Thursday, December 29, 2011

Five: Favorite Non-YA Reads of 2011

As far as reading non-YA (especially nonfiction) goes, this year was a total bust for me. I read very few nonfiction books and the ones I did read were mostly memoirs -- no Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell reads this year. Likewise most of the mainstream (read: adult) fiction that I read was lackluster. Still, I've managed to come up with five knock-your-socks-off great non-YA reads from the past year.

1. The Scene Book
Sandra Scofield
I'm super picky about what writing books I pick up, mostly because I'd like to read them all but I know all the how-to books in the world won't actually write my novel for me. But this one was recommended to me by Sarah Ockler and it was exactly what I needed. This book is an in-depth look at scenes -- their purpose as well as the smaller elements of them -- and as someone who struggles with even understanding what a scene is (no, really), it was huge. I read this one with a highlighter and pen. I'm still not an expert, but I kind of sort of understand it now. Sort of.

2. Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America
Leslie Knope (haha)
I was (what felt like) deathly ill for two weeks this year. It was the kind of sick where just moving seems like a really big deal and though it was right in the middle of the Cybils the last thing I wanted to do was actually concentrate on words. Still, somehow I got it into my mind that I had to go to Barnes & Noble and I had to get this book, which I'd heard was hilarious. At the time the fictional history of a fictional town from a television show was about as deep as I wanted to read. As advertisted, this book was awesome. Laugh all you want but for any Parks & Recreation fan, this book is awesome.

3. Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life
Sandra Beasley
This funny and sad memoir of growing up with lifelong food allergies is not only hilarious but also entertaining and informative. I've never had food allergies but could still relate to a childhood lived with major health issues. Really, really interesting.

4. A Friday Night Lights Companion
Leah Wilson
Yeah, okay, there are two books on this list that are tv-related. Whatever. This is one of the best anthologies I've ever read, which makes sense because its subject matter is the best drama to ever grace our television screens. From insights on sports and community to family and the show's low ratings, every essay in this collection brings something new -- and so interesting -- to the table. I can't recommend it enough for FNL fans.

5. Sleepwalk With Me: and Other Painfully True Stories
Mike Birbiglia
As a reader (and listener of his stand-up comedy), I think Mike Birbiglia is snort-milk-out-your-nose hilarious. He's a gifted storyteller with a knack for bringing out the funny in what are really very serious, painful stories. As a writer I'm impressed by his ability and willingness to share so many of his very personal stories. This book is funny and sad and awkward and then funny again. Love it.


  1. Oooh... an non YA-related post. How refreshing :) The blogosphere is all about YA books right now and reflecting on the best of 2011.

  2. Sleepwalk With Me sounds interesting. I need to read more non least that's how I feel. ;)

  3. Michael Offutt
    Ha, thanks. I so rarely post non-YA things because it's not the focus of the blog (and I like to keep a narrow focus), but there were some knockout good non-YA I read this year. I just wish I'd found a really good adult/mainstream novel. I did love Vaclav & Lena, but that's sort of crossover YA.

    I feel the same way. I feel like this year I read EVEN LESS nonfiction than normal. I guess it can be a reading goal for 2012!