Nonfiction books offer a huge variety ranging from memoirs to self-development to learning new things and more. I recommend you read about something you have a deep liking or curiosity for. It may be something like feminism or some books about battling loneliness.
You may want to learn something entirely new or fall into a habit of doing something anew. Start where you think the topic might interest you. Here are my 14 recommendations for easy-to-read non-fiction books.
To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara
n an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist’s damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him – and solve the mystery of her husband’s disappearances.
These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can’t exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness.
To Paradise is a fin-de-siecle novel of marvelous literary effect, but above all, it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara’s understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love – partners, lovers, children, friends, family, and even our fellow citizens – and the pain that ensues when we cannot.
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman
It was long ago, but not as long as it seems: The Berlin Wall fell and the Twin Towers collapsed. In between, one presidential election was allegedly decided by Ross Perot while Ralph Nader plausibly decided another. In the beginning, almost every name and address were listed in a phone book, and everyone answered their landlines because you didn’t know who it was. In the end, exposing someone’s address was an act of emotional violence, and nobody picked up their new cell phone if they didn’t know who it was. The ’90s brought about a revolution in the human condition we’re still groping to understand. Happily, Chuck Klosterman is more than up to the job.
Beyond epiphenomena like Cop Killer and Titanic and Zima, there were wholesale shifts in how society was perceived: the rise of the internet, pre-9/11 politics, and the paradoxical belief that nothing was more humiliating than trying too hard. Pop culture accelerated without the aid of a machine that remembered everything, generating an odd comfort in never being sure about anything. On a ’90s Thursday night, more people watched any random episode of Seinfeld than the finale of Game of Thrones. But nobody thought that was important; if you missed it, you missed it. It was the last era that held to the idea of a true, hegemonic mainstream before it all began to fracture, whether you found a home in it or defined yourself against it.
Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
In the United States, teenagers can focus on one task for only sixty-five seconds, and office workers average only three minutes. Like so many of us, Johann Hari found that constantly switching from device to device and tab to tab was a diminishing and depressing way to live. He tried all sorts of self-help solutions–even abandoning his phone for three months–but nothing seemed to work. So Hari went on an epic journey across the world to interview the leading experts on human attention–and he discovered that everything we think we know about this crisis is wrong.
We think our inability to focus is a personal failure to exert enough willpower over our devices. The truth is even more disturbing: our focus has been stolen by powerful external forces that have left us uniquely vulnerable to corporations determined to raid our attention for profit. Hari found twelve deep causes of this crisis, from the decline of mind-wandering to rising pollution, all of which have robbed some of our attention. In Stolen Focus, he introduces readers to Silicon Valley dissidents who learned to hack human attention and veterinarians who diagnose dogs with ADHD. He explores a favela in Rio de Janeiro where everyone lost their attention in a particularly surreal way and an office in New Zealand that discovered a remarkable technique to restore workers’ productivity.
Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder
From the bestselling author of On Tyranny, the definitive history of Hitler’s and Stalin’s wars against the civilians of Europe in World War TwoAmericans call the Second World War “The Good War.”But before it even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens–and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At the war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness. Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history. Bloodlands won twelve awards including the Emerson Prize in the Humanities, a Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Leipzig Award for European Understanding, and the Hannah Arendt Prize in Political Thought. It has been translated into more than thirty languages, was named to twelve book-of-the-year lists, and was a bestseller in six countries.
The Black Count by Tom Reiss
General Alex Dumas is a man almost unknown today, yet his story is strikingly familiar—because his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for such classics as The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers.
But, hidden behind General Dumas’s swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time. Born in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), Alex Dumas made his way to Paris, where he rose to command armies at the height of the Revolution—until he met an implacable enemy he could not defeat.
The Black Count is simultaneously a riveting adventure story, a lushly textured evocation of 18th-century France, and a window into the modern world’s first multi-racial society. TIME magazine called The Black Count “one of those quintessentially human stories of strength and courage that sheds light on the historical moment that made it possible.” But it is also a heartbreaking story of the enduring bonds of love between a father and son.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The premise of Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-prize-winning book is a simple scientific fact: there have been five mass extinctions in the history of the planet, and soon there will be six. The difference, Kolbert explains, is that this one is caused by humans, who have drastically altered the earth in a short time. She points out on the first page that humans (which is to say, homo sapiens, humans like us) have only been around for two hundred thousand or so years—an incredibly short amount of time to do damage enough to destroy most of earthly life. Kolbert’s book is so unique, though, because she combines research from across disciplines (scientific and social-scientific) to prepare an extremely comprehensive, sweeping argument about how our oceans, air, animal populations, bacterial ecosystems, and other natural elements are dangerously adapting to (or dying from) human impact, while also tracing the history of both the approaches to these things (theories of evolution, extinction, and other principles).