It seems like people who read often separate themselves into two camps – nonfiction readers and fiction readers – and the majority of people aren’t keen on crossing lines. The fiction readers think nonfiction books are boring, and the nonfiction readers think fiction books are frivolous, right?
Well, as a reader of both, I can tell you that both sides are wrong. Books are awesome, reading is awesome, and if you haven’t checked out these 10 nonfiction books from last year, you’re definitely missing out.
10. We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This collection of essays explores the state of race in America following 8 years of the Obama presidency – how the hope of 2008 has been summarily decimated, basically. It’s a necessary, captivating, insightful reckoning.
9. Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard
The running joke that Florida is home to the weirdest news stories, craziest animals, and most of the old people in the country falls by the wayside in this collection of essays that show, at its core, how where you’re from leaves a mark so deep one can never erase it.
8. The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty
Twitty has been writing about the role of food in the African-American community since 2011, and this book is the continuation of a journey. It looks at the way enslaved Africans held onto their history – and passed it on – through their cooking in the American South, and how the tradition evolved and continues to this day.
7. Afterglow: A Dog Memoir by Eileen Myles
Anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet knows what it’s like to walk a path of grief that stretches long and wide, but that hopefully ends with happy memories and acceptance of the nature of all things. In Afterglow, Myles explores her life with her late pit bull, Rosie, their relationship, and her struggle to cope with the loss of her best friend. It’s about much more than the loss of a pet and friend, however, as Myles stretches her questions to encompass the nature of all human relationships.
6. Mean by Myriam Gurba
The short memoir pulls from Gurba’s experiences growing up queer and Chicana in California in the 1980s, tackling trauma, politics, identity, and endurance.
5. Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone by Juli Berwald
It’s about jellyfish (which are fascinating), but it’s also about scientific exploration and the question of how much – or little – we’re willing to do to understand our planet well enough to save it.
4. All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey
This collection of essays is, at its core, a tribute to women, the public lives they lead, and how they’re treated and mistreated by the world we live in when they don’t live up to standards and expectations. Massey writes witty, insightful odes to women in pop culture, real and fictional, whom she loves and admires.
3. The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy
This memoir has heavy loss at its core, with the author’s marriage imploding after the death of her son at 19 weeks gestation, but in the end it is a testament to the strength and resilience of human beings.
2. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
In 1920s Oklahoma, the Osage Indian nation had grown extremely wealthy thanks to oil-rich reservation fields. They were then decimated when white Americans decided they wanted the wealth for themselves, and the book is a new investigation into what happened. Ultimately what emerges is a damning portrait of horrendous crimes and the ensuing cover-ups. It’s fascinating, horrifying, and you won’t be able to look away.
1. We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby
This collection of essays is written in Irby’s irresistibly friendly, open voice, even as it touches on tough topics and wrestles with the kinds of experiences that shape a life.
Check these out, too!