I usually "read" non-fiction books by listening to the audiobook during my commute to work. Well, since I've been working remotely since March, my audiobook consumption has gone way down. The result: I haven't read that many non-fiction books. I need to fix that next year. Anyway, here are the top four for 2020...
4) Wild Bill: The True Story of the Frontier's First Gunfighter.
Earlier this year, I binge-watched the Deadwood series and the more recent movie. Before that, the only thing I knew about Wild Bill was the "aces and eights" story and how he was killed. I was fascinated by the portrayal in Deadwood and his relationship with Calamity Jane. So, I wanted to learn more. Unfortunately, I struggled with this one. Wild Bill's life just wasn't that riveting. There was a lot of history of the old west which I enjoyed, but overall, this was a miss for me.
It's no secret that the 1993 film, Tombstone, is one of my favorites. While Kurt Russel earned top billing as Wyatt Earp, Val Kilmer's performance as Doc Holliday made the movie. My obsession with the events at OK Corral started long before 1993. I saw the 1957 film, Gunfight at OK Corral (Burt Lancaster as Earp and Kirk Douglas at Holliday) at some point as a kid, and never really forgot about it. I've visited Tombstone, Arizona several times and hope to get back there soon. It's a well-preserved piece of American history.
Tom Clavin's book was thoroughly researched and provided a much more realistic depiction of the events leading up to the famous gunfight and the events that followed, as well as a closer look at both men's personal lives. Suffice to say, the Tombstone movie paints a very favorable picture of Doc and the Earps. If you want the real story, grab this book.
2) The Worst Hard Time.
The Dust Bowl is something that maybe was mentioned in history class when I was a kid before getting back to the Tigris and the Euphrates, or the Magna Carta. Honestly, if they had spent more time - any time, really - on events like this, I would have paid a lot more attention in class.
Egan follows six families drawn to the southern plains to make a living farming on the promise of The Homestead Act. The combination of inexperienced farmers and a horrible drought resulted in unprecedented dust storms called "black blizzards" that ravaged the area. Crop failures and insect infestation added to the impossible living conditions. Not a very uplifting story, but a great read.
1) Chase Darkness With Me.
Most people are familiar with Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. Sadly, McNamara passed away before her book was completed. It was Billy Jensen, who had been assisting her with research, who worked with McNamara's husband, Patton Oswalt, to get the book published.
Jensen didn't stop there. Using the power of social, he solves several cold cases and helps track down a missing girl. More interesting, Jensen gives the reader the tools to become a do-it-yourself investigator. It's a fascinating read...not that I'm about to start tracking down killers myself.