The best non-fiction books of 2017

Every year our staff vote for their favourite books, albums, films and TV shows of the past 12 months. Here are our top 10 non-fiction books of the year, voted for by Readings’ staff, and displayed in no particular order.

(You can find all our best picks for books, CDs & DVDs of 2017 here.)

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

Sarah Krasnostein does a marvellous job of illuminating Sandra Pankhurst the person, and the world of a trauma cleaner in Melbourne (quite possibly one of the most interesting jobs around). As fascinating as her work is, it’s the vignettes of Pankhurst’s early life and upbringing in Melbourne, interspersed throughout the book, that make for compelling reading.

Julia Jackson

Adult Fantasy by Briohny Doyle

A deeply personal answer to how we should live within a fundamentally unsympathetic economic system. Blending memoir and cultural criticism, this is an honest inquiry into why millennials are not ‘adulting’, and a sharp analysis of traditional adult milestones. Doyle has modern Australia nailed in this vividly observed book: she will have you laughing aloud and nodding in agreement.

Kushla Egan

Hunger by Roxanne Gay

An honest and superbly written memoir. Roxane Gay describes the trauma that was inflicted on her as a teenager, and how that impacts on her relationship with food and her body. Gay writes about being large in a society that values thinness, and the ways this makes her both highly visible, and conversely, invisible. A must-read feminist memoir.

Annie Condon

Insomniac City by Bill Hayes

Insomniac City ─ a memoir about a life in New York written by the partner of Oliver Sacks ─ is perhaps the most touching, tender book I’ve had the pleasure to read. It’s the kind of story to hold and return to, a memoir of what it is to love, to lose, to live in a city and to connect.

Amy Vuleta

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

This incredible literary true-crime tells the entwined stories of the serial murders of the members of one oil-rich Osage Indian family in the 1920s, the birth of the FBI’s homicide unit (under a young J. Edgar Hoover), and shocking, large-scale truths about the treatment of Native Americans last century. Enthralling, addictive and revelatory.

Jo Case

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

A passionate and timely exposition of structural racism, power and privilege, this is essential reading for anyone interested in equity and justice. Reni Eddo-Lodge traverses the personal and political to illuminate race politics in contemporary Britain, throwing down the gauntlet for greater compassion and sharpened understanding. Underscored by meticulous research, this is powerful writing from a young writer to watch.

Leanne Hall

A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work by Bernadette Brennan

I loved this book; I couldn’t put it down. I’m an unabashed fan of Helen Garner’s work and have been ever since the publication of her first book, Monkey Grip. This portrait more than does its subject justice, helping to put her works in context. Bernadette Brennan has done us all a great favour.

Mark Rubbo

Tracker by Alexis Wright

How do you tell the unconventional story of someone whose bold ideas challenged the status quo? Enter Alexis Wright’s ‘collective biography’ of Tracker Tilmouth, Stolen Generations sufferer turned land rights champion. Wright weaves through shared time, Aboriginal triumph and colonial transgression, using a series of interviews with friends, family and the man himself. Crucial reading!

Chris Dite

Utopia for Realists by Rutger Bregman

By most measures we’ve achieved a lot in the world – fewer people live in poverty, people live longer, infant mortality rates are dropping, literacy rates are climbing and there has been no major war since 1939. Yet we know that all is not right; in this exciting book, Rutger Bregman offers some solutions for making our societies even better.

Mark Rubbo

Saga Land by Richard Fidler & Kári Gíslason

Two men, friends with a shared interest, set off on an adventure, to explore Iceland and its sagas. The Icelandic Sagas form one of the great bodies of literature and Saga Land succeeds in conveying both its greatness and its humanity, while taking you on a rollicking good adventure around a strange and distant land.

Marie Matteson

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Cover image for The Trauma Cleaner

The Trauma Cleaner

Sarah Krasnostein

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