7 Nonfiction Books I Read in 2021 and What I Thought

Here are seven nonfiction books I read in 2021 and what I thought, both the good and the badd.


The Busy Girl’s Guide to Speed Cleaning and Organizing: Clean and Declutter Your Home in 30 Minutes (House Cleaning Secrets, Cleaning and Home Organization) by Elizabeth Bolling

You have a busy life, and cleaning your house does not fall very high on your list of priorities. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to live in an unclean home. It’s possible (and easy!) to enjoy a clean, fresh home in just thirty minutes! In The Busy Girl’s Guide to Speed Cleaning and Organizing, author and cleaning expert Elizabeth Bolling provides a goldmine of advice on the best ways to quickly and efficient achieve a clean home, without sacrificing precious time with your family and friends.

Thoughts: So…you start by deep cleaning your house (not fast) and then try to spend 3-5 min. on each room every day. This does not include vacuuming or mopping (that’s separate), and obviously if you have more than, say, 2 bedrooms, you are going to run over 30 min. The suggestions for what to clean and how to organize are decent, but I don’t think this really will help you clean quickly. The most useful tip in terms of speed cleaning is to have a bag that you pile things into that don’t belong in the room you’re cleaning, so you don’t waste time walking back and forth 50 times to other rooms to put those things away.


The Montessori Toddler: A Parent’s Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being by Simone Davies

Announcing that rare parenting book that will not only help you become a more effective parent but actually change how you see your children. Written by Montessori educator Simone Davies, this book shows you how to bring the educational values of a Montessori classroom into your home—while turning the whole idea of the “terrible twos” on its head.  

Here is how to set up Montessori-friendly spaces in your home. Principles for fostering curiosity in your child—and in yourself. Specific Montessori skills—the winter coat flip; getting your toddler to pour his or her own water and clean up whatever spills might occur. And it goes much deeper, showing how a parent can really be present, be the child’s guide, and handle tantrums and problematic behavior without resorting to bribes, threats, or punishment and truly celebrate every stage.

It’s also that rare parenting book that’s beautiful to look at, with a bright, airy design and simple color illustrations and photographs.

Thoughts: I picked this up because I have a vague idea of what Montessori schools do but not a concrete one, so I was interested to see what principles would transfer to a home. It’s pretty interesting in terms of giving concrete idea of how parents are supposed to set up their homes and activities they are supposed to provide. Somewhat surprisingly, however, it tells you NOT to make your home too much like a Montessori school if your kid attends one because your kid might not find school as exciting then. There are also tips about how to speak with children and get them to do what you want, which parallels some other parentings books I’ve read in the past (and even explicitly cites them.) I’m not actually going to create a Montessori home, but I found this interesting theoretically.

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien edited by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan

Since the earliest scholarship on The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, critics have discussed how the works of J. R. R. Tolkien seem either to ignore women or to place them on unattainable pedestals. To remedy such claims that Tolkien’s fiction has nothing useful or modern to say about women, Perilous and Fair focuses critical attention on views that interpret women in Tolkien’s works and life as enacting essential, rather than merely supportive roles.

Perilous and Fair includes seven classic articles as well as seven new examinations of women in Tolkien’s works and life. These fourteen articles bring together perspectives not only on Tolkien’s most commonly discussed female characters—Éowyn, Galadriel, and Lúthien—but also on less studied figures such as Nienna, Yavanna, Shelob, and Arwen. Among others, the collection features such diverse critical approaches and methods as literary source study, historical context, feminist theory, biographical investigation, close-reading textual analysis, Jungian archetypes, and fanfiction reader-response.

Thoughts: An incredibly collection of scholarly articles for anyone interested in women in Tolkien, and also the perfect rebuttal for people who think Tolkien’s work is sexist. Click on the title to go to my review, which gives a thorough overview of my general impressions and reviews each essay individually. A must-read for any avid Tolkien fan.


The Wild World Handbook: Creatures by Andrea Debbink Asia Orlando (Illustrator)

Packed with real-life tales of adventure, breathtaking illustrations, and practical tools, this handbook is an inspiring guide for the next generation of climate activists, conservationists, and nature lovers.

We share this incredible planet we call home with countless living creatures, from butterflies and falcons to koalas and dolphins. And just like us, animals everywhere are faced with the growing threat of climate change.

Featuring seven categories of creatures, this handbook offers a roadmap for change and an invitation to explore the outdoors with fascinating facts, hope-filled stories, and hands-on STEAM activities. Each chapter highlights the biographies of scientists, artists, and adventurers from diverse backgrounds who have used their passion and skills to become courageous advocates for animals around the world.

The second book in a middle-grade series for young activists and conservationists, The Wild World Handbook: Creatures empowers readers to appreciate and protect Earth’s wildlife.

Inside you will find:
• Seven incredible categories of creatures
• Fourteen inspiring biographies
• Seven kid-friendly DIY activities
• Seven fun field trips
• And much more!

Thoughts: An incredibly engaging middle grade book full of facts about people who help animals, animals themselves, crafts you can do, ways you can help animals, and more. I would never describe myself as an “animal person” (they’re fine, but I’m not overly interested in animals like many people are), but I loved this and the wide variety of information that kept it from feeling repetitive.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink

Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork.

Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? How can we turn a stumbling beginning into a fresh start? Why should we avoid going to the hospital in the afternoon? Why is singing in time with other people as good for you as exercise? And what is the ideal time to quit a job, switch careers, or get married?

Thoughts: I see how many reviewers on Goodreads thought this information isn’t new. It isn’t new to point out that starting high schools later in the day improves student performance and helps students get into fewer car accidents, or to point out that people need breaks and having recess at school or lunch at work makes people more productive than non-stop work. However, as long as no one is actually listening to this information or implementing changes based on it, I see the value of repeating it. It’s clearly new to someone!

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak

The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule.

Brunhild was a Spanish princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet—in the 6th-century Merovingian Empire, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport—these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms for decades, changing the face of Europe.

The two queens commanded armies and negotiated with kings and popes. They formed coalitions and broke them, mothered children and lost them. They fought a years-long civil war—against each other. With ingenuity and skill, they battled to stay alive in the game of statecraft, and in the process laid the foundations of what would one day be Charlemagne’s empire. Yet after Brunhild and Fredegund’s deaths—one gentle, the other horrific—their stories were rewritten, their names consigned to slander and legend.

In The Dark Queens, award-winning writer Shelley Puhak sets the record straight. She resurrects two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture’s stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world. 

Thoughts: This is possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s absolutely enthralling. Better than fiction. The people in this book are absolutely crazy. There is so much invading and murdering and political intrigue and family drama that I could not put this down.


What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don’t: 52 Ways to Create Your Own Success by Ann Marie Sabath

Confucius said that a thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. The same principle applies to becoming a self-made millionaire, except this journey is a little shorter, comprising just 52 common sense practices.

Featuring interviews with a wide-ranging list of self-made millionaires, you will be astonished to see how anyone can achieve this status by creating the right mindset. You will learn how white-collar professionals, blue-collar workers, small business owners, even teenagers alike have joined this million-dollar net worth club by methodically and consistently putting into practice the self-made millionaire game plan revealed in this book.

In What Self-Made Millionaires Do that Most People Don’t, Ann Marie Sabath makes it easy for you to implement these simple strategies by posing a question at the end of each section to help you begin your own self-made millionaire journey.

What Self-Made Millionaires Do that Most People Don’t will teach you: How to create a self-made millionaire mindset. The 25 habits all accomplished individuals have in common. How self-made millionaires benefit from “failure.” Powerful advice for anyone ready to begin their self-made millionaire journey. OK, you’ve been given the rod, now go fish!

Thoughts: I don’t seem to have ever reviewed this or even written any notes on Goodreads, but I gave it three stars, so I assume I found it mildly interesting but not overly compelling or ground-breaking. I’ve read a number of finance books in the past couple years, and their tips generally start sounding the same after a while: cut unnecessary costs, get a side gig, start a retirement account, invest, etc. I assume these self-made millionaires did similar things, even if the book provides more details on their personal stories and how they used “mindset” to eventually get money.


12 thoughts on “7 Nonfiction Books I Read in 2021 and What I Thought

  1. Bookertalk.com says:

    The advice in the speedy cleaning one sounds fairly basic. It might keep your house tidy but there re some jobs that just can’t be fitted into 30 mins, like cleaning the oven or windows.


  2. tom says:

    Somehow when I saw the title ‘Dark Queens’, I knew instantly who they were. Brunhild and Fredegund are terrifying.


  3. Lory says:

    The book about the two queens sounds fantastic! There are so many amazing stories still to be uncovered in history. A lot of them these days seem to be concerned with the women whose “her-stories” have yet to be told. Thanks for the tip.


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