Monday, December 10, 2018

best of 2018: nonfiction

And now it's time for my favorite nonfiction books of 2018:  A few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2018, but that's when I read them.
  • Aside from the first two books, which were definitely my favorite and second favorite of the year, these are in random order.
  • It's still a little early, so if I read something between now and the end of December that belongs here, I'll update accordingly.
  • I didn't make a conscious decision to have this list made up almost entirely of women authors, but I ain't remotely fuckin' mad about it.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Feminasty: The Complicated Woman's Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson:  In a series of essays, the author talks about the ways society completely shits on women, but she still manages to be funny about it; seriously, there's a solid laugh on just about every page.  If I were in the habit of highlighting my books (and, uh, if it hadn't been the library's copy), the interior would be almost completely pink and yellow.

2. I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara:  Over several years, a man committed numerous rapes in Northern California and then moved to Southern California, where his crimes became increasingly violent, leading to the deaths of ten people.  He seemingly stopped in 1986 without being caught.  The author was a true crime journalist who dedicated her life to finding the perpetrator.  She died while writing this book (it was finished by her research assistant and a colleague), but thanks in part to her hard work, the alleged perpetrator was arrested only weeks after the publication of this book.

3. A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong:  An 18-year-old named Marie reported that a man broke into her apartment and raped her; the police (and even her foster mother) didn't believe her, so she recanted, and she was charged with filing a false police report.  Two years later, a serial rapist began terrorizing Colorado, and two shrewd detectives started putting the pieces together.  Not an easy read, but an essential one.

4. Getting Off by Erica Garza:  The author's account of her addiction to sex and porn.  Brutally honest but not judgmental.

5. I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell:  A memoir about the author's seventeen near-death experiences, from a creepy encounter with a stranger to almost drowning.  It's got a "savor every moment, because you never know what might happen" message without being saccharine or preachy about it.  (The title comes from this Sylvia Plath quote:  "I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart.  I am, I am, I am.")

6. You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss:  As a teenager in the early 90s, the author had an unusually attentive tennis coach named Gary Wilensky.  Gary tried to kidnap one of his other students, and when his attempt failed, he killed himself.  An engrossing combination of memoir and true crime.

7.  I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson:  After having her heart broken, the author decided to drive across the country by herself in hopes of discovering herself and what she really wants in life.  It sounds like typical navel-gazing bullshit, but it was really funny (as you'd expect from the co-creator and co-star of Broad City) and surprisingly touching.

8. The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein:  The riveting true story of Sandra Pankhurst, who survived abuse and neglect as a child named Peter, underwent gender confirmation surgery in the early 80s, became a sex worker, and eventually started a successful trauma cleanup service.  This book alternates between Sandra's life story and anecdotes from the job.

9. Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss:  If you, like me, lived for monthly mall visits so you could hit up B. Dalton's and Waldenbooks and spend your allowance on Sweet Valley High, Wildfire, and Sweet Dreams, you will LOVE this book.  It was the nostalgia equivalent of black tar heroin shot directly into my veins. 

10. The Heart Is a Shifting Sea by Elizabeth Flock:  A fascinating look at three couples in Mumbai and how their relationships have been influenced by Western culture and traditional Indian beliefs.