Summer Reading List - Nonfiction

Updated: May 18, 2019

The best non-fiction books to read to help you stay smart, healthy, and happy. Check this list out out to see what I'm reading this summer.

Dreamland, by Sam Quinones I live in rural Ohio. Many of my friends and family members are dealing with issues of addiction and opioid use. This book came recommended by a filmmaker friend who said it is the best read to understand what's happening and why it's happening when it comes to this issue. Here's more from

In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, a company built a swimming pool the size of a football field; named Dreamland, it became the vital center of the community. Now, addiction has devastated Portsmouth, as it has hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America—addiction like no other the country has ever faced. How that happened is the riveting story of Dreamland.

With a great reporter's narrative skill and the storytelling ability of a novelist, acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones weaves together two classic tales of capitalism run amok whose unintentional collision has been catastrophic. The unfettered prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s reached its peak in Purdue Pharma's campaign to market OxyContin, its new, expensive—and extremely addictive—miracle painkiller. Meanwhile a massive influx of black tar heroin—cheap, potent, and originating from one small county on Mexico's west coast, independent of any drug cartel—assaulted small towns and midsized cities across the country, driven by a brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing and distribution system. Together these phenomena continue to lay waste to communities from Tennessee to Oregon, Indiana to New Mexico.

Introducing a memorable cast of characters—pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents—Quinones shows how these tales fit together. Dreamland is a revelatory account of the corrosive threat facing America and its heartland.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver I read this book last summer but had to start/stop one too many times (new baby, hello!). Barbara Kingsolver is a master of prose (see my summer fiction list for more from her) and her stories of how her family managed to grow their own food for a year kept me captivated even when I was sleep-deprived. This book is a great one to read when you need that extra motivation to go weed the garden. An extra perk - it includes recipes. I appreciate this book for providing the WHY to growing your own food in a series of engaging stories and with Kingsolver's trademark humor.

The World Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry, by Wendell Berry Despite its unfortunate title, this book of collected essays comes from one of my all-time authors, Wendell Berry. If you're not familiar, Wendell (because I've read so much of his work, I feel like we must be on a first name basis) is a poet, philosopher, novelist and farmer. His work weaves themes of agriculture, environmentalism, stewardship, and Christianity. If you're interested in this book or any of his work, check out this video from a recent documentary about him for a little more insight.

Of Mess & Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Wonderful Life by Jen Hatemaker

Jen Hatemaker is one of my favorite authors because her writing is direct, deep, and humorous! She's writes about her faith and family in this book and from the description, it looks like one that's going to help women stop feeling sorry for themselves and finding joy in every season of life. I look forward to reading this one early in the morning for light reading to get me in a positive mindset for the rest of the day.

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis - I love, love, love Rachel Hollis. I especially appreciate this book because it provides PRACTICAL tips to keep me motivated and focused. Yes, I've already read this book, but I'm going to read it again. A lot of the information she shares is stuff I've found myself knowing but not doing in my own life. The insight is also beneficial for women of all ages. Check out this vlog for more of my take on this awesome book. Also, an added benefit for those on Rach's email list? She's doing a live book club over on Facebook in the whole month of May (this year, 2019). Reading past that date? No worries, go follow her on Facebook and peep the live archived videos.

15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell - I picked this one up because it's considered one of the central texts people recommend in the personal growth space. I enjoy learning more about habits and strategies I can employ to make myself better. Let's be honest, that's what we all want, right? I'm hoping to find "invaluable" hints about how to grow in multiple areas.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert I read this book while I was writing my dissertation and it helped me to really let go of what other people think as I wrote. I can't stress enough how her advice guided me in getting over writing one way (academic) or taking some risks and thread in more narrative (storytelling - my passion) pieces. Guess what? Those narrative elements are the parts of my dissertation that resonated with audiences. My work stands out because of these aspects. I'm currently finishing up a book because of that interest! So as I embark on other writing and film projects this summer, this one is a must read!

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