My Books of 2013 – Part 5: Non-fiction

Previously: Part 4 – Classics

For me to read a non-fiction book there has to be a really good reason. I don’t really know why, but I read a lot more fiction than non-fiction. Because the threshold for a non-fiction book is a lot higher I tend to love those I do read more often.

Self-Inflicted Wounds – Aisha Tyler

16248207On the hit comedy podcast Girl on Guy, comedian and actress Aisha Tyler talks with actors, artists, musicians, athletes and iconoclasts about their path to personal and professional success, in forthcoming and sometimes shocking conversation. The coda of the show is Self-Inflicted Wounds-where Aisha’s guests recount something they’ve done that was ill-conceived, dangerous, or just plain dumb-with hilarious or poignant ends. In her book Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha turns the lens on herself, recounting spectacularly comedic mistakes and stories of crushing personal humiliation, along with what she’s learned. Riotous, revealing, and wonderfully relatable, Self-Inflicted Wounds showcases a sharp comedic voice on the rise.

While I was staying with Andrea in NYC this summer, she suggested I check out Aisha Tyler’s podcast, Girl On Guy. Aisha is the new host of Whose Line Is It Anyway, a show I love and Andrea thought I would like the podcast. She was right, I liked it. A lot, actually. The 2-hour interviews are great, funny and interesting and sometimes painful. While I was in NYC, Aisha did a book signing for the launch of her new book, Self-Inflicted Wounds. I went along with Andrea, bought the book, got it signed and got my picture with Aisha. It was all very fun. As part of Girl On Guy, each guest tells a Self-Inflicted Wound. These are stories, usually funny, of how choices you made caused damage to yourself. In Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha tells her own stories. She has a very funny voice and it was a fun read.

July 14 – July 29

The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida

18168324You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

I picked up this book after it was recommended on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart was very convincing in saying everyone should read it, and I have to agree with him. This book is not a normal read. It was written by a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, a boy who has a very hard time communicating with the outside world. In this book he describes how he sees the world, and how he thinks this differs with those who don’t have autism. It offers a fascinating insight into a world most people don’t understand.

Oct. 7 – Oct. 8

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry

8649656Stephen Fry is not just a multi-award-winning comedian and actor, but also an author, director and presenter. He is one of the most influential cultural forces in the country. This title details some of the most turbulent and least well known years of his life.

I love Stephen Fry. I think he is smart, funny and he has an amazing way with words. Yet it took me an incredibly long time to get started with this book. Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I got it as an audiobook (narrated by the man himself!). I’m not in the habit of listening to audiobooks, I have enough podcasts to listen to. Yet once I started with this book it was hard to listen to anything else. Stephen is a very good storyteller and he has lived a fascinating life. If you like Stephen Fry you should really read (or listen to) this book.

Dec. 5 – Dec. 10

Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

2199The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can’t help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln’s political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates.

I went to see Lincoln (the movie) because Lee Pace had a role in it and I had heard it was good. I loved the movie and decided that I wanted to learn more about this period in American history. I knew the general storyline (civil war over the issue of slavery, Lincoln gets assassinated) but apart from that I knew very little. This book was a great read. Not an easy read as you can see by the time it took me to finish it (10 months) but I learned a lot from reading this one. I’d definitely recommend it, but beware that it’s really long at 900+ pages.

Feb. 21 – Dec. 30