The product of more than three years of in-depth reporting in a slum near Mumbai airport called Annawadi, Katherine Boo’s masterpiece is a Kafka story for our times, the tale of determined strivers so hemmed in by circumstance, official disregard, and rampant corruption that even those who succeed are punished for their accomplishments. Students hiding from the shooters saw these reports on classroom TVs and echoed them back via their mobile phones. In its portrait of the garbage-sorter Abdul, who winds up in court after a false accusation from a neighbor, Behind the Beautiful Forevers depicts a young man who loses everything he’s earned and comes out on the other side declaring that “something had happened to his heart.” His painful moral decision-making reflects a book in which Boo is always careful to portray the ways her subjects exert agency within their own lives, even at the cost of their health and safety. From powerful memoirs to historical biographies to eclectic essay collections, these are the nonfiction books we're excited to read in 2020. Media reports during the genocidal 1994 massacres in Rwanda were spotty and confusing. Lucid, wide-ranging, and persuasive, The Battle for God provides a framework for understanding more than the three religions it focuses on. That subject is, of course, Madeleine but also childhood, the period of almost incomprehensible development between zero and 3, the simultaneous flowerings of action, reason, and self-awareness. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. The cells biopsied from Henrietta Lacks’ tumor, dubbed HeLa cells, soon became the basis for decades of crucial medical research: The polio vaccine, IVF techniques, and advancements in gene mapping all owe their success to the HeLa cells taken from Lacks’ body. Through his reporting of McCandless’ passionate and foolhardy journey into transcendence—and writing about his own, similar youthful experiences—Krakauer explores our modern relationship to the wilderness and the deep desire many young people feel to seek out unthinkable danger. Flagging a list will send it to the Goodreads Customer Care team for review. The Goodreads Choice Awards are the only major book awards decided by readers. But this isn’t just a handbook; above all, Home Comforts is animated by Mendelson’s respect and affection for the duties and pleasures of housekeeping. He is a well-read, brilliant contextualizer. All rights reserved. Error rating book. Above all, he blames the schemes of the ruling Hutu elite, who deliberately engineered the massacre by using radio, Rwanda’s primary means of mass communication, to foment murderous hatred among Hutus toward the Tutsi minority. Howard ZinnLively written and well researched, A People’s History narrates the story of the US through the eyes of ordinary people and their experiences, something that most history books tend to ignore. Finally, two years after the tsunami, Deraniyagala returned to the London home she once shared with her husband and sons, a place where a dirty old baby bowl repurposed as a garden toy becomes a precious talisman of the lost. Montaigne was a social critic living in France in the 16th century. As a result, Armstrong’s take on fundamentalism has shaped our understanding of the phenomenon more than perhaps any other thinker’s. While memoir has gained a foothold in the literary conversation, narrative and reported nonfiction tend to be ignored. “A word for runaway slave posters and civil rights proclamations.” Jefferson’s social class fostered her exquisite sense of taste (she became a Pulitzer Prize–winning critic for the New York Times), but its members, as she would grow to understand during the upheaval of the 1960s, also “settled for a desiccated white facsimile, and abandoned a vital black culture.” Jefferson’s memoir of growing up in this milieu, with its strenuous gentility and complex relationship to the American racial caste system, is both loving and darkly ironic, as rich and seasoned as the life it recounts. Good nonfiction books about history: Big History A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves by Walter Alvarez – The unlikely story of life on Earth The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection by Tamim Ansary— Understanding human history as an extraterrestrial might view it Batuman seems to attract Borgesian peculiarity like a magnet. Those are your general practitioner mosquitoes, or GPs. With the recent 75th anniversary of D-Day and the fast approaching anniversaries of VE Day and VJ day, now is the perfect time to dive into these best WWII nonfiction books that read like gripping novels. Is it possible to pick 50 of the best nonfiction books ever? It is the kind of devastation that might seem beyond words, and yet Deraniyagala finds them; she is, it turns out, a very gifted writer. We take abuse seriously in our book lists. But over the years, Alexander’s work as a lawyer for the ACLU ultimately led her to agree with the sign’s author. For decades, the story of the fight against AIDS seemed one of nothing but frustration, shame, and a body count in the hundreds of thousands. And he’s funny as hell, one of the funniest writers alive. William Herschel, who identified the first new planet in centuries; Humphry Davy, who invented electrochemistry and experimented with nitrous oxide; Mungo Park, who searched for Timbuktu; and others were as much adventurers of the imagination as any artist, Holmes insists. We update links when possible, Slowly, her pain clears enough for her to fill in portraits of those boys, that man, vivid enough to pierce the reader with a sliver of her own mourning. Jahren’s memoir is a paean to her life in science, specifically the kind of science that involves getting your hands dirty and reaching for a specimen vial. What would they think about the … Wright fell down this particular rabbit hole after writing for the New Yorker about the Church of Scientology’s wooing of celebrities, and he came in for some tweaking over the extremely measured tone he employs while recounting the shenanigans of the religion’s founder, science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, and the even-worse behavior of his successor, David Miscavige. It can be easy to dismiss these forms as the worthwhile but fundamentally unliterary assemblage of facts into paragraphs. Quinones’ depiction of the contrast between the strangely healthy and robust communities in Nayarit and the economically and socially disintegrating American towns where the dealers preferred to operate (avoiding clashes with the established drug dealers in metropolitan centers) is both surprising and enlightening. She journeys to Samarkand to study a language of dubious authenticity, in which one of the few remaining written texts takes the form of love letters between the colors red and green. Many of them didn’t. As a result, The Unwinding is almost disorienting, like coming inside after a day spent walking into a stiff wind. It is an account of grief that refuses to turn away from ugliness or wallow in sentiment, and yet it is acutely beautiful because of Deraniyagala’s devotion to the truth. It only becomes more relevant with every year. Most of Wave describes the aftermath of the tragedy. Part poetry collection, part memoir, part book-length critical essay, Citizen takes risks other books wouldn’t dare, and it reads like no other title on this list. “During mass extinction events,” Kolbert writes, “the usual rules of survival are suspended.” Once-dominant species are wiped out in the geologic snap of a finger. Krakauer sets out to unravel the mystery of how this adventure ended in tragedy, and the tiny mistakes that cost McCandless his life, by reading McCandless’ journals, talking to his friends, and traveling to the abandoned bus where McCandless spent his last months. But Fox clearly has no interest in crafting a tale of woe. Skloot’s impeccably reported book tells a remarkable story of scientific development but also makes an impassioned argument about the way medicine has always used black and poor bodies. entirely made up. But We Wish to Inform You is more than a masterpiece of war reportage. Except that it wasn’t: Even at the height of the epidemic, scientists worked feverishly to understand the virus and its effects—and just as importantly, activists battled to increase those scientists’ funding, to focus and target their research, and to erase the stigma of those who suffered from it. A sweeping cultural history of the dominant American art form of the past 50 years, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop traces hip-hop back to its birth in the South Bronx and then back even further, to the Jamaican toasters whose style inspired New York’s first rappers. Dreamy, meandering, and ravishing, Rhodes-Pitts’ ode to Harlem summons up the ghosts of the “Mecca of Black America.” As a Texas-born pilgrim to this vexed promised land, she found herself drawn not to the obvious inspirational sites, such as Langston Hughes’ house, but to the remnants of Harlemites past who have been overlooked or half-forgotten: a literary scrapbooker named Alexander Gumby, a photographer specializing in portraits of the dead, the operator of a wax museum. But he also highlights the stars, from Kool Herc to Rakim to Ice Cube, who innovated and popularized the form for an audience beyond those DIY parties. Some revisit conflicts that have shaped the modern world, as … Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. When Aeroflot loses her luggage, the clerk asks her, “Are you familiar with our Russian phrase, resignation of the soul?” She gets talked into judging a boys’ “leg contest” at a Hungarian summer camp. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. She is a professor of geobiology specializing in the life cycle of plants, and while this involves a certain amount of travel and mucking about, she feels most at home in her lab, “a place where I move. Although he’s now best known for his 1996 novel, Infinite Jest, Wallace made his reputation, particularly among younger readers in the late ’90s, as an essayist and a very particular sort of journalist. The few exceptions practically glow with significance, from the tightknit family of poor Floridians who struggled with one setback after another but always had one another’s backs to the owner of a handful of empty motels, who chose to fight the automated foreclosure system with the help of her community and clan. A kind of capstone to a career spent visiting seemingly empty landscapes and finding the warm hearts that beat inside them, Travels in Siberia exhibits all of Ian Frazier’s remarkable travel-writing talents. but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change. slanderous attacks on other members, France tells their stories with clear-eyed compassion, leaning not only on his dogged research skills but also on his history as both activist and reporter for the New York Native. This is historical nonfiction at its most important and most necessary. You can cancel anytime. This deeply researched, profoundly empathetic story of cultural miscommunication in medicine focuses on the case of Lia Lee, the doted-on youngest daughter in a family of Hmong refugees in rural Northern California. For a woman who claims to have “a penchant for the negative,” she has produced a remarkably inspiring book. That is the irresistible premise of Weisman’s book, a thought experiment substantiated by deep research into what it takes to keep the built world functioning and what has happened in the few places (Chernobyl, the Korean Demilitarized Zone) where there has been no one around to prop it up. And yet, through the cracks between Dyer’s torpor and his dissatisfaction, a tribute to Lawrence—that great proponent of passionate living—finally emerges. A practiced falconer, Macdonald understands how ill-advised her project is; the species is famously hard to train, stubborn in its wildness. 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