You can cancel anytime. As we move in to 2020, these are the titles that have made the biggest impression on the WIRED team over the last ten years. By joining Slate Plus you support our work and get exclusive content. Crucially, these collected lyrics aren’t an exercise in self-gratification; Sondheim is insightful and unsparing about his own mistakes, even the ones that only he is smart enough to see. (“At first I’d had an overwhelming urge to write both books but these two desires had worn each other down to the point where I had no urge to write either.”) His ennui is operatic and ridiculous. Although beautifully written, this book is not easy to read, but the insights Gourevitch arrives at are more essential than ever. Released into a post–James Frey, post–JT LeRoy era when skeptics found memoir increasingly unreliable, Carr’s live-wire combination of autobiography and journalism explores not only the secrets of his own life but also the ways in which the stories we all tell ourselves evolve into the versions we can live with. For The Night of the Gun, Carr applied his reporter’s eye to his own story, digging into those lost years and uncovering painful and frightening truths about the man he was while in the throes of addiction. One place is too hot to get anything done; another is too beautiful. Except that it wasn’t: Even at the height of the epidemic, scientists worked feverishly to understand the virus and its effects—and just as importantly, activists battled to increase those scientists’ funding, to focus and target their research, and to erase the stigma of those who suffered from it. We looked back on the last decade and picked some of our favorite books. Plenty of writers have collected their life’s work into two volumes and assessed it, but no one has done so with as much wit, ruthless honesty, and good humor as Stephen Sondheim, which makes sense, because few writers’ work matches Sondheim’s in those exact qualities. David Quammen, The Tangled Tree (2018). Kolker refuses to let their murderer define them. Although not an alcoholic herself, Laing grew up in a family warped by her mother’s partner’s drinking, and that story weaves through her account of her travels to the places where six men—John Cheever, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Raymond Carver, and John Berryman—wrote, got hammered, and dried out. One is too cacophonous; another is too tranquil. The first person, she writes, is “a symbol for something”: “The pronoun barely holding the person together.”. But it’s also a warning about what awaits the animals of Earth in the Anthropocene, the climate-changed and human-shaped era in which we now find ourselves. Barbarian Days is a masterpiece of sports writing, focusing its lens on the smallest unit of both athletic and artistic achievement: the single human body, attempting to do something difficult and beautiful. Lucid, wide-ranging, and persuasive, The Battle for God provides a framework for understanding more than the three religions it focuses on. That subject is, of course, Madeleine but also childhood, the period of almost incomprehensible development between zero and 3, the simultaneous flowerings of action, reason, and self-awareness. Staff Picks: Best Books of the Decade. It’s Fadiman’s commitment to sympathetically depicting both sides without ceding all judgment entirely that makes this case study so impressive. We have now reached the eighth and most difficult list in our series: the very best novels written … Grann—“nearly 40 years old, with a blossoming waistline”—resolves to tell Fawcett’s story and soon finds himself stuck in the jungle himself, captured, absurdly, by the same lust for discovery that killed his subject. Far from being “just another institution infected with racial bias,” she argues, the criminal justice system, and particularly its drug laws, has replicated the effect of Jim Crow laws, reinforcing a racial caste system in which large numbers of poor black men have been barred from anything better than the most menial employment and from equal participation in civic life. It only becomes more relevant with every year. The book is a stunt, a dare, but it’s also proof of the belief that animates all the books on this list: There are stories everywhere. A dazzling meditation on invisibility, blackness, and America, Citizen grapples with the double-take moments in daily life: “Hold up, did you just hear, did you just say, did you just see, did you just do that?” And it asks other, more pointed questions: What was rising up in Serena Williams’ throat her entire career? How is this list generated? From Amazon: “With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and … While picking the 10 best books out of the millions of titles that have been published in the last decade is certainly an impossible task, consider this a primer. 2010 — Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer. Holmes is our greatest living biographer. That is the irresistible premise of Weisman’s book, a thought experiment substantiated by deep research into what it takes to keep the built world functioning and what has happened in the few places (Chernobyl, the Korean Demilitarized Zone) where there has been no one around to prop it up. The result is an extraordinary work of reportage, a revelation, not just of the shootings themselves but of the myriad misbegotten attempts to find meaning in them. At once intimate and sweeping, Wilkerson’s history offers a landmark account of one of the epochal changes in American society: The movement, over six decades, of approximately 6 million black citizens from the South to the Midwest, West, and Northeast. To read Stuff Matters is to see the humble objects around us afresh and to grasp the wonders they represent for the first time. A fallen angel. In the process of reporting the book, Skloot befriended Lacks’ descendants. S. electing the books that can be said to have defined a decade as turbulent and introspective as the 2010s has been a tough task. American Ground is an inspiring portrait of American ingenuity when faced with an impossible task and a gripping exploration of the American psyche in the aftermath of a great shift in the world order. All contents © 2021 The Slate Group LLC. The best part of Chris Ware’s graphic novel is maybe the format: Instead of a traditional book, Building Stories comes as a box filled with pamphlets, hardcovers, newspapers, flip-books, and a folded-up board. She journeys to Samarkand to study a language of dubious authenticity, in which one of the few remaining written texts takes the form of love letters between the colors red and green. Human beings are some of the universe’s most energetic signal transmitters, and when Gleick isn’t explaining information’s relevance to Brownian motion and Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, he’s deep in the more engaging stories of African talking drums, Ada Lovelace’s nascent computer programs, and how the telegram changed the world. The nonfiction writer’s job is to look long and hard enough to find them, and to tell them with enough empathy and care to bring them to life. If you value our work, please disable your ad blocker. Alexander was an academic specializing in civil rights when, in the early 2000s, she walked past a protest sign condemning the War on Drugs as the “new Jim Crow.” Her first impulse was to shrug off this claim as conspiracy theory and to go back to what most of her middle-class black friends and colleagues considered their top priority: protecting affirmative action. Breville Espresso Machine. If you buy something through our links, But our sixth list was a little harder—we were looking at what we (perhaps foolishly) deemed “general” nonfiction: all the nonfiction …

best nonfiction books of the decade

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