Monday, January 6, 2014

The Moo Cow's Top Ten Non-Fiction Reads

Everyone is all about resolutions this time of year, right? Well, I'm here to help. Here are my top ten non-fiction books to put on your resolution list immediately, in no particular order.

1. The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I read this book a year or so after it came out, but it totally transformed the way I look at food. For the foodies and environmentalists among us, go to the source and read this groundbreaking work.


2. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I read a lot of non-fiction humor, from Tina Fey to Mike Birbiglia to Sarah Vowell. But David Sedaris takes the cake. I might have almost asphyxiated a number of times while reading this book; I laughed that hard. Then I tried to kill my husband by reading it to him aloud. True story.


3. Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh. This book was our first choice for The Brilliant Book Club, and it remains one of my favorites. Gross-Loh writes clearly, intelligently and with insight about what we can learn from parenting in other cultures.

4. Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz. For dog lovers, this book is a must. Written by a cognitive behaviorist who spent eight years studying dog behavior, it is an insightful, scientific yet eminently readable study on (wo)man's best friend.

5. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. I loved this practical guide to reducing clutter and overstimulation in children's lives (and our own). I can honestly say it changed the way I parent.

6. Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken. The combination of humor and politics is a favorite of mine, and Franken did a fabulous job skewering the clowns at Fox "News." I realize I am playing my political hand here, but I doubt you are surprised.

7. Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives by Annie Murphy Paul. I unsurprisingly adored this book about the effect of environment -- from psychological to physical -- on a growing fetus.

8. Moneyball by Michael Lewis. I am a huge Lewis fan, having also devoured Liar's Poker, The Big Short and The Blind Side. But Moneyball was genius (way more genius than the film, in my opinion; note I did not choose to display the movie tie-in cover). The story of Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland A's requires no knowledge of baseball, only curiosity about the power of data and love of a great story.

9. The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski. This is the single best book I have ever read about Africa. (Before you say, "huh?," I lived several months in Ghana while working on a pro bono consulting project about ten years ago.) Beginning in 1957, when Ghana was the first country to gain independence from colonial Europe, Kapuscinski, a Polish journalist in Africa for decades, takes the reader through Rwanda, Nigeria, the Sahara and more.

10. The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. I am an unabashed Anglophile. I have read so many books about Tudor-era England, both fiction and non-fiction, it is almost embarrassing. But Weir is special: an amazing writer and historian. You feel like you are reading a story, not a history book, yet every word is meticulously researched.

Bonus: Although it feels self-serving, I would be remiss if I did not plug an incredible book of which I was lucky enough to be a part, The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship an anthology edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger. I discussed the book here.

I wrote a story about my friend Alexandra, a person who knew me before I became myself. But the real gems are the stories about motherhood and friendship, early friendships and friendship "break-ups" that fill the pages of this book. I really do highly recommend it.

The links included in this post lead to my Amazon affiliate account. Buying a book via one of the links means I get a teensy, tiny percentage that will not help at all with sending my child to college. But I thank you anyway. I was not compensated for recommending these books in any other way. All opinions are my own.

Closed blue book image courtesy of kangshutters /