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Which Best Selling Nonfiction Book Should You Read? March 2016

March 20, 2016
It's a funny title. But is it a lie?

It’s a funny title. But is it a lie?

Sometimes it’s easier to choose a nonfiction book than a novel.  So many factors go into choosing a novel: the author, the plot, the writing style, the length of the book, the cover.  Nonfiction is easier.  A reader usually knows right away if he or she wants to read a particular nonfiction book.

Below are the best selling books in nonfiction (according to the New York Times) so far for March, 2016:

  1. WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR, by Paul Kalanithi

It’s tough to say anything bad about a book when the author died from the lung cancer that he was writing about.  This memoir could be inspirational or a downer (or both), depending on what mood you’re in.  1% of Amazon reviewers gave it a one-star rating.  If I had read it and thought it deserved one star, I probably just wouldn’t have rated it.  Even if you didn’t like this book, I wonder about a person who’d give this a one-star review.

     2.  BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The New York Times describes this book as “a meditation on race in America.”  The word “meditation” implies calm.  I’ve never heard a calm discussion about race in America, unless all the participans agree with each other.  It’s better to write about race in America than to talk about it because people always interrupt each other and start yelling.  If you try to interrupt Ta-Nehisi Coates while reading his book, he won’t hear you, but he won’t interrupt you back either.

   3.  DARK MONEY by Jane Mayer

Sometimes a title gives away the author’s biases.  Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right makes the author’s opinion of her subject really clear.  Whatever you think about politics or the Koch brothers, you know the approach the author is going to take with loaded words like “dark money” and “radical” in the title.

I don’t like my own last name, but at least it wasn’t Koch.  Koch has to be a lousy last name when you’re growing up.  The Koch brothers probably had to spend most of their childhoods saying stuff like “It’s pronounced Coke!  It’s pronounced Coke!”

   4.  PLAYING TO THE EDGE by Michael V. Hayden

A former CIA director tries to explain himself and his policies.  Nobody trusts a former CIA guy, not even the CIA.   I usually don’t read memoirs because authors leave out stuff that is unflattering to them.  And if anybody is going to leave out stuff, it would a former CIA director.  The book might be an interesting read, but I wouldn’t trust it.


I hope this is brief.  One brief lesson on physics is difficult enough, but seven?  Seven lessons on physics, even if they’re brief, can still leave me with a big headache.  The good news is that the book is only 88 pages.  That makes about 12 pages per lesson.  That’s still a bit long for me, but okay.

   6.  EVICTED, by Matthew Desmond

Landlords vs. tenants is always going to be a problem.  Throw in low incomes and a housing crisis, and things are really bad.  This book could be another downer.  If it’s well-written (and it sounds like it is from the reviews), then it’s really a downer.

   7.  AMERICAN GIRLS by Nancy Jo Sales

The author interviewed hundreds of girls and discusses the effects of social media.  I have two daughters and have seen some effects of social media.  It’s tempting to read this book and see if the author’s findings are the same as mine.

One observation I have is that girls today look down while they walk because they’re checking their phones.  Generations ago, girls looked down because they were taught to be submissive.  Either way, girls shouldn’t look down when they walk.

   8.  A MOTHER’S RECKONING by Sue Klebold

This book seems like a bad idea.  Columbine is a depressing topic, and if I’m going to read a book about Columbine, this probably isn’t the point of view that I want.  This author has it tough just like everybody else who had kids at Columbine, but still… it just seems like a bad idea.

   9.  THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY by Pope Francis with Andrea Tornielli

The author interviewed Pope Francis and made a book out of it.  You can’t do that with many people.  Most interviews would go into a magazine or website.  But the Pope?

If I had the chance to interview the Pope, I wouldn’t know what to say.  I’m usually uncomfortable talking to other people about religion.  It’s very personal.


Supposedly, there is no place called Little Dribbling in England.  That kind of ticks me off!

This is supposed to be nonfiction, but Bryson uses a fictional name in his book title?  There should be a rule, if you’re writing nonfiction, you can’t have a made up name in your title.  I’m sure there’s a town in England with an equally funny name.

Maybe this book is good.  Maybe there’s a logical reason why the author would use a fictional name for his nonfiction title.  Maybe there is, but I won’t find out by reading it.  I’m stubborn like that.


What do you think?  Which current nonfiction best seller would you most likely read?  Is it just my imagination, or are a bunch of these nonfiction selections downers?


  1. It’s interesting to try and determine how interesting a book might be just by reading its title. None of those grabbed me, unfortunately.

  2. happyfreeconfusedlonelyatthesametime permalink

    Interesting article. Especially funny for a german was the comment on the name “Koch”. In german it’s not pronounced “cock” and a totally normal name 😀

    • Ha ha! A lot of American kids don’t care about German pronunciation, especially when a vulgar joke is involved.

      • happyfreeconfusedlonelyatthesametime permalink

        So many Americans with German heritage and nobody knows how their name is pronounced 😀

  3. I enjoyed Bling by Nancy Jo Sales, American Girls sounds equally interesting.

    • Hopefully it’s not too much of a downer. I hadn’t realized that Nancy Jo Sales also wrote The Bling Ring. I haven’t read it, but at least I’ve heard of it.

  4. um, none. Except maybe Little Dribbling. LOL. Just to see what it’s all about.

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