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Favorite Fiction of 2016

Favorite Nonfiction of 2016

Favorite Nonfiction of 2016  LeighKramer.com

It's time for my annual book roundup! Here are the best nonfiction books I read in 2016. These are the ones I couldn't stop thinking about, that I referenced in conversation and begged other people to read so we could discuss them. 

Disclosure: Affiliate links included in this post. 



When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air- Paul Kalanithi

A wonderful addition to the end-of-life canon. I wish he would have delved into his palliative care team but that is one of the limitations of writing a book while dying. There is much more he could have explored and yet the material he did give us is rich, impressive, and necessary. What a gift he gave us. 







Necessary TroubleNecessary Trouble: Americans In Revolt- Sarah Jaffe

If you asked me what the Tea Party and Black Lives Matter have in common before I read this book, I would have said, "nothing." But after reading Necessary Trouble, I can now point to any number of post-2008 movements and see the common threads. Whether Walmart employees or environmental activists, Jaffe shows how the deep dissatisfaction with and anger over the present state of affairs has been channeled into action and change. It's no longer business as usual. People are risking arrest and starting movements to disrupt the system and it is often working. (Glory be!) Jaffe shows each movement's strengths and struggles and I was particularly impressed by how she delved into the racism of certain segments of the Tea Party. I also loved the emphasis on intersectionality and the way class was highlighted as a common bond. Well researched and incredibly engaging, I underlined and asterisked my way through this book. It's a game-changer. If you read it, let's discuss. (Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)





Between The World And MeBetween The World And Me- Ta-Nehisi Coates

I am a huge fan of TNC's writing and this is no exception. There is so much in it that is ripe for discussion that I really think we'd move forward collectively as a country if everyone read it and took its message to heart. Not to be missed.

(If you are someone who doesn't understand why people are upset about Trump's election, please add this to your reading list.)







All The Single LadiesAll The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation- Rebecca Traister

This is a remarkable undertaking, not only because of the scope of Traister's research and interviews but because of how well it's compiled together. She manages to validate a number of singles' experiences, while also acknowledging her shortcomings, namely the bulk of her examples are white women in their 30s and 40s in NYC. However, she does feature stories from Women Of Color, as well as drawing from research and other works. What I loved is how validated I felt as a single woman. There was good food for thought- I especially loved the chapters about cities and friendship. There's also pointed critiques of society and religion, which is much needed in this age of marginalization. You don't need to be single to gain insights from this book- in fact, I'd encourage everyone to read it. But if you are single, you'll walk away feeling heard and seen and maybe even inspired.





Generation ChefGeneration Chef: Risking It All For A New American Dream- Karen Stabiner

This is a must-read for people who love food memoir or who dream about opening a restaurant some day. Stabiner's writing style is reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand. Her research and access to Jonah Miller and the staff at Huertas makes for one compelling narrative. I loved getting to see everything that goes into starting a restaurant in NYC, from finding the right space to hiring to what goes into creating a menu. Miller is an interesting figure, everything you'd expect a 26 year old chef-owner to be. The sacrifices he made and all of his hard work and dedication ultimately led him to opening Huertas and through the course of the book, we find out whether the restaurant will prevail through the ups and downs. This would have been interesting as it stands but Stabiner also features other chefs' experiences and what went into the successes and failures of their respective restaurants. She also sprinkles in anecdotes from restaurant critics and Culinary Institute of America teachers, along with statistics and insights about the restaurant industry. Absolutely fascinating. (Disclosure: I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)





Come As You AreCome As You Are - Emily Nagoski

I'm joining the chorus to say every woman should read this, whether single, married, virgin, lackluster or on fire sex life. I learned so much from Nagoski (her fact checking about the hymen blew my mind) and truly appreciated her resounding exhortation, "you are normal." Her insights will go a long way toward undoing the misinformation so many of us have been fed and even patriarchal oppression. I feel incredibly empowered! 








When In FrenchWhen In French: Love In A Second Language- Lauren Collins

I do not often engage in my language geek tendencies but based on how I swooned my way through this book, I should do so more often. Collins's book is part memoir and part ode to the intricacies of language. She delves into the history and meaning, the particular dance of learning another language, and how we use words to both build and divide. Many of the stories she shares, whether personal or research, could have been expanded into long-form essays at the very least for how fascinating they are and they will stick with me for some time. It is lyrical and lovely. It also made me want to get over to Europe asap. (Disclosure: I won a copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway but it did not influence my opinion.) 







Mastering The Art Of French EatingMastering The Art Of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From a Year in Paris- Ann Mah

A rich exploration of expat life in Paris. Her reflections on building community, especially while apart from her husband, resonated with me and I loved seeing where her culinary whims led her as the book progressed.