Michael’s Best Non-Fiction Selections for 2014

Presented in alphabetical order, these are all great reads. Enjoy!

10%Happier10% Happier, by Dan Harris

After experiencing a panic attack on live television, Harris knew it was time to make a change. He explores the neuroscience of meditation and takes a look at how it works in the real world. Self-help that might actually be helpful!

BeingMortalBeing Mortal, by Atul Gawande

The last taboo in our culture is death. In this book, Gawande argues that medicine can help provide a good end, rather than merely prolong life. That he does so with riveting stories and clear explanations of current eye-popping research, is an added bonus.

Can'tWeTalkCan’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant, by Roz Chast

Told through cartoons, photos, and text, this memoir of caring for aging parents is both amusing and comforting for adult children taking on a parental role vis a vis their parents. Graphic storytelling at its finest.

ElephantCompanyElephant Company, by Vicki Croke

Billy Williams was a gifted “elephant wallah” in colonial Burma when World War II broke out. He worked behind enemy lines using the elephants to carry out secret missions. Part wildlife adventure, war story, and biography, it is a dramatic read illuminating a little-known aspect of the period.

No Place to HideNo Place to Hide, by Glenn Greenwald

This is not only an important book, but very readable too. Greenwald’s narrative begins like a spy novel (except it’s true), then covers the implications of Snowden’s revelations, and ends with observations on the role of the Press in the digital age. My best-of-the-year pick.

OppositeOfLonelinessThe Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan

Keegan died in a car accident at only twenty-two, five days after her graduation from Yale. Shortly thereafter, the title essay went viral (as they say) being downloaded 1.4 million times. Apart from the tragic circumstances, this collection of essays and stories gives voice to her generation, articulating the concerns we all share about how we can use our talents to impact the world.

ShortAndTragicThe Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, by Jeff Hobbs

Robert Peace grew up in disadvantaged circumstances, but his intellectual abilities led to a Yale scholarship. What should have been happily-ever-after for him ended in his murder at age 30. This biography looks at the complexity surrounding leaving one’s roots.

SixthExtinctionThe Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert

So it isn’t an asteroid that’s causing widespread extinction this time… it’s us. But this is more than just a depressing book about our environmental impact – Kolbert writes with wit and a kind of gallows-humour that makes the message palatable and accessible.

ThisChangesThis Changes Everything, by Naomi Klein

Klein, author of Shock Doctrine and No Logo, here looks at climate crisis, arguing that the capitalistic paradigm which brought us to this point, cannot solve the very real catastrophe we face. It’s a provocative and hopeful book, offering a way forward – and transforming the debate.

UndergroundThe Underground Girls of Kabul, by Jenny Nordberg

Males are plainly the favoured gender in Afghan culture. Nordberg, an investigative journalist, reveals the complicated lives of girls who are raised as boys – a third kind of child – only to be forced into marriage and motherhood when they grow up. It is timely, and populated by compelling characters; don’t miss this one.

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