business.
Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach examines “the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.”
The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town by Brian Alexander takes a look at the American medical industry by “following the struggle for survival of one small-town hospital.”
The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans by Cynthia Barnett is a “history of seashells and the animals that make them, revealing what they have to tell us about nature, our changing oceans, and ourselves.”
The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World by Marie Favereau is a well-reviewed history of the Mongols.
The Genome Odyssey: Medical Mysteries and the Incredible Quest to Solve Them by Euan Angus Ashley. “For the first time we have within our grasp the ability to predict our genetic future, to diagnose and prevent disease before it begins, and to decode what it really means to be human.”