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December 9, 2011

Favorite Nonfiction of 2011

These are the nonfiction books I have most recommended to family and friends this year.

All links go to the authors' contributions to the Book Notes series or my 52 Books, 52 Weeks review. I have reposted my original review below each book.

What was your favorite nonfiction book of 2010?


Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Where Joan Didion's memoir Year of Magical Thinking centered on her reaction to her husband of forty years John Gregory Dunne's death, Blue Nights focuses on the death of her daughter, Quintana Roo.

Didion is a writer I greatly admire, and the articulation of personal loss, both individual and cumulative, has never been more powerful than in this book. Raw, honest, and in inimitable prose, Blue Nights is both unforgettable and beautiful.


How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell

Sarah Bakewell's book How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer has been critically lauded and was named a finalist for the 2010 Costa Book Award for biography.

I rarely read biography, often finding it too dry and lacking narrative or dumbed down and not worthwhile, but Bakewell captures the life and times of Michel de Montaigne as fascinatingly as his philosophy of life and writing.

This book will be treasured by readers of Montaigne as well as those who only know him by name.


Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl by Stacy Pershall

Stacy Pershall's new book, Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl, is one of the most startlingly honest memoirs I have ever read. Pershall openly shares her struggles with borderline personality disorder, anorexia and bulimia from her childhood in Arkansas through college and eventually adult life in New York. Rarely have I experienced a book so immersive, Stacy Pershall excels at putting the reader in her shoes and demystifying mental illness. Though the book is intense, Pershall's offbeat sense of humor pervades the book.

Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl is an important book, we can all learn from Stacy Pershall's story.


Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth

Deb Olin Unferth's memoir Revolution balances the voices of naivete and reflection as she recounts her life in Central America as an eighteen year-old caught in a whirlwind of revolution, religion, and love. Unferth captures her youthful idealism clearly, and her perspectives as an adult are filled with dry humor and honest insight.

If you enjoyed Deb Olin Unferth's debut novel Vacation (I did, calling it "wonderfully unsettling"), then you will love this book. If you haven't read her work before, I recommend picking up both books.


[sic] by Joshua Cody

Joshua Cody's [sic] is a smart, postmodern memoir that recounts his life as he battled cancer, but is much more than a book about illness. Cody's writing is instilled by a feverish intensity, [sic] is as much about life as cancer.


You Must Go and Win by Alina Simone

Alina Simone is a singer-songwriter whose craft I greatly admire. Her songs are smart, dark and introspective, delivered with a strong voice that holds a hint of vulnerability.

You Must Go and Win is her first book. This collection of essays shares the traits that makes her music successful, with the surprising addition of a grand sense of humor. Simone recounts her indie music career and search for her roots in a tragicomic and delightfully self-deprecating voice, this is easily the funniest book I have read all year.


also at Largehearted Boy:

online "best of 2011" book lists

Largehearted Boy favorite nonfiction of 2010
Largehearted Boy favorite nonfiction of 2009
Largehearted Boy favorite nonfiction of 2008

previous lists at Largehearted Boy
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks book reviews


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