Nonfiction November Week 4: Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Picking one nonfiction book is like picking your favorite human: you know somebody is going to be left out and feel hurt. So I narrow my favorites down by

  • Time period – favorite this year or decade
  • Type of nonfiction – is it a big idea book, a how-to book, a memoir, a book aimed at academics or clinicians?
  • Use Case – are you trying to find out how to solve a problem? Do you need a new skills? Is the topic on business, creativity, mindset, relationships, etc?
  • How easy it is to understand and ultimately, how helpful was it – these are really my two biggest factors. I find it hard to rate books using stars or number ratings. The book could have great information but if I had to use a dictionary (aka google) or didn’t understand how to *use* the info in the book, or my biggest pet peeve, a very shallow rehash of what’s already out there, then I don’t care what topic the book is, I cannot recommend it. 

So for me to say a book is one of my favorites is really high praise!

Here are my go-to 2019 favorite book titles:

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch has been my most frequently recommended nonfiction book this year and it only came out in July. If you read or write anything on the internet, use emojis in text, wonder if English is degrading right before your eyes every time someone types “how ur” or “ikr?”, this is the book for you! Gretchen McCulloch is a linguist who studies how we actually use language (the definition of a linguist) but specifically in the context of technology and the internet. This is no grumpy grammar guide: if you need two spaces at the end of your sentence, even you will find out why no one does that anymore. 

She starts off with piecing out habits from the various “internet generations”. My initial usage of the internet was on mIRC and BBS, so I am practically an electronic dinosaur. She does a great job to explain the habits of each generation, and I’ve stopped advertising my generation by using ellipses (…) at the end of my texts. Who knew?

The best version of this book by far is the audio version and read by the author. Gretchen got me hooked on her sense of humor and I started listening to her podcast “Lingthusiasm”. 

Mastering Adulthood: Go Beyond Adulting to Become an Emotional Grown Up by Lara Fielding, PsyD is my go to book for friends who are having a rough time. While the title and the book is aimed for young adults, it’s a well researched yet easy to read and put into use method for dealing with anxiety, sadness, anger, and uncertainty. 

I love it when a “how to help yourself think better” is actually fun to read. Fielding can reference case studies and examples yet never leave you feeling lost in psychology mambo jumbo. Drawing on the wisdom of DBT and ACT (two paths within CBT), she guides readers on a journey of self discovery. You start off by evaluating your personal tendencies when you react to stress. Whether you’re a Castle person or a Village person, she gives specific examples of how to manage stress and worry and lead a more fulfilling and happier life. If I could only recommend one self help book a year, this would be it. 

Valedictorian of Being Dead:The True Story of Dying Ten Times by Heather Armstrong is a memoir that starts strong from the first sentence. It’s a “grab a box of tissues and get comfy” look at Armstrong’s journey out of depression while telling the story her and her family went through while being one of the few to use a new scientific treatment for depression, which involves becoming clinically dead for a period of time. In the vein of Brain on Fire and My Stroke of Insight, I was hooked in the first paragraph. 

This book is full of hope but not a bunch of shiny happy people fake happy talk. The reader knows that in the end, Armstrong does go on to a life relieved of depression, but the story and the struggle of her getting there is so well crafted and emotionally sticky that you better not start this book the nite before you have to be on time for something in the morning. 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our LIves Revealed by Lori Gottlieb. I rarely enjoy books that get a lot of hype and make it only best seller lists but this book has earned it’s place. If you have ever wondered what secret sauce therapists have when working with clients or thought your therapist’s life was perfect, HA – this book will open your eyes. Therapists do not have a secret want to make their and their client’s lives better and this book does an excellent job of dispelling many myths of therapy. Gottlieb shows how hard even well trained people have to work while in therapy, and that even your therapist needs to talk to someone.

This is another book I loved on audio and the narrator (Brittany Presley) did such an excellent job, I incorrectly assumed it was the voice of the author. Gottlieb tells the story of an unexpected end to a relationship and dealing with that loss caused her to seek a therapist. She also tells the story of a few of her patients, (with facts changed to protect their identities). If you have wanted to peek inside and see what it would be like to be in therapy, this is the perfect book to read/ listen to. 

How To Be Nice To Yourself:The Everyday Guide to Self Compassion by Laura Silberstein- Tirch, PsyD is the warm and cozy nonfiction book of the year. If you are tired of trying and striving and you need a brain break but you’ve binged watched Netflix for a week straight, you might want to pick up this book or audio recording. Inside you’re find a tender and thoughtful look at getting to the source of stress, worry, overthinking, and feeling like you just aren’t happy with how you’re spending your days.  We can all be our worst critic but how do you stop that and learn to treat yourself the way you treat your close friends? Silberstein-Tirch shows you how to stop fighting with yourself and what to start doing instead. This book isn’t going to make you lazy and selfish: it’s ultimately practical in showing you what really helps and makes you realize being hard on yourself just isn’t useful. I feels like someone is taking your had and walking you through all the hard parts of living with yourself inside your head.