Best Non-Fiction of 2011
Now it’s time for the best non-fiction books of the year! (Please see my previous post for best fiction.) I compiled the 2011 best lists from the New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Book Page, Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see which titles are mentioned the most.
Several titles stand out as among the top-reviewed non-fiction of the year, according to these lists. Only one book made all seven compilations -- Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, who tells with honesty and humor how she evolved as a chef.
The only book mentioned six times is In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson, who relates the story of how a mild-mannered professor from Chicago became the United States’ first ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s reign. Larson’s previous book, Devil and the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, is still popular among patrons and our book clubs.
One book that made five lists is Blue Nights by Joan Didion, which is described by critics and haunting and moving. Didion shares her thoughts about illness, losing a child and growing old. Her previous book, The Year of Magical Thinking, also examines grief, including what it’s like to lose a spouse.
For history lovers, Pulitzer Prize winner Robert K. Massie is back with Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, which was listed four times. Massie is known for his biographical narratives, including Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs.
Twelve books made the cut three times:
- 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann
- 1861: Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
- Bossypants by Tina Fey
- Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of an American President by Candace Millard
- The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick
- Lost In Shangri-La: A True Story Of Survival, Adventure, And The Most Incredible Rescue Mission Of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
- Malcolm X: A Life Of Reinvention by Manning Marable
- Midnight Rising: John Brown And Raid That Sparked The Civil War by Tony Horwitz
- Rin Tin Tin: The Life And The Legend by Susan Orlean
- The Swerve: How The World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt
- Thinking, Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman
- A World On Fire: Britain's Crucial Role In The American Civil War by Amanda Foreman
Twenty-four titles were picked two times:
- Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton
- Assassins Of The Turquoise Palace by Roya Hakakian
- Beginning Of Infinity: Explanations That Transform The World by David Deutsch
- Believing Is Seeing: Observations On The Mysteries Of Photography by Errol Morris
- Better Angels Of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
- Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin
- Cocktail Hour Under The Tree Of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
- Ecstasy Of Influence: Non-fictions, Etc. by Jonathan Lethem
- Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi And His Struggle With India by Joseph Lelyveld
- Greater Journey: Americans In Paris, 1830-1900 by David Mccullough
- Inferno: The World At War, 1939-1945 by Max Hastings
- Inside Scientology: The Story Of America's Most Secretive Religion by Janet Reitman
- Life Itself: A Memoir by Roger Ebert
- Love And Capital: Karl and Jennie Marx And The Birth Of A Revolution by Mary Gabriel
- The Memory Palace: A Memoir by Mira Bartok
- The Origins Of Political Order: From Prehuman Times To The French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama
- Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan
- The Rise And Fall Of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World Of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
- To A Mountain In Tibet by Colin Thubron
- To End All Wars: A Story Of Loyalty And Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild
- Townie: A Memoir by Andre Dubus III
- A Train In Winter: An Extraordinary Story Of Women, Friendship, And Resistance In Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead
- What It Is Like To Go To War by Karl Marlantes
If you want to see these best of 2011 lists, I posted links on our Readers’ Services page, which you can can find by clicking here. I also compiled a list of the Fiction and Reference Staffs' favorite books of 2011, which you can find by clicking here, or picking up a booklet at the Reference Desk. I hope this list gives you great reading and gift ideas. Do you have a non-fiction book that you think should have made the list? Let me know!