2014: Best Books in Nonfiction

There were some great nonfiction books to choose from this year. Here’s our list of the best–which includes essays, biographies, and other books based on true stories. Check them out and add your favorites to your bookshelf!

"The Romanov Sisters" by Helen Rappaport

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport

Rappaport continues biographing the Romanov family with her latest book focusing on the family’s four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia. The book entwines the love the family had for each other with the challenges of a falling Imperial Russia, World War I, and the Russian Revolution, to paint a picture of the events that led to their eventual death in 1918.

Guardian Book Review


The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs

Author Jeff Hobbs was Robert Peace’s roommate for four years at Yale University. This led to Hobbes becoming somewhat of a confidant for Peace—who revealed a troubling upbringing with a father in jail and a single-mother making less than $15,000 per year in Newark, NJ. The book focuses on many conflicts including race, class, education, love and family, along with the circumstances that led to his heartbreaking end.

Los Angeles Times Review


Updike by Adam Begley

The biography of Pulitzer Prize winning author John Updike details his life and ambitions—from wanting to be the next Walt Disney to writing for The New Yorker, Begley has written a well-researched and extensive biography. The book includes interviews with colleagues, friends and family that will give readers an idea of how immensely Updike’s work was influenced by his personal life.

New York Times Book Review


Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, tackles the question of medicine and its positive and negative effects. While medicine can save lives, Gawande comments on doctors confusing extending life with extending suffering. He explores the end of life and how to make the last months or weeks of someone’s life rich and dignified.

New York Times Book Review

all the truth is out

All the Truth Is Out by Matt Bai

Yahoo’s national political columnist hones in Gary Hart, the 1987 front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination until rumors of infidelity and photos of him with a supermodel surfaced. This led to the birth of politics being plastered on Page Six. Bai shows readers how Hart’s affair was the beginning of a candidates’ “character” drawing more attention than political experience in this memorable book.

New York Times Book Review


How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey

Have you ever wanted to know how our brains really absorb information? Science reporter Benedict Carey has gone through decades of research to uncover how we really learn. According to his findings, research defies much of our “common knowledge” about learning.

New York Times Book Review


Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

In Roxane Gay’s wonderfully funny collection of essays, she covers everything from culture in the last few years to the state of feminism today. Her topics include politics, criticism and feminism, and she’s able to successfully package her essays up to even sometimes revolve around her favorite childhood book obsessions like Sweet Valley High.

New York Times Book Review

how google

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Written by Google Executive Chairman and ex-CEO Eric Schmidt and former SVP of Products Jonathan Rosenburg, How Google Works shares the lessons they learned while working to build the company. Since technology has shifted the balance of power from companies to consumers, companies must create better products and attract a new breed of employees to succeed.

Wall Street Journal Book Review

© Disney • Pixar

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

The co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios gives managers insight about creativity in business. The book offers a look at meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films have been created.

Wall Street Journal Book Review

cant we talk about something

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

The memoir/graphic novel brings humor to the topic of aging parents. Told through cartoons, family photos and documents, this National Book Award Finalist shows what happens when adult children take on a parental role.

The Guardian Book Review

brown girl dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

National Book Award Winner Jacqueline Woodson’s collection of stories reflect upon her childhood and growing up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s. Her emotionally charged poetry is reflected beautifully as she searches for her place in the world.

New York Times Book Review

how i discovered poetry

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

Newbery Honor winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson explains how she developed as a young woman and an artist during the Civil Rights Movement through poetry. Readers are able understand the world around her—which included racial tensions, the Cold War, and the first instances of the feminist movement.

Boston Globe Book Review


Deep Down Dark: The Untold Story of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar

The gripping and terrifying story of the thirty-three miners trapped in a mine that collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chili in 2010 is finally being told. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Héctor Tobar was given exclusive access to the miners and their tale—creating a shocking and emotional account of the sixty-nine days they were stuck underground.

Washington Post Book Review

what if

What If? by Randall Munroe

Creator of the web comic that provides answers to even the most absurd questions now has a book. Questions from “How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live?” to “If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?” are answered using everything from computer simulations to declassified military research memos.

Huffington Post Book Review

the opposite of loneliness

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina Keegan tragically died five days after graduating magna cum laude from Yale—leaving the world with her beautiful final essay for the Yale News Daily, “The Opposite of Loneliness”. The essay, together with other stories, have been compiled into a book that definitely deserves to be read.

Guardian Book Review

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