The 10 Best Non-fiction Books I Read in 2020 

 January 7, 2021

By  N. J. Lindquist

1. Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

A hard-hitting, yet beautifully written book that takes the reader into the world of Black author James Baldwin, and helps us understand the reality of being a Black people living in a country that belongs just as much to them as it does to the white people who all too often treat people of colour as second class or worse. The book also shows parallels between the civil rights struggles of the mid-20th century and today. 

(I got it from our library as an ebook, but then bought the paperback so I could copy all the underlining I'd done.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45754985-begin-again

2. Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie

We were taught about the brave explorers Radisson and Groseilliers when I was in grade school, but we only had names, dates, and areas where they travelled. This book, which is based on Radisson’s journals, not only brings the man to life (and what a life it was!) but also lifts the curtain on early life in Canada and the northern States of the US, First Nation villages, and even to England during the Great Plague. Highly Recommended.

(I read the hardcover book from my library.)

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/44639211-bush-runner

 3. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin J. DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson

For any white people who can't accept that they might be racist, or don't understand what systemic racism is, this is the book to read. A white person explains to white people how easy it is to be racist without knowing you are. 

(I started to read the ebook from our library, but then bought the paperback because there was so much I wanted to underline.) 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43708708-white-fragility

4. Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior

I’ve followed Sarah on Twitter for several years, and while I agree with what she says, I was almost fearful of reading her book. Sometimes you’d rather not know how bad it is.

She begins by referencing Orwell’s book 1984 before going into a big picture history lesson that helps readers understand what’s been going on in the world since the Cold War between the West and the USSR that began in 1947 ended in 1991.

That leads to the repercussions of the ending of the Cold War, which ended up with not only a divided America, but also with militant far right Conservative groups in Canada and several European countries.

Why does every thinking person need to read this book? Because there are deep currents underlying what we see happening - like the proverbial ice berg - and the craziness and anger aren’t going to just go nicely away.

Sarah also has a podcast which she uses to keep her information up-to-date. 

Yes, it's a rather heavy book, but it's probably the most important book I read this past year.

(I bought the ebook.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52274929-hiding-in-plain-sight

5. No Time Like The Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality by Michael J. Fox

Like others who loved Michael on Family Ties, Back to the Future, and other shows, I've followed his struggles with early onset Parkinson's disease with a heavy heart. It was terrible to see such an amazing actor cut down in his prime.

Yet Michael has become a key spokesperson, not only for people who have this disease but for anyone struggling with negative things in their life. This, his third book is just as inspiring as the first two.

(I bought two hardcover copies and gave them as Christmas presents.) 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50403451-no-time-like-the-future

6. Separated: Inside an American Tragedy by Jacob Soboroff

Soboroff is someone we need many more of - an investigative reporter looking for the truth about the families who were separated by President's Trump’s horrendous policies at the southern border. Soboroff details his efforts to find out what was going on and what he discovered.

(I got the book from our library.) 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/49604006-separated

7. Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man by Mary L. Trump

A book written by President Trump’s niece. It offers the best insight I’ve found into Trump’s life with his parents and siblings, and shows clearly what led to his becoming the person he is.

(I got the book from my library.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54114950-too-much-and-never-enough

8. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book, or what I thought of Mr. Comey, and I'm still not sure, but I’m glad I read it because now I have a much better idea of how the FBI works, or at least worked in the past. But what put the book at another level was the way Comey's personal story was woven into his perspective on his job. I have far more respect for Comey than I did before, even though I’m still not sure I trust him at all.

(I got the ebook from our library.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35108805-a-higher-loyalty

9. Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump by Peter Strzok

I found this book a great companion to Comey’s. While Comey was at the highest level in the FBI, Strzok was in the field, so there’s a different, also quite enlightening,  perspective. I found it worth reading.

(I got the ebook from our library.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54114318-compromised

10. Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church edited by Chrissy Stoop and Lauren O’Neal

I found this collection of 21 stories of people who had left fundamentalist Christian churches quite sad, but also enlightening. It was helpful for me to understand why some individuals turn away from God and the church.

No question, there were very good reasons for leaving. Unfortunately, too many churches and families see Christianity as a set of rules they use as a bludgeon to force others to behave as they think it proper. The things that appear to be lacking are love, compassion, and empathy. I felt that it wasn't so much God or the church these people were rejecting, but a harsh version of God and at repressive church.

(I bought the ebook.)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/49604103-empty-the-pews

N. J. Lindquist


N. J. Lindquist is the award-winning author of books, articles, short stories, and blog posts. She also edits and publishes the "Hot Apple Cider" anthologies. A former high school teacher, N. J. co-founded The Word Guild and teaches workshops for writers as well as speaking on various topics including creativity and leadership.

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