Great Nonfiction Books by Female Writers
The 2014 Longlist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction was announced today, and it’s a very disappointing and stodgy list . Roz Chast is on there (yay!) but it says something about one of the most prestigious literary awards in America that the judges chose NINE books by men and one book by a woman. Also of note: the lack of diversity. Perhaps most disturbing is that the list comes across as very Dad-centric—books you’d buy for your father. It’s heavy on history, current events, and biography, and sadly lacking when it comes to literary journalism, essays, and memoirs.
So what can we do? Complain. Continue to complain. Write think pieces. Or make our own lists.
Here are some great nonfiction books by female writers. I put an asterisk next to the books that came out this year and were eligible for the award. This is by no means a complete list. I could go on and on.
- The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison*
- On Immunity by Eula Biss*
- Bluets by Maggie Nelson
- Let Me Clear My Throat by Elena Passarello
- Heroines by Kate Zambreno
- The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay*
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
- My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead*
- Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli
- If Only You People Could Follow Directions by Jessica Hendry Nelson*
- This is Running for Your Life by Michelle Orange
- I Await the Devil’s Coming by Mary MacLane
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
- Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
- Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
- The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm
- Unmastered by Katherine Angel
- The Trip to Echo Spring by Olivia Laing
- How to Live by Sarah Bakewell
- Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson
- Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle
- All We Know by Lisa Cohen
Check out Vela Magazine’s list for even more recommendations.
Here are a couple of lists that are nice.
"The tears continued streaming down as I thought about the tremendous promise that Louie once showed; I felt crushed that we both couldn’t have been scientists. After several minutes, I gathered myself and started the car. Johnny Cash was on the radio singing, ‘There will be peace in the valley for me, dear Lord I pray … ’ And I slowly drove away."
Read more from Carl Hart, recipient of the 2014 PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.
Carl’s memoir is definitely one you need to read, and you can start it right now.