I only read eight non-fiction books this year. Of those, by far my favorite was Solito by Javier Zamora. I read it first for a book review I wrote and then I went back and listened to it in audio because he did the narration and I wanted to hear him utter those sentences that captivated me. I was not disappointed.
As I wrote yesterday, Solito is a well-written and compelling memoir by Zamora, a poet, detailing his months-long journey from his home in El Salvador to California to join his parents. He was 9 years old and travelled alone, with no other family members.
My other favorite non-fiction books:
- Giuliani: The Rise and Tragic Fall of America’s Mayor, by Andrew Kirtzman, listed by the New Yorker as one of the best books of the year. Although Kirtzman (a former Houston Post reporter) is a dear friend, I hesitated to read this book. I didn’t want to risk having to read something redeeming about Giuliani. My hatred for the former New York mayor is that intense, that deep. I am so happy I read it, for this book offers the reader a stark portrait of a corrupt, immoral two-bit politician.
- Watergate: A New History by Garrett M. Graff. There’s been a lot written about this sad era in American politics, but this fresh new look offers a lot that I didn’t know, and Graff’s style of writing is compelling.
- Chasing History by Carl Bernstein. I really enjoyed this book by former Washington Post reporter Bernstein. It wasn’t that he has much new to say about Watergate. It’s what he writes about his young days as a reporter, starting at the Washington Star. I don’t mean to in any way compare my journalistic career to Bernstein’s but newsrooms are newsrooms they are all great sources for compelling stories. Good newsroom storytelling like this is addictive.
- Somewhere We Are Human, edited by Reyna Grande and Sonia Guiñansaca. I’ll let Goodreads tell you about it: “A collection of 35 bold, important, and groundbreaking essays and poems by migrants, refugees and Dreamers—including award-winning writers, artists, and activists—that illuminate what it is like living undocumented today.” Powerful essays.
The other non-fiction books I read this year: Atlas of the Heart (Brené Brown), Happy-Go-Lucky (David Sedaris) and Regarding the Pain of Others (Susan Sontag).
I also read a lot of poetry books this year. so many I didn’t keep track of them. Many were good. Some were very good. A handful were very, very good. One stood out, reached out and grabbed my heart (it still hasn’t let go): These Trees, Those, This Flower, That Fruit by Hayan Charara, who teaches at the University of Houston and is one of my favorite poets. A kind and generous soul, he is. The book has gotten numerous rave reviews. Here is the latest, from the Los Angeles Times.