Library Chicken Update: Top Nonfiction Books Read in 2017
Welcome to the weekly round-up of what the BookNerd is reading and how many points I scored (or lost) in Library Chicken. To recap, you get a point for returning a library book that you’ve read, you lose a point for returning a book unread, and while returning a book past the due date is technically legal, you do lose half a point. If you want to play along, leave your score in the comments!
Happy New Year! Before we return to our regularly scheduled Library Chicken updates, we’re going to take a look back at the past year with Library Chicken’s Top Ten Favorite Nonfiction Books Read in 2017 so you can load up your to-read list.
2017 was a big year for nonfiction here at Library Chicken HQ. Usually, nonfiction makes up about 20-25% of my annual reading, but this year it was up to a whopping 31%, including the following fantastic reads (in no particular order):
Self-help books are something of a gamble for me. Am I going to read something that can help and inspire me as I navigate daily life, or am I going to experience pages of cutesy (and trademarked) Self-Help Lingo? (Don’t forget to buy the calendar, daily planner, and ticket to the seminar!) Brown’s short but engaging book definitely fell in the first column. I was still thinking about it (and enthusiastically pushing it on my very patient friends) months after I first read it.
I really needed this book in 2017. Rebecca Solnit (author of Men Explain Things to Me) writes about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, and how humans generally respond to tragedy and disaster not with panic or selfishness, but by reaching out a helping hand to their neighbors. A great read if you’re looking to restore your faith in your fellow man.
NEUROTRIBES: THE LEGACY OF AUTISM AND THE FUTURE OF NEURODIVERSITY by Steve Silberman
A fascinating look at the history of autism as a diagnosis. That history can be at times infuriating and deeply upsetting, but it always feels topical and relevant to the conversations we’re having today (or should be having) about creating a society where neurodiversity can thrive.
BOOK OF AGES: THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF JANE FRANKLIN by Jill Lepore
Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister, Jane, was his faithful correspondent for years and inherited her own set of intellectual gifts, but was denied access to education and opportunities to exercise her talents. A bittersweet but compelling history by the author of two other nonfiction books I enjoyed in 2017: The Secret History of Wonder Woman and Joe Gould’s Teeth.
THE PEABODY SISTERS: THREE SISTERS WHO IGNITED AMERICAN ROMANTICISM by Megan Marshall
Sophia, the youngest sister and a talented artist, married Nathaniel Hawthorne. The middle sister, Mary, married the American educator Horace Mann, and was a writer and educator in her own right. And the eldest sister Elizabeth--well, she was too busy running a bookstore and teaching with Bronson Alcott and getting her brother-in-law Hawthorne a job and hanging out with Emerson and Thoreau and creating kindergartens throughout the land and basically BEING AWESOME ALL THE TIME to get married. Marshall mysteriously ends her history halfway through the sisters’ lives, but it’s still a wonderful introduction to these amazing women, and once you’re finished you can read her biography of another talented and unfairly forgotten woman: Margaret Fuller: A New American Life.
A HOUSE FULL OF DAUGHTERS: A MEMOIR OF SEVEN GENERATIONS by Juliet Nicolson
Nicolson traces the fascinating and scandalous history of her female ancestors, including her grandmother, Vita Sackville-West. An entertaining truth-is-stranger-than-fiction account of flamenco dancers, vicious inheritance battles, and shocking (for their time) lesbian relationships.
HARRIET TUBMAN: THE ROAD TO FREEDOM by Catherine Clinton
I spent part of 2017 catching up on American history that I’d missed (and that my education had neglected). Clinton’s biography is a wonderful introduction to Tubman, a real life superhero. Just put Harriet on all the money already.
MARCH by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
This three-volume graphic novel series tells the story of another American hero, John Lewis. It’s a must-read history of the civil rights movement, at a time when we desperately need to remember and learn from the accomplishments of earlier generations.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I don’t know what more I can say about this deservedly much-praised memoir of being a black man in America. Toni Morrison calls it “required reading.” Listen to Toni.
I think it’s okay to be a bit dubious when a book describes itself as “definitive”, but this history easily earns its subtitle, and was perhaps the most important book I read in 2017. I cannot recommend it highly enough.