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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

24 / 50 books. 48% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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40 / 52 books. 77% done!

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27 / 40 books. 68% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

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65 / 104 books. 63% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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44 / 52 books. 85% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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71 / 165 books. 43% done!
Tuesday, September 07, 2021

TTT: The Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books I've Read So Far This Year

I need more happy reads in my life because prompts like today's—Top Ten Books Guaranteed to Put a Smile On Your Face—always leave me scratching my head.  Although I do like a fun cozy mystery as well as humorous characters, I just don't read very many smiley kinds of books.  I did manage to come up with ten for February's list of Top Ten Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud and that was tough enough.  So, I'm going rogue once again.  As promised last week when I listed the Top Ten Best Novels I've Read So Far This Year, this week I'm going to give you the non-fiction version.  Today's list was a much easier one to put together because I've only read, ahem, nine non-fiction books in 2021.  Luckily, all of them were excellent.  I am going to include the one I DNF'd as well because I only ditched the audio—I want to read the book instead of listen to it because I was missing too much by just listening.  

Want to join in the TTT fun?  Hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books I've Read So Far This Year

- in no particular order -

1.  The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Story of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown—I know, I know, it's weird to want to read about the Donner Party, but I've long been a fan of pioneer stories and survival tales.  This one is both.  It's also about a lot more than cannibalism.  Brown does an excellent job telling the epic story in all its tragic horror, without sensationalizing the truly horrific bits.  It's a fascinating account of a terrible journey.

2.  Atomic Habits by James Clear—I loved this self-help book about how to make goals attainable.  Clear gives some great advice on not only how to set reachable goals, but also how to break bad habits.

3.  The Cold Vanish by Jon Billman—I just reviewed this absorbing book about the jaw-dropping number of people who go missing every year in North America's federal lands.  Why do they vanish?  And what is being done to find them?    

4.  A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary—Did your childhood reading life revolve around Beverly Clearly?  Mine did.  This first volume of the author's autobiography provides an interesting look at Cleary's growing-up years and how they informed both her character and her writing.

5.  American Baby by Gabrielle Glaser—I've always been fascinated by adoption stories, even before becoming an adoptive mother myself.  This book uses the story of an unwed mother who placed her child for adoption in the 1960s as a vehicle to explore how poorly such women were treated, not just by the system but by society and their own families.  It's a heartbreaking, eye-opening, thought-provoking read.

6.  The Third Pole: Mystery, Obsession, and Death on Mount Everest by Mark Synnott—This book tells the story of Synnott's Mount Everest expedition, which focused not on summitting the mountain but on finding a lost piece of Everest history.  This is a more academic study of Everest than most and yet, I found it just as interesting (although much slower) than Jon Krakauer's popular Into Thin Air.

7.  The Answer Is... by Alex Trebek—I was surprised to discover that this book is actually quite light and funny.  It's less of an autobiography and more of a rumination on a life well lived.

8.  Dead Wake by Erik Larson—Disaster books are another of my weird reading likes.  This one, about the sinking of the Lusitania during World War I, made for a really interesting read (listen, actually, as I enjoyed it on audio).

9.  The Lost Family by Libby Copeland—Genealogy is another of my big interests, so I couldn't resist this book about how DNA testing is changing our ideas of family, nature vs. nurture, privacy, and so on.  It's riveting!

10.  Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing—Like I said, I started listening to this book on audio, but I kept having to rewind it to catch parts I missed.  Since I didn't want to miss a word, I decided to pick it up in book form instead.  

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What are the best non-fiction books you've read this year?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave a comment on this post and I'll gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!       


  1. I haven't read any of these books. A non-fiction book that I read this year that I enjoyed is Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J Lee.

    When you get the chance, I hope you can pop over to my post:

    1. Oooh, I've heard of TWO TREES MAKE A FOREST, but I haven't read it. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the rec!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Pam!

  2. I haven't read any of these books yet. I rarely read non-fiction but I'm trying to read more of them now. Thank you for sharing this list!

    1. Fiction will always be my favorite, but I do enjoy a good non-fiction read. I'm choosy about which titles I pick, though, because I want a NF book to be not just informative but also engaging. I'm so needy! LOL.

      Thanks for popping in, Diana!

  3. I've been trying to read more nonfiction this year so I'm taking notes on your post. I'd like to read the Alex Trebek book. I always liked him and was so sad when he passed.

    1. I know! He was such a classy guy. THE ANSWER IS is a quick, entertaining read. It was just fun to listen to, especially the parts that were narrated by Trebek himself.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Suzanne!

  4. What a nice assortment of nonfiction! I am having trouble getting into my current novel so I have also picked up a nonfiction book: Sidecountry by John Branch, which looks promising.

    1. Oooh, SIDECOUNTRY does sound interesting! I might have to give it a try as well. I'll be curious to see what you think of it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Helen!

  5. Great list - Ive been reading some more nonfiction lately. These sound interesting!

    1. I'm glad you've found some titles to pique your interest. Let me know what you think of them and what other NF books you find that you love. I'm always on the look out for a good read, fiction or non.

      Thanks for coming by, Leah!

  6. The Donner PArty is fascinating, and Cold Vanish too. Where are all those people disappearing to?

    1. Well, we know what happened to the people of the Donner Party. Yikes! The others, though? It's super mysterious. You can see why people are actually considering that aliens and/or Bigfoot could be involved.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Greg!

  7. I also have difficulty coming up with smiley books because I read so much intense histfic! I'm happy to see I'm not alone! Great spin, though! I'm always looking for nonfic recs!

    1. It's not that I don't like happy and heart-warming books. I do. I guess I just like those kinds of moments within a more serious story, you know? And, yes, it's always good to know we're not alone in our reading preferences!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Carol!

  8. One of my favourite TV doc. series recently was called Long Lost Family. People who were adopted looking for lost biological mothers, fathers, siblings etc. Oh my gosh, so much sadness at the beginning but when families are found, such joy. I watch with a box of tissues beside me. I'll be investigating American Baby.

    1. As you know, I have a very soft spot in my heart for adoption. Adopting our daughter was one of the best things my husband and I have ever done. While I know those happy adoption reunions that we all love to watch aren't what always happens, they do make my heart sing!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Cath!

  9. There are definitely some interesting books on your list, although I haven't read any of them.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT earlier. As you probably have seen, they are not all "nice" books, either but they definitely could bring a smile to my face.

    1. It is nice, though, that even more serious reads can have spots of levity and heartwarming scenes. That's what I prefer instead of books that are trying too hard to be funny or light.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Marianne!

    2. As usual, I totally agree.

  10. I've seen some good reviews about Erik Larson's book and it has caught my eye! I love a good true crime or crime related non-fiction and some of these have definitely piqued my interest so on the TBR they go! Great list :)

    1. I really enjoyed DEAD WAKE. It's very engaging and is PG-rated. I started reading THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY, which is also interesting, but the true crime bits just got to be too much for me, so I DNF'd the book. If it had been mostly about the creation of the World's Fair with only a small mention of the murders, that would have worked better for me. Nevertheless, Larson is a great storyteller. I definitely recommend him.

      Thanks for stopping in!

  11. I love everything by Erik Larson.

    Great list!

    1. He's a great writer! I bought THUNDERSTRUCK a couple weeks ago. I'm going to try to read it before the end of the year. We'll see how it goes.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Deb!

  12. I actually might read #7 - although I don't usually read memoirs or biography or autobiography.

    I have not read a single non-fiction this year. I honestly prefer fiction more.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. Have a lovely day.

    1. THE ANSWER IS is a really quick read. It's very light and entertaining, not at all melancholy. You should definitely give it a go!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lissa!

  13. American Baby was an amazing read! I couldn’t help but to wonder how their lives would have been different (and better) if she’d been allowed to keep her son.

    My post:

    1. Placing a baby for adoption is so hard, even if you are doing it by choice. My daughter's birth mom planned to place her from the get-go (and had already placed another baby a couple years earlier), but I'll never forget how sad she looked when it came down to actually giving up her child. Not an easy thing at all, even when you know the baby is in good hands and will bless the lives of another family.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lydia!

  14. The Lost Family would be very interesting. I haven't read any non fiction this year. Not even a memoir. That's crazy and sad.

    1. THE LOST FAMILY is super interesting. It's very approachable, too, so even if you know nothing about DNA and genealogy, it's okay. I hope you enjoy it if you get to it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Deanna!

  15. Oh, I so need to add the Alex Trebek book to my TBR. He was such an influence on me for such a long time.

    1. He was a great man! And I really did love THE ANSWER IS. It's light and entertaining and not at all depressing. I hope you enjoy it if you read it.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Alex!

  16. I have not read any of these! I have read a decent amount of nonfiction this year...had to pause and go count (36 so far), a few of my favorites: The Beginner's Guide to Growing Great Vegetables by Lorene Edwards Forkner, The Grumbler's Guide to Giving Thanks by Dustin Crowe, The Menopause Manifesto by Jennifer Gunter, and Growing Slow by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

    1. 36? Wow, that's a lot of non-fiction! I haven't heard of any of these titles, but I do have a cousin named Jennifer Gunter—maybe she wrote a book I don't know about :) LOL.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Cindy!

  17. I loved The Cold Vanish! And I really want to read both Atomic Habits and the Alex Trebek memoir. Great list, Susan!

    1. I'm so glad you recommended THE COLD VANISH to me! The book has really stuck with me because it's so fascinating and so haunting at the same time. The Trebek book is a great, quick read. ATOMIC HABITS is also a fast one, but it's very impactful. At least it was for me.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Lark!

  18. I love this list! I'm always looking for non-fic recs, I don't read enough of it. And I have to say, The Lost Family sounds super interesting.

    1. It is a really interesting read on a lot of levels. If you're at all interested in DNA, genealogy, etc., I highly recommend it.

      Thanks for popping in, Rabeeah!

  19. I haven't read any of these books you listed. One of the best non-fiction I read this year is Blocked on Weibo. Its about why curtain words and phrases are blocked on this Chinese social media site.

    1. Ooooh, BLOCKED ON WEIBO does sound interesting! I've never heard of it before, so thanks for the heads-up.

      Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

  20. The only one of these I have read is the Alex Trebek book. I like the way you described it. I do want to read the Donner Party book though. Nice list, Susan.

    1. The Donner Party book really is a good read. It gave me new perspective on what those poor people went through and definitely made me wonder what I would do in a situation like that. I'm a big wimp, so I probably would have just laid down and died, but for my kids? What would I have done to keep them alive? Who knows?

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Carla!

  21. I want to read more non-fiction, so I should look into these!
    Great list!

    1. I hope you enjoy the ones you choose to read. Definitely come back and let me know how they work out for you!

      Thanks for stopping by, Evelyn!

  22. Nice list! I've not read any of these, so I'll have to look them up. Thanks so much for visiting Long and Short Reviews!

    1. I hope you find something to pique your interest!

      Thanks for popping in, Poinsettia!

  23. Your nine NF reads to this point of the year are interesting've chosen well. I find it's hard to go wrong with anything written by Erik Larson, and I always look for his new ones. The book on the Donner Party is one I'm curious about because I keep stumbling on references to that sad bit of American history lately as I delve more and more into books on the American West.

    1. I have chosen well! All of these books have been really, really good. That never happens with all my fiction reading :)

      The Donner Party book really is fascinating. Interestingly enough, I ran across a reference to those pioneers in a book I'm listening to about the history of my church. Brigham Young led the first group of Mormon pioneers to Utah in 1847, the year after the Donner party's famous crossing.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Sam!

  24. Dead Wake is by far my favorite Erik Larson. I was absolutely enthralled by it. I want to read the Beverly Cleary book and have Endurance and The Lost Family on my TBR. Now I need to add the Donner Party book! I know very little about the actual story.

    1. I felt the same way about DEAD WAKE. Totally fascinating. It's the only book I've read by Larson so far, but I've got a copy of THUNDERSTRUCK that I'll get to eventually.

      The Beverly Cleary book is a fun read. I have the second part of it out from the library right now. Just haven't gotten to it yet.

      Same on the Donner Party. I knew about the cannibalism, of course, but the book gave a lot of insight into who was in the party, why they were heading west, and the circumstances that got them into such a dire predicament. Really interesting.

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Katherine!

  25. Nice twist to the challenge! I have not read any of these but The Lost Family sure looks interesting.

    1. It's a really interesting read. I highly recommend it!

      Thanks, as always, for coming by and commenting, Wendy!


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