The best non-fiction books of 2019

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, music & DVDs of 2019 here.)

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women is an incredibly accomplished piece of writing, and a unique exploration of some of the ways in which women’s inner lives have become obscured by public discourses of sexuality. Revealing and intimate, and told with a deep respect for its three subjects, Lisa Taddeo writes a new language of female desire.

Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta

At a time of crisis around the world, Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk is a provocation to recognise the unique perspectives that are offered by Indigenous modes of thinking. It comes with a further provocation: that Indigenous knowledge be used to find our ways towards a sustainable future. A timely and long-overdue recalibration.

See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill

Award-winning writer Jess Hill’s meticulously researched account of the national shame that is domestic violence in Australia, this book is a compelling rallying call for change. Taking in personal stories told in social context, alongside dissections of bureaucratic systems that fail time and again, this is long-form journalism at its absolute best.

White Tears, Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad

White Tears, Brown Scars is Ruby Hamad’s challenge to mainstream/white Western feminism. Referring to the way that white women’s performance of victimhood – and refusal to acknowledge their part in racial oppression – continues to silence women of colour, this book exposes unresolved issues at the intersection of race and gender.

Guest House for Young Widows by Azadeh Moaveni

Guest House for Young Widows is Azadeh Moaveni’s brilliant account of the lives of thirteen women who travelled to join ISIS in Syria. It is also an authoritative political history of what has been going on in the Middle East over the last decade. An exceptional piece of narrative nonfiction, told with great empathy.

Penny Wong: Passion and Principle by Margaret Simons

Margaret Simons is one of Australia’s most respected journalists, and here she tells the life story of one of Australia’s most respected politicians. Based on exhaustive research and many hours of interviews conducted with friends, family, and colleagues from across the political spectrum, this book is a fascinating study of an Australian political powerhouse.

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

Musician, songwriter, poet, and author, Patti Smith is one of the true artists of our age, and Year of the Monkey is her account of a difficult year. Written as a reflection on mortality, loss and aging, against the backdrop of 2016’s political turmoil, the narrative moves between everyday experiences, memory and dreams. This is Patti Smith at her poetic finest.

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

Just when you thought you were sufficiently live to the environmental crisis humanity faces or is already enduring, along comes David Wallace-Wells to put the very real prospect of an uninhabitable planet into your consciousness. This book is designed to shock readers out of complacency and incite action, as we enter a new era for humanity and the Earth.

Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor

This gorgeously illustrated book is a celebration of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the result of an historic meeting of more than two hundred and fifty Indigenous leaders in 2017 which outlines a pathway to constitutional recognition, treaty, and acknowledgement of Australia’s First Peoples. Thomas Mayor’s account is an important record of that achievement.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

An accomplished collection of essays from a rising star of her generation, Trick Mirror is an excursion in contemporary cultural critique. From reality TV and the internet, to the status of identity, feminism, and womanhood in this political moment, Jia Tolentino writes with the aplomb of the best essayists.