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.
Hello! I hope you’ve all had a lovely start to December! I am in full on Christmas mode now and I’ve been doing some Christmas shopping over the weekend but what I’m most looking forward to is having some time to read over the Christmas holidays! Since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie I’m going to talk about my favourite non-fiction reads from this year! I did read more that ten non-fiction books however there was only eight I really loved so that’s why my list is a little shorter this week!
1. 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.
I can’t remember Columbine happening as I was only 7 at the time and British so I didn’t know the actual story of what really happened and the consequences until I read this book. It’s not a pleasant or easy read but it is crucially relevant in today’s world and an extremely well researched and even handed account of a terrible and shocking loss of life.
2. Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover and her family grew up preparing for the End of Days but, according to the government, she didn’t exist. She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in hospitals.
As she grew older, her father became more radical and her brother more violent. At sixteen, Tara knew she had to leave home. In doing so she discovered both the transformative power of education, and the price she had to pay for it.
There was so much buzz around this book when it was released but I didn’t read it until a couple of months ago and I’m so glad I did. Tara’s story is so fascinating and like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. I found reading about her very difficult journey to attain an education impressive and endlessly intriguing. You can read my review here.
3. Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen
In Happy Fat, comedian Sofie Hagen shares how she removed fatphobic influences from her daily life and found self-acceptance in a world where judgement and discrimination are rife.
From shame and sex to airplane seats, love and getting stuck in public toilets, Sofie provides practical tips for readers – drawing wisdom from other Fat Liberation champions along the way.
I saw Sofie Hagen speak at the Book Festival here in Edinburgh during the summer and she was just as intelligent and witty in person as she is in her book! It is a hugely important book about something not spoken about enough in this way. I think everyone could benefit from reading Happy Fat. You can read my review here.
4. Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
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. Lee had the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research. She spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more years trying to finish the book she called The Reverend.
I find Harper Lee so interesting and for that reason I absolutely adored this book. However it is about much more than just Lee herself, it is true crime and biography mixed together and is such a well written account of some very strange events. Furious Hours is definitely one of my overall favourites of the year and I thoroughly recommend it. You can read my review here.
5. Dead In The Water by Penny Farmer
This is the true and horrifying account of the brutal torture and murder of the author’s brother and his long-time girlfriend forty years ago. In July 1978, two bodies were found in the sea off the coast of Guatemala, and proved to be the remains of Dr Chris Farmer and his lawyer girlfriend, Peta Frampton, young graduates, aged twenty-five and twenty-four, from Greater Manchester. After suffering a three-day ordeal in which they were tortured, they were then thrown overboard while still alive from the yacht on which they had been crewing, their bodies weighted down with heavy iron engine parts and their heads covered in plastic bags. For nearly forty years, no one was charged with these savage murders, even though the name of the yacht, the Justin B., and its owner, an American named Silas Duane Boston, were known.
I read true crime quite a lot but this one definitely stuck in my memory, mostly because the author is the sister of one of the victims which gave the book a real emotional strength and weight. It is a very sad story and the fact that the killer escaped justice for so long is horrifying but this book demonstrates exactly how that happened and the far-reaching consequences of what happened. You can read my review here.
6. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that the young man who was her close friend was the savage slayer she was hunting . . .
TED BUNDY was everyone’s picture of a natural ‘winner’ – handsome, charming, brilliant in law school, successful with women, on the verge of a dazzling career.
Fast-forward to January 24, 1989, Ted Bundy is executed. He had confessed to taking the lives of at least thirty-five young women, coast to coast.
This is his story: the story of his magnetic power, his unholy compulsion, his demonic double life, and his string of helpless victims. It was written by a woman who thought she knew Ted Bundy, until she began to put all the evidence together, and the whole terrifying picture emerged . . .
This is one of those true crime classics that I just hadn’t gotten around to reading but in September I finally found time for it. It is such a uniquely bizarre sequence of events that it honestly needs to be read to be believed. The Stranger Beside Me is not without it’s flaws, one of which is, in my view it’s slight degree of sympathy for Bundy himself but that is part of what makes it such a fascinating and challenging read.
7. Red River Girl by Joanna Jolly
A gripping account of the unsolved death of an Indigenous teenager, the detective determined to find her killer and a country’s hidden secrets
On 17 August 2014, the body of fifteen-year old Indigenous runaway Tina Fontaine was found weighted down in the Red River in the Canadian city of Winnipeg.
The loss of Tina was a tragedy for her family and for the Indigenous community. But it also exposed a national scandal: Indigenous women are vastly more likely than other Canadians to be assaulted and killed. Over the past few decades, hundreds had been murdered – or simply gone missing. Many of these cases have never been solved.
Tina’s Fontaine’s death caused an outcry across Canada. The police investigation and trial that followed sparked a widespread debate on the treatment of Indigenous women, while the movement protesting those missing and murdered became an international news story.
In an astonishing feat of investigation, award-winning BBC reporter and documentary maker Joanna Jolly has reconstructed Tina’s life, from her childhood on the Sagkeeng First Nation Reserve to her difficult teenage years. Red River Girl is the compelling story of the elaborate police investigation into Fontaine’s death and the detective obsessed with bringing her killer to justice.
I read this one just recently and found it well researched and compelling. This book shows another side to a country often seen as one of the more fair and safe places on earth which is important because what has been happening to these indigenous women is beyond shocking. It’s a tough but important read. You can read my review here.
8. Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness
Who gave Jonathan Van Ness permission to be the radiant human he is today? No one, honey.
The truth is, it hasn’t always been gorgeous for this beacon of positivity and joy.
Before he stole our hearts as the grooming and self-care expert on Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye, Jonathan was growing up in a small Midwestern town that didn’t understand why he was so…over the top. From choreographed carpet figure skating routines to the unavoidable fact that he was Just. So. Gay., Jonathan was an easy target and endured years of judgement, ridicule and trauma – yet none of it crushed his uniquely effervescent spirit.
Over the Top uncovers the pain and passion it took to end up becoming the model of self-love and acceptance that Jonathan is today. In this revelatory, raw, and rambunctious memoir, Jonathan shares never-before-told secrets and reveals sides of himself that the public has never seen. JVN fans may think they know the man behind the stiletto heels, the crop tops, and the iconic sayings, but there’s much more to him than meets the Queer Eye.
I finished this audiobook just this weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I adore all of the Fab Five from Queer Eye and loved reading more about the extremely fabulous Jonathan Van Ness. I liked that he wasn’t afraid to be honest about his life and his struggles whilst still remaining entertaining and very much himself throughout.
Well there you go – eight of my Non-Fiction favourites I’ve read this year! I would love to know your thoughts on my list in the comments and please do link to your own Top Ten Tuesday – I can’t wait to read them all!