Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sandy's Best of 2010: Non-Fiction



In case you missed yesterday's post, I am spending some time this week on my "Best of" lists for the year. Today I'm focusing on my favorite non-fiction reads of 2010.

I always feel like non-fiction gets a bad rap, as many people automatically think of technical books, self-help, or boring history novels. Not so! There is nothing quite as gripping as a well-written account of true events, whether it involves crime, war, or a biography. Here are three that brought the past right to my front door.

1. The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien



I know this one has been around for a long time, in fact it just celebrated its twentieth year of publication. That in no way lessens the Mack-truck impact of this collection of short stories, written by a man who has been there. You get the Vietnam war from the ground level - from his perspective - about the horror of Vietnam, the fear of young soldiers going to war, the difficulty of returning home, and the ghosts that haunt. Well-written, thoughtful, and even poetic, this one is a keeper.









2. Columbine - Dave Cullen




Even though I'd owned this book for a couple of years, it took me this long to come to terms with reading it. The tragedy of Columbine affected us all, and made us collectively ask "why". How can two boys from upper middle class families harbor so much hate, to the point of wanting to kill all of their teachers and classmates?

You won't necessarily get the answers, but what you will get is the whole story. Police blunders, the urban myths that were not true, the reactions of friends, family and the community, and documentation of two boys' descent into madness. This is true crime at its very best, but without any of the sensationalizing.







3. A Hundred Feet Over Hell - Jim Hooper



Yes, another Vietnam novel, brought to you by the Vietnam Reading Challenge. When it comes to war, any war, if you can find an author that can take you there, you will have a winning non-fiction read. It generally isn't always pleasant, but if you want to really open your mind and walk in another man's shoes, and maybe even experience a shot of adrenaline, you need to give it a try.

In this case, we live with a group of recon pilots, who flew through napalm, rainstorms of bullets, all from tiny little single engine tin cans. Written by a pilot's brother, missions are re-created by veterans that are still a tight-knit group today. When you finish this book, you will have a tiny clue of what it was like to live on the edge of hell.


Tomorrow, I will bring to you some of my favorite audiobooks (my passion!), which will include a variety of all genres. See you then!


18 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

Columbine and The Things They Carried are already high on my wishlist. A Hundred Feet over Hell doesn't appeal in the same way, but I know you have read a lot of war books so any you single out are bound to be special.

Frances said...

Know many who have also raved about Columbine. But my forays into nonfiction tend toward literary memoir and criticism. Probably because my reading leans toward the escapist side of things. I am a big baby I suppose, unwilling to walk through a painful reality with my recreation time. And feel a twinge of guilt just writing that.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I agree - many nonfiction books are far from dry and boring!

Zibilee said...

I am just starting to dip my toes into non-fiction and want to read more this year. I also have a copy of The Things They Carried, and am really looking forward to reading it now. Actually, these all sound like great reads and I am going to have to look into them. Can't wait to see what you post tomorrow!

Marce said...

I have seen Columbine on a few favourite lists. My goal next year is to read memoirs, 3 - 6 i'm going for.

marthalama said...

I loved The Things They Carried, it's really something special. I want read Columbine, but I know I have to be in the mood for it. I'm not sure about A Hundred Feet Over Hell, but I do make it sound interesting.

Avid Reader said...

I absolutely loved your first two listed, so of course I'm adding the third book to my TBR list. I can't wait to hear your audio recommendations!

Carrie K. said...

The Things They Carried is what I consider a life-changing book - when I read it for the first time in high school, I understood my dad - who served two tours in Vietnam - in a whole new way. And Columbine was amazing. Good choices!

Melissa M said...

I just recently listened to Columbine and loved it. It was interesting to compare my very vivid memories of watching the event unfold, to what actually happened. I'll be checking out your other 2 recommendations.

C.B. James said...

Columbine almost made my top ten list. I think it's an amazing book. In retrospect, I probably should have put it in the top ten list.

Iliana said...

I am terrible about reading non-fiction books. I always say I want to read more but of course I end up just gravitating towards novels.

Great list Sandy. One day I'd really like to read the Tim O'Brien book.

JoAnn said...

I MUST get to Columbine soon... it's been on my wish list for too long!

Nymeth said...

First of all, I love how you're doing several lists. I should have done that instead of inflicting a gigantic one on your all like I'm about to :P Secondly, I must read The Things They Carried asap.

Kathleen said...

Columbine definitely tops my list of non-fiction reads this year too! I still haven't read The Things They Carried but finally bought a copy after checking it out from the library and having to return in unread multiple times!

Susan said...

I've only read 1 of the 3 you listed, but I thought COLUMBINE was completely fascinating. It gave me nightmares, too!

Literary Feline said...

The Things They Carried made my best of list this year--such a great read. I do want to read Columbine--hopefully this year.

Alice Teh said...

I have Book 1 and 3. I'm planning to read Jim Hooper's book this year. He sent me a book plate and I really appreciated it.

Swapna said...

Columbine is very high on my list, so I hope to get to it in 2011!