2016 Wrap-UP: The Learningest Books I Read This Year: Science, History, Memoir and Plain Old Truth!

So far in 2016 my ratio of non-fiction to fiction is fairly even, at 40 fiction versus 43 non-fiction reads. Here’s a list of the learningest, the frightening, the fascinating, from the invisible influence of the tiniest element of all living species to future disasters that could devastate an entire coast to the infinite space of the cosmos.

Why TF would anyone live in the PNW?!?

Cascadia’s Fault by Jerry Thompson/Eruption by Steve Olson/The White Cascade by Gary Krist


Besides a volcano and an avalanche, the best disaster book I’ve read this year hasn’t happened yet. When the “big one” hits along the Juan De Fuca plate, San Andreas ain’t got nothing on the devastation (and ensuing tsunami) that’ll come knocking on the West coast’s door.

“From what I’ve tasted of desire/I hold with those who favor fire”

The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan/Killer Show by John Barylick/Fire in the Grove by John C. Esposito


What’s the first thing you do when you enter a public space? Head for the bar? Check out the babes? Find a bathroom?

After reading all the horrifying books I have about fires this year, the first thing I do is look for the exits and make contingency plans. Always have an out, is the dark lesson from these devastating tragedies. Or stay home and read a book, duh.

Damn, Chicago! 

City of Scoundrels by Gary Krist/Chicago Death Trap by Nat Brandt/Ashes Under Water by Michael McCarthy


Disaster and intrigue abounds in that famous Midwest city from blimp crashes and theater fires to ferry wrecks and race riots, all tinged with that famous deep dish Chicago politics. And yes, I’m from Illinois, but NOT Chicago. There are other cities there too. Go Cubbies!

Please God Let me Die in my Sleep

Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo


This year I’ve read about people being immolated, suffocated, drowned, blown up, volcanoed, and avalanched in terrible ways. Death by molasses, however, is hands down the most agonizing death I’ve encountered thus far.

I read this so that I could say that I read this

The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin


A text that changed the world. Groundbreaking. Illuminating. Startling. Controversial. Historical.

But a compelling read? Not so much. Unless you like pigeons.

I’m Famous – My Life is Interesting

On her Own Ground by A’lelia Perry Bundles


How can anyone see that cover and NOT want to read this book? Black female entrepreneur in the early 20th century? She was a badass at a time when it was not only near impossible, not to mention dangerous. C.J. Walker took on the world with a laugh and a fierce drive to succeed. She deserves all of our attention.

Seriously, I don’t Remember Reading This

The Success Equation by Michael J. Mauboussin


Uhm…what was this about? I think this was an audiobook I listened too. Obviously it wasn’t a very successful book (*knee slaps!*)

Blinded by Science! (In a good way)

Hey, remember that time when we were all pooping ourselves to death? This was a year for reading about tiny things that determine your destiny, like bacteria and viruses and that most fascinating chunk of matter of all, the gene.

Bring on the nature vs. nurture debate!


One of the most accessible and informative of all the science-y books I read this year was The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee, which would send me on a trip into a curriculum that started with The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin to The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins to Human by Michael S. Gazzaniga. What a memetastic ride!

The Most Important Book I Read This Year

However enlightened or progressive you think you are, there are some things you just can’t know. Books are important for developing empathy, for seeing each and every person around you as a human being deserving of space and consideration and respect. Sometimes a bomb will drop on your head and you won’t know what to do.

When that happens, I turn to books.


This book is blunt and factual. There’s no literary aspect to it. No flowers or pretty metaphors. It’s a primer aimed to enlighten anyone with questions about transgenderism and it explains in simple language the fluidity of gender identity and expression. It’s important, because even though the world has gotten scary in the past few months, there is still a progression towards acceptance that can only be achieved if we all educate ourselves on how to be better people.

We all deserve to look in the mirror and be certain that person matches who we are in our hearts.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: