I’m pretty much a straight fiction reader, but every now and then, a non-fiction title grabs my attention—especially in this past year, with a number of serious and thought-provoking works finding their way into my iBook library. Whether you’re looking for reads perfect for cocktail conversation or prefer more scholarly books on your beach-read list, we have a few non-fiction reads worthy of a trip to the bookstore or library (and cliff note’s-style reviews in case you want to fake it).
The current book dominating Amazon’s bestseller list (and temporarily out of stock) is not a book about vampires, wizards or a bizarre S&M relationship. It’s 600-plus page tome about economics written by a Frenchman. With a nod to Marx in the title, the provocative book in the midst of a media storm suggests our society is in the midst of a second Gilded Age, with extreme disparities in wealth between the rich and the poor. (Quite a light read, eh?) If you’re daunted by the sheer size of the book and the weight of the topic, you can find an excellent summary in Paul Krugman’s New York Times review.
Every now and then, a rare gem of a person comes along and restores your faith in humanity. Malala Yousafzai is one of those people. At age 15, the Pakistani girl was shot in the head by the Taliban coming home from school, and few expected her to live. She not only survived; she has gone on to become an internationally recognized advocate for gender equality and education for women and, at age 16, the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her remarkable story not only illuminates her courage in the face of oppression, but also the challenges women face on a daily basis in many parts of the world. Malala even made an appearance on the The Daily Show, where she shared part of her story.
Written by Facebook COO (and former Google exec), Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In isn’t just a book about female leadership in the workplace—it’s a movement. (The title implies, leaning in to your career instead of opting out). Sandberg’s work on gender inequality in corporate America suggests that women unintentionally hold themselves back in the office. With personal anecdotes and plenty of data, the book becomes a blueprint for how women can get to the top of the business world. While not without its detractors (and defenders), Lean In, we can all agree, has certainly fueled a discussion about female leadership in the business world.
Jennifer Senior’s book on the “Paradox of Modern Parenthood” is not meant to be a how-to manual for moms and dads. Instead, it examines the crazy and complex rollercoaster of raising kids in the 21st century. Senior follows parents from around the country at different stages of the parenting process—between entertaining toddlers while trying to work from home to shuttling kids to sports practices and music lessons— and illuminates their stories with meticulous research to demonstrate how children impact their parents. Often times scary and other times touching, the book is a must-read for parents—if they can find the time. Senior talked about her book on NPR before its release. (The book is based on an article she originally wrote for New York Magazine.)
If non-fiction isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for something to stir up some emotion, try these four winners, sure to bring on the tears. Tell us your non-fiction faves so we can get in on the action.