My Non-Fiction Books of 2020

A few days ago I published My Fiction Books of 2020, so now for New Year’s Eve let’s see what came out of the non-fiction shelf. I noticed the older I get the more non-fiction I read, and generally, I enjoy it a lot. It challenges me more than fiction. Which makes sense as it will never provide an escape from reality, but then also it makes me think more critically.

Wishing you lovely, if quieter New Year’s Eve celebrations and an amazing 2021!!!

Here’s the list in no particular order:

Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe – Kapka Kassabova – a semi-magical return to a home country, combined with the exploration of the internal and international idea of the border. What did it mean when you try to leave the Soviet Union, what does it mean now, when the direction changed and you try to escape the war. How does living on the border impact people and what is the border between material and spiritual? It is personal, historical, magical and very well written.

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken – The Secret Barrister – if you feel you did not get your dose of fear in 2020 then read this. It made me very much afraid of the state of the crumbling legal system in the UK. Honestly, after reading this book I’ve got no faith in it and no inclination to ever be in touch with it if I am given any choice in the matter.

Czarownice. Niezwyciężona Siła Kobiet – Mona Chollet – a book about the power of women, when I read it in the summer it didn’t cross my mind what would happen in Poland in October. For that’s when abortion was pretty much outlawed in Poland, and that was the spark that started a wildfire. The women have had it, they’re done being nice, they took to the streets and have been there for over two months now. And they are a force. Check All-Poland Women’s Strike to find out more.

Returning to Reims – Didier Eribon – one of the most beautiful, personal, intelligent and heartbreaking books I read this year. A book about society, about politics, but also about personal choices and the price we pay for them.

Detroit: An American Autopsy – Charlie LeDuff  – obviously, I heard about Detroit and its tragic collapse, but I never had a clear picture of the scale. Well, it could not get clearer than this book. It is rage and riot, it is a scream from someone who tries to save their city.

Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit – a pick-me-up and a kick-in-the-bum at the same time. This is a book that is not afraid to list the successes of the left, but it is also a call to action, for we are far from done.

M Train – Patti Smith – such a great surprise. A book to leisurely enjoy. One to remind us that there is always something in life worth cherishing and savoring. Small things are important, that’s what life consists of in the end. A slow book, but one that you will want to come back to all the time.

Dwunaste. Nie Myśl, że Uciekniesz – Filip Springer – another scary title on the list, but for very different reasons. This one dives into the dark side of small Scandinavian communities, exploring the concept of the Law of Jante, a haunting read.

Wanderlust: A History of Walking – Rebecca Solnit – as during lockdown walking has become one of my not many regular pleasures in life it seemed fitting to read a book devoted to the concept of walking. On every level, starting with the sheer physics of it, through the philosophy all the way to its role in society and activism.

Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design – Charles Montgomery – the question of who are the cities and streets for is gaining momentum and this book is an exploration of various ways cities try to solve it not in favor of cars for a change. It certainly is eye-opening, especially for those of us who were raised in a society addicted to cars. Moving to London changed that for me, but it took a while.

Cień w Cień. Za Cieniem Zuzanny Ginczanki – Jarosław Mikołajewski – a beautiful relation about a lyrical investigation. Mikołajewski charts his journey to discover the story of Zuzanna Ginczanka, a poet whose work grabbed his heart in high school and never let go.

Photo by Violetta Kaszubowska

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