Hello and welcome to yet another Top Ten Tuesday post! This week’s theme had to do with books that are outside my usual genre (i.e. Young Adult), and I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing it down to include just non-fiction titles.
I actually don’t read a lot of non-fiction books, but the ones I’ve read I normally really enjoyed. Maybe it’s a sign that I should be reading more of these things? I just love reading about people’s lives, especially those ‘unconventional’ ones I’ve never experienced before. 🙂
1) Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.
GENRE: Psychology, Self-Help
READ IT FOR: Advice and insight on the everyday things and life issues. I know I mention this book way too often and I know that anything that can be categorised as self-help usually turns people off, but oh my god, go read this book. Tiny Beautiful Things is so powerful, so sad, so freeing, and overall just wonderful.
2) Nothing to Envy – Barbara Demick
Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years–a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today–an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.
GENRE: Asian History, Asian Culture
READ IT FOR: A snapshot of how people really live in this private communist country. I’ve been interested in North Korea ever since I found out about it, and Nothing to Envy was one of those books that were not only easy to read but also incredibly informative and engaging.
3) Somewhere Inside – Laura Ling & Lisa Ling
On March 17, 2009, Laura Ling and her colleague Euna Lee were working on a documentary about North Korean defectors who were fleeing the desperate conditions in their homeland. While filming on the Chinese–North Korean border, they were chased down by North Korean soldiers who violently apprehended them. Laura and Euna were charged with trespassing and “hostile acts,” and imprisoned by Kim Jong Il’s notoriously secretive Communist state. Kept totally apart, they endured months of interrogations and eventually a trial before North Korea’s highest court. They were the first Americans ever to be sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in a prison camp in North Korea.
READ IT FOR: Yet another snapshot of how North Koreans live, but told from the eyes of an American journalist in captivity. Somewhere Inside can feel a little bit political at times, but it’s also pretty hopeful.
4) Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain
A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—now with all-new, never-before-published material.
New York Chef Tony Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny, inspiring memoir/expose. Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine”.
GENRE: Memoir, Cooking
READ IT FOR: The juicy secrets of the restaurant industry. For the record, I am OBSESSED with food/cooking shows and really, really love anything to do with it. Kitchen Confidential is funny and incredibly honest.
5) A Child Called It – Dave Pelzer
This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games–games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother’s games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an “it.”
GENRE: Memoir, Child Abuse
READ IT FOR: A horrifying account of child abuse. I read A Child Called It as a teenager and was incredibly sickened by what happened in this book. It was also the first ever memoir I ever really read, I think.
6) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Amy Chua
All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence.
GENRE: Memoir, Family & Relationships, Asian Culture
READ IT FOR: A funny account of a Chinese ‘Tiger’ mother and how strict she can be with her kids. Perhaps to feel good about your own parenting, if you’re a parent. I can personally relate to some of the things Chua has forced her kids to do, so this was just hysterical (though occasionally frustrating) to me.
7) Becoming Sister Wives – Kody, Meri, Christine Brown, Robyn Brown
In many ways, the Browns are like any other middle-American family. They eat, play, and pray together, squabble and hug, striving to raise happy, well-adjusted children while keeping their relationship loving and strong. The difference is, there are five adults in the openly polygamous Brown marriage—Kody and his four wives—who among them have seventeen children.
GENRE: Memoir, Family & Relationships
READ IT FOR: A quick view into the world of LDS polygamists living in Utah. Becoming Sister Wives is probably a really weird one to include on this list, but it was incredibly interesting to me. Just go in without any prior judgment, if you can. 😛
8) Women of the Pleasure Quarters – Lesley Downer
Ever since Westerners arrived in Japan, they have been intrigued by Japanese womanhood and, above all, by geisha. This fascination has spawned a wealth of extraordinary fictional creations, from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. But as denizens of a world defined by silence and mystery, real geisha are notoriously difficult to meet and even to find. As a result, their history has long been cloaked in secrecy.
GENRE: Asian History, Asian Culture
READ IT FOR: A better understanding of geisha, Japan’s female entertainers and hostesses. Admittedly I didn’t actually finish this book, but what I did read (the first half) was pretty enlightening, although it was much too expository and long-winded for me at the time of reading.
9) Seductive Poison – Deborah Layton
From Waco to Heaven’s Gate, the past decade has seen its share of cult tragedies. But none has been quite so dramatic or compelling as the Jonestown massacre of 1978, in which the Reverend Jim Jones and 913 of his disciples perished. Deborah Layton had been a member of the Peoples Temple for seven years when she departed for Jonestown, Guyana, the promised land nestled deep in the South American jungle.
READ IT FOR: An account of one of the most devastating mass suicides ever known, the Jonestown ‘massacre’ (1978), which took the lives of 900+ people, told from the eyes of a survivor. Seductive Poison is haunting and left me with that sick feeling in my stomach every time I think back to this incident.
10) Chinese Cinderella – Adeline Yen Mah
Adeline Yen Mah returns to her roots to tell the story of her painful childhood and her ultimate triumph and courage in the face of despair. Adeline’s affluent, powerful family considers her bad luck after her mother dies giving birth to her. Life does not get any easier when her father remarries. She and her siblings are subjected to the disdain of her stepmother, while her stepbrother and stepsister are spoiled. Although Adeline wins prizes at school, they are not enough to compensate for what she really yearns for — the love and understanding of her family.
GENRE: Memoir, Asian Culture
READ IT FOR: What it’s like growing up in a traditional — and I mean traditional — Chinese family. I read Chinese Cinderella as a kid and it has stayed with me ever since.
Have you read any of these books? What’s on your TTT list this week? Let me know in the comments or leave me a link! ❤