Books and Writing

5 Great Non-Fiction Books

I grew up really resistant to non-fiction. I think it resembled school work or real life too much, and I loved escapist fantasy. As I got a little older, I got into more realistic and literary fiction, but still avoided non-fiction. Now that I’ve graduated from college, I’m reading non-fiction as much as I’m reading fiction, and I think it’s because I miss school and I miss learning. As stressful and time consuming as it was when I was in it, I miss learning new things and exercising my brain.  Here are some of the non-fiction books I’ve read, and really enjoyed, recently.

Problem From Hell by: Samantha Powers

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Blurb: “In her Pulitzer Prize-winning examination of the last century of American history, Samantha Power asks the haunting question: Why do American leaders who vow “never again” repeatedly fail to stop genocide? Power, a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, draws upon exclusive interviews with Washington’s top policymakers, thousands of declassified documents, and her own reporting from modern killing fields to provide the answer. A Problem from Hell shows how decent Americans inside and outside government refused to get involved despite chilling warnings, and tells the stories of the courageous Americans who risked their careers and lives in an effort to get the United States to act. A modern classic, A Problem From Hell has forever reshaped debates about American foreign policy.”

To End A War by: Richard Holbrooke

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Blurb: “When President Clinton sent Richard Holbrooke to Bosnia as America’s chief negotiator in late 1995, he took a gamble that would eventually redefine his presidency. But there was no saying then, at the height of the war, that Holbrooke’s mission would succeed. The odds were strongly against it. As passionate as he was controversial, Holbrooke believed that the only way to bring peace to the Balkans was through a complex blend of American leadership, aggressive and creative diplomacy, and a willingness to use force, if necessary, in the cause for peace. This was not a universally popular view. Resistance was fierce within the United Nations and the chronically divided Contact Group, and in Washington, where many argued that the United States should not get more deeply involved. This book is Holbrooke’s gripping inside account of his mission, of the decisive months when, belatedly and reluctantly but ultimately decisively, the United States reasserted its moral authority and leadership and ended Europe’s worst war in over half a century. To End a War reveals many important new details of how America made this historic decision. To End a War is a brilliant portrayal of high-wire, high-stakes diplomacy in one of the toughest negotiations of modern times. A classic account of the uses and misuses of American power, its lessons go far beyond the boundaries of the Balkans and provide a powerful argument for continued American leadership in the modern world.”

Unbroken by: Laura Hillenbrand

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Blurb: “In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will. Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit’s author, Laura Hillenbrand,”

This Republic of Suffering by: Drew Gilpin Faust

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Blurb: “More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today’s population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesman, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners, and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War’s most fundamental and widely shared reality.”

Small Victories by: Anne Lamott

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Blurb: “Anne Lamott writes about faith, family, and community in essays that are both wise and irreverent. It’s an approach that has become her trademark. Now in Small Victories, Lamott offers a new message of hope that celebrates the triumph of light over the darkness in our lives. Our victories over hardship and pain may seem small, she writes, but they change us – our perceptions, our perspectives, and our lives. Lamott writes of forgiveness, restoration, and transformation, how we can turn toward love even in the most hopeless situation, how we find the joy in getting lost and our amazement in finally being found. Profound and hilarious, honest and unexpected, the stories in Small Victories are proof that the human spirit is irrepressible.”

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