The top ten books I read this year, ranked (part 4)
I've always loved reading. There were few things I cherished more as a kid then a trip to Barnes & Noble with my mom and a new book to read. Like many others, I fell out of the habit of recreational reading while attending university.
In September 2017, after getting settled into my first post-graduate job, I set out on a challenge to read at least one book every month for the next 12 months. I collected recommendations from friends and built out a long list of books to read (thank you to those who contributed, I apologize if I did not get to your book yet).
Fortunately, I succeeded in my goal, completing 17 books over the last 12 months (shout out to the countless hours I spent on airplanes every week). Because I'm a boring person, all of these books were non-fiction (I've always had a bias in this direction, sorry).
I decided to share some of the books from the last year by ranking my top ten favorites in order.
I created these rankings arbitrarily, based on two broad measures, enjoyment and utility. Enjoyment is self-explanatory; how exciting and/or interesting was this book to read? Utility is more subjective, but I defined it as how useful I believe this book is to my present and future life.
I am writing a post dedicated to each portion of the rankings, in the following format (published weekly throughout October 2018):
Part 4: #1
Once complete, I will publish the top ten list in its entirety, as well as my “master list” of book recommendations that I’ve compiled.
#1 Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
Firstly, I’m deeply disappointed when people attempt to politicize this book, no matter which where they sit on the political spectrum. There are observations with political implications. It may have even birthed a political star, but this is not a political book.
J.D. Vance grew up in rural Ohio, shuffling back-and-forth among his close family members and often visiting extended family in Kentucky. I won't spoil the details of his journey, but ultimately he leveraged innate talent, hard work, good fortune, and family support to climb out of poverty and into a better life.
Yes, Hillbilly Elegy is much more than a story about J.D. Vance. It's a story of overcoming obstacles, of reaching out and making a difference in someone’s life at key moments, of wanting something better for yourself and those around you.
The book delivers insight into the triumph, perils, and all-encompassing strangeness that comes with significant upward social mobility. Those who have dealt with any sort of upward social mobility, will find particular enjoyment in Vance's commentary.
Despite all of its thematic crossings, more than anything else, Hillbilly Elegy is a story of family, with all its pain and joy, all its ups and downs, laid bare to see.
Who Should Read This: Those who enjoy great autobiographies, those who want to learn more about life in the American cultural heartland, those who live in rural communities, those who have experienced social mobility and want to see its complexities articulated eloquently, those who enjoy stories about family and its muddy realities, those seeking inspiration
Who Should Not Read This: N/A
Amazon Link: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance