Friday, December 08, 2006

best of 2006: non-fiction

And now it’s time for my favorite non-fiction books of the year. This was an unusually good year for non-fiction, so this category was very hard to narrow down.

The usual disclaimers apply:

  • I'm not sure if all of these were originally published in 2006, but since that’s when I read them, this is where they go.
  • Your mileage may vary.
  • These are not in preferential order, as that’s too wearying a task even for a confirmed obsessive-compulsive like me. As I mentioned before, I read a ton of excellent non-fiction this year, and I couldn’t even pick a favorite! I tried to choose between 1, 5, 6, and 7 and gave myself a headache.

1. Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig: A fantastic memoir of the author's battle with scrupulosity, which is obsessive-compulsive disorder based in religion. God, is this book funny! Read it and marvel at your relative normalcy.

2. Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood by Adrienne Martini: A raw, often blackly funny memoir about the author's struggles with postpartum depression, which has run in her family for generations. Choice childbirth quote: "It's like getting the best Christmas gift ever, but Santa decided to kick the crap out of you before you unwrapped it."

3. My Pet Virus by Shawn Decker: At the age of 11, the author found out that he had received a HIV-tainted transfusion during treatment for his hemophilia. This memoir recalls everything from his dating traumas to the backstage visit with Depeche Mode he received from the Make A Wish Foundation. Darkly funny, self-deprecating, and uplifting.

4. But Enough About Me: A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous by Jancee Dunn: The author alternates recollections of some of her more memorable celebrity interviews with personal anecdotes, and it's a fun, breezy, gossipy read.

5. Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent: The author was curious about how men really act when women aren't around, so she went undercover as a man for eighteen months. This is a riotously funny, occasionally sad book that made me feel both unbearably tender and incredibly pissy towards men.

6. The Year of Yes by Maria Dahvana Headley: Bored and wondering if she was too picky when it came to guys, the author vowed to go out with anyone who asked her on a date. Parts of this book were so funny that I was doubled over laughing in the break room, earning me nervous looks from my coworkers. It's also a good reminder that sometimes the biggest chances you take reap the greatest rewards.

7. Superstud, or How I Became a 24-Year-Old Virgin by Paul Feig: These essays about the author's adolescence are literally laugh out loud funny. I was reading this book in bed one night, and I had to clap a hand over my mouth, lest my hysterical chortling wake K or the neighbors.

8. Straight Up & Dirty by Stephanie Klein: A chronicle of the author's return to the single life after her divorce (or, as she puts it, after leaving her "wasband"). It's not only gloriously raunchy, but it's hysterical, and those are two great tastes that taste great together.

9. No Touch Monkey! by Ayun Halliday: A collection of anecdotes, some howlingly funny, some excruciatingly painful and/or gross, from the author's world travels. (And I'm sorry, but despite the title, I will touch a monkey given the opportunity.)

10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert: Devastated by a nasty divorce, the author decided to spend a year traveling the world and trying to find herself by engaging in the titular pursuits. Occasionally too corny and/or hippie-dippy, but generally funny and illuminating.

AND THE WORST: You'll Never Nanny in This Town Again by Suzanne Hansen: Okay, lady, so the Ovitzes weren't exactly the greatest employers. Quit acting like you lived through Buchenwald!