Wednesday, December 04, 2013

best of 2013: nonfiction

Unfortunately, it wasn't a particularly good year for nonfiction, so this list has only 5 titles as opposed to the usual 10. 

The standard notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were originally released in 2013, but that's when I first read them.
  • These are listed in order of preference.  (Hey, it was easy to do with only five of them!)
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Gulp by Mary Roach:  The queen of weird science turns her attention to the alimentary canal, covering everything from fecal transplants to the bouillon enema Lenten loophole.  (Oh, I ain't spoiling that for you.)  Roach is by far my favorite nonfiction writer, and she serves up another awesomely icky, hysterically funny, and informative tome.

2. With or Without You by Domenica Ruta:  In this memoir, the author writes about growing up with her mother Kathi, a charismatic alcoholic and drug addict who veered between doting on her daughter and treating her like garbage.  Searingly honest and beautifully written.

3. The Book of Jezebel: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things:  Jezebel is probably my favorite website, so I was eager to get my hands on this book, and it did not disappoint.  In characteristic snarky fashion, it covers everything from the important (abortion rights, Judy Blume, menstruation) to the proudly cheesetacular (Sweet Valley High, VC Andrews, and of course their feud with Scott Baio and his wife, who infamously referred to the writers at Jezebel as "lesbian shitasses" on her Twitter). 

4. Rookie Yearbook One edited by Tavi Gevinson:  The teenage girls of my generation had Sassy, the magazine that assured us we could look good and like boys without sacrificing our feminist principles; the teenage girls of today have Rookie, which is kind of like Jezebel's little sister.  This collection includes fashion spreads, essays covering everything from street harassment to thrift shopping (including a genius tip for trying on pants in a place without a dressing room), and guest appearances from awesome folks like John Waters, Joss Whedon, and Miranda July.  Even if you don't quite fit into their demographic (which is certainly the case for me), you'll find much to enjoy here.  I also read Rookie Yearbook Two last month, and that's also worth a look.

5. Her by Christa Parravani:  In this memoir, the author tries to unpack the life of her twin sister Cara, who died of an overdose at the age of 28, and describes how she had to reinvent herself because she didn't know who she was without Cara.  She writes, "To see the world apart from her was to be there only by half."  Wonderfully written, but almost unbearably sad.