Searching for 2018’s best nonfiction

Yesterday I looked at the novels that received the most accolades this year from book reviewers. Today I will tackle nonfiction. I expanded my quest in 2018 and compiled 30 notable lists, including our own favorites from the Cook Memorial Public Library District’s reference desk staffers. I’ve included links to our catalog for book descriptions, and listed the Cook staffers who recommended the titles. You can findmy post about the best fiction of the year here.

This is what rose to the top from more than 400 books:

17 Times:

Educated by Tara Westover, the runaway favorite. Recommended by Cook staffers Andrea, Nate, Ellen J., Susie, Jo, Lindsay, Becky, Mary, Dave and Jane. Read Andrea’s review. Listen to our podcast.

12 Times:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carryrou. Recommended by Rob.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. Recommended by Dave and Jenn.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Recommended by Dave, Jean, Rob, Jane and Mary. Read Jean’s review.

11 Times:

Calypso by David Sedaris. Recommended by Jo and Ellen J.

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. Recommended by Andrea.

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee.

Life Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu.

10 Times:

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith.

These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore. Recommended by Rob.

9 Times:

The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison.

8 Times:

Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, lts Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis by Sam Anderson.

Frederick Douglass : Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight. Recommended by Rob.

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychodelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence by Michael Pollan. Recommended by Ellen J. and Rob.

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs.

7 Times:

All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir by Nicole Chung. Recommended by Jean, Ellen J. and Becky. Read Jean’s review.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. Recommended by Jo, Haley and Joe.

The Girl who Smiled Beads by Elizabeth Weil. Recommended by Trish.

God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright. Recommended by Rob.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister. Recommended by Joe.

Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot. Recommended by Jean and Erica.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh. Recommended by Jo, Joe, Jean and Becky.  Read Jean’s review.

One Person No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy by Carol Anderson.

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: The Powers, Perversions and Potential of Heredity by Carl Zimmer.

There Will Be No Miracles Here by Casey Gerald.

6 Times:

American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer.

The Fifth Risk by Michae Lewis. Recommended by Joe.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka. Recommended by Melissa.

Look Alive Out There: Essays by Sloane Crosley. Recommended by Becky.

5 Times:

The Big Fella:  Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy.

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress by Steven Pinker. Recommended by Jenn and Rob.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk W. Johnson. Recommended by Jean, Becky and Jenny B. Read Jean’s review. 

In Pieces: A Memoir by Sally Field. Recommended by Jean. Read her review.

The Poisoned City: Flint’s Water and the American Urban Tragedy by Anna Clark.

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life by David Quammen.

The Souls of Yellow Folk: Essays by Wesley Yang.

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. Recommended by Rob.

4 Times:

Beneath a Ruthless Sun: A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert King.

Brown: Poems by Kevin Young.

Chesapeake Requiem: A Year with the Waterman of Vanishing Tangier Island by Earl Swift.

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts.

The Cost of Living: A Working Autobiography by Deborah Levy. Recommended by Jenn.

Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World by Adam J. Tooze. Recommended by Joe and Rob.

Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving American Obsession by Alice Bolin.

The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth’s Ultimate Trophy by Paige Williams.

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward. Recommended by Jo, Jane and Mary.

Looking for Lorraine: The Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry.

New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich.

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown.

Patriot Number One: Americna Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers.

The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World by Simon Winchester.

The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Deborah Blum.

Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth A. Rush.

So You Want to talk About Race by Ijeoma Ohuo.

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton, with Lara Love Hardin. Recommended by Sonia.

Sources: Cook Memorial Public Library District reference staff favorites, Amazon, American Library Association’s Carnegie Medal Longlist, Barnes and Noble, Book Riot, Booklist, Bustle, Buzz Feed, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire Magazine, Kirkus, Library Journal, Mental Floss, New York Public Library, New York Times, New Yorker Magazine, Newsweek, NPR, Oprah Magazine, People Magazine, PopSugar, Publishers Weekly, Real Simple Magazine, School Library Journal, Time Magazine, Washington Post.

One thought on “Searching for 2018’s best nonfiction

  1. Pingback: Searching for 2018’s best fiction | Shelf Life

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