Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best of 2012: Non-Fiction

 Non-fiction often gets a bad rap for being boring, but I strongly disagree.  The right non-fiction book can blow my mind like nothing else.  Reality often IS stranger than fiction, and the fact that this stuff really happened...the fact that you can do a little research and get pictures and interviews and facts...it is riveting.

I had no problems finding five star non-fiction reads this year.  And where I'd normally think that my favorites would all be true crime?  Not so in 2012.  I have only one true crime (or two if you count what those bastards did to Pat Tillman), and FIVE GRAPHIC NOVELS!  An exciting development.  Here is what rocked my world this year in the non-fiction department.


Imperfect Justice:  Prosecuting Casey Anthony - Jeff Ashton:  Next to OJ, this was the trial of the century.  So even though I was particularly invested because little Kaylee belonged to the city of Orlando, I think any reader who has a television would find this story spellbinding.  It is well-written, forthright, and a shocking look at one of the most horrid miscarriages of justice I've ever seen. 

Le Road Trip and When Wanderers Cease to Roam - Vivian Swift:  I'm giving you a two-for-one here because they both need to be read.  If you have never read a graphic novel, this would be the perfect place to start.  Humorous, whimsical, thought-provoking and gentle.  And something I'm definitely going to purchase to keep and read over and over again, whenever I need to stop and appreciate life.   

The Photographer - Didier Lefevre and Emmanuel Guibert:  The exact opposite of Vivian Swift's graphic novels, but equally as impactful, we take a journey with Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan through the eyes of a photo journalist.  Using a combination of often shocking real photographs and illustrations, Lefevre gets us as close to life in this poor and war-torn country as most of us will ever get.  His story was on my mind for weeks.   

Where Men Win Glory - Jon Krakauer:  I had to learn a little anger management while reading this tragic story of Pat Tillman, the NFL star who joined the Army after 9/11 to serve his country.  Except that his country didn't serve him, and he ended up being killed by friendly fire.  The government's manipulation and misdirection of all information about Pat's death, and 9/11 in general, sickened me.  But the facts are thoroughly and convincingly laid out by Krakauer, and by the end I wanted to buy a hundred copies of this book and insist that everyone educate themselves and take heed.  Not many books can get my blood boiling like this one did, so I felt it needed some recognition.     

The Bucolic Plague - Josh Kilmer-Purcell:  Take two gay city kids and plop them in the country to chase their dream (which unknowingly includes zombie flies, baby goats with intestinal distress, and a Martha Stewart reputation to live up to) and you have the most charming memoir ever.  And since Josh personally invited me to visit them in Sharon Springs, mark my words, one day I'm going. And I'm picking you all up on the way.

Maus I and Maus II - Art Spiegelman:  Another two-for-one, because they should really be read together at the same time.  Spiegelman tells his father's story of the Holocaust, cleverly showing race and class stratification by making them different animals.  The illustrations are arresting, and the story of the Holocaust AND life after cannot be any clearer.  Or more intense.  Definitely a must-read for anyone interested in WWII.

On Thursday, come back and spend a little time listening to me go ON AND ON about my favorite topic...audios.



Jenny said...

I agree with you about the Jeff Ashton book. I hadn't expected it to be so interesting because I thought we already knew everything there was to know!

Unknown said...

Jon Krakauer is one of those authors I've been wanting to try for ages. I'll try to get one of his books next year.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I didn't realize you had so much nonfiction! I do remember however how much you loved the Casy Anthony book!

Marce said...

NF is a different kind of wonderful and scary.

The 2 on my top list are January First and graphic true crime,Green River.

techeditor said...

I also read WHERE MEN WIN GLORY and wouldn't call it on of the best of the year.

I thought WHERE MEN WIN GLORY dealt with Tillman's experience with the Army Rangers, and it does. Unfortunately, though, it also wasted a lot of time telling me things I didn’t care about.

Most of the first 200 pages of WHERE MEN WIN GLORY told me more than I wanted to know about Tillman. I didn’t care about the high school football jock or about his scores in his college games. I also didn’t need details about how the mess in Afghanistan got started; I already knew.

But if you persevere and get to about page 250, Krakauer does deliver what he promised. He does finally give the details of what happened with Tillman’s platoon that lead to his death in Afghanistan, to know who said what, and to discover how the Army dealt with it for years after.

I would recommend the book for it’s later chapters but the earlier parts are a bore.

Zibilee said...

All of these are on my list. I also used to think that non-fiction was a bore, and that is because I was reading the wrong books! I prefer nature and science writing, but all of these have me interested, and I remember the rave reviews that you gave them. I need to get myself to the library, and soon!

Kathleen said...

I love non-fiction, especially if it is true crime related like your first mention here!

caite said...

I don't read enough non-fiction to have enough books for a list.

JoAnn said...

I thought Le Road Trip was excellent and The Bucolic Plague was all that and more. Just say the word and I'm there with you!

Alyce said...

The only ones I've read are the Maus books and they are so good. I would love to read The Bucolic Plague, and The Photographer (which I checked out from the library but didn't have time to read).

Jenners said...

Wasn't it cool that Brent and Josh won the Amazing Race? So unexpected … I was thinking they would be eliminated each week.

I need to read Maus in 2013.

I would count what happened to Pat Tillman as a crime.

You MUST read The People Who Eat Darkness. On audio probably (narrated by your Simon Vance). Jackie at Farm Lane turned me on to it and it is really good. And I know you love a true crime book. This is pretty much a "must listen" for you.

Anna said...

Maus is definitely worthy of being on a "best of" list!

Julie P. said...

Loved the MAUS books!

Anonymous said...

I really need to get read those Maus books!

Literary Feline said...

I love a good Nonfiction book! I didn't read too many this year though.

I have read a couple books by Jon Krakauer and know his reputation as a man who does his research. I hadn't planned to read his book about Tillman, but you've got me curious.

I read Maus I and II years ago and really liked them.

Melissa said...

I've enjoyed the Krakauer books in the past and want to read that one too!