Great Non-Fiction Books I read in 2022 & 2023
Great Non-Fiction Books I read in 2022 & 2023
Many of you who follow me know that I read and review anything and everything that catches my fancy. I’ve also made lists of great books whether they are the best and worst books I’ve read, books that will put you in the mood for love, books about books and what I learned from great books etc. This time I’m making a list of great nonfiction books I read in 2022 & 2023. Even if non-fiction isn’t your favorite genre, I think its worth giving these a shot.
Part Of My World: What I Learned about Love, Faith and Finding My Voice: by Jodi Benson
In the spring of 2022, I read a netgalley copy of Part Of My World: What I Learned about Love, Faith and Finding My Voice by Jodi Benson. The book details Jodi’s time in Broadway and how after a play she was in bombed she was offered the opportunity to voice the character of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. We also learn the sweet love story of how Jodi and her husband Ray met. I also learned that for the test screening of The Little Mermaid they almost didn’t use the song Part Of Your World since it didn’t hold a child’s attention. Imagine if the movie based on the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale, didn’t use that song? That song is an iconic “I want” song and you want that main character to get it. I also had no idea that Jodi is so religious, and she thanks God for all of her successes she’s very down to earth and doesn’t forget God and the people who helped her along the way. I also had no idea she auditioned for the role of Belle for Beauty and the Beast before her best friend Paige O’ Hara got the role. There were times I wanted to hug Jodi as she detailed her miscarriages, the death of her friend Howard Ashman and the death of her niece but despite all that Jodi kept her faith in God despite not understanding why things happened the way it did. The only flaws were that the book was repetitive in parts and then there was a part where Jodi said something that many Christians of different denominations especially us Catholics would disagree with, I gave Jodi slack since she isn’t a writer. Regardless of if you’re a Christian, a Disney fan or both and can get past the repetitiveness it is worth your wild checking it out.
Capturing Skunk Alpha: A Barrio Sailors Journey Through Vietnam by Raul Herrera
Capturing Skunk Alpha: A Barrio Sailors Journey Through Vietnam is Raul Herrera’s true account of his time in Vietnam. On the evening of July 11th 1967 A Navy surveillance spotted a suspicious trawler which going in the direction of the Quang Ngai coast of South Vietnam. Finding out this suspicious trawler was carrying weapons to North Vietnam, Raul his Navy comrades had to do what they could to stop the trawler and capture it dubbing it Skunk Alpha hence the title of this book. Raul’s writing flowed well and as a Catholic I love the fact that his faith was and still is important to him and he kept faith in God and Saint Christopher to get him home. It was also nice reading about his life before the war. The book has pictures and maps which added authenticity to the book. Keep in mind if you don’t know military jargon like me, it might be confusing here and there. Overall even if you aren’t into military or war books, this could make a great Christmas gift for someone in your family or friends who are.
The Last Yakuza by Jake Adelstein
The Last Yakuza by Jake Adelstein is a true crime, yakuza history book and biography all rolled up into one. It’s sort of a sequel to his first book Tokyo Vice. The book talks about Makoto Saigo and how he has two talents in life playing guitar and being a hooligan. When his music career fails, he enters the Yakuza. One wrong move in the Yakuza world will cost you your life. This book covers not just Makoto Saigo’s life but why someone like him would join the yakuza without making excuses for these very same men. The book also covers the history of the Yakuza and how it all began. I also liked that the Aum Shrinkyo doomsday cult started by Shoko Asahara and the curry poisoning by Masumi Hayashi was briefly mentioned in the book. I don’t have too many complaints about the book except it dragged in parts. I hope the show Tokyo Vice goes on for a long time and mentions the events of The Last Yakuza. If you’re a fan of true crime, books about the yakuza, Tokyo Vice (both the book and the show) I recommend this book!
The Veil Between Two Worlds: A Memoir of Silence, Loss and Finding Home: by Christina Vo
In January 2021, mid-pandemic, Christina Vo is single and childless and in her early 40s. Christina goes on a road trip with her friend David in search of home and what happens during this road trip is the beginning of a spiritual journey and a season of growth. During this journey Christina can make peace with the painful parts of her past so that she can heal, and it won’t affect her present. While The Veil Between Two Worlds is a non-fiction memoir, the words flow beautifully like a river as Virginia Wolf would say. Whether you’re a spiritual person or a religious person like I am, we can all relate because we all have struggles, they’re similar but not the same. I can relate because I’m learning to let the past go and forgive people and the circumstances that caused the past, so it doesn’t affect my present. It’s also important to find where we fall short and learn from that, so we don’t repeat the same mistakes. Christina speaks about how she wasn’t close to her father and sister but how she realized in a way she was also at fault too. I can’t wait to read Christina’s next memoir that she wrote with her father titled My Vietnam, Your Vietnam coming in 2024!
The Book of Charlie by David Von Drehle
I received an early copy of The Book of Charlie by David Von Drehle when I signed up for the Simon & Schuster buddy program. I was so happy I was able to read an early copy. When veteran Washington Journalist David Von Drehle and his wife and children move to Kansas and meets his new neighbor who is over a century old named Charlie White. David never expected a deep friendship and profound message about the meaning of life. Charlie did not live an ordinary life. Charlie learned as a young boy what loss was while at the same time mastering survival skills that helped him in life. Charlie was born before radio and lived long enough to use a smartphone. Charlie’s life was full of adventure, heartbreak and joy. This book teaches important lessons about how to live a good life no matter what season of life we are in. I like the fact that The Book of Charlie did not read like a bullet point list of historical events. The only flaw is that it seemed as though Charlie and David were observers as these events happened. I loved reading about Charlies travels hitchhiking in California and sailing along the Amazon River as a guest of Peru’s president. This book, while it’s a short book, has a lot of impactful lessons. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it. Another thing the book covers is that it’s important to balance not dwelling in the past while not looking too far into the future.
End Credits: How I Broke Up With Hollywood: by Patty Lin
End Credits: How I Broke Up With Hollywood by Patty Lin is an in depth memoir of working in the Hollywood writers room from someone who wrote some of the most popular episodes to shows such as Friends, Desperate Housewives, Freaks & Geeks & Breaking Bad. To many of us this seems like an opportunity of a lifetime! However Patty details that it wasn’t as glamorous as you’d think with the racist, sexist and toxic environment. Eventually Patty had to quit. I read this book this past summer and sped through it in 4 days. This book is more than about showbiz and Hollywood, it teaches the age-old lesson that if something is too good to be true it most certainly is. Listen to your gut if something feels off, get away from that situation, that job and that person. I also liked reading about Patty’s life and about what made her want to pursue writing. I didn’t have any problems just that I wish Patty left her toxic boyfriend earlier, but better late than never. I hope Patty writes more books. I applaud Patty’s courage to write this memoir and leaving everything toxic behind!
Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter On The Police Beat in Japan: by Jake Adelstein
In spring of 2022 I watched and read both the show and book Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter On The Police Beat in Japan. When I found out that Tokyo Vice the show was loosely based off Jake’s non-fiction account of the same name, I had to read it because I was interested, and I had to see how the show and book differed from each other. Both the book and the show had similarities and differences, but both the book and the show are great in their own ways. I love how ballsy Jake is. I don’t know if I could have the same courage, he had investigating the Yakuza. I also liked how the book covered his other investigations, one of them being the Lucie Blackman murder. I wished the book covered more about Jake’s life outside of him reporting but I enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Tokyo Noir in the fall (which I thought was named Tokyo Private Eye) and watch season 2 of Tokyo Vice. I believe with material from Tokyo Vice, The Last Yakuza & Tokyo Noir the show could go on for several seasons.
Novelist As A Vocation: Haruki Murakami
Novelist As A Vocation by Haruki Murakami is part autobiography and part writing instruction. This book was originally published in Japan in 2015 and was published in The US last year. Haruki does a good job of giving good advice while also balancing what the aspiring author feels is right. What I found interesting was when the discussion of writer’s block came up Haruki mentioned that he doesn’t suffer from it but he did say that when he doesn’t feel like writing he doesn’t. I also heard and read in the past that even when he feels like writing more, he sets a timer on how long he should write and sticks to it. While reading the book I sensed who Haruki Murakami is as a man who is very humble and down to earth. This book felt like a giant Q&A session turned into a book and I felt as though these were questions, I would ask him. The writing flowed very well, and I love how he tries to respond to his many fans which I found sweet. The best and most unpopular advice Haruki gave was you don’t need school to be an author. I could relate because I went to college because it was expected of me. Ultimately, I became a blogger which is a writer by default. Was college a total waste of time? Not necessarily as it did help my writing skills a little bit, but I didn’t necessarily need it either. If you’re a fan of Haruki Murakami, memoirs, autobiographies and books about writing I would recommend Novelist As A Vocation, you get a sense that Murakami is speaking with you personally and he doesn’t talk down to you.