Friday, January 30, 2009

My Best of 2008: Nonfiction

Part two of the best books I read this past year will focus on nonfiction. I read a lot more fiction than nonfiction, so this will be a shorter list, but it was hard to pick favorites because they were all quite good.

Out of the eleven works of nonfiction I read this year, I think my favorites would have to be these two:

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs
Jacobs is both funny and earnest in his pursuit, and his account of this year is very entertaining as well as enlightening. I love people like Jacobs, who jump so completely into a project, and I love people like his wife, who bring people like Jacobs back to earth with firm, funny, needed reminders of what's truly important.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
A friend lent me her copy of this memoir, telling me it was a facinating read. I'm not big on stories of horrible childhoods, but this book is much more than that. Wow, what a childhood! Walls' parents were brilliant, self-absorbed, creative, neglectful, and eccentric idealists. Walls writes about them and about her growing-up years truthfully, from her point-of-view as a child, living in this sometimes confusing, often dangerous, always exciting family. It's facinating, heartbreaking and inspiring. (Are those enough adjectives for you?)

Honorable mention goes to many of the others I read this year:

The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups: Recipes & Reveries by David Ansel
Cool book. Yummy soups! Jen and I made one together.
Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan
You can read my review of this book here.
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
Gilbert's search for self is funny, honest, and sweet. (Of course I loved the Eat section the best.)
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
What a neat graphic memoir for young adults.
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
I loved reading this memoir of his childhood and young adulthood, exploring identity and race. Really thoughtful, insightful, and honest, as well as funny at times and touching -- not in an overly sentimental way, but in a quiet and important way, if that makes sense.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley
This graphic memoir of a mother/daughter trip to Paris brought me back to my year in France, and I'm grateful to Knisley for the lovely visit!
Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas by John Baxter
Another vicarious trip to Paris for me, and a perfect book to read in December. Slowed me down again when things got hectic.

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