Book recommendations 2023
September 26, 2023 3:57 PM   Subscribe

It's (going to be) that time of year again, where I find gifts for people who already have everything. Recommend me some good nonfiction books from this year or last (but not too good, or they'd already own them).

All are accepted, from the quirky to the straightforward-yet-illuminating.
posted by queen anne's remorse to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's 2021 so don't kill me but: When We Cease to Understand the World.
posted by dobbs at 4:16 PM on September 26 [1 favorite]

Best answer: - King: A Life
- Speak Not: Empire, Identity and the Politics of Language
- Bad Gays: A Homosexual History
- Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle
- Carmageddon: How Cars Make Life Worse and What To Do About It
posted by mdonley at 4:25 PM on September 26

Best answer: You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir, by Maggie Smith (Goodreads)

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us, by Rachel Aviv (Goodreads; 2022)

The Undertow: Scenes From a Slow Civil War, by Jeff Sharlet (Goodreads)
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:30 PM on September 26

Best answer: Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights - Samuel G. Freedman
posted by theory at 4:44 PM on September 26

Best answer: The Wager is such an incredible story that it doesn't even need to be told well, but David Grann tells it very well.
posted by synecdoche at 4:51 PM on September 26 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Guardians of the Valley: John Muir and the Friendship that Saved Yosemite (Dean King)

The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession (Michael Finkel)

Tabula Rasa: Volume 1 (John McPhee)

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (Patrick Radden Keefe)

Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks (Patrick Radden Keefe)

Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional (Isaac Fitzgerald)

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings (Neil Price)

Nimitz at War: Command Leadership from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay (Craig L. Symonds)

The Fourth Man: The Hunt for a KGB Spy at the Top of the CIA and the Rise of Putin's Russia (Robert Baer)

American Urbanist: How William H. Whyte's Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life (Richard K. Rein)

The Ghosts That Haunt Me: Memories of a Homicide Detective (Steve Ryan)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:50 PM on September 26

Best answer: Why Fish Don't Exist by Lulu Miller So it's 2020, sorry. I thought it was 2023.
posted by Peach at 6:19 PM on September 26 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding David Grann's The Wager!
Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan: Faith, Hope, and Carnage
Patrick Radden Keefe: Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels and Crooks (also: it's from 2020, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Keefe's Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, which is extraordinary)
Debby Applegate: Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age
posted by paper scissors sock at 6:39 PM on September 26

Best answer: I loved Finding Me by Viola Davis I think it came out last year and i listened to the audiobook so the print version might make someone feel differently but it was really good.
posted by kat518 at 6:39 PM on September 26

Best answer: Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:46 PM on September 26 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Chloe Cooper Jones’ Easy Beauty
How to be Perfec by Charles Schur
Funny Farm, My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals by Laurie Zaleski
I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet by Shauna Niequest
Black Boy Smile by D. Watkins
posted by childofTethys at 4:41 AM on September 27

Best answer: I'm a person who reads a lot, and these are my favorite 2023 nonfiction books so far:

America the Beautiful? One Woman in a Borrowed Prius on the Road Most Traveled, Blythe Roberson
Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany, Katja Hoyer
Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream, Alissa Quart
Creep: Accusations and Confessions, Myriam Gurba
A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing from Soil to Stars, Erin Sharkey, ed.
The Forgotten Girls: A Memoir of Friendship and Lost Promise in Rural America, Monica Potts
The Heat will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet, Jeff Goodell
Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, Jeffrey Toobin (Don't invite him to a Zoom meeting, but he's a good writer)
How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures, Sabrina Imbler
Koresh: The True Story of David Koresh and the Tragedy at Waco, Stephan Talty
Monsters: A Fan's DilemmaPalo Alto: A History of California, Capitalism, and the World
, Malcolm Harris
Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs, Jamie Loftus
Rikers: An Oral History, Graham Rayman
Ringmaster: Vince McMahon and the Unmaking of America, Abraham Josie Reisman
Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock, Jenny Odell
The Talk, Darrin Bell
The Undertow: Scenes From a Slow Civil War, Jeff Sharlet
When Crack Was King: A People's History of a Misunderstood Era, Donovan X. Ramsey
Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World, Emma Marris
Wolfish: Wolf, Self, and the Stories We Tell About Fear, Erica Berry
posted by box at 7:33 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Possibility of Life, Jaime Green (about how we imagine extraterrestrial life)
Congratulations, The Best Is Over by R. Eric Thomas (humorous essays, his second, both are great)
A Living Remedy by Nicole Chung (memoir about the illness and death of her parents and about the high cost of illness and death in America generally, very beautiful)
Goblin Mode by McKayla Coyle (super cute, surprisingly deep goblincore lifestyle book)

I’m assuming An Immense World by Ed Yong falls under “too good, they’d already own them” but if not… it’s SO good.
posted by babelfish at 8:49 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Best answer: seconding Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs by Jamie Loftus

Edible economics : a hungry economist explains the world by Ha-Joon Chang
50 pies, 50 states : an immigrant's love letter to the United States through pie by Stacey Mei Yan Fong
Pulp : a practical guide to cooking with fruit : 215+ sweet and savory recipes and variations, including a baker's toolkit by Berens, Abra
An admirable point : a brief history of the exclamation mark! by Florence Hazrat
Mushrooming : an illustrated guide to the fantastic, delicious, deadly, and strange world of fungi by Diane Borsato

How far the light reaches : a life in ten sea creatures by Sabrina Imbler
Slow birding : the art and science of enjoying the birds in your own backyard by Joan E. Strassmann
My first popsicle : an anthology of food and feelings edited by Zosia Mamet
Jacques Pepin: art of the chicken : a master chef's paintings, stories, and recipes of the humble bird by Jacques Pépin.
posted by carrioncomfort at 10:57 AM on September 27

Best answer: I like to receive books that the giver really liked, so review what you've read. I really loved Sigh, Gone and recommend it a lot.
posted by theora55 at 3:59 PM on September 27 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Poverty, By America. Best nonfiction book I read this year. Brilliant, concise, and so approachable to read.
posted by reksb at 7:57 AM on September 28

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