Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books I wish Santa would bring me. I want to read more nonfiction in 2017. Santa thinks I have enough books and won’t bring me more, but if he did, here’s what I’d ask for. There is a ton of nonfiction on my TBR list, so I tried to pick a wide variety of books to show you.
Nonfiction Books I Wish Santa Would Bring Me
America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks – Ruth Whippman
After she packed up her British worldview (that most things were basically rubbish) and moved to America, journalist and documentary filmmaker Ruth Whippman found herself increasingly perplexed by the American obsession with one topic above all others: happiness. The subject came up everywhere: at the playground swings, at the meat counter in the supermarket, and even—legs in stirrups—at the gynecologist.
The omnipresence of these happiness conversations (trading tips, humble-bragging successes, offering unsolicited advice) wouldn’t let her go, and so Ruth did some digging. What she found was a paradox: despite the fact that Americans spend more time and money in search of happiness than any other nation on earth, research shows that the United States is one of the least contented, most anxious countries in the developed world. Stoked by a multi-billion dollar “happiness industrial complex” intent on selling the promise of bliss, America appeared to be driving itself crazy in pursuit of contentment.
So Ruth set out to get to the bottom of this contradiction, embarking on an uproarious pilgrimage to investigate how this national obsession infiltrates all areas of life, from religion to parenting, the workplace to academia. She attends a controversial self-help course that promises total transformation, where she learns all her problems are all her own fault; visits a “happiness city” in the Nevada desert and explores why it has one of the highest suicide rates in America; delves into the darker truths behind the influential academic “positive psychology movement”; and ventures to Utah to spend time with the Mormons, officially America’s happiest people.
What she finds, ultimately, and presents in America the Anxious, is a rigorously researched yet universal answer, and one that comes absolutely free of charge.
The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death – Timothy Taylor
A groundbreaking investigation of the human soul that encompasses vampirism, cannibalism, near-death experiences, and modern-day human sacrifice.
Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Boy Erased: A Memoir – Garrard Conley
The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.
By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community.
Crossing the Sea: With Syrians on the Exodus to Europe – Wolfgang Bauer
Award-winning journalist Wolfgang Bauer and photographer Stanislav Krupař were the first undercover reporters to document the journey of Syrian refugees from Egypt to Europe. Posing as English teachers in 2014, they were direct witnesses to the brutality of smuggler gangs, the processes of detainment and deportation, the dangers of sea-crossing on rickety boats, and the final furtive journey through Europe. Combining their own travels with other eyewitness accounts in the first book of reportage of its kind, Crossing the Sea brings to life both the systemic problems and the individual faces behind the crisis, and is a passionate appeal for more humanitarian refugee policies.
Earthbound Travels in the Far East: A Fortune Teller Told Me – Tiziano Terzani
Warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for an entire year, Tiziano Terzani—a vastly experienced Asia correspondent—took what he called “the first step into an unknown world. . . . It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years I have ever spent: I was marked for death, and instead I was reborn.”
Traveling by foot, boat, bus, car, and train, he visited Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. Geography expanded under his feet. He consulted soothsayers, sorcerers, and shamans and received much advice—some wise, some otherwise—about his future. With time to think, he learned to understand, respect, and fear for older ways of life and beliefs now threatened by the crasser forms of Western modernity. He rediscovered a place he had been reporting on for decades. And reinvigorated himself in the process.
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – Leah Remini
Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.
That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.
Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.
But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.
Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.
A Pearl in the Storm: How I Found My Heart in the Middle of the Ocean – Tori Murden McClure
During June 1998, Tori McClure set out to row across the Atlantic Ocean by herself in a twenty-three-foot plywood boat with no motor or sail. Within days she lost all communication with shore, but nevertheless she decided to keep going. Not only did she lose the sound of a friendly voice, she lost updates on the location of the Gulf Stream and on the weather. Unfortunately for Tori, 1998 is still on record as the worst hurricane season in the North Atlantic. In deep solitude and perilous conditions, she was nonetheless determined to prove what one person with a mission can do. When she was finally brought to her knees by a series of violent storms that nearly killed her, she had to signal for help and go home in what felt like complete disgrace.
Back in Kentucky, however, Tori's life began to change in unexpected ways. She fell in love. At the age of thirty-five, she embarked on a serious relationship for the first time, making her feel even more vulnerable than sitting alone in a tiny boat in the middle of the Atlantic. She went to work for Muhammad Ali, who told her that she did not want to be known as the woman who "almost" rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. And she knew that he was right.
In this thrilling story of high adventure and romantic quest, Tori McClure discovers through her favorite way—the hard way—that the most important thing in life is not to prove you are superhuman but to fully embrace your own humanity. With a wry sense of humor and a strong voice, she gives us a true memoir of an explorer who maps her world with rare emotional honesty.
The Porcelain God: A Social History of the Toilet – Julie L. Horan
Elvis died on one, and Charles V was born on one. Although we use them every day, most of us know very little about toilets. This unique history contends that civilization began, not with the written word, but with the toilet.
Through advertisements, diaries, museum catalogs, and anecdotes, The Porcelain God explores the history of the toilet and the customs and manners that surround it. The result is an interesting study of both ancient and contemporary cultures.
King Henry VIII owned a closed stool made of black velvet and studded with 2000 gold nails. Louis XIV of France believed it improper to cut short a conversation to "go to the bathroom," so—often to the horror of uninitiated visitors—the king would receive them while sitting on the pot.
Related topics include unique hygiene habits around the world, the evolution of toilet paper, military-space toilets, euphemistic sayings, and more.
Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History without the Fairy-Tale Endings – Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
You think you know her story. You’ve read the Brothers Grimm, you’ve watched the Disney cartoons, you cheered as these virtuous women lived happily ever after. But the lives of real princesses couldn’t be more different. Sure, many were graceful and benevolent leaders—but just as many were ruthless in their quest for power, and all of them had skeletons rattling in their royal closets. Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe was a Nazi spy. Empress Elizabeth of the Austro-Hungarian Empire slept wearing a mask of raw veal. Princess Olga of Kiev murdered thousands of men, and Princess Rani Lakshmibai waged war on the battlefield, charging into combat with her toddler son strapped to her back. Princesses Behaving Badly offers mini-biographies of all these princesses and dozens more.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?