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The Biggest Nonfiction Books of 2019

2019 has been a big year for blockbuster nonfiction books. Here are some of the best from across the spectrum of all the books released this year.
by Rosie Allabarton | Dec 17 2019

Looking for ideas for last-minute Christmas gifts, or need to get your holiday reading organized? We’ve put together a comprehensive list of our favorite nonfiction reads from 2019 to inspire, move, and motivate you as we head into a brand new decade. Whether you’re looking for an un-put-down-able true story like Elton John’s Me, a deep-dive into the human psyche like Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking To Strangers, or the opportunity to learn something new with a book like Bill Bryson’s The Body, we’ve got something here for every kind of reader this holiday season.

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells lays out, in very stark terms, the devastating future we can all expect as the planet continues to warm up thanks to the damage caused by climate change. Not always an easy read, this book is a timely reminder of what human beings have managed to do to the earth in just a single generation, and the results of our actions on both the environment and ourselves. It may not bring much Christmas cheer, but Wallace-Wells’ near-apocalyptic vision of the next century may be enough to shock some of us into changing our planet-damaging habits, and push us to petition governments around the world into drastically changing theirs.

In Company of One by Paul Jarvis we learn a new definition of running a successful company; one that is focused on keeping things on a small scale, achieving a positive work-life balance and feeling more fulfilled in our working lives. A company of one, as Jarvis puts it, is all about: “achieving and sustaining a self-defined level of income.” By putting more emphasis on company sustainability rather than profit, the business owner can really enjoy the fruits of their labor, and the fulfillment that comes from doing a job well. With a new decade soon to be upon us, we could all learn a thing or two from Jarvis’ philosophy about how by keeping things small we can find true work and life satisfaction.

Lori Gottlieb writes about what she as a therapist learned when she had a personal crisis of her own and started to visit a therapist. She was surprised to find that despite her extensive experience in the field of psychology, when it came to sharing her own struggles, she too used the very same self-deluding tactics she had seen in her patients many times before. From blinding herself to the truth and creating her own narrative around events, to seeking validation from her therapist for her own self-diagnosis, we are given a deep insight into the psychological tricks we all use to protect ourselves from pain and are shown how to recognize them. If the approaching new year is prompting you to do some soul-searching, this book is a great guide to understanding our psyches and the benefits of a client-therapist relationship.

In Three Women, Lisa Taddeo follows the true life stories of three women and their relationships with the men in their lives. Taddeo interviewed the women many times over a ten-year period, and in that time was able to gain a deep understanding of their feelings towards themselves, society, and the problematic relationships they each had with their own sexual and romantic desires, thanks to the, at times, traumatic experiences they had endured. The three accounts vary wildly, from Sloane whose husband enjoys watching her sleep with other men, to Maggie who falls in love with, and is then groomed by, her dangerously charming high school teacher, and finally Lina, who is trapped in a loveless marriage and only feels alive when she is in the arms of her high school sweetheart who, in turn, keeps her hanging by a thread. A truly fascinating and at times heartbreaking account of three very modern relationships and the sacrifices we all make to feel loved.

When Chanel Miller decided to stand up against the man who raped her, she became widely known in the press as ‘Brock Turner’s victim’, a label which made her feel as though she now belonged to the man who had abused her. In her book about the trial and how she learned to heal from her ordeal, Miller reclaims her name and identity and shines a light on the experiences of other female sexual assault victims, and how US courts are systemically set up to fail them.

Gretchen McCulloch examines how in just a few short years the internet has dramatically and fundamentally altered the structure and form of the English language. Immediate, unconscious writing—known as ‘informal writing’—that requires no editor or approval process has become hugely popular due to the accessibility and ease of use of blogs and social media. Not only can these missives reach huge audiences, the author can do so without the help of an agent, a publishing contract, and without spending a penny. In a move away from the traditional publishing model, which generally gave authority figures a large stake in how language evolves, now the masses are dictating new styles, expressions, and words which are redefining how we communicate with one another.

This book details the learnings of Melinda Gates, who, along with her husband, founded the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the year 2000 to widen access to professional healthcare and reduce global poverty. Gates explains that via relatively simple means like providing contraception and access to education we can empower women worldwide, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and giving millions of women the chance to live independent lives. A thought-provoking and inspiring read.

In Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow we learn the fascinating sequence of events which lead to Farrow investigating the rumors of sexual assault allegedly committed by Harvey Weinstein against multiple women. When Farrow began to dig a little deeper into their stories he uncovered a dangerous, violent man who knew how to keep his victims silent and an industry that feared upsetting one of its most powerful producers.

Bill Bryson unravels many of the myths that still remain about the human body, including how we’ve evolved, what our food does to us, the importance of sleep, how long we are likely to live and the huge effects of hormones on our behavior and well-being. But the main message of the book is how little we still know about the brain and body, and that we should all be marveling at the fact that we are lucky enough to exist at all.

Ibram X. Kendi shows us why it’s essential we throw off long held ideas about race and color if we are to see racism for what it really is. Citing studies from sociology, history and politics, as well as his own personal experiences of racism, the author is able to demonstrate why there’s a strong argument for affirmative action and positive discrimination if we are to right injustices and make the world a fairer place for everyone, irrespective of skin color or racial background.

Malcolm Gladwell takes a deep-dive into the psychology behind our interactions with strangers, the cues we use to make judgments about people we don’t know, and how wrong our first impressions often are. Even our ideas about which facial expressions are associated with emotions like shock and anger are often more likely to have been influenced by folk psychology, books, and television, as opposed to real life experiences. In this book we learn about the sometimes devastating consequences of making assumptions about people we don’t know and what we can do to understand our fellow human beings better.

Stephanie Land’s poignant memoir offers a detailed account of life on the breadline. She describes the struggles she faced as a single parent while working a menial job to make ends meet. Land’s story gives the reader a unique insight into life in homeless shelters and transitional housing, as well as the degradation experienced by many like her who are forced to jump through so many hoops to meet criteria for governmental assistance. This is a very human story of the psychological and physical impact of poverty on a young mother struggling to survive in one of the richest nations in the world.

Me by Elton John

Hailed as “the rock memoir of the decade” and coming to Blinkist early next year, Me, by Elton John is the tell-all autobiography of a rock and roll legend. His first, and only, official autobiography, this unique memoir is filled to bursting with slanderous and hilarious anecdotes spanning the singer’s lengthy showbiz career. As surprisingly self-aware and likeable as he is narcissistic, John takes the opportunity to debunk the many myths that surround him, revealing the often far more fascinating truth that lays behind them.

Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered is the touching and sometimes gruesome account of the lives and passions of Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the two women behind America’s hottest true crime podcast, My Favorite Murder. An in-depth discussion of true crime, the book is also a dual memoir that recounts how the authors became so fascinated with murder and crime. Their stories include battles with mental illness, the value they both found in therapy, and how they got through years of low-paid work before making their breakthrough podcast.

In this remarkable memoir, whistleblower Edward Snowden recalls his ascent from teenage computer prodigy to tech specialist with the US National Security Agency, the role which lead him to uncovering and then exposing the US government’s mass surveillance.

An account of the Weinstein scandal from the perspective of the two journalists who broke the story, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, She Said is a shocking tale of cover-ups and pay-offs and an A-Z of Hollywood A-listers terrified to speak on the record about the sexual abuse they were subjected to at the hands of Weinstein and others. A powerful account of what was to launch the global #metoo movement.

In these changing times, traditional news sources have quickly been overtaken by social media outlets, sites which are unregulated and unaccountable. As increasing numbers of us turn to these sites, so too do the cries of ‘fake news’. But it’s not just the internet that peddles embellished stories. Radical conservative Mark Levin claims the mainstream media works at the behest of the Democratic Party to spread a more liberal agenda, in particular spreading lies about Donald Trump.

Rachel Maddow makes a strong case for why large gas and oil companies need to start being made accountable for their actions. While undeniably disastrous for the planet, what’s less well known about these industries is their deep-seated corruption and fostering of imbalances of power and wealth worldwide. In this radical outing of the gas and oil industries, we learn not only how effective these conglomerates are at finding and selling fuel across the globe, but also how very bad they are at cleaning up the mess they inevitably leave behind.

We hope our list of great nonfiction from 2019 has sparked some inspiration for your own holiday reading list. Don’t forget, when all the eggnog and merrymaking get too much, you can sneak off for some much-needed downtime with one of these great reads. From everyone at Blinkist, have a wonderful holiday season and an inspiring start to the new year!

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