Top Ten Non-Fiction Books

Most of the time, I read non-fiction really just for work. And, honestly, those from my work may not appeal to you. Nonetheless, here’s my list of top ten non-fiction books.

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Product Description: The classic manifesto of the liberated woman, this book explores every facet of a woman’s life.

Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Product Description: Documents, personal narratives, and illustrations record the experiences of Native Americans during the nineteenth century.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
Product Description: First Published in 1962, Silent Spring alerted a large audience to the environmental and human dangers of indiscriminate use of pesticides, spurring revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. “Silent Spring became a runaway bestseller, with international reverberations … Even if she had not inspired a generation of activists, Carson would prevail as one of the greatest nature writers in American letters” (Peter Matthiessen, for Time’s “100 Most Influential People of the Century”).

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Product Description: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic — a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short. Annotation. Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has since become a world classic — a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the “Secret Annex” of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death. In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity through the Renaissance by Cheryl Glenn
Product Description: After explaining how and why women have been excluded from the rhetorical tradition from antiquity through the Renaissance, Cheryl Glenn provides the opportunity for Sappho, Aspasia, Diotima, Hortensia, Fulvia, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Margaret More Roper, Anne Askew, and Elizabeth I to speak with equal authority and as eloquently as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, and Augustine. Her aim is nothing less than regendering and changing forever the history of rhetoric.

To that end, Glenn locates women’s contributions to and participation in the rhetorical tradition and writes them into an expanded, inclusive tradition. She regenders the tradition by designating those terms of identity that have promoted and supported men’s control of public, persuasive discourse — the culturally constructed social relations between, the appropriate roles for, and the subjective identities of women and men.

Glenn is the first scholar to contextualize, analyze, and follow the migration of women’s rhetorical accomplishments systematically. To locate these women, she follows the migration of the Western intellectual tradition from its inception in classical antiquity and its confrontation with and ultimate appropriation by evangelical Christianity to its force in the medieval Church and in Tudor arts and politics.

Glenn sets the scope of her study from antiquity to the Renaissance for several reasons, not the least of which is that the Enlightenment saw the end of classical rhetoric as the dominant and most influential system of education and communication. Equally important, the Enlightenment brought about the demise of the one-sex model of humanity that centered on the telos of perfect maleness –with women and children being perceived as undeveloped men.

Glenn expands the history of rhetoric by including the contributions of women. She is not writing a compensatory history or a history of rhetoric by women; she is integrating the rhetorical accomplishments of women into the context of the male-dominated and male-documented rhetorical tradition and, in the process, enriching that tradition.

Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Product Description: It’s not like she’s the only woman to ever have a baby. At thirty-five. On her own. But Anne Lamott makes it all fresh in her now-classic account of how she and her son and numerous friends and neighbors and some strangers survived and thrived in that all important first year. From finding out that her baby is a boy (and getting used to the idea) to finding out that her best friend and greatest supporter Pam will die of cancer (and not getting used to that idea), with a generous amount of wit and faith (but very little piousness), Lamott narrates the great and small events that make up a woman’s life.

Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla Miller
Product Description: A richly woven biography of the beloved patriot Betsy Ross, and an enthralling portrait of everyday life in Revolutionary War-era Philadelphia Betsy Ross and the Making of America is the first comprehensively researched and elegantly written biography of one of America’s most captivating figures of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on new sources and bringing a fresh, keen eye to the fabled creation of “the first flag,” Marla R. Miller thoroughly reconstructs the life behind the legend. This authoritative work provides a close look at the famous seamstress while shedding new light on the lives of the artisan families who peopled the young nation and crafted its tools, ships, and homes. Betsy Ross occupies a sacred place in the American consciousness, and Miller’s winning narrative finally does her justice. This history of the ordinary craftspeople of the Revolutionary War and their most famous representative will be the definitive volume for years to come.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Product Description: The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt. Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator. Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as well; incest and assassination were family specialties. Cleopatra appears to have had sex with only two men. They happen, however, to have been Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, among the most prominent Romans of the day. Both were married to other women. Cleopatra had a child with Caesar and–after his murder–three more later. Already she was the wealthiest ruler in the Mediterranean; the relationship with Antony confirmed her status as the most influential woman of the age. The two would together attempt to forge a new empire, in an alliance that spelled their ends. Cleopatra has lodged herself in our imaginations ever since. Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Shakespeare and Shaw put words in her mouth. Michelangelo, Tiepolo, and Elizabeth Taylor put a face to her name. Along the way, Cleopatra’s supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff here boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order. Rich in detail, epic in scope, Schiff ‘s is a luminous, deeply original reconstruction of a dazzling life.

Riding the Bus with My Sister by Rachel Simon
Synopsis (from author’s website): Rachel Simon’s sister Beth is a spirited woman who lives intensely and often joyfully. Beth, who has an intellectual disability, spends her days riding the buses in her Pennsylvania city. The drivers, a lively group, are her mentors; her fellow passengers are her community. One day, Beth asked Rachel to accompany her on the buses for an entire year. This wise, funny, deeply affecting book is the chronicle of that remarkable time. Rachel, a writer and college teacher whose hyperbusy life camouflaged her emotional isolation, had much to learn in her sister’s extraordinary world. These are life lessons from which every reader can profit: how to live in the moment, how to pay attention to what really matters, how to change, how to love—and how to slow down and enjoy the ride.

Elegantly woven throughout the odyssey are riveting memories of terrifying maternal abandonment, fierce sisterly loyalty, and astonishing forgiveness. Rachel Simon brings to light the almost invisible world of developmental disabilities, finds unlikely heroes in everyday life, and, without sentimentality, portrays Beth as the endearing, feisty, independent person she is. This heartwarming book about the unbreakable bond between two very different sisters takes the reader on an inspirational journey at once unique and universal.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Product Description: Describes the domestic obligations, social limitations, and economic factors that impede literary creativity in women, in the story of William Shakespeare’s talented sister, who, because of the mores of her time, never expresses her genius until she dies by her own hand.

This lists will resume on Monday. Until then, Happy Reading!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Top Ten Non-Fiction Books

  1. I thought Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee was an excellent book! It was hard to read all at once, it’s one I think best read in spurts, but it was still a book I highly recommend too.

    For some, incredibly odd reason, I just don’t like Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Perhaps I just didn’t read it at a time when it interested me. I don’t know…I seem to be the only one though. haha

  2. Nic

    I’d like to add Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. It is based on the diary of a fifteen-year-old drug user chronlicling her struggle to escape the pull of a drug world. I’m convince that reading it was better than any “don’t do drugs” talks my parents could have ever communicated. Because of it’s anonymous author, it always made me question whether it is really non-fiction. Plus, it fits into several of your Top Ten categories.

  3. That is a pretty powerful one!

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