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best of books

Favorite Non Fiction Read in 2021

Seven of my favorite non fiction books that I read this year.

1. God and the State by Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Bakunin is one of the most important thinkers of the 19th century as well as one of the greatest revolutionaries, anarchists and ideologues of all time. His short book, God and the State, is an unfinished manuscript that has been polish and published after his death. In it, he looks at the relationship between the Christian faith and the world it has shaped. The criticism is equally sharp witty and enlightening. It is written largely in fragmentary form and can be picked up and used as a book of aphorisms and not just as a serious philosophical/sociological work. The book can be read or listened for free on Project Gutenberg or Librivox.

2. Dialogue with Death by Arthur Koestler

Arthur Koestler has lived a very long and exciting life that edges on terrifying and horrifying. In his book, Dialogue with Death his life takes a horrifying turn. Reporting from the start of the Spanish civil war, and being a supporter of the socialists, he is captured by the nationalistic forces. In prison he is sentenced to execution, the date still not being set. On tiny sheets of paper, he writes his diary, unaware of when and how his final moment will come. All he knows is that there are less prisoners every day, and all he really hears are gun shots, every so often. It is a courageous attempt to come to terms with the one event in our life that we all fear, but can’t avoid.

3. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

In a sense this could be considered cheating.  This book by George Saunders is hands down the best book about writing that I have ever read. It is a remix of his writing class that he has been teaching for years. There he explores the works of many of the greatest Russian writers, especially short story writers. The writers being appreciated (examined came to mind, but it is too cold a word for a work of such love and compassion) are Tolstoy, Chekhov, Turgenev and Gogol. Not only that it is full of love for literature. The book is like a pomegranate, full of respect for every word and sentence every written by these amazing and hopefully eternally read Russian writers.

4. Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt

Adolf Eichmann is doubted and condendemt as the „Architect of the Holocaust“. Hannah Arent when to Israel during the trail and followed it closely. The majority of the book are her commentaries on the trial itself, Eichmann as a person and as a historical phenomenon. Towards the end of the book, she also dives deeper into the history of the Holocaust, and looks at a lot of nations individually, and how the behaved during the Nazi occupation. One of the most shocking discoveries I chanced upon while reading the book was a letter from Hitler to Himmler, where he expresses his outrage that the Romanian goverment, lead by Andronescu, are making them look bad. What a horror. Hitler is mad because Romanians are slaughtering Jews and other enemies at a faster rate than the Nazis!!!

5. Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Reading this book was heartbreaking. I like Hitchens, and he has been a huge influence on my breaking way from the chains of my upbringing. After being diagnosed with cancer, he kept on going the same way he always was. You can tell by reading this book, or watching one of his many debates that he was a man who loved life, and who lived it fully. Throughout the book all that fades, slowly. Sometimes it is between the lines, and you have to squint to notice it, but its there. Shame that he is gone. Even in this sick state, he planned and lived. Cancer or no cancer he tried to make the most of every day we had the privilige of sharing with him.

6. Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell

People like to say, about book similar in subject matter to this one, that is it more relevant now than it was when it was first written. They are mostly mistaken. Books like this, taht deal with a political phenomenon that will be present in our lives as long as there are states built on nationhood, will never go out of fashion, never stop being relevant. That is the whole point. Few things really change in the day to day life of the average person. The only exception is the way technology shapes out lives. For a glimps on this work of Orwell you can read my Notes on Notes on Nationalism post.

7. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

Firtly I have to say, Michael Lewis is a great writer. He, similar to another of my favorite writers, Haruki Murakami, creates a prose that is makes it so easy to read. The flow from sentence to sentence, from paragraph to paragraph is effortless. The blind side examins two phenomenons, one is the change in the way the NFL and football as a sport sees and values different positions. The other is the life of Michael Oher, a young African-American  football recruit, adopted by a wealthy white family. Michael is seen as a generational prospect at left tackle, a position that was shunned as unimportnat, but now is one of the best paid positions, especially since the arrival of Lawrence Taylor.

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