Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday and this week is a freebie so we can pick our own theme! I’m going with my favourite non-fiction reads because I feel like sometimes book discussion is a bit fiction-heavy so it’s nice to mix it up a little! I’m including memoir, true crime, comedy and essay collections – and hopefully you enjoy reading my list! I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with today as their Top Ten Tuesday freebie!
1. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird
Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted – thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.
As Alabama is consumed by these gripping events, it’s not long until news of the case reaches Alabama’s – and America’s – most famous writer. Intrigued by the story, Harper Lee makes a journey back to her home state to witness the Reverend’s killer face trial. Harper had the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research. Lee spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more years trying to finish the book she called The Reverend.
I read this one quite recently and absolutely loved it. I find Harper Lee one of the most intriguing authors I’ve ever read about and this book tells her story in such a unique and interesting way, blending it with her research of a real criminal and of that criminal’s lawyer. Cep ties these three story threads together beautifully and shines new light on one of the most famously private writers of all time. You can read my full review here.
2. Columbine by Dave Cullen
What really happened on April 20th, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we thought we knew was wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths or the Trench Coast Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on the scene, and he spent ten years on this book, the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists , and the killers’ own words and drawings – several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.
This is one of the most intensely emotional true crime books I’ve ever read. Cullen is extremely thorough and even-handed in the way he investigates and tries to explain an unimaginable tragedy. He brings so many different perspectives into the narrative and also dispels some of the misconceptions about Columbine.
3. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay
In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out.
I love anything to do with Roxane Gay because of her intelligence, social commentary and cutting honesty. This collection of essays on the full spectrum of rape culture is so timely and relevant. It is certainly not a pleasant read at times but the importance of hearing these stories from real women cannot be underestimated. You can read my full review here.
4. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
In this painfully funny collection, Samantha Irby captures powerful emotional truths while chronicling the rubbish bin she calls her life. From an ill-fated pilgrimage to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes to awkward sexual encounters to the world’s first completely honest job application, and more, sometimes you just have to laugh, even when your life is permanently pear-shaped.
This is one of my favourite covers of all time and I personally identify with that cat! The book itself is even better than the cover. I hadn’t heard of Irby before reading this but I am a big fan of hers now. Her essays are really funny and she has a wit that leaps off the page. Just be aware that she is explicitly honest and just plain explicit sometimes but that willingness to talk about topics others wouldn’t is what makes her a great writer.
5. The Choice: A true story of hope by Edith Eger
In 1944, sixteen-year-old ballerina Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive.
The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience.
The Choice is her unforgettable story. It shows that hope can flower in the most unlikely places.
This book is one of the most moving accounts I’ve read on the Holocaust which is saying something and I think thats because Edith is such an inspirational woman. She has lived through unthinkable horrors and has dedicated her life to helping people as a psychologist. She tells her story in The Choice but also shows the way she has helped her patients with their struggles. I listened to the audiobook of this one and listening to her story somehow made it feel even more personal. It is a harrowing but ultimately hopeful book and I highly recommend it.
6. The World of Lore, Volume 2: Wicked Mortals by Aaron Mahnke
Here are the incredible true stories of some of the mortals who achieved notoriety in history and folklore through horrible means. Monsters of this sort – serial killers, desperate criminals, and socially mobile people with a much darker double-life – are, in fact, quite real . . . including H. H. Holmes, the infamous Chicago serial killer; William Brodie, the Edinburgh criminal mastermind who inspired The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Bela Kiss, a Hungarian tinsmith with a most disturbing hobby: collecting women in gasoline drums.
This book is just so much fun, which sounds odd when you consider it discusses such horrible people! However, theres a wittiness to the way Mahnke tells these dastardly tales and the illustrations are perfectly in keeping with the tone of the book and a real treat. The stories are never too long which makes it a great book to dip in and out of as you please and if you have any interest in history or crime or folklore then I would totally recommend this book! You can read my review here.
7. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer – the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade – from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.
‘You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.’
For more than 10 years, a mysterious and violent predator committed 50 sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated 10 sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website True Crime Diary, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called the Golden State Killer. Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
This was such a hyped book when it was released, in part because of the sad and sudden death of the author, so I wanted to read it despite not actually having heard of the Golden State Killer. It is honestly a tour de force in true crime writing and it’s so sad that McNamara didn’t get to see how well received her investigative efforts were. She meticulously researched this terrifying crime spree and her book is truly chilling to read. You can read my review here.
8. Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Noah was born a crime, son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother, at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away.
A collection of eighteen personal stories, Born a Crime tells the story of a mischievous young boy growing into a restless young man as he struggles to find his place in a world where he was never supposed to exist. Born a Crime is equally the story of that young man’s fearless, rebellious and fervently religious mother – a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence and abuse that ultimately threatens her own life.
You’ve probably heard of this one considering how popular it was upon it’s release but it completely deserves the praise it has received. Noah tells sometimes incredibly harrowing stories from his childhood in South Africa with humour and charisma. He has a pretty unique history and that makes reading his memoir of sorts thrilling, unpredictable and so enjoyable. Also I’ve heard this is being made into a film which I cannot wait for!
9. The War on Women by Sue Lloyd-Roberts
n 1973, Sue Lloyd-Roberts joined ITN as a news trainee and went on to be one of the UK’s first video-journalists to report from the bleak outposts of the Soviet Union. Travelling as a tourist, she also gained access to some of the world’s most impenetrable places like China, Tibet and Burma. During her 40-year-long career she witnessed the worst atrocities inflicted on women across the world. But in observing first-hand the war on the female race she also documented their incredible determination to fight back.
This book genuinely broke my heart. I thought I knew about most of the major issues of violence and discrimination against women in the world but The War Against Women opened my eyes to many more. Each chapter covers a different issue and every single one will make you feel so much anger for the victims of violence and oppression that the author meets. Sadly Lloyd-Roberts died before this book was quite finished but her incredible investigative journalism and bravery will ensure her place in journalistic history.
10. We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True by Gabrielle Union
In this moving collection of thought provoking essays infused with her unique wisdom and deep humor, Union uses that same fearlessness to tell astonishingly personal and true stories about power, color, gender, feminism, and fame. Union tackles a range of experiences, including bullying, beauty standards, and competition between women in Hollywood, growing up in white California suburbia and then spending summers with her black relatives in Nebraska, coping with crushes, puberty, and the divorce of her parents. Genuine and perceptive, Union bravely lays herself bare, uncovering a complex and courageous life of self-doubt and self-discovery with incredible poise and brutal honesty. Throughout, she compels us to be ethical and empathetic, and reminds us of the importance of confidence, self-awareness, and the power of sharing truth, laughter, and support.
I only really know Gabrielle Union from Bring It On (a classic, in my humble opinion) but I’d heard good things about this book so I gave it a go! I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Union herself, and I found it such an enjoyable experience. She has a warmth and strength that makes listening to her talk about her life experiences really fantastic. She covers loads of different topics some of which are extremely serious and some which are lighter but no matter what she’s talking about she does it in a personable and inviting manner! I’d definitely recommend this one especially on audio if you’re an audiobook listener!
It was really hard picking just ten so I’m including a cheeky three extra!
– Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?: (And other concerns) by Mindy Kaling
– Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
– Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit
Well that’s it for another Top Ten Tuesday! I really hope you enjoyed reading about some of my favourite non-fiction books! I’d love to hear your thoughts on my list and some of your own non-fiction favourites in the comments! And do please feel free to link to your great TTT list!