Meet Nut Amornbavonvong, the man who reads to live. Working as a book translator, read about the top 3 non-fiction books from 2016.
I used to believe that we read to escape reality, and that’s why I avoided nonfiction like the plague. The journey into the deep space or the plight of a wretched woman, these were the stories that excited me more than how this person came into power or how that religion developed. But the more I read fiction, the more I realise that there’s hardly any room left for disagreeing with these authors.
Every fiction book is its universe, and there is nothing more than what the author writes. You can question this plot hole or discuss that character’s motivation, but without the author’s acknowledgement, it rarely leads to anywhere. That’s not the case for reading nonfiction. Here your experience of reading is like having a conversation with the author. It challenges and convinces you to believe what the author believes, but here you’re allowed to think otherwise. These are some of the nonfiction books I enjoyed last year.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed By Jon Ronson
An actor’s career is ruined after a viral video, a motivational speaker under fired by her speech, an Instagram star got busted. Just these last few months, it seems Thailand has seen relentless succession of social outrages. Any kind of offences can trigger an internet firestorm and launch a thousand memes within a matter of minutes. Social media shaming, that’s our weapon, and we use it to bring justice, tearing these offenders down and then some.
We tell ourselves that they deserve it. But does that make our action justified? That’s one of the questions Jon Ronson grapples with. The atrocities you will read in this book are cruel, and they are not a racist joke told by a white woman or plagiarism and fabrication done by a high-profile author. They are the public shaming these people have been through, and they are committed by us.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind By Yuval Noah Harari
A 400-page book about the history of Homo Sapiens since its origin till its prospective end, that sounds daunting. But don’t let the size (or the subject, for that matter) scare you away. Harari aims at layman readers. He doesn’t throw mind-numbing statistics at you. His prose is page-turning, and his arguments are convincing. Read it and you will be terrified by the crimes we have done, and amazed at what our race has achieved. More importantly, this book will make you question what you believe. But of course, that is to be expected from a book that calls liberalism a religion, isn’t it?
Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire By Simon Baker
For Game of Thrones fans, 2017 is going to be a frustrating year. With Season 7’s premiere pushed back by mid-2017, we are kept on the edge while the leaked information keeps coming. But if you’re the fan of the early seasons’ political intrigues, then this book can help you while away the time. Were there any other civilisations as ruthless and yet monumental as the Roman Empire? The book can’t cover all the richness and complexity of the Romans. What Baker does is charting its history through certain key points, emphasising certain key figures. The result is a gripping and dramatic history book.
There is a story of the Gracchi brothers whose attempts to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots ended in tragedies. By doing so, they paved the road for a conqueror who would put a stop to the republic and give birth to an empire. There is also a story of an emperor who used a small, contemptible cult as a stepping stone to gain more power, and by doing so, he helped that little cult to become one of the most dominant religions in the world. What this book lacks is just a dragon.
Written By Nut Amornbavonvong
Freelance Translator, Book lover
The 9 Best Books to Read in 2020