Homelessness, addiction, writing, rape, reinventing work, focusing on your dream, relationship building, the humorous side of mental illness, and choosing the positive out of the most horrific of life events are the subjects of my favorite books of 2015.
As you can see, the topics of my favorite books are diverse. I made this list by looking at which non-fiction books I gave perfect five-star ratings to during 2015. Here are the results.
Janice Erlbaum returned to volunteer at a homeless shelter she lived in more than two decades ago, hoping to meet and help a girl like she used to be.
The 34-year-old writer became the “bead lady,” taking jewelry making materials to the shelter once a week to share with the women who lived there. Her hope was to met a kindred spirit while gathered around the table making bracelets and earrings.
She met Sam, a 19-year-old unbelievably smart junkie. And she knew immediately that Sam was the girl she was meant to save.
But saving Sam proved a lot more difficult than Erlbaum expected, especially since Sam really didn’t want to be saved.
Erlbaum’s book is wonderfully well written, honest and thoughtful. It was worth the read. Here’s my full review.
Everybody Writes is the writing book for this decade. I want all of my students to read it.
The premise of Ann Handley’s book is simple—we may not all be journalists or authors, but we’re all writers. Why? Because, from social media updates to email messages, we’re all writing every day.
Ann then provides writing rules on everything from basic grammar to writing headlines for marketing content.
I loved everything about this book. The chapters were short and the tips easily understood. Ann’s witty personality shines through in her writing and, for me, her journalism background and success with MarketingProfs gives her the credibility she needs to be an expert on my favorite subject—writing.
Everybody Writes is a must-read for everyone who writes… which, if you’ve been paying attention, you know is everyone.
Author Jack Olsen recounts the 1980s arrest and conviction of Fred Coe, a serial rapist in Spokane, Wash.
Coe is a psychopath from a well-to-do family who raped an unknown number of women (He was convicted for raping three women, but the number is thought to be more than 30.). His social status, unusual beliefs and heinous crimes make the book interesting.
Jon Krakauer’s book is difficult to read about a subject that’s seemingly unavoidable. The book, which is about sexual assault in a the college town of Missoula, Mont., broke my heart. I likely related to it more strongly because I am a woman and I am a college professor.
The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Krakauer’s book told the story of some of these women and the men accused of raping them. It also explained how police and university officials rarely handled these reports properly, especially where members of the college’s beloved football team were concerned.
It seemed important to Krakauer for readers to understand why rape happens so frequently on college campuses (the statistic I’ve heard is one-in-five women are raped during their four years at university) and why these assaults rarely are reported. He also wanted to make clear the distinction between stranger and acquaintance rape, with rape by someone familiar to the victim being much more frequent and less likely to be reported.
Krakauer’s book sheds light on a horrifying problem in our nation’s education system that we must find a solution for. Otherwise, we’re not just educating our students, we’re creating an environment where they’re becoming victims at an alarming rate.
The book is difficult and important to read.
I heard about Jon Acuff’s book while listening to Michael Hyatt’s podcast. Hyatt is my favorite blogger because of his practical advice, so I felt compelled to read a book that he recommended so highly. I immediately loved Acuff’s practical and witty writing style.
The foundation of Acuff’s book is that we already have everything we need for the career of our dreams, we just have to learn how to develop our relationships, skills, character, and hustle in the ideal way. This ideal way is all about creating your Career Savings Account, so you always have options waiting and never feel stuck.
There are few books that I read more than once, but I already plan to revisit Acuff’s book and see what more I can learn from it. Whether you feel stuck at work or not, I think this is one to read.
It seems almost like cheating to name How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age as one of my favorite books since How to Win Friends and Influence People, the original, is one of my favorite books to read, reread and teach with.
The “digital age” version of the timeless leadership classic mixes modern-day examples in a more digital world with the principles and examples from the original version.
I read the new version this semester with my principles of public relations class. While we liked the new version, the few students and I who had read the original agreed that we still favor it, mostly because of changes in writing style between Carnegie and his “associates,” whomever they may be.
The second book on my list from Jon Acuff is about how to follow your dream without immediately quitting your day job. I read this book because I loved Do Over so much. It didn’t disappoint in writing style or advice.
In the book, Acuff explains how to harness your dream and start achieving it while still having the security of a full-time job.
I just love Acuff’s witty writing style and now am a regular reader of his blog too. I even follow him on social media, where he does an excellent job of consistency with his personal brand.
I have never laughed as hard at a book as I did Furiously Happy. I wasn’t even finished with the introduction and I was laughing so hard that I was crying.
The only time I stopped laughing was when Jenny Lawson took a moment to give readers a glimpse of her struggle with depression, anxiety and personality disorder. Those moments were so honest that I couldn’t help but love them too.
All in all, Lawson’s book is a funny look at a serious topic, which is an approach we probably all need more.
I won’t lie, I paused before deciding to read this book. I read Newtown: An American Tragedy and found the details of the killing of 20 children and six adults in their school to be just as disturbing as one might expect. I asked myself repeatedly afterward why I chose to read the book and realized it was for the same reason anyone else would—to understand why. The thing is that it didn’t help me understand why because, as always, it’s so much more complicated than a monster killing children. The victims in Newtown were many, and they weren’t all in that school.
After being impacted so much by the book on the tragedy, I was reluctant to read Kaitlin Roig-Debellis’s story. Roig-Debellis is the first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School who saved her class of 15 students on Dec. 14, 2012 by piling them into a classroom bathroom.
Roig-Debellis’s story did not make me as sad as the overall story of the event. It made me angry instead. Roig-Debellis is a hero who protected the lives of 15 children, only to be treated like she was unfit to be in the classroom by school administrators who weren’t even in the building that day.
Despite everything bad that happened to her, including being told she couldn’t see her students because she refused to back down on demands for greater safety precautions in the temporary school, Roig-Debellis chose to take the tragedy and turn it into something positive and hopeful. Now she uses her charity, Classes 4 Classes, to teach and model servant leadership to children.
Roig-Debellis is one of the great teachers in the world.
There they are! My nine favorite non-fiction books of 2015. There’s something here for everyone, so I hope you find something you enjoy.
As always, happy reading!