November has just started and a lot of us realize at this point we’ve been reading lots of fiction all year and would like to catch up with something different. I particularly enjoy Non-Fiction November because it makes me realize all the books that have been on my radar sometimes for years but I haven’t picked up because I’m normally more focused on recent fiction releases, plus it’s a great opportunity to hype amazing books I haven’t recommended often enough.
I realize that since I read so much more fiction than nonfic, most of the books below are no news to most of you, but I’m hoping something will spark your interest – I’ve separated the books by theme and offered a few different options on each, depending on what you like to read. I’m hoping on future recommendation posts to add some books on feminism and more biographies. Let me know in the comments your favorite recent nonfic read!
First I’m selecting here some books that I can only describe as “history but make it thrilling“, starting with The Endurance by Caroline Alexander, telling the story of Shackleton’s disastrous/heroic Antarctic expedition during WWI times. It’s full of photos, which I really enjoy. Next we have one of my favorite topics to read about, Space Race by Deborah Cadbury. It has everything: space, geniuses, political drama, things exploding. I don’t love von Braun’s charecterization here, but it’s still a great book! And last, one of the best books I’ve read in my life: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe tells a true story of murder in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It’s intriguing, intense and so humane, a very good introduction for those who don’t know much about the conflict.
I also loved The Calculus Wars by Jason Bardi several years ago and I’m looking forward to reading a biography of von Braun (which I’m hoping is a more sober portrait).
Next, a few books with the theme mental illness (mostly focused on depression in this selection): Darkness Visible by William Styron is a true account of the author of Sophie’s Choice’s depression and eventual recovery & a very short read (84 pages!). He describes so vividly and clearly his experience with depression and the difficulty to explain it to healthy people, it made me feel understood. Next is another short book which I believe is middle grade: Night Shift by Debi Gliori turns depression into a dragon and makes for such a beautiful and relatable account of children who suffer from it. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig was the book that made me realize I needed more books about depression in my life; I read this in a difficult time in my life and it truly, truly helped. He’s a sensitive writer and I enjoyed his style, although I think it may come off a bit too cheesy for some.
Two lighter reads: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson also made a huge difference in how I saw my depression and I learned to make a little fun of it. This was hilarious and so relatable, I devoured it. Next we have Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking, in which she tells absolutely hilarious (and brutally honest) stories of her experience with manic depression and addiction.
I’ve also heard great things from You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, which I might pick up next.
Next I have some hard-hitting memoirs: Chanel Miller bravely tells her story in Know My Name, from who she was before getting sexually assaulted by Brock Turner behind a dumpster to the consequences that came after, shining a light on the trauma and injustices that the justice system makes survivers go through. Educated tells Tara Westover’s story of living in a very remoted community and her journey towards getting the education she had been denied. A River in Darkness tells Masaji Ishikawa’s story after he and his family moved from Japan to North Korea searching for a better life, what he encountered instead, and then eventually escaping. Lastly, a sure choice is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado, who recounts her experience with an abusive partner. She explores different writing styles normally used in fiction, from romance to suspense, making this book an incredibly unique read.
Becoming by Michelle Obama is also on my list, plus The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee. I also recently read a graphic novel version of The Diary of Anne Frank, which was an absolute heartbreaking book.
I think for a lot of fiction readers, true crime is the category of nonfic we read most often. For a juicy, gossipy Silicon Valley scandal, read John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood, telling his story about finding out how Theranos’ CEO Elizabeth Holmes lied her way to success. It reads like a thriller, it’s truly amazing. In Cold Blood is Truman Capote’s account of the murder of an entire family in 1959 and how the murderers nearly got away. It’s a classic and in my opinion Truman Capote developed feelings for one of the murderers… which makes this an interesting read. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark tells the story of Michelle McNamara searching for the Golden State Killer, who actually got caught not long after the book was published. McNamara sadly died before that, never finding out who was the killer.
There’s a lot of true crime out there, and some other notable titles are The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson and American Predator by Maureen Callahan. (among many others! I don’t read that much true crime)
This is a small selection on books that tackle racism in truly unforgettable ways. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander is a brilliant book that explains all the ways the prison system in the United States (I found many similarities with the prison system in my country, too) and it’s incredibly eye-opening. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is a letter to his son, a heartbreaking account of his lack of faith in his country when it comes to racism. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings tells stories of her earlier years, living with her grandmother in a small Southern town in the US, and it’s both beautifully written and incredibly sad.
I’ve also heard amazing things about Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, How to be Antirracist by the same author and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I also recommend anything by Brazilian author Djamila Ribeiro, if you read Portuguese.