Covers of my top nonfiction reads of 2023.

Top 10 Nonfiction of 2023

I read 184 books in 2023 and here are my favorite nonfiction reads.

I normally don’t read a lot of nonfiction (only 18% of my reading in 2022), so this is usually a shorter list. But I went on a memoir spree and found a ton of good ones—with nonfiction hitting 43% of my reading!

So this year we get a top 10 list:

  1. This Here Flesh: Spirituality, Liberation, and the Stories That Make Us by Cole Arthur Riley – I listened to the audiobook and was initially put off by the author’s monotone, but once I got into the groove it was really compelling. Extremely well written, to the point that I want to read it again in print so I can underline the morsels.
  2. Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More With Less by Jim Vandehei, Mike Allen, Roy Schwartz – The best book on writing I’ve read in years. I keep buying copies for my contributors.
  3. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate by Justin Lee – The best book I’ve read on the gay debate in the church.
  4. Rapture Practice: My One-Way Ticket to Salvation by Aaron Hartzler – This growing up in a Christian subculture memoir hit way too close to home.
  5. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride – This one made me cry.
  6. Love Thy Neighbor: A Muslim Doctor’s Struggle for Home in Rural America by Ayaz Virji with Alan Eisenstock – Really incredible story.
  7. A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney – The story of his son dying, which is just awful, but it’s poignant and honest in that “well, fuck” kind of way.
  8. I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times by Monica Guzmán – We need more of this if our democracy is going to survive.
  9. Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims – As much as I dislike Trump, I’m not a fan of the tell-all books gushing with juicy details. But the Smart Brevity guys referenced this one, so I checked it out, and the style was super engaging.
  10. When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele – I put this one off for a while, but glad I finally got to it.

Honoroable Mentions

And a few more worth mentioning:

  • Birding While Indian by Thomas C. Gannon – Really enjoyed this mix of Indian politics and birding, which clued me into the gamification of birding, something I found intriguing (who knew I’d enjoy keeping lists?!).
  • Testimony: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Failed a Generation by Jon Ward – I read several deconstruction memoirs and this one was perhaps the most interesting.
  • Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World by John Hope Bryant – Business books are often awful, but this one really engaged.

Note on Trends

I noted last year that I read a couple LGBTQ+ memoirs and enjoyed them and would probably do more this year. I did. A lot. Three of those made it to my top 10, and I read a bunch more. The Christian ones were the most intriguing, which led to a related field of deconstruction memoirs. By the end of the year I stumbled into birding memoirs, and that pushed me to spend Christmas money on binoculars and start exploring birding.

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.

And how about previous top non-fiction lists: 2022202120202019201820172016201520142013, and 2012.

You can also see this year’s top 10 fiction and reading stats for the year.

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