January 2020 Wrap-up | Part 3: Nonfiction

Part 1: Overview | ◀️ Part 2: January 2020 Fiction Wrap-up

Hi guys! Here’s my nonfiction wrap-up for this January. I read 8 nonfiction books this month:

2020-01 Nonfiction

Here’s a quick rundown of my thoughts on them.

1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – ★★☆☆☆ – This is a memoir by a budding neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with cancer at a young age. Sadly, while it’s beloved by a lot of people, it just didn’t resonate with me. Full review here.

2. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore – ★★★☆☆ Like a true procrastinator, I read this while procrastinating on something else. Surprisingly, this was way more helpful than the “just do it” advice I usually encounter, as it focuses more on the emotional regulation aspect of procrastination – on addressing negative self-talk and the fear of failure, among others. A quick and helpful read.

3. I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel ★★★★☆ – This was a delightfully relatable read about joys and the dilemmas of bookworms everywhere. Read my mini-review here.

4. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall ★★★★☆ – A fun and inspiring read with a colorful cast of characters. Born to Run tells the story of the Tarahumara, a reclusive tribe in Mexico known also as “the running people”, and the quest of a handful of adventurous Americans who wanted to pit their endurance skills against theirs. Many times while reading it, I had to fight against the urge to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement – it was that inspiring. Read my mini-review here.

5. Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin Yalom ★★★★☆ – A fascinating read from one of the greatest psychotherapists of contemporary times. Personally, as a psychologist, I found it useful for the author’s brutal honesty in describing his own feelings during the therapeutic encounter. At times it could be brutally honest, though – he describes in detail his own visceral and unexamined bias against ‘fat women’, which struck me as misogynistic – but overall still very instructive.

6. Appetites: Why Women Want by Caroline Knapp ★★★★★ – Part psychological exploration, feminist critique, and memoir, Appetites explores the way that society curbs women’s desires – whether it be for food, love, or sex – and how that manifests in particular pathologies. This was a powerful invective that nevertheless ended on the hopeful note of women accepting and claiming their desires in a healthy manner. Full review to come.

7. How Fiction Works by James Wood ★★★★★ – Here, the renowned critic James Wood turns his attention to a particular element of fiction – narrator, consciousness, metaphor, character – and, like a craftsman, breaks it down to its simplest components to make readers see why it worked (and, in a few cases, why it didn’t). A nuanced and lucidly-written analysis of fiction that transported me back to my favorite lit-crit class in college, and made me more aware of the fact that the little details do matter. Read my mini-review here.

8. How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell ★★★★★ – In this book, Odell criticizes the imperative to be productive and the ways it’s currently being addressed by tech gurus and productivity experts. She also offers a way of resisting that doesn’t pander to capitalist agenda, instead requiring widespread changes in community planning and environmental policy. A tough but ultimately rewarding read. Full review to come.

🌟 Favorite Nonfiction of the Month 🌟


What were your favourite nonfiction reads for January? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! 👇

Part 1: Overview | ◀️ Part 2: January 2020 Fiction Wrap-up

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4 thoughts on “January 2020 Wrap-up | Part 3: Nonfiction

  1. Literary Elephant

    Great post! you found so many high rating reads in nonfiction last month! I’m looking forward to your review of Appetites; it wasn’t on my radar but it sounds excellent.

    1. Thank you, and yes, I know! I’m really glad for it. Appetites was published almost two decades ago, but it’s sad that most of the issues it grapples with are still what women struggle with today. Thanks for looking forward to it. 🙂

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