SHELF AWARE BOOK REVIEW

Nonfiction November 2020 Is Here!

by | Nov 1, 2020 | Nonfiction November, Reviews | 10 comments

Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 (Because something had to go right)

Leann’s Thoughts

Best Nonfiction Books In 2020

It’s my favorite time of the year! Time for Nonfiction November! I’m so excited to be joining Katie @ Doing Dewey, Julie @ Julz Reads,  and Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction in blogging about our favorite books from the year!

I’m kicking off the blog tour with:

Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

It’s finally here: Nonfiction November 2020 style. This year, I clung to books like butter on the movie theater popcorn we’ve been denied for so long. Book launch dates changed weekly at the beginning, as publishers quickly realized that it was a toss-up to try and predict book buyers’ habits. Book tours were canceled and moved online (or completely put on hold) as we watched and waited to see what fresh dose of chaos the next day would bring.

For many of us, books became a necessary escape and reprieve. Some of us, suddenly realizing we were now without a long commute to work, finally had time to pick up all those unread books that have been lining our shelves. Others became overwhelmed quickly with all the new changes and longed for more time to relax and go back to reading. Personally, I fell somewhere in between the two as I struggled to balance my new responsibilities with free-time that seemed to either be never-ending or never enough.

Whatever your reading experience has been like so far, I for one am ready for this year to be done and over with. Words can’t describe how relieved I am to finally be sliding into Nonfiction November! For me, I celebrate similar to how others treat the New Year: it’s a time to reflect and think about what fresh insights have found their way into my life, and what authors I have a new fondness for.

If I could ignore everything else, I’d say that this year did not disappoint as far as new books I’ve found. Here are my most- recommended Nonfiction Books of 2020. My criteria for this list was “Books That Made 2020 a Bit Easier to Bear”.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2020

Why We Can’t Sleep by Ada Calhoun

I started 2020 with a deep dive into the cultural and societal pressures that Gen X is experiencing, not knowing how intense this pressure would be applied a few months later. Calhoun can make you laugh and cry in the same sentence and her book had the words I was lacking to explain why Gen X, once called the slacker generation, was drowning in the middle (yet again). When latchkey kids are stuck holding the bag in middle age, what do we do? Calhoun’s book is for all the Gen Xers (and early Millennials) who wondered why they felt lost at the beginning of 2020 only to be utterly crushed by the pressures of children and aging parents by the time Covid covered the country. If you didn’t feel exhausted and terrified at the start of 2020 when this book came out, you certainly caught up in time. Calhoun’s book is here for us as she has an amazing ability to validate our emotions and remind us of our resilience in times of long -term stress.

Learned Hopefulness by Dan Tomasulo

Look, 2020 was NOT the year to be faking happiness: no one would believe you anyway. So coming across Dan Tomasulo, an author, speaker, and psychologist who specializes in Positive Psychology, and his book on the seven steps to finding and keeping hope in the midst of chaos was preternatural. The best thing about Tomasulo’s book is that it’s strengths based, meaning no matter what storm is raging around you, his book helps you identify and use your inner resources to weather the storm. And by “weathering”, it doesn’t mean that you hide or push away feelings or just “think happy thoughts”. Tomasulo’s book was particularly helpful in reminding me that yes things feel bleak, but I can control only what I have control over, and intentionally practicing seeking out joy and peace is a strength that can be learned.

It’s always amazing to me when I feel like an author is extending their hand to help me learn something they have spent years mastering, and Learned Hopefulness is one such book.

The Power of Small by Drs. Aisling Leonard- Curtin and Trish Leonard-Curtin

The subtitle of this book, “Making Tiny Changes When Everything Feels Too Much” is the perfect mantra for 2020! All the big ideas I had for the year vanished and by the third month of staying locked indoors, I wasn’t sure if little things (you know,like personal bathing and doing anything other than making bread) was ever going to happen again. This is a tiny book with large ideas. For every project I worked on, reminding myself to break everything into tiny steps is the only way to move forward. This is an easy and soothing read, as the Doctors Leonard-Curtin patiently explain how it is we can beat overwhelm and look at our lives in a way that slices otherwise crushing tasks into manageable pieces. This is not a high-energy and exhausting read: rather, it’s a quiet, reflective, uplifting journey though why it’s so hard to be human somedays.

You Matter by Matthew Emerzian

If Santa wrote self-help, he would sound like this book. Lucky for us, Matthew Emerzian wrote this book instead and I can’t love it enough! This book starts off ordinary enough and I thought it sounded charming. But as Emerzian proceeds to tell his story, he has the most amazing experiences and outlook on life. This guy has obviously worked hard and found himself in situations that would make most of us feel uncertain and possibly terrified. Yet it’s so clear that Emerzian is living from his deep core values of honesty, respect, and kindness that you can’t help but wonder what crazy situation he’s going to talk about next and how he is going to model being the best human he can be.
I usually quibble with inspirational books that don’t spell out how to apply what’s discussed in the book, but not this one. While the author is clearly an amazing person, he has given me enough inspiration for me to want to try even harder to live by such a strong moral code.
This book is not preachy: it’s for any person to pick and help them remember who they really are inside.
I have already sent it to a couple of friends and it’s already on my Best Books of 2020!

The Middle Finger Project by Ash Ambirge

If snark was a super power, Ash Ambirge would have a cape and her own line of Funko Pop figures. The Middle Finger Project is both an anthem and guide for those of us who started behind the starting line without any advantages from money or status. I’ve followed Ash for years with her blogging and marketing company and I love her unique voice and style. She finally wrote a book on how she got to where she is today, and it includes taking polaroids in a dirty bathroom stall, selling roofing shingles (and making them enticing in her sales copy), to living out of her car and having the crazy idea of how to pay for her next meal.
This is NOT a “do what I do and you can live in Costa Rica too!” type of story. This is more of a rope of hope for those who are scratching the dirt, working hard, and wondering if anything will ever change. If nothing else, this book will connect you with so many others who have dreams bigger than their wallets and are frustrated with the journey they face each morning. Sure, you can learn practical steps on how to be an entrepreneur, but the biggest gift from this book is the hope to not give up on your dreams while you’re doing the hard part of making them come true.

But My Top Two Favorites?

These last two books are the books I have, by far, pushed on to anyone and everyone who asks (and maybe a few who didn’t).

Be Mighty by Dr. Jill Stoddard

This book came out in January 2020 and it’s been the anthem to my year, always playing in the back of my head (especially while reading what happened on Twitter last nite). Dr. Stoddard is a psychologist, speaker, author, and podcast host for Psychologists Off The Clock. She specializes in working with people with anxiety and, in her book, she shares her methods so people can live a meaningful life and not let anxiety get in their way. She really goes after what matters most, no matter what fear, imposter syndrome, and the inner critic have to say. In a culture where women are paid less for doing the same jobs, expected to juggle multiple demands flawlessly, and objectified at every turn, it’s no wonder we experience anxiety at nearly double the rates of men. But anxiety need not be a prison. Based on the principles of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), Be Mighty takes readers on an entertaining and empowering journey toward a deeper understanding of the patterns that are keeping them stuck.

Why Bother by Jennifer Louden

This was the shovel I used to bring me out of my “covid hole”. When it was day 80,000 (back sometime in May) and I was sick of staying home (ha, still here), this book was a lifeline! Louden is a personal growth pioneer who helped to launch the self growth movement with her bestseller, The Women’s Comfort Book. I still suspect Louden was tapping into some sort of space/time warp because if you had to write a book to get you through a pandemic: one that talks you through how to bother again when anything when you are in a deep, dark funk – then this is the playbook for 2020. It’s like she took her 28 years of leading self care retreats and had this book at the ready exactly when we most needed it. Out in both print and audio, I have read/ listened to this book dozens of times. Louden’s motto in this book is “get your bother on” and this applies to the times when we don’t feel like it. Her voice is comforting and reassuring as she helps to relieve some of the pressure I know I and so many others have put on ourselves to be productive (as if we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic). If you really need to hear “You can do this”, then this is the book you need.

There are so many wonderful books that were pushed back to 2021, but these authors who landed in our laps during the past 8 months have been a real gift to so many readers.

Don’t forget to support your local bookstores and shop there, or go to bookshop.org for the full list to purchase your copies!

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