Favorite Non-Fiction of 2017

I didn’t get a chance to write about all of my favorite books as I read them this year, so instead, I thought I’d do an end-of-the-year wrap-up. Be on the lookout for my fiction favorites, which I should be posting in a week or two!

March: Book Three, John Robert Lewis I read this book while on my social justice-focused spring break trip to Memphis, Tennessee. I already wrote some thoughts about this book after that trip, so I’ll just briefly repeat myself: if you want to learn about the civil rights movement but feel overwhelmed by the breadth of the subject, this graphic novel series is a good place to start. By focusing on Representative John Robert Lewis’s life, readers enter into an engaging, maddening, and moving history of our country.

Black Boy, Richard Wright This book surprised me. I read it for my thesis research, and it makes such a compelling argument for the importance of access to education and to stories that it quickly gained a place on my favorites list. It does all this while being, primarily, a memoir of Wright’s childhood in the South in the early 1900s. He uses his own experience to demonstrate the role the written word can play in human flourishing.

I wanted a life in which there was a constant oneness of feeling with others, in which the basic emotions of life were shared, in which common memory formed a common past, in which collective hope reflected a national future. But I knew that no such thing was possible in my environment. The only ways in which I felt that my feelings could go outward without fear of rude rebuff or searing reprisal was in writing or reading, and to me they were ways of living.

When We Were on Fire, Addie Zierman This memoir is about the on-fire faith we can feel as adolescents and the way this faith can fail us and leave us empty. It’s about the search for something truer—more complicated and more nourishing. It is also about relationships: how your first love can burn hot and, like that first faith, leave you barren when it is extinguished. It is about depression and finding a way through it; it is about making a home and a family in this hard world. So much of Addie’s story echoes my own. While reading this, I was broken and made new. It is full of so much truth and so much encouragement.

…maybe this is the way you move on. You find the small slivers of light, and you hunker down in them. You hole up in the still warmth of this kind of beauty and you wait, knowing that the beams will get wider and wider every day. Knowing that one day, you will wake into the full power of the sun, and you will finally be warm.

Felicity, Mary Oliver This book showed up in my favorite poets post a few months back. I mentioned then that her poems often take the natural and the spiritual as their subject, but nestled in this collection is also a delightful bunch of love poems. Coming from a woman in her 80s, I am inclined to trust what these poems have to say about love. They speak of love that is tender and kind, joyful and true. Here is a poem from Felicity called “Everything That Was Broken”

Everything that was broken has
forgotten its broknness. I live
now in a sky-house, through every
window the sun. Also your presence.
Our touching, our stories. Earthy
and holy both. How can this be, but
it is. Every day has something in
it whose name is Forever.

What were some of your favorite books of the year?


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