The best nonfiction of 2018

Culture

1. Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight (Simon & Schuster, $37.50)

David Blight’s masterful Frederick Douglass biography “returns the heartbeat to the story of a man too often known from plaques and speeches,” said Christopher Borrelli at the Chicago Tribune. Douglass was second in fame only to Abraham Lincoln among 19th-century Americans, but never before has there been such a comprehensive account of his rise from slavery to abolitionist, orator, author, journalist, and enduring force in shaping the post–Civil War nation. Written with “biblical grandeur” and “the snap of great narrative,” Blight’s 900-page volume is “the definitive biography you assumed was already written,” complete with sensitive accounts of close relationships Douglass developed with two women outside his four-decade-long first marriage. The book, unfortunately, also “seizes every opportunity” to enlist Douglass in supporting contemporary progressive causes, including Black Lives Matter, said Timothy Sandefur at National Review. But Blight has cultivated a lifelong interest in Douglass, and his passion and knowledge are evident “on almost every page,” said John Stauffer at The Wall Street Journal. “Absorbing and even moving,” this book “deserves full immersion.”

2. Educated by Tara Westover (Random House, $28)

Tara Westover’s memoir recounts a “most improbable” journey, said Dan Cryer at Newsday. Born and raised in Idaho by Mormon survivalists who refused to send their seven children to school, the author nevertheless taught herself enough to gain entry to Brigham Young University, then went on to earn a fellowship at Cambridge University and a Ph.D. in history from Harvard. To do so, she had to endure the insults of her father and risk permanent exile from her family. “That someone who grew up in her circumstances could achieve as much as she has is astonishing,” said The Economist. Her father so distrusted mainstream institutions that the children didn’t see a doctor even after suffering serious injuries working in the family scrapyard, and Tara also had to shake off violent abuse that she suffered at the hands of an older brother when she was in her teens. But however unusual her particular set of challenges, the book’s central tension becomes how she can be true to herself without alienating her family, and anyone can relate to that. “Her upbringing was extraordinary, but that struggle is not.”

3. Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs (Grove, …read more

Source:: Entertainment – The Week

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