Tag Archives: nonfiction

Top 5 Non-Fiction of 2017

I read 95 books in 2017 and have some favorites to share. I already shared my fiction favs, now here’s a look at the best non-fiction.

  1. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson – The best book on race I’ve read yet.
  2. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson – The best history on race in the 20th century I’ve read yet.
  3. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson – This book really pissed me off. The way we approach criminal justice needs to change.
  4. One: Unity in a Divided World by Deidra Riggs – A great, balanced book on division in the church.
  5. You’ve Got This: A Pep Talk for Church Communicators by Kelley Hartnett – It’s totally biased to put this book on the list (I did edit it), but I love it.

And an honorable mention to Busy: How to Thrive in a World of Too Much by Tony Crabbe. I didn’t rate this book well, but I did blog about it and it’s stuck with me.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Top 10 Non-Fiction of 2016

I read 158 books in 2016 and have some favorites to share. I already shared my fiction favs, now here’s a look at the best non-fiction.

  1. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes – I’m not usually one for self help books, but this was funny, engaging, inspiring. Good stuff.  (I even wrote a blog series based on it.)
  2. Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles – Best faith-based memoir of the year. Gay atheist finds God through feeding the poor.
  3. Night Driving: A Story of Faith in the Dark by Addie Zierman – Second best faith-based memoir of the year. (I wrote a blog post about this one.)
  4. Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella – A great collection of inspiring stories.
  5. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum – Very helpful insights on racism.
  6. Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart – Very helpful insights on racism within the church. (blog post).
  7. Prayer: Forty Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson – Unique collection of art and prayers.
  8. Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn & Michael Norton – A very insightful look at how we spend our money and why it does or doesn’t make us happy. (I wrote a blog series about this one too.)
  9. Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres – A very difficult to read memoir about adoption and abuse.
  10. Just Write: Here’s How by Walter Dean Myers – He wrote something like a hundred books and shares his writing tips and insights in this quick read.

More Reading

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

You can also check out more of my reading favorites for some suggestions.

Top 5 Nonfiction of 2015

Another year of big reading and I’ve got some favorite nonfiction to share.

  1. Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome by Robby Novak and Brad Montague
    He’s good in videos and he’s good in book form.
  2. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
    I generally don’t like poetry, but this was great. An honest and challenging look at racism.
  3. Fresh Off the Boat by Eddie Chuang
    This memoir has such a fresh voice and gives a great perspective.
  4. Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving & Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
    So many echoes of my own journey here.
  5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    This book has been on a lot of lists this year and rightly so. It’s a challenging book and needs multiple reads. Perhaps if I’d done that it’d be higher on the list.

If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.

Top 5 Nonfiction of 2014

So I talked top 15 fiction and my entire 2014 reading list, now it’s time for my top 5 nonfiction.

I don’t read nearly as much nonfiction, so this list isn’t quite as amazing. But I’m pickier about my nonfiction selections. Any way, on with the list!

  1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
    This book blew my mind. I underlined about half of it.
  2. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber
    A heavily tattooed Lutheran pastor drops f-bombs while talking about the grace of Jesus. She’s tough and gritty, but she’s also honest and real in a way that’s so refreshing. She’s a reminder of what the church needs to be, and I love that so many of her stories are self-deprecating, not in a look-at-me, I’ll tell you how I’m not perfect which really means I’m perfect kind of way. Instead she’s full of real brokenness, real mistakes, real screw ups. That’s what faith is. That’s why we come together in communion, to receive grace and healing. There’s a lot more I could say about this book, and will say as I dive into it for both book club and Church Marketing Sucks, but I think it’s enough to say I’ll be reading it again.
  3. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
    A great little book of encouragement and advice for the creative. Quick read and full of inspiration.
  4. A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans
    I was initially reluctant to read this book. I’ve enjoyed Rachel’s work, but this felt like a rehash of the A.J. Jacobs book and, frankly, I felt like I didn’t need a primer on biblical womanhood. But I’m glad I finally read it. While I’m still not a fan of the “Year Of…” approach, she offers an approachable path to an otherwise overwhelming topic. She tackles poor biblical interpretation and male patriarchy with humor, grace and a little righteous indignation.
  5. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
    Incredible autobiography of a young girl in Pakistan fighting for her right to education in the face of the rising Taliban. It’s quite a history lesson and a needed new perspective. It takes a little while to get through the history and background, but then it dives into the guts of the story and moves pretty quickly.

Top 5 Nonfiction Books From 2013

I’ve already shared my top fiction books from 2013 and my entire reading list for 2013. Here’s my top nonfiction books from 2013:

  1. When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over by Addie Zierman
    From the author of the blog How to Talk Evangelical, Addie shares a poignant story of growing up in the Christian bubble and sliding from enthusiastic Jesus Freak missionary into alcohol-fueled depression. It’s an engaging and honest confessional on faith that’s much needed today. It also strongly resonated with me because so much of her story is growing up in the teenage evangelical culture of the 1990s, which is where I was. She even relates going to an Insyderz concert, and I can’t count how many of those I’ve been to (ska! ska! ska!).
  2. Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
    This trippy Jesus follower breaks down prayer in a way that only she could. Short, sweet and a nice kick in the pants. It’s been really nice to read stuff from Lamott that’s not just a bunch of essays complaining about George W. Bush.
  3. Tell Me a Story: Finding God (and Ourselves) Through Narrative by Scott McClellan
    Looking at life as story and finding the inspiration, encouragement and motivation to be worthy storytellers. A great little book that condenses a lot of disjointed thoughts about story that have been floating around in the past few years. I reviewed it for Church Marketing Sucks and it certainly resonates with that crowd, but it’s just been a good, encouraging book.
  4. Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830-1970 by Lynne Olson
    An eye-opening, transcendent account of the civil rights movement, punctuated with the power of women. I was impressed with the transparent account that didn’t shy away from the movement’s failings. It’s stronger when we don’t whitewash everything to be perfect and squeaky clean. This book did take a while to get through because it was such an all encompassing overview, but it also inspired me to do a lot more reading on the civil rights movement and introduced me to several new heroes.
  5. Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility Can Save the Public Square by Andrew Marin
    It took me a few chapters to get used to the academic approach—I almost gave up—but I’m glad I stuck it out. This book is so needed today. Andrew Marin proposes (and lives out) a way to get beyond the all-or-nothing form of discourse that dominates religion and politics. It’s a lot to wrap your head around and I’d need to do some serious study to learn how to implement it, but as progressives and conservatives clash over everything, from health care to gay marriage, we need a new way forward. Or maybe an old way. But we need something that can work in today’s polarized climate. Actually making it happen is another matter, but I think Andrew is one of the rare voices that is interested in progress without the polarization.

I tend not to read a lot of nonfiction, mostly because it slows me down, but these were some of the year’s real gems.

If you want to do more reading, be sure to check out 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.