Best Nonfiction Books

Best Nonfiction Books

best nonfiction books

Here’s How We Got Married.

Friends, it’s true: the end of the decade approaches. It’s been a difficult, anxiety-provoking, morally compromised decade, but at least it’s been populated by some damn fine literature. We will find the silver linings wherever we can. So, as is our hallowed duty as a literary and culture website though with full awareness of the potentially fruitless and endlessly contestable nature of the task in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at the best and most important (these being not always the same) books of the decade that was. This will be done using a range of lists. Starting with the most popular debut novels. Our sixth list wasn’t so easy. We were looking at nonfiction that we mistakenly considered “general”. This includes all nonfiction published between 2010-2019, except memoirs and essays. Reader, we cheated. We selected the top twenty. It only made sense, with such a large field. It’s not enough. So it goes in the worlds of lists. Following much deliberation (and numerous meetings), these books were ultimately chosen by Literary Hub staff. Many emotions were shared, many were hurt and tears were shed. The books were also re-read. And as you’ll shortly see, we had a hard time choosing just ten so we’ve also included a list of dissenting opinions, and an even longer list of also-rans. Please feel free to comment below with any favorite songs or quotes that you’d like us to include.

best nonfiction books

Top Twenty


The New Jim Crow Michelle Alexander wrote The New Jim Crow. It was the first time I had read it, and its enormous impact on society is clear. Alexander, technically, is an academic, but I have seen it everywhere. It was published at the time that Barack Obama took office, and many whites believed this to be a sign of an American new dawn in race relations. It’s difficult to think back now on this particular Zeitgeist (when I can’t believe it, Donald Trump is President of the United States). Without decrying this ignorance and naivete, Alexander’s book criticized the persistence on a phenomenon called “colorblindness”. This was simply a veneer or a scam, or just another form of ignorance. Alexander declares that we haven’t ended racism in America, and she only redesigned the system. Alexander’s extensive research focused on mass incarceration of African-American men primarily through the War on Drugs. She explains why the United States government, the justice system, has a significant racist pattern. It not only subordinates the black population by locking them up, but it also takes away their rights and makes them second-class citizens. Former convicts, she learns through working with the ACLU, will face discrimination (discrimination that is supported and justified by society) which includes restrictions from voting rights, juries, food stamps, public housing, student loans and job opportunities. “Unlike in Jim Crow days, there were no ‘Whites Only’ signs.” Alexander explains. This system is not visible, it is invisible.” Alexander explains. -Olivia Rutigliano, Crime. Reads Editorial Fellow The Emperor of All Maladies In this riveting (despite its near 600 pages) and highly influential book, Mukherjee traces the known history of our most feared ailment, from its earliest appearances over five thousand years ago to the wars still being waged by contemporary doctors, and all the confusion, success stories, and failures in between hence the subtitle “a biography of cancer,” though of course it is also a biography of humanity and of human ingenuity (and lack thereof).


Mukherjee started writing the book following a conversation with a stomach cancer patient. He told The New York Times that he had a remarkable interaction. “She said, ‘I’m willing to go on fighting, but I need to know what it is that I’m battling.’ It was embarrassing. I was unable to answer the question and could not point her towards a book. It was her urgent question that motivated me. The book was written simply because it wasn’t there.” He worked well. The Pulitzer in General Nonfiction went to The Emperor of All Maladies. “An elegant inquiry into the history of an insidious illness that, despite advances in medicine, still plagues medical science the Guardian first award for books and the inaugural PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award. It is the best book about cancer that many people have ever read. Even though science has advanced, this book continues to be widely referenced and read. Emily Temple Senior Editor, The Immortal Live of Henrietta Lacks I am a strong humanist and find it difficult to relate with science books. It’s not enough to say, other than public education failed me. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was a book that made me think, “If all scientific knowledge could be part of such a compelling, human story, then I’d probably be able to become a doctor.” It’s possible. Rebecca Skloot tells of Henrietta Lacks’ story, a Black woman who lost her battle with cervical cancer in 1951. She and her cells are called He. These cells, called La cells (cultured without Lacks’ permission) were valuable for scientists working in labs around the globe. They were also the first cells in which humans could reproduce in a laboratory. He. He. Even sent them to space in order for scientists to examine the effects of zero gravity upon human cells.


It’s a sad history filled with institutional failings, missed opportunities and hypocrisies. The acts of malice directed at a community facing crisis motivated by the hatred and fear of gay men, queer people, and lesbians specifically, is quite engrossing. The same feeling I had was both angered and humbled. It is an humbling story to be able to read. This is especially true if you are from a queer generation that was accused of forgetting. France’s testimonies are a great source of inspiration. It will not let us forget. Corinne Segal is Senior Editor of The Other Slavery Resendez. The Other Slavery’s epic recalibration American History, which was long overdue but sorely needed right now, is The Other Slavery. It’s well-known that the American colonizers attacked indigenous Americans. But what is less known is the extent to which that oppression led to mass deaths and the role of the American legal systems in perpetuating it. It was not a rare phenomenon. The phenomenon extended to plantations in the Caribbean and Western mining companies. This was part of European efforts to colonize the “new planet” and one of the main reasons for the first expeditions and colonies. Resendez places the total number of native enslaved indigenous between Columbus’s departure and 1900 between 2.5 million and 5,000,000. Resendez shows that slavery was a widespread phenomenon across the globe by analysing the legal murkiness and looking at the first-hand accounts and archival records. It was more than just the death of native tribes. They were also forced to serve as slaves, often in large numbers and paid no wages. It was a prolonged and systematic enslavement. The Other Slavery also tells the story of uprising communities that resisted, individuals who fought. This is a complicated and sad story, which required the expertise of a historian to present it in modern times. In addition to his skills as a historian and an investigator, Resendez is a skilled storyteller with a truly remarkable subject. This is historical nonfiction at the highest level and with all its essentials. Dwyer Murphy, Crime. Reads Managing Editor All the Single Ladies One night, facing a brief gap between plans with different people, I took Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies to a bar. After I had placed my order, Traister shared her incredible and extensive history on single women in America. The server then came to me, offering me another place at the bar. I assured her I was okay, trying not to laugh. I was worried, she seemed so concerned.


My book was open when Traister wrote about this cultural distress. at a new generation of unmarried adult women, who are more autonomous and numerous today than ever before. Traister writes that the shift was not about a crisis within the social system. “Women’s paths are increasingly marked by options, off ramps, variations on what has historically been a constrained theme.” Traister examines the past of unmarried females as a political and social force. This includes the activist women who dedicated their lives to creating a wider range of educational and familial choices for women. Traister also focuses attention to the fact that the US is a history of racial equality and economic justice Traister also focuses on the social networks that women created to overcome patriarchy, and create lifestyles that were not dependent upon it. Intimacy and communication between unmarried women are the foundation of reform and activist movements that challenged the dominant system.


Macfarlane has always been a generous guide in his wanderings, the glint of his erudition softened as if through the welcoming haze of a fireside yarn down the pub. Even as he considers all we have wrought upon the earth, squeezing himself into the darker chambers of human creation our mass graves, our toxic tombs Macfarlane never succumbs to pessimism, finding instead in the contemplation of deep time a path to humility. It’s a remarkable work. As profound and poignant as its subject, this book would mark the accomplishment of a lifetime for any writer. -Jonny Diamond, Editor in Chief Patrick Radden Keefe, Say Nothing: A True History of Memory and Murder in Northern Ireland Attempting, in a single volume, to cover the scale and complexity of the Northern Ireland Troubles a bloody and protracted political and ethno-nationalist conflict that came to dominate Anglo-Irish relations for over three decades while also conveying a sense of the tortured humanity and mercurial motivations of some of its most influential and emblematic individual players and investigating one of the most notorious unsolved atrocities of the period, is, well, a herculean task that most writers would never consider attempting. Thankfully, investigative journalist Patrick Radden Keefe (whose 2015 New Yorker article on Gerry Adams, “Where the Bodies Are Buried”, is a searing precursor to Say Nothing) is not most writers. This mesmerizing account is simultaneously panoramically expansive, and intimate. It focuses on the murder and disappearance of Jean Mc. Conville is seen in Belfast in 1972. It serves as a point of reference from which to build the more complex narrative about the Troubles. Although the book was meticulously researched and written (Radden Keithefe interviewed nearly one hundred sources and carefully sorted out conflicting and corroborating accounts), the novelistic structure of the book also serves as a fulcrum, which in lesser hands might feel exploitative. However, it helps us to understand the history and complex personalities that ultimately led to the deaths of Dolours, Brendan Hughes and Mc. Conville herself players in an attritional drama who have all too often been reduced to the status of monster or martyr. After you have caught your breath, you will feel a deep, abiding sadness. This is the right way to go. Dan Sheehan. Book. Marks Editor

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best nonfiction books

The 50 Best Nonfiction Books Of The Past 25 Years


Slate’s books team reviews the greatest works of journalism, memoir, and argument over the past quarter century.


David Carr said in The Night of the Gun that he prefers to be overseen by his notebook and the facts. This memoir is one of Slate’s best 50 nonfiction books of the 25-years. Carr was mulling over the difference between fiction and nonfiction, the novelist’s art and the reporter’s craft. These may not be the best arcs, but they will lead you to an interesting story. Nonfiction is often overlooked when canon-building takes place. Although memoirs are gaining ground in literary discussions, reports and nonfiction tend to be neglected. This can lead to the dismissal of these nonfiction forms as unliterary, but worthwhile, collections of facts in paragraphs. Yet what reader hasn’t had her mind expanded, her heart plucked, her conscience stirred by a nonfiction book? These books can give readers a clarity that is unmatched by any other genre. They can make sense of the world and organize it in a manner that allows them to think clearly.


Slate has compiled a list of 25 definitive English nonfiction books over the past quarter-century. These include beautifully written memoirs, books of essay, travelogues, essays, cultural criticism works, passionate arguments and even a collection of household tips. All of them share a dedication to truth and believe that finding the real story is possible regardless of whether you have it in your memories, on old archive shelves or in Russian literature.


Slate is affiliated with many online retailers. Slate could earn affiliate commissions if you purchase something via our links. Links are updated as often as possible. However, deals may expire at any time and prices can change. Prices were correct at time of publishing.


Mr. Wilsons Cabinet of Wonder: Horned Humans & Pronged Ants by Lawrence Weschler (Pantheon), 1994) Lawrence Weschler asks Lawrence Weschler about his strange Los Angeles shopfront museum. He is surprised and delighted to discover that the exhibits are whimsical, often humorous and, in truth, quite common (but not always!) It’s all a hoax. Weschler turns the tale of the Museum of Jurassic Technology into a winning meditation about human creativity and ingenuity, as well as a thought experiment on how our minds respond to being surprised. This book is deceptively easy, and it’s reminiscent of the “wonder cabinets”, a 16th century invention that Weschler says, opened the first museums to show untold astonishments.


Lawrence Weschler $12.29 on Amazon. $14.67 at Bookshop into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. (Villard, 1996) Christopher Mc. Candless, a young, in-search of untrammeled, wild experience, set out to hike into Alaskan wilderness. A moose hunter found his remains four months later. Krakauer is determined to discover how Mc. was killed and why he made such small errors. Candless learns Mc. Candless kept his journals and talked to friends. He also traveled to Mc. Candless lived his final months. Mc. By reporting about Mc.


Jon Krakauer: $10.20 Amazon. $13.80 Bookshop Madeleine’s World. Hall’s unexplainable premise of writing a detailed biography on his three-year-old daughter Madeleine (Houghton Mifflin), 1997 works only because Hall has such great curiosity and is a creative interpreter. Madeleine is that subject. But also Madeleine’s childhood. It marks an incomprehensible period between zero to three, when there are simultaneous blossomings of action and reason. Madeleine’s World is a fascinating read for anyone, even those who are not parents. It explores thought patterns and creative leaps that readers can recall from their childhoods. Parents will find Madeleine’s World almost too moving for its insistent on love being the best.

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best nonfiction books

History, Science, Memoir, Biography, Food, Politics, And More!


Must a beach read be a novel? (Go here if your answer is yes. If you answered no please read on for a look at the nonfiction titles we’re most excited about this summer. There’s something for everyone, including those who are interested in the history and inner workings Silicon Valley. The Lit Hub editors Jessie Gaynor, Corinne Segal, and Vanessa Willoughby compiled these recommendations.


Americanon: Thirteen best selling books on U.S. history (Dutton), June 1. We like the idea that culture, national and regional, is representative of the most prestigious artistic creations, that we can be as proud of our mythologies, as they are about us. However, this is false. Jess Mc. Hugh dives deep into thirteen American’s most treasured books. From farmer’s Almanacs to dictionary to cookbooks, Hugh uncovers how America’s stories are shaped by humbler texts.


We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto


Alice Waters, a sort of living legend, has been an advocate for seasonal and local cooking, as well as sustainable agriculture since opening Chez Panisse back in 1971. The latest collection of scenes she has recollected from this career will appeal to her fans. It also advocates a slow food approach to farming and eating with an emphasis in regenerative agriculture and biodiversity as well health.


I was made gay by the 2000s: essays on pop culture


Grace Perry, St. Martin’s Griffin June 1, 2001. Grace Perry, like many queer people, spent much of her childhood finding queer subtexts in stories about straight people. These included pop songs, Gossip Girl, and other pop culture productions. In this collection of essays she recounts her experiences. It’s certain to be both painfully and humorously recognisable for queer young adults who were raised before there was much LGBTQ representation in the culture.


How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

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What Nonfiction Book is Most Popular?

  1. Sapiens: A Short History of Humankind (Paperback).
  2. Quiet, The Power of Introverts In A World that Can’t Stop Talking
  3. Unbroken: A World War II Story about Survival, Resilience & Redemption (Hardcover).
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma – A Natural History of Four Meals -Hardcover

What Are The Top 10 Nonfiction Books Right Now?

  1. Breaking the Barriers to Beauty. by Michele Harper.
  2. This is the Biggest Bluff. by Maria Konnikova.
  3. House burning. Julian E.
  4. Caste. Caste.
  5. Eat the Buddha. Barbara Demick
  6. Exercise of Power. Robert M.
  7. Hidden Valley Road. Robert Kolker
  8. Washington, The Man Who Ran

Nonfiction: What should I read in 2021?

  1. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir’
  2. Onebody’s daughter: A memoir’
  3. Lacey had some crazy experiences with racism.
  4. You can swim in the rain in a pond. Four Russians will give you a masterclass on writing, reading, life.

Are Nonfiction Books Better?

Read nonfiction provides exercise for your old grey matter. It also sharpens your memory and analytical skills. Study shows that the ability to read nonfiction helps prevent neurological degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A chapter a day could keep the doctor away.Jun 21, 2019

.Best Nonfiction Books