Best Book Ever: Non-Fiction

Last week's topic of funny books got me thinking about some of the great memoirs that I've read over the years, so I wanted to touch on a genre of books that we don't often get into over here.  This week, I asked everyone to share with me their favorite non-fiction book.  Memoirs, cookbooks, self-help, anything -- if it was a walk into the real world, it was fair game to be picked.  Read on to check out everyone's awesome suggestions.

STIFF by Mary Roach - You're dead! Great - now what? You'd be surprised how many options you've got. Mary Roach explores the myriad of choices your corpse has, from crash test dummies to rotting in a variety of environments for the purposes of forensic research. Me? I'm going with composting.

Mindy McGinnis, debut author of Not A Drop To Drink (2013, Katherine Tegen)

On of my very favorite non-fiction books is ON WRITING, by Stephen King. I almost never read books about the craft of writing—I often find them didactic and controlling, and I don't like books that tell me what to do. But Stephen King takes a very hands-off approach. He's basically like, "Listen, guys, most books about writing are full of complete bullshit, because most writers don't actually KNOW why what they do works... it just works, or it doesn't. So I'm just going to tell you how I came to writing, and how I do it, and you can do it that way or not. Totally fine either way." But there is so much good advice in this book that I DID want to follow! Stephen King was the first person to tell me that when I finish a manuscript, I should put it away for at least a month before I look at it again, and that tidbit alone has saved me from sending terrible writing out in the world more times than I can count. He's amusing, he's wry, and although I'm not a fan of the horror genre AT ALL, I have tremendous respect for him as a writer and craftsman after reading this book. If you want to be a writer, you should definitely pick this one up.

Alison Cherry, debut author of Red (2013, Delacorte Press)

I should read more nonfiction, but I only seem to when I'm doing research for a novel or happen across a really interesting memoir. My favorite nonfiction book is The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. This is not a light book in any way, both in topic and in length--it tops out at 886 pages, though many pictures are included with the text. But despite its hefty page count, it felt like a quick read, and it's engaging and fascinating throughout, as Rhodes follows the key players who developed the A-bomb at the Manhattan Project and tested it at Trinity in Los Alamos--historical figures like Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the bomb. I was so caught up in Rhodes' vivid descriptions and characterization, and easy-to-follow explanations of the principles of nuclear fission, I often forgot I was reading a historical account; at one point when a scientist went away on a skiing trip, I became worried that something would happen to him that might prevent a crucial discovery from being made. Right. I read this one as research for my next novel, but I enjoyed it so much, I want to read its "sequel," Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb and Rhodes' other books on the nuclear age. Don't just take my word for it: The Making of the Atomic Bomb won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. If you have even the slightest interest in this subject, this is the definitive authority!

E.C. Myers, author of Quantum Coin (2012, Prometheus Books)

My choice this week for BBE is without a doubt a life changing book for me. It helped me at a time when I really needed it. The book is: Behind the Smile: My Journey out of Postpartum Depression written by Marie Osmond, Marcia Wilkie & Judith Moore. They really gave me hope during my own battle of postpartum when I had my first son born. So it will always hold a special place in my heart. I recommend it to any new mom that just might not feel right after having a baby.  

Yara @ Once Upon a Twilight

As for us...

I have so many biographies and memoirs that I loved, and the same with Cookbooks! I have to say though, the book that I find myself recommending to people the most is probably considered "self-help"- Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townshend. It is a book that has made a HUGE impact on my personal life. I have learned how to say no and not feel guilty about it. I have learned how to emotionally distance myself from situations and people, without missing out on life. If you find yourself being "run over" a lot by people or simply have someone in your life that you constantly feel stress about- this is a phenomenal book. Each chapter is for a different type of situation- and I found myself moving through it quickly!


Mindy suggested Stiff, which was going to be my choice at first -- and which is a book I totally recommend, although maybe not for anyone who is really squeamish.  (I'm pretty unflappable and I still had a few moments of uncomfortable squirming while reading.)  So my other choice is Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee.  The authors were some of the first people to really study hoarding, and this book is the product of that research.  Despite being written by a psychologist and a social worker, the book is very accessible even to readers without that sort of background.  It's a sensitive look at the issue, and I didn't feel like it was exploiting or making fun of the individuals that were profiled.  It also may make you take a look at your own life -- maybe you can't throw out an envelope because the stamp was cute, or maybe you are just fine with leaving that pile of clutter on the floor for months on end because it doesn't bother you -- and try to make changes.

What about you? 

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