Ten Best Non-Fiction Books of the Decade

Update: Embarrassingly for me, my top book here came out in 2008, not 2012 as I initially thought! It's like I don't have an editor. But! I'm going to leave it, as a sign of the arbitrariness of some such and also because I really like it and people should read it. Think of it as the best books of the long 2010s, I suppose!

For my fiction book list  I was pretty wide-ranging in terms of genre. With non-fiction though, I just like academic deep dives (whether written by people inside or outside the academy) a lot more than I like biographies, memoirs, or anything else. So I didn't try to force it. Below are the favorite things I read this year, which is also a shorthand for the things I found most useful for my own writing and thinking.

10. Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

2016

essay


9. Noliwe Rooks

Cutting School: The Segrenomics of American Education

2017

essay


8. Kate Manne

Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny

2017

essay


7. Melissa Gira Grant

Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work

2014

interview


6. Edward Baptist

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

2014

essay


5. Diane Pecknold, ed. 

Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music

2013

review


4. Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels

Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government

2016

essay


3. Matthew Desmond

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

2016

review


2. Julia Serano

Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movement More Inclusive

2013

interview


1. John Rieder

Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction

2008

essay

The notable omission here is Ta-Nehisi Coates. I went back and forth but none of his books were quite my favorite, though I love some of his individual essays. Matt Stahl's Unfree Masters was also on and off the list. 

I suspect the top choice will occasion some bafflement, but I have no regrets. Rieder's book is brilliant and thought provoking and introduced me to tons of new science-fiction, including the work of Gwyneth Jones. Also, the cover is great.

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