I learned to enjoy non-fiction books more and read them better in 2019.
You may remember my post about Why I Changed the Way I Read. I essentially wanted to get more and be able to share more out of the non-fiction books I read, by taking detailed notes in the books I read for learning.
Not all of the books on this list were read for taking detailed notes from, but they all were read for learning and sharing.
I read 133 books in 2019. Of those, I gave 17 non-fiction books perfect grades, and I have to say that these books truly are game changing.
Here are my reviews of those 17 amazing books.
When Larry Nassar was accused and later convicted of sexually assaulting gymnasts under his medical care, it was difficult to understand how the girls didn’t know what he was doing was wrong or that their parents didn’t know what was happening.
It may have been difficult to understand how Nassar’s abuse was able to carry on for so long because outsiders of the world of competitive gymnastics don’t really understand the sport’s culture.
Rachel Haines is a two-time National Team Member, two-time National Champion and was a Division I college gymnast at the University of Minnesota. Haines also is one of Nassar’s victims. Haines tells the story of the sport she loved and its culture that allows terrible things to happen to young athletes.
Shane Bauer, an investigative journalist, goes undercover for four months in 2014 as a prison guard in Winnfield, Louisiana.
The book is a combination of what Bauer saw and experienced as a guard, as well as the history of for-profit prisons in America. It gives a look at the prison system, including the poor treatment of inmates and the dysfunctional work environment of guards.
Becoming by Michelle Obama was everything I hoped it would be.
The former first lady is an inspiration to women everywhere, having grown up loved but not privileged, and working her way from the south side of Chicago to being one of the most well-educated, influential women in the world.
I loved reading about Michelle’s upbringing and the strong role models her parents were for she and her brother. I also admire how she worked hard every step of the way through her education and into her law career. Her parents modeled hard work and the importance of knowledge for her. They also instilled in her a self confidence that she often showed beyond her age and even when she didn’t feel it. As a parent, I can only hope that my children will look back on me with the fondness and pride that Michelle Obama shows for her parents.
Perhaps the most interesting thing for me about the book is that Michelle didn’t initially like or find herself attracted to Barack Obama. She thought he was a little too casual and slightly arrogant. She wasn’t interested in him right until she was. When she decided she was, she was already in love. This mirrors my own marital relationship, so I’m sure that’s why it attracted my attention. I also found it interesting that Michelle was never interested in Barack being in politics. In fact, she frequently hoped that he would lose elections because she wanted out of the public eye and just to live a “normal” life as a mother. But, of course, he did not lose and she supported him, even when it meant adjusting her own life trajectory.
Becoming gives the reader insight into Michelle Obama’s life, not just as a first lady, but as a mother, wife, woman, and leader. It’s an inspirational book for young, powerful women everywhere.
Donna Freitas is an author and respected scholar who travels around the country speaking about topics like Title IX, consent and sex on college campuses. So it may be surprising for some to learn that Freitas also is a victim.
Freitas was stalked by her graduate school professor, who was an ordained priest, for more than two years. At first, Freitas thought the professor was just being friendly and caring toward her, his student and advisee. But then the professor filled her mailbox with letters, called her nonstop, befriended her mother who was suffering from terminal cancer, and even was caught looking in Freitas’s apartment window.
Freitas struggled with the questions that plague many victims. She was uncertain at first that what her professor was doing crossed any lines. Once it was obvious that his actions were inappropriate, she was scared that she had some how encouraged him, and she didn’t know how to make him stop. Reporting her professor seemed to be her only option, but, as is the case with many victims, even that didn’t go as planned.
I’ve listened to Marie Forleo’s podcast for awhile, so it’s not really surprising that I loved her book. What was surprising was how I just couldn’t put the book down.
The concept of Forleo’s book is based on something her mother said to her. She told Forleo: “Nothing in life is that complicated. You can do whatever you set your mind to if you roll up your sleeves. Everything is figureoutable.”
It seems that I must have picked up the phrase “everything is figureoutable” from Forleo’s podcast because I really believe it.
Forleo’s book works through how to apply the mantra to achieving your goals, overcoming problems with money, better using your time, dealing with criticism, and crushing thoughts that you aren’t worthy.
Where the first book was more about women’s empowerment in their home and personal lives, the second one struck me more as a professional development/empowerment book for women. In the book, Hollis encourages women to discover themselves and what they really want from life, without making excuses or feeling paralized by the possibility of failure.
I love Anne Bogel’s book blog, Modern Mrs Darcy, but even an avid reader like myself was skeptical of a book about reading. How interesting could that possibly be? The answer: extremely.
I’ve finally found someone as nerdy as I am! Another person who understands the crush of recognizing there aren’t enough hours or days to read all of the great books out there.
Anne’s writing is super relatable and easy to read as she takes the author through discovering and feeding her love of reading.
Chanel Miller is tired of people not knowing her name. She has been known as “Emily Doe” since her victim impact statement went viral on BuzzFeed.
Miller was attacked in 2015 while unconscious from drinking at a fraternity party at Stanford University. Two students stopped the attack, chased her attacker and held him down until the police arrived. Her attacker, Brock Turner, was a Stanford student. He was tried and convicted of three counts of sexual assault, for which he served only three months in jail.
Miller decided to reclaim her identity in September by publicly releasing her identity and powerfully telling the story of her trauma in her book.
The general concept of Mark Schaefer‘s book is becoming known as an influencer or expert in a certain area.
Mark doesn’t encourage readers to become known in their passion. As Mark writes, telling people to follow their passion assumes that they have just one, that they can identify it and that other people care about it. Instead Mark encourages readers to find their place, an interest they want to be known for, and their space, a niche of people who care about that thing.
The book helps readers identify their place and space, then make the most of it.
Lifescale is about how distracted we’ve become, mostly because of technology, why we need to reclaim our lives and how to do so.
While there were parts of the book that I related to more than others, I found the advice to be practical. I was able to begin applying some of it immediately, which is always important to me when I’m reading something to learn from it.Some of my favorite parts of the book were about how to:
- Identify sources of distraction and become more productive,
- Resist the manipulative techniques of our digital devices,
- Find meaning and purpose to guide our time, and
- Focus on deep, purposeful work.
Lifescale probably has the best method of setting your goals and priorities that I’ve read. While going through the process might seem intimidating, Brian leads the reader through it step-by-step. I set meaningful goals for the year, based on my life priorities, in about four mornings while drinking my coffee.
Many Americans know what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, but even most of them don’t know the struggles when even those paychecks aren’t close to enough money to live.
A single parent in the U.S. cannot survive on minimum wage. That’s the reality Stephanie Land, 28, comes to terms with this as a single mother of a young daughter, working as a housekeeper and trying to make ends meet.
Stephanie, who had no family support, used government programs for housing, food and subpar medical care. She lived in fear that her daughter’s father would take her away because the little girl was constantly sick from the poor living conditions, unhealthy food and terrible healthcare.
In the meantime, all of Stephanie’s clients lived in excess they didn’t fully understand while something as small as offering her a sandwich for lunch while she was cleaning or giving a small Christmas tip made a big difference in her life.
Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean by Kim Scott is all about how to have difficult conversations as a leader.
The book gives practical advice for leading individuals or teams, and how to give and solicit real, helpful feedback. I found myself applying what I learned from the book immediately as I was reading it.
For anyone who leads a team or wants to, Scott’s book is a must read.
For many years, reporters tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power.
During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees and other sources, Kantor and Twohey proved the importance of solid journalism and an unwillingness to give up. They exposed Weinstein as a serial predator who paid off anyone he feared may expose him.
But Kantor and Twohey did more than expose Weinstein in their Oct. 5, 2017 story. They empowered women all over the world to come forward with their own traumatic stories of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape. They ignited a movement that hopefully will continue to empower women around the world to say enough is enough.
Anyone who leads a team should read this book, which gives advice for how to build and sustain a great team culture, using examples from companies like Pixar and Google.
I enjoyed the format of the book, which is a chapter introducing a concept, several applicable, real-world examples, then step-by-step instructions on how you can implement the concept within your own team. Practical takeaways are important.
This book gives you tools to help you create a strong group culture, regardless of size, that can accomplish great things together. It will change the way you think as a leader.
Did you know that 91% of men and 84% of women have fantasized about murdering someone?
The Murdered Next Door is based on David Buss’s study on the psychology behind murder. The findings are interesting, including those on who is most likely to murder whom and why.
Clearly we should all be more mindful of who we wrong.
It seems important to first tell you that I consider Joe Hight, the author of Unnecessary Sorrow, a friend. I don’t think my relationship with Joe impacted my views on this book, especially since there were evenings while I was reading when I was so angry I could scream and others when I found tears in my eyes.
The book is about Joe’s brother, Paul Hight. Hight is living his childhood dream of being a Catholic priest when he begins showing signs of mental illness. The Church removes Hight from the priesthood as he becomes increasingly sick. Hight and his family struggle with his mental illness, trying to discover and keep him in the appropriate treatments. Hight was shot and killed in 2000 during an encounter with police that most likely would not have happened if it weren’t for his mental illness.
Joe’s book is an important statement on how we treat mentally ill people in our country. It also made me think more than once about those mentally ill people who do not have the family support that Paul Hight had and what happens to them.
You’ve probably heard of the case this book is about. On Dec. 6, 1991, in Austin, Texas, the naked, bound, burned bodies of four girls–each shot in the head—were found in a frozen yogurt shop.
Two suspects were tried, but their conventions were later overturned. The case has grown cold, making this one of those whodunnits that just sticks with people.
Beverly Lowry also caught my attention as the author of this book. She became a true crime writer after her 18-year-old son was killed in a hit and run. It seems gives her a unique perspective for writing these types of stories.
There they are, my favorite non-fiction books of 2019. I hope you find something on the list to read and love.