To be honest, I’ve read more fiction than nonfiction this year. I’ve needed the way that novelists reveal the architecture of human experience slowly, with more empathy and less sensationalism than America’s news cycle. There’s no podcast, cable news show, or periodical that could reveal the weight of racism or the flooded landscape of the Gulf better than Jesmyn Ward’s mind-blowing Sing, Unburied, Sing
, or match the visceral depictions of refugees and escape in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West
. Even Jeff VanderMeer’s sci-fi dystopia, Borne
, probes the relationship between biotechnology and the natural world with an intensity and intelligence that makes you think twice about Elon Musk.
Still, Ward, Hamid, and VanderMeer have their peers in the nonfiction world. We’re lucky to have writers of tremendous passion and insight, who have the temerity to ask difficult questions, and who craft astonishing, relevant stories out of world history and current events. Perhaps like many of you, I’ve gravitated this year toward books that make me feel energized and, conversely, those that slow me down, because sometimes I want to get pumped up and enraged enough to fight the Man and other times I just want to understand him/her/they.
Here are some of my favorites. What were yours?