Let’s jump straight in. Here are my favourite nonfiction books of 2015:
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From The Crematory
What you’ll need: the Internet.
If you are anything like me and find death a bit fascinating, then this book by young spunky mortician Caitlin Doughty about her first job at a crematorium is for you. She also has a great array of online videos, covering topics such as Advanced Directives, the difference between coffins and caskets, and the worst ways to die. Brilliant!
The Opposite of Loneliness
Whenever you read a piece from this collection, remember that Marina Keegan was an undergraduate student when she wrote them and be amazed by her precocious talent. Then remember that five days after her graduation she was killed in a car accident and these are the only pieces of hers we will ever have. Even though it’s been nearly a year since I had the pleasure of reading this book, I still can’t escape these thoughts.
Note: this collection features both fiction and non-fiction pieces.
The Anti-Cool Girl
What you’ll need: Rosie’s Bachelor/ette recaps.
How Rosie Waterland has managed to craft a book that is both hilarious and devastating is beyond me. She is just such a talent, and deserves all the praise she is receiving. If you finish the book and instantly want more of Rosie (like I did), I suggest recapping the Bachelor/ette recaps; the piece about David the ‘international model’ getting evicted might just be the funniest thing I have read all year.
This is a must read for anyone who has ever been to an all girls school / boarding school, or for anyone who just wants a reminder of how painfully awkward adolescence can be (Alice Pung’s YA novel Laurinda also covers this topic really well).
Also, if you haven’t already, you should check out Rebecca and Hannah Kent’s literary journal Kill Your Darlings. I think it’s probably the most enjoyable Australian journal out there (I save reading it for my hairdressing appointments and it helps the time whizz by!)
Holding the Man
What you’ll need: Tissues. Many many tissues.
Don’t be fooled by its sexy start. This book about two gay men growing up at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic made me cry more than anything I have read in a very long time. The film adaptation that came out this year is also worth checking out.
So You’ve Been Publically Shamed
What you’ll need: This American Life.
Jon Ronson explores public shaming in the modern world and makes it seriously gripping. I particularly loved the part where he investigates the truth behind the Stanford Prison experiments. It’s also worth listening to him on the podcast This American Life; he does some excellent stories and in Episode 314 (It’s Never Over) I’m pretty sure he describes an incident alluded to in SYBPS.
A Curious Career
Once you get past the fact that celebrity interviewer Lynn Barber thinks quite a lot of herself, this book is great fun. Her frank and ferocious interviews provide a great deal of schadenfreude: half the time I was thinking to myself ‘thank fuck she’ll never interview me’.
On a related note, the adaptation of her book An Education starring Carey Mulligan is excellent.
H is for Hawk
I’m normally not that keen on books that focus mainly on nature or landscape (people’s stories are what keep me going), but Helen Macdonald’s memoir about grief and goshawk training was captivating. Her writing is so beautiful that she could literally write about anything and I’d be hooked. My favourite line: ‘hands are for other human hands to hold’. I can see why this book took out the Costa Book of the Year Award- it’s a triumph!
In Love And War: Nursing Heroes
I first came across the work of pioneering burns surgeon Archibald McIndoe whilst watching Michael Mosley’s Blood and Guts: a History of Surgery. Keen to learn more, I was very pleased when I got my hands on Liz Byrski’s book, and it did not disappoint. Combining autobiography with interviews from McIndoe’s ‘Guinea Pigs’ and (most appealingly) the inspiring nurses who looked after them, I think this well-written book would appeal to anyone who enjoys learning about medicine and/or the role of women in World War Two.
This book was so much better than I thought it was going to be. Now whenever I’m going for a long walk (long for me being Murdoch Station to Fiona Stanley Hospital), I find myself pretending to be Cheryl. Thinking about her makes me grateful that while the walk is ‘long’ at least my toenails haven’t started falling off and my shoes haven’t rolled down a cliff!
If you become a fan girl like I have, I also recommend reading Tiny Beautiful Things and listening to the Dear Sugar podcast. Cheryl always gives the most perfect advice.
I’d love to hear about your favourite books of the year. Please comment below or contact me via Facebook / Twitter / text / tell me to my face.