Geek Girl in Love’s Top Five Non-Fiction for 2015

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It’s been a pretty amazing year for me in terms of non-fiction. Most of my non-fiction reading has involved history and biography. Next year I guess I’ll have to throw more science into the mix or I’ll be completely lost in my nerdy little family.

 

Be as that may be, while my husband knows all about quarks, I happen to know how Confederate women smuggled weapons during the Civil War (in their hoop skirts, and they hid messages in their hair). Here are my top five non-fiction books for 2015. Note – these are books that I read in 2015, not necessarily books that were published in 2015. Wherever possible, I’m linking to full-length reviews that I wrote for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

 

  1. Voracious, by Cara Nicoletti

 

Part cookbook, part memoir, part literary criticism, this book was personally moving to me but also gave me another way to look at fiction by highlighting the role food plays in establishing character and theme.

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  1. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, by Karen Abbott

 

At time infuriating, at times inspiring, and always interesting and exiting, this book explores the roles women played in the American Civil War by looking at a Union soldier who disguised herself as a man, and women who did various kinds of undercover and messenger work for both the North and the South. By far my favorite moment was when the soldier feared she would be outed during a medical examination – but the doctor limited himself to phrenology and declared that her head was distinctly masculine. OK then.

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  1. Romantic Outlaws, by Charlotte Gordon

 

I can’t begin to tell you how sick my family got of this book. In alternating chapters, it tells the story of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter, Mary Shelley. This meant that I spent several weeks ranting about birth control, Regency Era medicine, Lord Bryon (ASSHOLE) Percy Shelley (ASSHOLE) and lots of other men (ALL ASSHOLES). The Mary’s do seem to have faced a distinct shortage of decent men during their lives – but their writing was great and we love them.

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  1. What Matters in Jane Austen, John Mullan

 

This is a simply fantastic, indispensible work of literary criticism. It’s conversational and accessible in tone while digging deep into the subject matter. If you read one book about Jane Austen, read this one.

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  1. A Colored Woman in a White World, by Mary Church Terrell

 

I did not directly review this book, but I referenced it in writing a Kickass Women column for Smart bitches, Trashy Books. Originally, I intended to leaf through it to get the information I needed for the column, but then I couldn’t put it down. African American suffragette Mary Church Tyrell’s story makes for fascinating reading, and remains searing and relevant today.

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Honorable mentions: The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore and Secret History of the Mongol Queens, by Jack Weatherford.

 

What was your favorite non-fiction this year?

Geek Girl’s Top 10 Fiction Reads in 2015

Depositphotos_19295733_original.jpgOne of the more thought-proving things I’ve been asked recently was to list the best books I read for the first time in 2015. They didn’t have to be published in 2015, just read by me during this calendar year. This year was so great that I’m going to split my list into two entries – one for various fiction genres and one for non-fiction. The nonfiction list will be up next week.

 

Here are my personal top ten favorite discoveries in fiction for 2015. Each one has a link to Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, where you can find a full-length review including more details about the plots.

 

Classics

 

  1. Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons

 

I’m convinced that this book was written specifically to reward me for having watched all those adaptations of Wuthering Heights when I wrote Pride, Prejudice and Popcorn: TV and Film Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. This parody of country melodrama misery books had me on the floor with laughter. “THERE’LL BE NO BUTTER IN HELL!”

 

  1. Lady Susan, by Jane Austen

 

Having read all Jane Austen’s major works multiple times, I’m ready to venture into the works that she didn’t finish or that she didn’t submit for publication. Lady Susan is far more wicked than any of her other books, with a main character that closely resembles a Disney villainess. At any minute I expected her to burst into song, like Ursula from the Little Mermaid, or turn into a dragon, like Maleficent. I will never think of Jane Austen in the same way again.

 

  1. Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

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This is Victorian Lesbian Vampire Porn. I rest my case.

 

 

Comics:

 

  1. Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, which flips your expectations in almost every single panel.

 

  1. Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson. Muslim teenager in New Jersey kicks butt but tries to find ways to solve problems without violence. Her delight in meeting Wolverine is not to be missed. I regret that I did not write a full-lenght review of Ms. Marvel – I was too busy losing my shit. LOVE HER.

 

  1. Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run! Dark, sad, yet also funny and joyful. Pizza Dog! Trick arrows!

 

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Honorable mentions: Lumberjanes was just about the most fun a comic can possibly be, and The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage made history an insane thrill ride of crazy fun.

 

Romance

 

  1. The Highwayman, by Kerrigan Byrne

 

Another book that likes to flip our expectations. This is the kind of crazysauce historical that you don’t see much of anymore, but the sweet ingénue is quite wise to the ways of the world and fully in charge of her own sexuality, while the Highwayman, who tries to be a Byronic Brooding Alpha Dominant Hero, is not in touch with his sexuality at all. The results are very funny and very sweet. The review I’m linking to is by Redheadedgirl, who also loved the book.

 

  1. Trade Me, by Courtney Milan

 

Historical romance author Courtney Milan takes a crack at contemporaries with a billionaire hero and a broke college student – and I loved it. Milan is the queen of making her characters complex and bringing tons of emotional weight (and diversity) to a story.

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  1. Forever Your Earl, by Eva Leigh

 

Another author who is switching things up. Eva Leigh writes steampunk and science fiction as Zoe Archer. Much as I long for more of her Chain of Command series, I adored her first historical, in which a Regency scandal sheet writer dresses as a man and explores the seedy side of the ton under the tutelage of an infamous rake who is not only aware of her identity, but who set the whole ploy up in the first place. Lots of witty banter, and I love witty banter.This is another review by Redheadedgirl.

 

  1. Only a Kiss, by Mary Balough

 

This one squeaks in under the wire. I was laid low with a migraine last week – so much so that I had to take to my bed like a victorian Lady with a case of the vapors. It wasn’t pretty. Based on a recommendation from Elyse (who wrote the review I’m linking to) I polished this off in a day in a fog of blissed out tears (also considerable migraine medication). This is a simply lovely historical and the hero’s manner of acquiring pets and attitude towards them perfectly mirrors my own.

 

Leave a comment and tell us – what were your reading highlights in 2015?