My Top Nonfiction (and Audiobook) Reads in 2023

I made the decision this year that I wasn't going to review every nonfiction book I read like I do with fiction. The reviews just don't come us naturally to me, and it's usually more trouble than its worth to figure out how to adjust my review formula to the nature of nonfiction. This year, I did replace a lot of my podcast consumption with nonfiction audiobooks, though, so I read a staggering number of them, and I thought it would be fun to make this list to give a bit of insight into the other half of my reading life. 

The books suggested on this list are the ones I remember enjoying most. While I did leave ratings for them in my spreadsheet, without my detailed reviews to look back on, this list required a lot of reaching back in my memory. I have a few I actually reviewed on the blog that I will link on their titles. Otherwise, I'll share the official Goodreads summaries. These were engaging, fun to listen to, and had me wanting to play the audiobook any time I was at home. There's also a clear trend in what I like reading. I like books that are narrated by the author or a narrator that brings a lot of personality, which tends to mean memoir or essay collections, and I tend to gravitate towards nonfiction about internet culture or the fashion/beauty world, which, for some reason, I find endlessly fascinating. There are a few outliers on this list, but as a general preface, these books were selected for their entertainment value and how engaged the audiobook kept me through the whole read, which is a bit different than how my Top 10 Fiction of 2023 list was assembled. Ironically, the nonfiction tend to be my guilty-pleasure reads.

Glossy 

by Marissa Meltzer 

Official Summary: In Glossy, journalist and author Marisa Meltzer combines in-depth interviews with former Glossier employees, investors, and Weiss herself to bring you inside the walls of this fascinating and secretive company. From fundraising to product launches and unconventional hiring practices, Meltzer exposes the inner workings of Glossier’s culture, culminating in the story of Weiss herself. The Devil Wears Prada for the Bad Blood generation, Glossy is a gripping portrait of not just one of the most important business leaders of her generation, but also a chronicle of an era.
Why I Liked It: This is one of the few I actually reviewed on the blog because I enjoyed it so much! This is a super fun, engaging, quick read, and I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about the inside story of Glossier. There's a great voice that really shines through, and I got swept up in this story of how a beauty blog became an actual beauty empire. 

Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted 

by Suleika Jaouad

Official Summary: A searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission and, ultimately, a road trip of healing and self-discovery.
Why I Liked It: This was actually a book that I put down a number of times and struggled to pick up again. This is because I am very very sensitive to topics of illness and death, and my anxiety really struggles to deal with intense discussions of either. I decided I had to listen to this whole book, though, because Jaouad is such an incredible writer. This book is truly expertly crafted, and while it's a tough read, I ultimately decided it was worth it. General warning that this is an intense story about someone who gets cancer very young, so proceed with caution.

Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power of the Internet 

by Taylor Lorenz

Official SummaryAcclaimed Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz presents a groundbreaking social history of the internet—revealing how online influence and the creators who amass it have reshaped our world, online and off.
Why I Liked It: Any book about the history of the internet, I'm here for. I just finished writing a 10,000 word paper on TikTok last semester. If I can learn about how the internet came to be the way it is and where it's going, I will read your book. While I didn't learn much in the way of new information from this one, I did like how she charted the monetization evolution of the internet from mommy bloggers to the first teens leveraging internet fame, to what it's become today. It's a good general primer if you're unfamiliar with the subject. The writing is interesting, and it was a quick read. 

Strip Tees: A Memoir of Millennial Los Angeles

by Kate Flannery

Official Summary: Strip Tees is a fever dream of a memoir—Hunter S. Thompson meets Gloria Steinem—about a recent college graduate and what happens when her feminist ideals meet the real world. Strip Tees captures a moment in our recent past that’s already sepia toned in nostalgia, and also paints a timeless portrait of a young woman who must choose between what business demands and self-respect requires.
Why I Liked It: This is a book about Kate's experience stumbling into a job at American Apparel in the early 2000s and falling into their strange, culty world. The book is written in a narrative style that makes it feel like an immersive story despite the details being true. I'm always curious about recent history that I was alive for but too young to register, and that checked this box. It's also an interesting precursor to the digital influencer story when viewed through a certain lens.

Anna 

by Amy Odell

Official Summary: Based on extensive interviews with Anna Wintour’s closest friends and collaborators, including some of the biggest names in fashion, journalist Amy Odell has crafted the most revealing portrait of Wintour ever published. Weaving Anna’s personal story into a larger narrative about the hierarchical dynamics of the fashion industry and the complex world of CondĂ© Nast, Anna charts the relentless ambition of the woman who would become an icon.
Why I Liked It: More than enjoying it as a biography of Anna Wintour, this book thrives as an encapsulation of what the magazine and editorial world was like when Wintour was coming up in her career through the present day. The book always reaches beyond Wintour in each stage of her life to encapsulate the feeling of her surroundings and the systems in place. If you're fascinated by the world of magazines, this is a great, well considered read.

Momfluenced: Inside the Maddening, Picture-Perfect World of Mommy Influencer Culture

by Sara Peterson

Official Summary: Drawing on her own fraught relationship to momfluencer culture, Sara Petersen incorporates pop culture analysis and interviews with prominent momfluencers and experts (psychologists, academics, technologists) to explore the glorification of the ideal mama online with both humor and empathy. At home on a bookshelf with Lyz Lenz's Belabored and Jia Tolentino's Trick MirrorMomfluenced argues that momfluencers don't simply sell mothers on the benefits of bamboo diapers, they sell us the dream of motherhood itself, a dream tangled up in whiteness, capitalism, and the heteronormative nuclear family. Momfluenced considers what it means to define motherhood for ourselves when society is determined to define motherhood for us.
Why I Liked It: While I've never engaged with the momfluencer world, it is a fascinating and revealing part of the internet world, and this book does a great job of exploring the concept from a number of angles and with a broad array of experts. 

Big Magic

by Elizabeth Gilbert

Official Summary: Gilbert offers insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.
What I Liked: This one has been out for a while and has become one of those quintessential writing/creativity books. I don't read a ton of these because I don't tend to find them helpful, but while Big Magic is by no means perfect, there were plenty of resonant moments that did feel useful. Gilbert gives more insight into her particular process and the roadblocks she's faced rather than being super prescriptive about how to approach your creative life.

Exit Interview: The Life and Death of My Ambitious Career 

by Kristi Coulter

Official Summary: What would you sacrifice for your career? All your free time? Your sense of self-worth? Your sanity?
In 2006, Kristi Coulter left her cozy but dull job for a promising new position at the fast-growing Amazon, but she never expected the soul-crushing pressure that came with it.
In no time she finds the challenge and excitement she'd been craving―along with seven-day workweeks, lifeboat exercises, widespread burnout, and a culture driven largely by fear. But the chase, the visibility, and, let's face it, the stock options, proved intoxicating, and so, for twelve years, she stayed―until she no longer recognized the face in the mirror or the mission she'd signed up for.
Unsparing, absurd, and wickedly funny, Exit Interview is a rare journey inside the crucible that is Amazon. An intimate, surprisingly relatable look at the work life of a driven woman in a world that loves the idea of female ambition but balks at the reality.
Why I Liked It: This was an engaging read. Coulter does a great job telling her story in a compelling, relatable way. It has the allure of giving a bit of insight into the mysterious world of working at Amazon while also offering a thoughtful commentary on American workplace culture and leaving your safety net to do what you love.

Hey Hun: Sales, Sisterhood, and Other Lies Behind Multilevel Marketing

by Emily Lynn Paulson

Official Summary: Hey, Hun: Sales, Sisterhood, Supremacy, and the Other Lies Behind Multilevel Marketing is the eye-opening, funny, and dangerous personal story of author Emily Lynn Paulson rising to the top of the pyramid in the multilevel marketing (MLM) world only to realize that its culture and business practices went beyond a trendy marketing scheme and into the heart of white supremacy in America. A significant polemic on how MLMs operate, Hey, Hun expertly lays out their role in the cultural epidemic of isolation and the cult-like ideologies that course through their trainings, marketing, and one-on-one interactions. Equally entertaining and smart, Paulson’s first-person accounts, acerbic wit, and biting commentary will leave you with a new perspective on those “Hey Hun” messages flooding your inbox.
Why I Liked It: This was an engrossing audiobook. Emily fell deeeeeep down the MLM rabbit hole, and in narrating her descent into that terrible world, she illuminates the realities of becoming involved with MLMs and why (mostly) women decide to do it through a very personal lens. It's rare to get a peek behind the curtain from someone who was so deeply entrenched as opposed to a journalist or someone gathering somewhat filtered accounts, which made it a unique book. 

Read Also:

Top 10 Fiction Reads of 2023


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