2020 Non-Fiction Reads

Although I stick to a lot of fiction books or memoirs, I’m occasionally enticed enough to read a non-fiction book every so often. Here are the ones that made it on to last year’s reading list!

Educated – Tara Westover (5/5 Stars)

This book was a bit of a tough read but one of my favourites. This book helped me to understand the value of education and how much is taken for granted by people (like myself) who have received an education throughout their lives. Tara’s story is beautiful and one I think everyone should read and learn about.

In this book, Tara recounts her life in Idaho where she spent the first seventeen years of her life learning about herbal medicine and scavenging in scrap yards instead of in a classroom. With no birth certificate and no medical records, Tara decides to pursue an education with little support from her verbally and physically abusive family.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup – John Carreyrou (5/5 Stars)

This book is a favourite of mine! I found Elizabeth Holmes to be fascinating and even though she made a lot of mistakes with her dishonesty, I thought she was brilliant both in how she built her company and in how she was able to trick investors into handing over huge amounts of money to her company.

This book follows the rise of Elizabeth Holmes, who was deemed “the female Steve Jobs” in 2014, and her startup Theranos, which promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a new way to make taking blood samples faster and easier. The problem with this technology is that it didn’t work. Despite this, Holmes spent years misleading employees of the company and investors into believing that it did, until Carreyrou, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal received a tip from from a former Theranos employee and started investigating.

Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag – Michael Tonello (3/5 Stars)

This was a fun and easy read that was enjoyable enough but definitely not a favourite. I enjoyed reading about Michael’s travels and the guts it took for him to pull off some of his more outrageous shopping stunts but overall i found the book dragged a bit. I did love one of the central themes of the book though – Fake it ’til you make it!

This book follows Michael Tonello as he learns that he can make quite a living selling difficult-to-acquire luxury designer items on eBay. When one of his faithful customers requests an Herm├Ęs Birkin bag, Tonello goes to extreme lengths to bypass the over two-year-long waiting list to purchase one and then multiple others as the requests keep piling in.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women – Kate Moore (4/5 Stars)

This book tells a very important story, however, I found that it didn’t read like much of a story. The book jumped around quite a bit and there were so many people mentioned that it was really difficult to keep track of who was who. It was very inspiring to read about the journey of these women but the execution just wasn’t there for me!

This book is about the implications of the discovery of radium by the Curries which quickly made its way into mainstream media and was advertised as a beauty enhancer and wonder drug. Meanwhile, hundreds of young women were using this radium to paint dials for watches and other items that needed to light up in the dark – until they begin to suffer from mysterious illness whose source cannot be found. When these illnesses are finally linked back to their work at the factory, their claims are ignored and they must fight to get the compensation they deserve.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators – Ronan Farrow (5/5 Stars)

This book was another tough but very important read. Farrow did an excellent job of presenting all of the facts acquired through his research in what felt like an unbiased and unputdownable way. Reading this book really painted a big picture of how men in this industry prey on women and manage to get away with it.

This book tells the story of investigative journalist Ronan Farrow’s journey to releasing a story about one of Hollywood’s biggest producers (and biggest predators), Harvey Weinstein. Farrow not only documents the stories of the women who fell prey to Weinstein and others in the same positions of power, but also the incredible hurdles he had to surpass to get his story released – from high profile lawyers threatening lawsuits to elite spies threatening his life.

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz – Erik Lawson (5/5 Stars)

I have read a lot of books (both fiction and nonfiction) about or set in World War II but I have never read anything from this perspective and found it really interesting to see and understand how the war both affected and was affected by world leaders during this time.

On Winston Churchill’s first day as Prime Minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium and World War II was beginning. Churchill not only had to ensure his country was defended from attacks, he also had to keep up morale across his citizens and persuade the President of the US to join them as allies – all while trying to take down the enemy.

What are your favourite nonfiction reads that I absolutely need to add to my TBR?

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