2011 was the year I discovered I truly enjoyed non-fiction, specially the well-written, interesting topics kind. I wasn´t picky when it came to choosing themes and read scientific writing – “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”, by Rebecca Skloot – as well as travel writing – “Caderno Afegão” and “Viva México”, by Alexandra Lucas Coelho.
The first book mentioned above has got to be one of the biggest surprises for me: not only I started with non-fiction with this one, but it also is the best and most accessible science writing I´ve ever imagined. It mixes, with great success, the story of a family, of actual people who lived, died, had feelings and opinions, with the story of the origins of one of the most used – I learned – lines of cells in science, the HeLa cells. Wonderfully written, I´m definitely looking forward to reading more from the author.
The other two books mentioned above are, as far as I know, only available in portuguese. If you read the language and get your hands on them, treasure those copies. These are books that are meant to be read and kept, with their well designed covers and typography and their wonderful content. The journalist travels to Afghanistan (in “Caderno Afegão”) and we feel we´re breathing the same dust she breathes. When I finished reading it, I immediately felt hungry for more and started “Viva México”, a journey through the many Méxicos there are in México. It´s a wonderfully written mix of journal with travel literature and you can almost smell the chili through the author´s words. With books like these on your hands, who wants e-books?
“Born to Run”, by Christopher McDougall, was also one of those books I kept telling people about while reading. I wished I belonged to a book club and we could discuss it, so was my enthusiasm. It´s an adventure, a documentary, it´s pertinent information, well compiled to convey the author´s hypothesis. Do not miss it, specially if you like running – which I don´t and now actually dream of very, very often.
Finally, on my highlights list, “Necessary Losses”, by Judith Viorst. Paraphrasing the praise on the back cover, if you´re human, read it. You can´t go wrong with it.