Christy, Associate Editor

STARRED REVIEW

November 30, 2022

From stage to page

Give the gift of intrigue with a celebrity memoir that captures all the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame.

Share this Article:
Review by

Sam Heughan, known to legions of fans as Jamie Fraser in the popular TV show based on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, recently decided it was time to walk the rigorous West Highland Way in Scotland, a long-distance hiking trail that runs from north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. He wanted a solitary challenge and a pause in the acting career he has worked tirelessly at, and packing 96 miles into five days seemed like it would provide the right combination of endurance and introspection. In his remarkable, thought-provoking memoir, Waypoints: My Scottish Journey, he welcomes readers along for the journey.

6 more celebrity memoirs that capture the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame

Before Heughan stepped out the door onto the West Highland Way, he was a runner, not a walker. Marathons, yes; walking slowly, not his thing. His camping and hiking experiences were limited; he even thought hiking poles were “cumbersome” and almost threw them away once he hit the trail. His overstuffed rucksack, complete with whiskey and cigars, weighed him down. The rain in late October almost ruined him on the second day, and he soon chose comfortable wayside inns over his tent. But he was nearing his 40th birthday (making him the same age as the Way) and, despite these challenges, felt it was simply time he got this done.

Bracketing Heughan’s journey is an account of his visit to his dying father in faraway British Columbia, Canada. The man was a stranger who abandoned his family long ago, but Heughan and his brother felt nonetheless compelled to offer a goodbye. Once they arrived, Heughan was stunned to learn that his father had been following his acting career all along. He recorded their visit on his phone, but later, back on the set of “Outlander,” the phone vanished. It was, he writes, “a fitting epitaph.”

The award-winning actor, author, philanthropist and entrepreneur offers plenty of details of his walk to Fort William, including a daunting hike up Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. Along the way, Heughan has a clear, precise and entertaining style. He is a funny man, and his encounters with roaming sheep, other hikers and clusters of mushrooms are wonderfully comic. 

If Waypoints were merely about Heughan’s walk, it would be delightful, instructive and enticing. But this is a memoir, after all, and it is his reflection on his life and work, interspersed with the challenges and discoveries of the Way, that lend his story heft and grit.

“Outlander” star Sam Heughan’s reflections on his life and work add heft and grit to his memoir about walking the West Highland Way in Scotland.

A few years after British actor Tom Felton hung up his Slytherin robes for good, he hit rock bottom. It was the first step toward reclaiming his identity, as it prompted him to ask how and when he left the wisecracking kid from Surrey behind and instead became dependent on the numbing effect of alcohol. In Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard, Felton looks back in order to uncover the path forward as he candidly details the surreal experience of being a prominent part of a pop culture juggernaut.

Felton’s first major on-screen role was in 1997’s The Borrowers, an adaptation of the classic children’s book. This opened the door to other promising opportunities, notably playing The Boy Who Lived’s archenemy: sneering, peroxide-blond Draco Malfoy. At the time of his audition, 12-year-old Felton had never read a Harry Potter novel and couldn’t quite understand the breathless excitement that the books inspired.

6 more celebrity memoirs that capture the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame

Felton spent nearly a decade immersed in the world of witches and wizards, where he became accustomed to a singular life on set. The final stretch of filming was bittersweet, and when it was through, he hoped to transition into a career brimming with star-studded blockbusters and high-end craft services. Instead, Felton’s move to Los Angeles made him feel like a rudderless ship. “I missed having an ordinary conversation with an authentic human, who didn’t know who I was, and didn’t care,” he writes.

Felton’s memoir isn’t a shameless tell-all or a cautionary tale about the ills of fame. He frequently expresses gratitude and praises the skills and professionalism of older actors who were in the Harry Potter films, such as Jason Isaacs and Alan Rickman. He has no problem poking fun at himself, but his moments of self-reflection are compassionate. Beyond the Wand may focus on Felton’s Harry Potter days, but it’s so much more than fan service. With introspection and charm, Felton’s narrative captures the growing pains of adolescence.

In his memoir, Draco Malfoy actor Tom Felton captures the growing pains of adolescence with introspection and charm.

Lauren Graham is perhaps best known for her acting, particularly her role as the young, headstrong single mom Lorelai in the television show “Gilmore Girls.” But Graham, who has a bachelor’s degree in English from Barnard College and master’s of fine arts in acting performance from Southern Methodist University, is also the accomplished author of a novel (Someday, Someday, Maybe), a collection of personal essays (Talking as Fast as I Can) and a book of advice for graduates (In Conclusion, Don’t Worry About It). 

6 more celebrity memoirs that capture the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame

Graham’s second book of personal essays, Have I Told You This Already?: Stories I Don’t Want to Forget to Remember, is composed of 15 insightful pieces relaying impactful moments and life lessons that have shaped who she is. She explains how her creative outlook was molded by people and experiences from her youth. For example, although her mother was largely absent from her upbringing, Graham sees a positive side to this fact: “I think not growing up with my mom means I didn’t have any preconceived notions of what a mom is supposed to be!” 

Graham takes the reader on a behind-the-scenes tour of Hollywood, sharing acting jargon such as “pumpkin” (the term for when child actors have to be done working for the day) and “sold it in the room” (getting backing from someone with clout). She’s candid about the demands of show business, too, and the acrobatics that actors have to perform to fit into the Hollywood mold. In a chapter aptly named “Forever 32,” Graham reflects on aging, comparing her recollections of being a 20-something to when, at the age of 32, she realized “I had a sense of myself I’d never had before.” She also muses about her days as a young actor, hustling to various jobs while trying to make it. These stories and anecdotes are especially raw, real and humorous.

Graham’s writing is fresh, sharp and very funny, with fast, staccato sentences that evoke what it must be like to have a conversation with her. Her voice invites the reader in, emanating a refreshing openness that will make them want to be her best friend. Have I Told You This Already? is an enjoyable, amusing revelation.

Actor Lauren Graham’s second collection of essays is fresh, sharp and very funny, with staccato sentences that evoke what it must be like to have a conversation with her.
Review by

Oh, Lord Grantham, patriarch of Downton Abbey! We feel as though we already know you, with those twinkling eyes and deep, reassuring voice. In Playing Under the Piano: From Downton to Darkest Peru, stage and screen actor Hugh Bonneville shares what he calls “a series of snapshots I’ve taken along the way,” allowing us to know him more truly. As you might expect, his account is intriguing, breezy and full of intellect and humor. It’s also a delicious stroll down a red carpet lined with big names, including Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Laurence Olivier, Celia Imrie, Leonardo DiCaprio and many more.

6 more celebrity memoirs that capture the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame

The memoir is divided into sections discussing Bonneville’s childhood, theater years and film roles. His father was a urologist and his mother a nurse—or so he thought before learning after her death that her second job was with MI6, the British Secret Service. “I may not have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth but I realised I had a nice set of crockery compared to so many others,” he writes. Early on, he began thinking of the theater as a “magic toybox,” although he originally thought he would become a lawyer and also contemplated theology until drama school beckoned.

There’s no mean-spirited gossip in this memoir, just plenty of humorous self-deprecation and some laugh-out-loud anecdotes—like the time an actor in a live theater performance was popping peanuts while making a confession and ended up choking and passing out. Or the time Judi Dench dropped a note that said “Fancy a shag?” in the lap of an audience member she thought was a friend. Turns out, the man was not her pal.

Bonneville’s years of rich stage, television and film performances are nicely detailed, including amusing audition mishaps and disappointments. Although he offers a number of anecdotes about his parents, siblings, wife and son, he remains largely private about his personal life. But the “Downton Abbey” stories are wonderful, even if rabid fans like myself will wish for more. We shouldn’t complain though, given tidbits like Shirley MacLaine’s comment, “I had lovers all over the world. Overseas was fun. This one time, three in a day.” To which Maggie Smith responded, “Oh darling, you have been busy.”

Playing Under the Piano is a must-read for Bonneville fans, as well as an excellent look at the ups and downs of being an actor. Now excuse me while I go watch Paddington again.

Hugh Bonneville’s memoir is intriguing, breezy and full of intellect, a delicious stroll down a red carpet lined with big names and laugh-out-loud anecdotes.

Actor Paul Newman was known for many things: acting, car racing, philanthropy through his Newman’s Own food business and, of course, his rugged good looks and piercing blue eyes. He was a beloved Hollywood icon, but he didn’t think of himself that way. In fact, he wrestled with internal demons throughout his life.

Newman’s memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, composed posthumously from interviews he began conducting in 1986 with the help of screenwriter and close friend Stewart Stern, is raw, honest and revealing. Through his own reminiscences and those of his contemporaries, including Elia Kazan, Stuart Rosenberg, Eva Marie Saint and Tom Cruise, the book provides a firsthand glimpse of Newman’s life and how his choices affected those around him. His upbringing, military service in World War II, first marriage to Jackie Witt, second marriage to actor Joanne Woodward, six children and professional and personal endeavors are all laid out on the table.

6 more celebrity memoirs that capture the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame

Even after he became famous, Newman was often unsure of himself. Part of this stemmed from the fact that he likely had a learning disability. The way he was treated by his parents, especially his mother, was also detrimental. She could be hurtful and treated him like a dress-up doll rather than a son. Newman’s memories of his father depict the man as an indifferent alcoholic. Unfortunately, this contributed to Newman’s own problems with alcoholism, as well as his son Scott’s substance issues and depression—burdens Newman carried his whole life.

But Newman also had more positive traits, from charisma and humor to compassion and business savvy. These qualities pop up throughout the book and were obvious to those who knew him. But even after all his success, he just couldn’t seem to shake his feelings of self-doubt. “If I had to define ‘Newman’ in the dictionary, I’d say: ‘One who tries too hard,’” he writes. The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is a humble and candid look into the life of a celebrated but often misunderstood man.

In Paul Newman’s posthumous memoir, his upbringing, military service, marriages, children and professional endeavors are all laid out on the table.

Nothing could have prepared Melanie Jayne Chisholm—aka Sporty Spice—for the loneliness, isolation and debilitating episodes of imposter syndrome that accompanied the extreme highs (and lows) of fame. In The Sporty One: My Life as a Spice Girl, the singer, songwriter and tracksuit-wearing Brit carefully unpacks her nonlinear journey toward self-acceptance while pinned under the glare of the spotlight.

The Spice Girls were a pop culture supernova at the turn of the new millennium. Contrary to the narrative wrought by the misogynistic media, the group was not the brainchild of industry executives. After answering a magazine advertisement, Victoria Adams (Posh), Geri Halliwell (Ginger), Melanie Brown (Scary), Michelle Stephenson and Chisholm came together to form the band Touch. When Stephenson proved to be a weak link, Emma Bunton (Baby) was recruited. It would take a pivotal name change and the reclamation of creative autonomy from their early male managers, but the Spice Girls would go on to smash records and, even more importantly, disrupt the cultural and musical landscape.

6 more celebrity memoirs that capture the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame

This type of rise at a young age leaves a few scars, and Chisholm isn’t afraid to recount her personal battles. The pressures of being a ubiquitous pop star coupled with her innate perfectionism brought on depression and severe anxiety. At one point after the Spice Girls had gone on hiatus and Chisholm had embarked on a successful solo career, she was nearly agoraphobic and plagued by incessant panic attacks. And despite her public image of health and fitness, the singer was secretly contending with disordered eating, which eventually led to anorexia and binge eating disorders. In 2009, Chisholm gave birth to her daughter, Scarlet. Motherhood wasn’t a cure-all for her mental health issues, but this new caregiver role allowed her to appreciate the extraordinary power of her body and all she has put it through.

Chisholm’s narrative voice is warm, funny and unabashedly real. Fans will feel as though they’ve been invited to an enlightening soul session with a close friend. Hard truths about patriarchal oppression and the fickle nature of celebrity are examined with sympathy and understanding. The Sporty One is more than the memoir of a pop star; it’s an emotional revelation.

Melanie Chisholm, aka Sporty Spice, unpacks her nonlinear journey toward self-acceptance while pinned under the glare of the spotlight.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!

 

Recent Features

Give the gift of intrigue this holiday season with a celebrity memoir that captures all the grisly details of glitz, glamour and fame.
STARRED REVIEW

November 15, 2022

The best World War II histories and memoirs of 2022

Even the most devoted history buffs will discover fresh perspectives among these 11 outstanding World War II reads.

Share this Article:
Review by

Reading One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World by Michael Frank is like watching an artist piece together a mosaic. A splash of blue sea here. A mother’s song over there. The smell of Purim pastries. The flash of first love. But the mosaic is never completed. Instead, a terrible wind descends, leaving the artist to pick up the pieces as best she can and begin a new image.

Here, the artist is Stella Levi, a 99-year-old Jewish woman living in New York City. The mosaic is the Juderia, the main Jewish quarter on the island of Rhodes, where Levi was born in 1923. And the wind is the Holocaust, which reached the Juderia in the last months of World War II and scattered Levi’s parents, family, friends and community. One Hundred Saturdays is the story of that time and place, but it is also much more: a story of friendship, survival, reinvention and courage.

Frank, author of The Mighty Franks and What Is Missing and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, met Levi by chance—or perhaps serendipity—when he rushed in late to attend a lecture, and the elegant older woman in the chair next to him struck up a conversation. The following Saturday, he found himself in Levi’s Greenwich Village apartment, the first of 100 Saturdays that he would spend with her over the following six years. Over the course of those visits, Levi became both a friend and muse as she recounted the minutest details of her life, from its rich beginning to its remarkable present.

Maira Kalman’s illustrations, heavily influenced by Matisse with their deceptive simplicity, rich colors and delicate textures, are perfect complements to Levi’s story, portraying vanished scenes from life on Rhodes before the Holocaust. Together with the text of Frank’s beautiful book, they create a sensitive portrait of an extraordinary woman. Fiercely independent, keenly intelligent and remorselessly honest, Levi refuses to be defined solely by the tragedy of her youth. Her life has been a constant evolution, and her final years are being lived with the same vitality as her earliest ones.

One Hundred Saturdays is the story of a Jewish community before the Holocaust, but it is also much more: a story of friendship, survival, reinvention and courage.
Review by

From 1932 to 1942, Joseph C. Grew served as the United States ambassador to Japan, where he was devoted to cultivating peace between the two countries. Despite his extraordinary efforts, he left the post in 1942 following six months of internment in the Tokyo embassy after Pearl Harbor was attacked. Author Steve Kemper draws on a wide range of sources, including Grew’s memoirs and diary, diplomatic messages and Japanese accounts of events, as he recounts the lead-up to America’s involvement in World War II in Our Man in Tokyo: An American Ambassador and the Countdown to Pearl Harbor.

Grew was an unlikely career diplomat. His background—Boston, Groton, Harvard—indicated a different path, perhaps a career in business or banking. But he sought adventure. On his way to assume new duties in Tokyo, he wrote in his diary that of all his 14 posts, Japan “promises to be the most adventurous of all.”

Kemper takes readers behind the scenes to see the complex realities that Grew coped with on a daily basis. He tried to alert America’s leaders to the challenges of Japan’s increasing militarism and fervent nationalism while doing what he could to keep their foreign policy in check. Where he was open-minded and pragmatic, his boss, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, had a fundamental distrust of Japan. Grew strongly protested Japan’s many devastating acts against Americans, but he was also concerned by the ignorance of American isolationists and pacifists at home who saw the U.S. as a warmonger. 

On January 27, 1941, long before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the ambassador first heard the rumor that if the Japanese government broke with the United States, it would plan a surprise mass attack. He passed that word along to the U.S. State Department—however, the Navy had already studied the possibility of a Pearl Harbor attack and considered it unlikely.

Grew’s tireless efforts to avert war with Japan demonstrate both the value and the limitations of any one person in international power politics. This enlightening and well-written history should be of interest to a wide range of readers.

Steve Kemper’s splendid portrait of the American ambassador to Japan during the lead-up to World War II will be of interest to a wide range of history lovers.
Review by

When award-winning British journalist Simon Parkin (A Game of Birds and Wolves) dug through the National Archives in London looking for a story idea, he literally found one: A newspaper called The Camp was mistakenly folded between some pages. Produced by German and Austrian internees at a camp for “enemy aliens” during World War II, the newspaper revealed details about a time and place discreetly buried within a shameful chapter of England’s fight against the Nazis. The Island of Extraordinary Captives: A Painter, a Poet, an Heiress, and a Spy in a World War II British Internment Camp brings to light a truly extraordinary example of humanity at its best and worst in a country at war, sometimes with itself.

With copious and often heart-wrenching detail, Parkin brings this interlude back to life through the experiences of those imprisoned in Hutchinson camp on the Isle of Man and their thwarted yet persistent rescuers. In 1938, Peter Fleischmann, a Jewish teenager thought to be an orphan, escaped Berlin via the legendary Kindertransport train and landed in England. Then, in 1940, he was arrested. Suspected of (but never charged with) being a Nazi spy, he was released, then arrested again, as British fears about refugees intensified. Thousands of people, young and old, Jews and Nazi sympathizers alike, were deported or imprisoned in camps on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. 

In Hutchinson camp, the arts were encouraged as an antidote to anxiety and despair, enabling imprisoned painters, composers, journalists, scholars, poets, sculptors and musicians to create “Hutchinson University.” There, Fleischmann flourished. He and many others—such as his mentor, Dadaist pioneer Kurt Schwitters—would later excel in their fields.

Justice seekers like Bertha Bracey of the Germany Emergency Committee kept pressure on the government to end the misbegotten idea of mass internment, but Prime Minister Winston Churchill defended it as a necessary wartime protection. “Most regrettable and deplorable things have happened,” Sir John Anderson said in an address to Parliament in 1940. It was as close as England ever came to an apology.

In addition to the prison newspaper, Parkin’s primary sources include firsthand accounts of the tragic sinking of the SS Andora Star, an ill-equipped former cruise ship that deported hundreds of “enemy aliens” to Canada and was attacked by a German U-boat, and interviews with internees’ friends and descendants. It is a cautionary yet inspiring tale, one that bears remembering.

Simon Parkin brings the shameful history of British internment camps during World War II to life in The Island of Extraordinary Captives.

Caroline Moorehead, author of the New York Times bestselling Resistance Quartet, brings her prodigious research and storytelling talents to Mussolini’s Daughter, her study of Edda Mussolini, the eldest and favorite child of Benito Mussolini and one of the most powerful women in 1930s Europe. In her foreword, Moorehead notes the challenges facing any biographer of the Mussolini family, including the difficulty of separating swirling myths from facts. Yet through her skillful mining of archival materials, personal papers and memoirs, Moorhead has created for readers—even ones previously unfamiliar with the rise of fascism in Italy—a nuanced portrait of a complex woman.

One of the pleasures of a deeply researched biography is being transported into the past through rich details that bring historical figures to life. Moorehead is masterful at this. For instance, we learn early on that in 1910, Edda’s mother, Rachele, already pregnant, defied her family and left home to live with Mussolini. The young couple walked five kilometers in a downpour, taking with them only “four sheets, four plates and six knives, spoons and forks.”

Moorehead writes that “Mussolini and Fascism made Edda what she was.” With this in mind, the author devotes considerable space to tracing Mussolini’s rising political career, which paralleled Edda’s youth. By the time Edda was 11, her father was the editor of a successful newspaper “and the leader of a quickly growing political movement.” In 1922, he became prime minister of Italy and set about consolidating power to become dictator.

In 1930, in an impressive ceremony Moorehead describes as “the wedding of the century,” glamorous, mercurial 19-year-old Edda married Count Galeazzo Ciano, son of one of the founders of the Fascist Party. Although she was part of a “golden couple,” Edda also had a fierce independent streak.

Moorehead spends ample time covering World War II and the ways in which the military conflict, Italy’s alliance with Germany and complex internal power struggles determined the fates of the two men closest to Edda. Despite her efforts to save him, her husband was executed for treason in January of 1944—an outcome Mussolini did little to prevent. Mussolini himself was killed in April 1945. Edda, meanwhile, escaped to Switzerland with her three children. Though for a time she professed to hate Mussolini, Edda once told an interviewer that her father “was the only man I ever really loved.”

Moorehead’s clear, compelling prose and sure-handed grasp of historical events combine to make Mussolini’s Daughter read like a page-turning thriller, one that will have special appeal for readers fascinated by European history, World War II and the conditions that gave rise to fascism.

Caroline Moorehead’s clear, compelling prose and sure-handed grasp of historical events combine to make Mussolini’s Daughter read like a page-turning thriller.

As World War II recedes further into the past, Jonathan Freedland has revived one story from the Holocaust that’s both historically significant and a riveting read. Freedland, the author of several thrillers and a correspondent for The Guardian, writes with a novelist’s verve to tell the story of Rudolf Vrba, the first Jewish person to escape from Auschwitz.

The Escape Artist opens with Vrba (born Walter Rosenberg) and Fred Wetzler, another young prisoner, in the middle of an escape attempt. With the help of two other prisoners, Vrba and Wetzler climbed into a woodpile to hide, the first step in escaping the death camp. “For the teenage [Vrba], it was an exhilarating feeling—but not a wholly new one,” Freedland writes. “Because this was not his first escape. And it would not be his last.”

In the late 1930s, leaders in Slovakia seized Jews’ assets and steadily banned them from public life, including schools. Even so, a young Vrba taught himself new languages and learned chemistry from an illicit textbook. As deportation approached, Vrba tried to escape to England but landed in a transit camp. He escaped the camp, got captured again and was eventually sent to Auschwitz. The Nazis had convinced the deported Jews that they were merely being resettled, but once inside Auschwitz, Vrba began to understand the truth: The Nazis were methodically killing millions of Jewish people.

When Vrba was put to work in the section of Auschwitz that processed stolen Jewish belongings, he found a new level of corruption: The Nazis had stolen every material possession from each deported Jewish person, and SS guards were making deals with enslaved workers to keep certain valuables. The brutality and inhumanity of Nazis at every level is chilling and can make for difficult reading. At the same time, Freedland’s depth of research gives a more complete picture of Auschwitz, and Vrba’s inventiveness and ultimate escape from the camp, and his efforts to tell the world the truth about its horrors, make for a gripping narrative.

The book’s last section follows Vrba through his long postwar life in Canada, where he worked as a biochemistry professor at the University of British Columbia. Vrba wrote his own memoir in the 1960s, but now The Escape Artist vividly brings his story to a new generation of readers.

Jonathan Freedland tells the story of Rudolf Vrba, the first Jewish person to escape from Auschwitz, with a novelist's verve.
Review by

“Finis Austriae” was the only entry in Sigmund Freud’s journal on the day the Nazi army flooded over the Austrian border. In Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom, former Newsweek foreign correspondent Andrew Nagorski maps the Nazi takeover of Austria and the urgent operation to rescue Freud, one of Austria’s most famous and most devoted Jewish sons, along with fifteen other people, including his personal doctor, in-laws and other family members.

Nagorski is masterful at juxtaposing the evolution of the global emergency that became World War II with the deep interiority of a man whose passionate life work concerned people’s half-hidden thoughts. The father of psychoanalysis downplayed the threat the Nazis posed, clinging to his optimism that humans would turn back to the light and all would be made right, until it was almost calamitously too late. Saving Freud is the sort of book that, though you know the outcome of the events, still makes you hope with Freud that something might take a turn for the better. Nagorski has a gift for revealing that everything—worldwide emergencies, far-away news, political decisions—is, in the end, about people. This is wonderfully appropriate for a book about Freud, who laid the groundwork for interrogating and understanding the inner self.

It is dizzying to think of everything that had to be achieved to move a large, wealthy and well-known Jewish family out of Nazi territory and into the relative safety of the broader world, which was still often unwelcoming to both Jews and immigrants. Yet Saving Freud tells the story of a group of people—including Freud’s daughter Anna and her lover, Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham (heiress to the Tiffany & Co. fortune); the U.S. ambassador to France, William Bullitt; and Marie Bonaparte, princess of Greece and great-grandniece to Napoleon—who did just that. Motivated by love and towering respect for a man and his work, the unlikely team cooperated seamlessly to achieve the near impossible. It is a tale of good-heartedness, of human devotion and of people who unhesitatingly rushed in to do the right thing. In this way, it feels like a relief to read. Far from being a dry historical account, the book’s emphasis on the personal creates a compelling, page-turning narrative that is wholly engrossing and difficult to put down. Nagorski has written a book for our time, reminding us of the potential for good and adherence to higher ideals in moments of global emergency.

Far from being a dry historical account, Saving Freud is a compelling, page-turning narrative of the urgent operation to rescue Sigmund Freud from the Nazis.

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!

 

Recent Features

Even the most devoted history buffs will discover fresh perspectives among the best World War II histories and memoirs of 2022.

Some of the best historians, scientists, poets and memoirists working today—plus a few multitalented movie and music stars—are ready to dazzle you with their latest works of brilliance.

Scenes From My Life by Michael K. Williams
Crown | August 23

Growing up in an East Flatbush housing project in Brooklyn, New York, Michael K. Williams was a fragile outsider and bullied kid. As he grew older, he progressed from Manhattan dance clubs to a nascent modeling career, then to acting. When the beloved performer died in September 2021, his memoir about this wild life journey, written with author Jon Sternfeld, was nearly finished. Now the posthumously published Scenes From My Life will explore not only Williams’ many iconic television roles, especially Omar from “The Wire,” but also his work as an activist and advocate for young people who get stuck in the school-to-prison pipeline. Scenes From My Life will cement Williams’ legacy as a kind, thoughtful man who used his public prominence to give back to his community.

A Place in the World by Frances Mayes
Crown | August 23

In Frances Mayes’ new collection of essays, she ponders the meaning of “home,” that intangible thing to which countless magazines and blogs are dedicated. The storied author recalls the literal homes where she has taken up residence over the years—from the iconic Italian villa from Under the Tuscan Sun, to the humid and fragrant Georgia town that was the subject of her memoir Under Magnolia, to the North Carolina farmhouse where she and her husband live when they’re not in Italy. She even recalls temporary homes, such as rentals in Mexico and Capri, as well as the sculptures, books, kitchens and fireplaces of her friends’ homes around the world. Tempered by a dash of wistful examination as Mayes enters her 80s, A Place in the World promises to be as nourishing and comforting as a home-cooked meal.

Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv
FSG | September
13

Rachel Aviv’s first book explores questions of self-knowledge and mental health, subjects she’s previously examined in her award-winning journalism for The New Yorker. Strangers to Ourselves offers sensitive case histories of people whose experiences of mental illness exceed the limits of psychiatric terminology, diagnosis and treatment—including the author’s own experience of being the youngest child in the U.S. to receive a diagnosis of anorexia. After being hospitalized for a failure to eat or drink, she met anorexic girls twice her age and learned to mimic their strategies for losing weight. But which came first: the diagnosis or her symptoms? This contradiction between psychiatric terminology and lived experience is the core issue driving Aviv’s book, which also examines Western psychiatry’s long history of ignoring the link between racial violence and mental illness. It’s a sharp, compassionate and necessary investigation, not to be missed.

What If? 2 by Randall Munroe
Riverhead | September
13

Randall Munroe returns with the answers to more questions that you have probably never asked. (What would happen if the solar system were filled with soup out to Jupiter? If a T. rex were released in New York City, how many humans per day would it need to consume to get its needed calorie intake?) The former NASA roboticist and bestselling author of How To, What If? and Thing Explainer combines scientific prowess with humor and his signature stick figure comics to illustrate complicated physics concepts in the silliest ways possible. But as Munroe writes in the introduction to What If? 2, “The same kind of science is used to answer serious questions and silly ones.” So abandon your pretensions, all ye who enter here, and you’ll be sure to learn something new.

The Year of the Puppy by Alexandra Horowitz
Viking | September
20

Do you ever wish you’d known your dog for its whole life? That you could have met it right after it was born and watched it grow into the dog you know and love today? Dog cognition extraordinaire and bestselling author Alexandra Horowitz (Our Dogs, Ourselves) decided that her family’s next dog would provide the perfect opportunity to study puppy development, and The Year of the Puppy records everything she learned in the first year of that puppy’s life. It’s a heartwarming personal story that seamlessly incorporates captivating science about our beloved canine companions. It’s also a must-read for dog lovers, which probably goes without saying, but we suspect that even cat lovers will find much to enjoy in this endearing scientific memoir.

Stay True by Hua Hsu
Doubleday | September
27

New Yorker staff writer Hua Hsu’s memoir is born of trauma. In the summer of 1998, Hsu’s friend and classmate Ken Ishida was murdered in a carjacking just before their senior year at the University of California, Berkeley. Stay True examines the reverberations of a friendship frozen in time by death, while charting a parallel exploration of the experiences of immigration and assimilation that both drew together and pushed apart Hsu, whose parents are immigrants from Taiwan, and Ishida, whose Japanese American family had been in the United States for generations. Ultimately it’s a touching portrait of the years in a young person’s life when every album, every item of clothing is a stake in the ground of their burgeoning identity. Readers who came of age at the turn of the 21st century will be especially rewarded by the pop culture gems studded throughout.

Fen, Bog and Swamp by Annie Proulx
Scribner | September
27

The acclaimed author of The Shipping News, Barkskins and Brokeback Mountain turns her perceptive eye to the calamitous destruction of the world’s peatlands in Fen, Bog & Swamp. Annie Proulx is a lifelong environmentalist but not a scientist, so her language is always accessible as she explains how fens, bogs and swamps differ by water level and vegetation, and how crucial they are to a healthy ecosystem. She ranges widely, both thematically and geographically, and considers plenty of archaeology and literature along the way. She also sprinkles in reminiscences of her own wetland encounters and discusses the interactions between human and peatland throughout history, such as the ritual sacrifices that were later turned up as “bog bodies” by terrified peat cutters. It’s a smorgasbord of information that nature lovers won’t want to miss.

The Sporty One by Melanie Chisholm
Grand Central | September
27

Melanie Chisholm, aka Mel C., aka Sporty Spice, is giving readers everything, all that joy can bring, this I swear. But The Sporty One doesn’t just cover the joyful highs of Chisholm’s life—such as answering an ad in the newspaper at age 22 and landing herself in one of the world’s biggest musical groups, performing at the Olympics and appearing on the covers of countless magazines—but plumbs the darker depths of her life, too, including a lifelong struggle with perfectionism and insecurities about her body. If you’ve ever uttered the phrase “girl power” while wearing platform shoes, this book will be a wonderful bright spot this autumn.

Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey
Little, Brown Spark |
October 11

Tricia Hersey is the founder of the Nap Ministry, an organization that facilitates workshops and art installations that explore rest as a tool for healing and reconnecting with our humanity. She makes her publishing debut with Rest Is Resistance, a searing indictment of capitalist grind culture. With a background in theology, art and community organizing, Hersey especially addresses the soul-deep weariness of Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved. The system of slavery that treated humans like machines for production, Hersey says, is the same system that drives today’s punishing, profit-driven economic system. Rest Is Resistance is a call to move toward racial justice and community healing by engaging in activities that have nothing to do with productivity, such as daydreaming and napping.

Madly, Deeply by Alan Rickman
Holt | October 18

When iconic actor Alan Rickman died in 2016, he left behind shoes that are virtually unfillable. (Who else could embody roles in Die Hard, Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter and be perfect in all three?) For those still mourning his loss, Madly, Deeply will provide a wealth of insight to this man and his many charms. The book collects entries from Rickman’s diaries from 1993 to 2015, with some additional snippets from 1974 to 1982, to create an intimate picture of the daily rhythms of his life as they occasionally collided with incredible success and life-changing opportunities. Fans of theater and film will revel in Rickman’s candid witticisms about his co-stars, and their love for his work will deepen as they learn more about this artist’s dynamic life and legacy.

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man by Paul Newman
Knopf | October 18

If any actor in the last 100 years has reached icon status, Paul Newman has. His posthumous memoir, The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man, grew out of a project that Newman himself initiated in 1986 to compile an oral history of his life by interviewing friends, family, lovers and colleagues about their honest impressions of the beloved actor. In turn, Newman gave his own takes, offering up incredible details about his troubled childhood, introduction to acting, marriage to Joanne Woodward, the death of his son and much more. Newman’s unvarnished recollections of Marlon Brando, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor make this book a treasure trove for movie buffs of every ilk.

The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff
Little, Brown | October 25

Master biographer Stacy Schiff (Vera, Cleopatra) sets her sights on America’s rocky beginnings in The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams. In her sixth book, the Pulitzer Prizewinning author brings to light the radical rabble-rousing of Samuel Adams, who, as it turns out, was much more than just the namesake for a beer. As one of the architects of the Boston Tea Party, Adams played an integral part in spurring America toward revolution. As it chronicles Adams’ journey from a frivolous youth to a rebellious adulthood, Schiff’s sprawling biography will secure Adams a place of significance in our national memory once again.

The Song of the Cell by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Scribner | October 25

Take a journey into the smallest unit of our bodies with bestselling and Pulitzer Prizewinning author Siddhartha Mukherjee—no Magic School Bus required. In The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene, Mukherjee laid out the moving history of genetics and their effects on our biological destinies, including their influence on cancer. Now in The Song of the Cell, the cancer physician and researcher explores another essential piece of the human story: cells. Covering everything from their discovery in the 1600s through today’s rapidly developing technology for healing and manipulating our maladies on a cellular level, Mukherjee’s latest harnesses some of the most important scientific work being done today and distills it into a beautiful, readable page turner.

Inciting Joy by Ross Gay
Algonquin | October
25

Award-winning author Ross Gay has become something of an authority on joy after his 2015 poetry collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, and his bestselling essay collection, The Book of Delights. But his next collection of essays is somewhat sneakily about sorrow. That is, it’s about the ways that sorrow draws us together, causes us to rely on one another and then, rather unexpectedly, squeezes joy out of our togetherness. With playful metaphors and language that skips along like a game of hopscotch, Inciting Joy: Essays promises to deliver heart-swelling insights into life, death and the joyful necessity of interdependence.

And There Was Light by Jon Meacham
Random House | October 25

It’s a big season for new releases from Pulitzer winners! Add Jon Meacham (The Soul of America, His Truth Is Marching On) to the list with And There Was Light, his 720-page biography of Abraham Lincoln. In his 13th book for adults, Meacham explores Lincoln’s moral development, mapping the influences—from Baptist preachers to the books that provided his self-made education—throughout Lincoln’s life that contributed to the 16th president’s eventual status as an antislavery mountain-mover. Along the way, Meacham’s writing is engaging and brisk, telling a familiar story with fresh insights and interesting emphases.

The Grimkes by Kerri K. Greenidge
Liveright | November 8

For less well-trod historical ground, put Kerri K. Greenidge’s reexamination of the Grimke family on your TBR list for this fall. Angelina and Sarah Grimke (the latter of whom was one of the subjects of Sue Monk Kidd’s novel The Invention of Wings) were white sisters who left their plantation in South Carolina to become abolitionist activists in the North. For many years, they have been upheld as antislavery heroes, but Greenidge takes a closer and more nuanced look at their story and fleshes out the full Grimke family, including its Black members who have so far been overshadowed by their white relatives. Reaching from the 18th century into the 20th, The Grimkes is an exciting, groundbreaking work of biographical history about one of the most important multiracial families in America.

Fatty Fatty Boom Boom by Rabia Chaudry
Algonquin | November 8

From the host of the “Undisclosed” podcast and author of Adnan’s Story comes a memoir about family, food and the push and pull these things have exhibited over Rabia Chaudry’s body. Growing up in a Pakistani immigrant family, Chaudry’s relationship with food was shaped by her parents’ belief in the nutritional superiority of American cuisine. But when she visited family in Pakistan, Chaudry was teased and told that she would never be able to entice a man because of her size. Over the course of her life, she has experienced food as both punishment and joy, and her body as both a wonder and a burden. Fatty Fatty Boom Boom runs the gamut from rejection to acceptance, complicating the dominant narratives around how fat women are expected to feel about their bodies.

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
Crown | November 15

Michelle Obama, the mega-bestselling author of Becoming—and, oh yeah, our former first lady—will publish her second book this November. The Light We Carry is full of personal stories and practical wisdom for sharing our light with others and staying afloat when circumstances are tough. Anyone looking for a guide to deeper self-knowledge and steadier connection with their community will benefit from Obama’s newest heartfelt book.

How to Stand Up to a Dictator by Maria Ressa
Harper | November 29

Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Maria Ressa tells her story of fighting fascism in How to Stand Up to a Dictator. As a Filipino American journalist, Ressa has spent her career rooting out lies and misinformation sown by the government of the Philippines. Her memoir charts the risks, consequences and rewards of fighting against authoritarian systems and outlines the ways that social media has made it easier for fascist movements to gain momentum in recent years. Champions of democracy and the free press will find both crucial information and a moving memoir in How to Stand Up to a Dictator.

Weightless by Evette Dionne
Ecco | December 6

Evette Dionne, whose middle grade book Lifting as We Climb was nominated for a National Book Award in 2020, makes her adult debut with Weightless: Making Space for My Resilient Body and Soul. The former editor-in-chief of Bitch Media not only tells her own story as a fat Black woman who has been discriminated against by society and who rarely sees herself represented in pop culture except as comic relief, but she also dismantles the culture of fatphobia that upholds these injustices in public and private spaces. As Dionne writes in the introduction, “Fat people aren’t a problem that needs to be solved. Fatphobia, which creates a world in which we’re all made to believe that thin bodies are better and deserving of better treatment, is the issue—and that’s where my focus lies.”

Discover all our most anticipated books of fall 2022.

Read on. Your new favorite nonfiction book might be waiting for you to discover it.

When British author Katherine May released her debut book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, in 2020, the editors of BookPage became deeply obsessed. (Forming a cult was briefly discussed, but the thought was ultimately abandoned as cults require too much administrative work.) We knew right away that this was a book to return to year after year, a ritual to bring us comfort during the months when sunlight grows sparse and we need someone to remind us how to embrace the darkness.

Since then, readers the world over have been enchanted by May’s flowing, rhythmic writing, both in Wintering and in her follow-up book, The Electricity of Every Living Thing, about walking the southwestern coast of England as May reckoned with the realization that she is autistic. Her next book, Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, is one of our most anticipated books of 2023, and this description from Riverhead will make it clear why:

Many of us feel trapped in a grind of constant change: rolling news cycles, the chatter of social media, our families split along partisan lines. We feel fearful and tired, on edge in our bodies, not quite knowing what has us perpetually depleted. For Katherine May, this low hum of fatigue and anxiety made her wonder what she was missing. Could there be a different way to relate to the world, one that would allow her feel more rested and at ease, even as seismic changes unfold on the planet? Might there be a way for all of us to move through life with curiosity and tenderness, sensitized to the subtle magic all around?

In Enchantment, May invites the reader to come with her on a journey to reawaken our innate sense of wonder and awe. With humor, candor, and warmth, she shares stories of her own struggles with work, family, and the aftereffects of pandemic, particularly the feelings of overwhelm as the world rushes to reopen. Craving a different way to live, May begins to explore the restorative properties of the natural world, moving through the elements of earth, water, fire, and air, and identifying the quiet traces of magic that can be found only when we look for them. Through deliberate attention and ritual, she unearths the potency and nourishment that come from quiet reconnection with our immediate environment. Blending lyricism and storytelling, sensitivity and empathy, Enchantment invites each of us to open the door to human experience in all its sensual complexity, and to find the beauty waiting for us there.


Here’s what the author had to say about why Enchantment is such an essential book for our times:

Enchantment asks how we live after we’ve survived difficult times. We’re all reeling from so many aftermaths, and I wanted to explore how we can find sanctuary again. Enchantment is a book about noticing, cutting through the brain fog and despair to reconnect with our sense of delight and wonder at the world around us. As I wrote it, I felt like I was uncovering a seam of magic that I’d forgotten how to sense.”

—Katherine May

Enchantment will be available at your local bookstore or library on March 7, 2023, and you can preorder it here. Until then, feast your eyes on and whet your appetite with this beautiful cover.


Enchantment by Katherine May
Enchantment by Katherine May, to be published March 7, 2023, by Riverhead Books

Cover art by Lauren Peters-Collaer/Riverhead Books

We’re thrilled to reveal the cover of the newest book from Katherine May, bestselling author of Wintering.

Get ready to place those holds and preoders, because 2022 is full to the brim with new releases from old favorites, such as Tina Brown, David Sedaris, Susan Cain and Philip Gourevitch; irresistible debuts from Silvia Vasquez-Lavado, Erika Krouse and Maud Newton; plus exciting nonfiction releases from fiction masters, such as Amy Bloom, Erika L. Sánchez, Ingrid Rojas Contreras and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Black Love Matters cover

Black Love Matters edited by Jessica P. Pryde
Berkley | February 1

Debut author Pryde is a librarian, podcast host, editor and romance fan who has long been aware of the lack of narratives featuring Black protagonists. For Black Love Matters, she has enlisted a stellar lineup of authors, scholars and critics—including Piper Huguley, Da’Shaun L. Harrison, Allie Parker and Carole V. Bell—to share their perspectives on Black love and desire, especially the ways they’re portrayed in media. It promises to be a paradigm-shifting collection that will fundamentally change how readers engage with love stories.

In the Shadow of the Mountain by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado
Holt | February 1

You may know Vasquez-Lavado as the first Peruvian woman to ascend Mt. Everest; or the first gay woman to climb the tallest mountain on every continent; or the entrepreneur behind Courageous Girls, a nonprofit organization that helps young women recover from abuse. You probably don’t know her as an inspiring author, but that will change this February. In Vasquez-Lavado’s debut memoir, the narrative of her life—from horrific sexual abuse to immigration and professional success in San Francisco—beautifully mirrors her arduous but rewarding trip up each mountain. It’s a testament to the power of high altitudes to help heal trauma, and a pretty great story to boot. Even Selena Gomez seems to think so, since she’s already signed on to star in and produce a film adaptation of Vasquez-Lavado’s book.

Heartbreak by Florence Williams
Norton | February 1

Williams is an accomplished science writer with an eternally curious mind—as demonstrated by her previous books, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History and The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative, as well as by her work for Outside, National Geographic and more. So when her husband of 25 years announced that their marriage was over, her impulse was to take her devastation and study it. The result is Heartbreak, an exceptional blend of memoir and science that showcases elegant writing, raw personal narrative, fascinating research and even some cutting-edge self-experimentation. (The supervised use of MDMA makes an appearance.) Throw in some humor and wilderness adventures for good measure, and you get a rare and inimitable book.

Scoundrel cover

Scoundrel by Sarah Weinman
Ecco | February 22

After her previous true crime hits, The Real Lolita and Unspeakable Acts, we have full confidence that a new Sarah Weinman joint is going to be good. In Scoundrel, she takes on 1960s murderer Edgar Smith, who used his devious smarts to fool the public, including conservative mogul William F. Buckley, into thinking he was innocent. He wasn’t, of course—but thanks to his well-honed manipulation tactics, Smith was able to get his death sentence overturned, get released from prison and get a second chance at murder. Weinman lays it all out with page-turning propulsion: a master of the true crime genre coming into her own.

Sounds Wild and Broken by David George Haskell
Viking | March 1

Guggenheim Fellow and biology professor Haskell has an ear for poetry as much as he has an ear for bird calls and rustling tree branches. His 2012 book, The Forest Unseen, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and went on to win a number of other nature writing awards—as did his 2017 book, The Songs of Trees. His latest masterwork is an investigation into the soundscape of the natural world: its symphonic beauty, as well as its troubling silences as climate change encroaches. Haskell’s lyrical writing brings to mind the best of Terry Tempest Williams, Annie Dillard, Barry Lopez and Elizabeth Kolbert, but with his own arresting emphasis on paying attention, experiencing wonder and taking action.

In Love by Amy Bloom
Random House | March 8

Amy Bloom is best known and loved for her bestselling novels, such as Away, White Houses and Lucky Us. In Love is her debut memoir, and it will land on the literary scene with a wallop this March. In it, Bloom writes about her late husband, Brian, who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in his 60s. From the time of his diagnosis, it took Brian less than a week to determine that the “long goodbye” was not what he wanted—and so he and Amy made plans to visit an organization in Switzerland that offered accompanied suicide. The book moves back and forth between scenes of Amy and Brian’s last week together in Zurich and glimpses of their life together before the diagnosis, as well as of Brian’s eventual decline. All of it is heartbreaking but beautifully rendered, and well worth the tears you will likely shed while reading it.

Red Paint cover

Red Paint by Sasha taqʷšəblu LaPointe
Counterpoint | March 8

In her debut memoir, LaPointe offers a poetic narrative of trauma and healing through ancestral rites and punk rock. The wearing of red paint is a ceremonial act for the Coast Salish people, identifying the wearer as a healer. After realizing the trauma she accumulated through abuse and homelessness was a sickness of the spirit, LaPointe embarked on a quest to wear the red paint of her ancestors in the context of her own life as a poet and performer, using words, language, stories, ritual and community as the tools of healing. Along the way, LaPointe discovers how restoring the self to health is entwined with restoring the historical erasure of Native women’s voices. Like White Magic by Elissa Washuta and Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, Red Paint will illuminate the voices and experiences of Indigenous women for a 21st-century audience.

In the Margins by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
Europa | March 15

A slim collection of essays from Italian mystery woman and beloved novelist Ferrante will surprise, stimulate and delight readers this March. This book got its unexpected start when the author of The Lying Life of Adults agreed to give three lectures on writing and reading at the University of Bologna in August 2020. COVID thwarted the whole affair before she could deliver her address, but she had already written the pieces. Eventually the actress Manuela Mandracchia presented the lectures on Ferrante’s behalf in Bologna in November of 2021—but in case you weren’t in Italy in November, you’ll be able to read Ferrante’s musings in print this spring, along with one additional essay that she composed for the Dante and Other Classics conference. Together they sketch a fuller portrait of the brilliant but elusive writer behind so many elegant, intelligent books.

How to Take Over the World by Ryan North
Riverhead | March 15

The latest from comic book craftsman and funnyman North is a “spiritual successor” to his 2018 time-travel science book, How to Invent Everything. (As North puts it on his website, “Once you’ve invented everything in the world, you might as well take over the place.”) As a writer for Marvel and DC Comics, one of his jobs is to plot new schemes for the villains—and these schemes need to be credible. This makes North something of an expert on dastardly plots and criminal ploys, and the real-life science and technology that could make them possible. How to Take Over the World lays out a hilarious, but totally factual, blueprint for all the ways aspiring supervillains could seize power, control minds and dominate the earth. It’s a little dangerous, but all in good fun—so long as Pinky and the Brain don’t catch wind of it.

Tell Me Everything cover

Tell Me Everything by Erika Krouse
Flatiron | March 15

The buzz for fiction writer Krouse’s debut memoir is so thick, the air around it feels static-charged. Lacy Crawford, author of Notes on a Silencing, said about it, “I am reading a forthcoming book right now that—if there is any justice (I know, I know)—will dismantle for good the racist, misogynist, capitalist concussionpalooza that is D1 college football.” Melissa Febos called it “a real life feminist noir detective story. Very intense & beautifully crafted. It’s out in March and I can’t recommend it highly enough.” When a lawyer unexpectedly offered Krouse a job as a private investigator in 2002, she began investigating a rape case involving a Colorado university football team, while beating back memories of her own experiences of sexual abuse. In Krouse’s capable hands, the story reads like an elevated detective novel, full of personal intrigue and doled out with enviable control. It is not to be missed.

You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce
Flatiron | March 22

Memoirist Arce (My (Underground) American Dream) leans into her social commentary and cultural criticism chops in You Sound Like a White Girl. After feeling pressured to assimilate into white American culture since childhood—getting rid of her Mexican accent, pursuing traditional forms of educational and professional success, keeping her immigration status a secret from even her closest friends—Arce realized that assimilation was a moving finish line, and that the pressure to chase it was causing herself and others great harm. With bold, clear writing, Arce calls for immigrants and communities of color to reject assimilation, turn away from the white gaze and embrace their unique cultures, histories and identities, which deserve celebration. This book is a confident step forward for Arce as a writer and public thinker.

Ancestor Trouble by Maud Newton
Random House | March 29

Newton made a name for herself back in 2002 as one of the very first book bloggers, and her acclaim has only crescendoed since then. Now, with her first book finally on the horizon, readers are working themselves up into a frenzy of anticipation. Based on Newton’s 2014 Harper’s cover story, “America’s Ancestry Craze,” Ancestor Trouble looks through the lens of Newton’s family (including her Confederate heritage-obsessed father and a grandfather who got married 13 times) at the wider world of genetics, intergenerational trauma and family secrets, both buried and spilled. Her approach is sweeping, even exhaustive, but for such a complex and far-reaching topic, Newton is certainly the one for the job. We suspect that the hype for this one is real, and then some.

Bittersweet cover

Bittersweet by Susan Cain
Crown | April 5

Bestselling author Cain sounded a (gentle, soothing) alarm to homebodies everywhere with her 2012 book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Her latest book promises an equally radical reframe, this time of the experience of sorrow, longing and melancholy. With a mix of research and memoir, Cain uncovers the value of sorrow as an essential component of creativity, empathy and wonder. Artistic, brooding types everywhere will feel seen by Cain’s thoughtful analysis, and appreciated for their superpower of transforming pain into art and connection.

Gathering Blossoms Under Fire by Alice Walker, edited by Valerie Boyd
Simon & Schuster | April 12

The journals of National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Walker, who turns 78 this year, are well worth anticipating. The selected entries in Gathering Blossoms Under Fire cover the years 1965 to 2000, and in them Walker records her experiences of everything from marching in Mississippi during the civil rights movement; to marrying a Jewish man in 1967, which defied laws about interracial marriage in the South at that time; to participating in and challenging the Women’s Movement; to becoming the first Black woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel The Color Purple. She also provides insights into all aspects of her personal life including parenthood, family, sex, spirituality and activism—not to mention her iconic 1990s romance with musician Tracy Chapman—all written in that clear, perceptive voice that made her an American icon.

Bomb Shelter by Mary Laura Philpott
Atria | April 12

Humorist, essayist, memoirist, turtle enthusiast and the internet’s mom—Philpott made fans of us all with her warmhearted 2019 debut, I Miss You When I Blink. Her next memoir-in-essays brims with the same combination of anxiety and care as she examines the limits of her ability to keep her loved ones safe in a world where danger lurks, annoyingly, around every corner. It’s a perfect book for 2022, honestly: existential dread, but make it hopeful.

Finding Me cover

Finding Me by Viola Davis
HarperOne | April 26

The first Black actor to win an Academy Award, an Emmy and a Tony (two, actually!), Davis has already reached rare and wonderful heights in her career on the screen and stage. Does she need another credential on her long, long list of accomplishments? No. Are we nonetheless glad she’s adding “author” to that list in 2022? Yes, obviously. Davis’ memoir will cover the breadth and depth of her life, from her childhood in Rhode Island, to coming of age among poverty and dysfunction, to attending Julliard, to launching a storied acting career. All signs point to a gripping, honest and moving new star in the pantheon of celebrity memoirs.

The Palace Papers by Tina Brown
Crown | April 26

Tina Brown is the former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker and, perhaps even more notably, the author of The Diana Chronicles, that dishy, iconic 2007 biography of Diana Spencer. In The Palace Papers, Brown sets her sights on the royal family since Diana’s death, and no one is left unexamined. (We’re looking at you, Philip.) Brown writes with the sort of conspiratorial tone that almost makes you forget that you’re reading a deeply researched work of reporting. It’s like a sequel to “The Crown” that sticks closer to the truth, while remaining wildly entertaining.

I’ll Show Myself Out by Jessi Klein
Harper | April 26

In 2016, comedian, TV writer and producer Klein’s debut book, You’ll Grow Out of It, became an instant classic among the best of the best comedic essay collections. Her second collection, due out in April, is one fans have been waiting on for years, and it seems their patience will be richly rewarded. In I’ll Show Myself Out, Klein turns her attention from being a child to raising one, eviscerating the impossible standards of motherhood and the weirdly bittersweet reality of middle age. We’re expecting a hilarious gut-punch, poignant and absurd in equal measure.

We Were Dreamers by Simu Liu
William Morrow | May 3

The star of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead, will pivot from comic books to memoir this May. We Were Dreamers is the story of Liu’s life, from living in China with his grandparents, to immigrating to Canada to live with his parents, whom he barely knew, to making the leap from accounting to acting in his 20s. He’ll tell it all with heart and sly humor, which is hardly surprising if you saw him host “SNL” this past November. (The man has jokes.)

The High Sierra cover

The High Sierra by Kim Stanley Robinson
Little, Brown | May 10

The author of the bestselling Mars trilogy, among many other works, Robinson is widely regarded as one of our greatest living science fiction writers—which is why it’s notable that he’s making the switch to nonfiction for the first time in 2022. Robinson is a California native who hiked the Sierra Nevada mountains for the first time in 1973 and has since returned over 100 times. This book is his ode to the landscape he knows better than any other, covering everything from geology to indigenous history to the environmental measures being taken to protect these mountains for future hikers and naturalists—all interwoven with events from Robinson’s life that have intersected with his love of the Sierras. Readers of his sci-fi know that whatever Robinson tackles, he conquers—so we’re excited to see this literary master venture into new terrain this year.

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang
MCD | May 17

Reang’s family fled Cambodia when she was less than 1 year old, thanks to the grit of her mother, who spent 23 days on a crowded boat waiting for refuge to become available. When sanctuary was finally offered at an American naval base in the Philippines, Reang’s mother rushed her sick baby to a military doctor, who saved Reang’s life. This is the debt Reang owes her mother—and this is the reason Reang feels her mother’s disappointment so acutely when Reang comes out as a lesbian and her mother, unable to accept Reang’s sexuality, severs the relationship. Ma and Me is an important new entry in the growing body of American refugee and immigrant literature, shining a fearless light on the experiences of queer people whose families have survived the trauma of war. It also stands apart as a work of lyrical beauty, exploring culture, duty, guilt and family with heartbreaking clarity.

River of the Gods by Candice Millard
Doubleday | May 17

Bestselling historian and biographer Millard (The River of Doubt, Destiny of the Republic) is blazing a new path through history in 2022—and this time she may have to use a machete. River of the Gods is the story of three men, two Englishmen and one previously enslaved East African man, who trekked deep into jungles of central Africa to locate the place where the Nile River originates. Clashing personalities, relentless obstacles, imperialistic misdeeds—this story comes with a bottomless supply of drama, which Millard is adept at spinning into gripping narrative nonfiction. This could be her most tantalizing adventure story yet.

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World cover

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World by Barry Lopez
Random House | May 24

The National Book Award-winning nature writer, novelist and environmentalist Lopez has been sorely missed since his death in 2020. His final work, a collection of essays that includes five pieces that were never published, is a moving reminder of this literary giant’s legacy. As Lopez takes readers along with him to California, New York, Oregon, Antarctica and beyond, their attention will be drawn over and over again to small details of natural beauty that Lopez was famous for noticing, vividly rendering and transforming into augurs of our shared environmental fate. Along the way, Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World offers a patchwork memoir of Lopez’s life, from the pain of his childhood to the wealth of knowledge he gathered from scientists and Indigenous teachers throughout the world. It’s shaping up to be a fine farewell to this powerful but tender soul.

Happy-Go-Lucky by David Sedaris
Little, Brown | May 31

A new Sedaris book is always cause for celebration. Happy-Go-Lucky will be his first essay collection since 2018’s Calypso, and fans of Sedaris’ writing—bitingly funny with a poignant, plaintive core—are eager to see how he’ll render the personal and political developments of the intervening years, including the death of Sedaris’ stubborn, complicated father, who has been a prominent character in the author’s writings over the course of his 30-year career. Sedaris’ work has always had an outsized capacity for catharsis, but after the last few arduous years, we’re expecting this latest collection to hit the heart with a little extra force.

Down and Out in Paradise by Charles Leerhsen
Simon & Schuster | June 21

Since Anthony Bourdain’s death in 2018, there have been a handful of books by and about him—including a posthumous world travel guide, an oral biography compiled by his assistant and a memoir from his longtime director about traveling and working with Bourdain. But there has yet to be a true biography of the late chef. The first one, carefully researched but “definitely unauthorized,” comes out this summer from Leerhsen, the former executive editor at Sports Illustrated. Based on interviews with those who knew Bourdain best, Leerhsen will contextualize Bourdain’s on-screen charisma and off-screen despair by revealing childhood traumas that shaped the man who was revered by some, feared by others and loved by all.

The Man Who Could Move Clouds cover

The Man Who Could Move Clouds by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Doubleday | July 12

The acclaimed California-based Colombian novelist of Fruit of the Drunken Tree has a new magic trick up her sleeve in 2022. The Man Who Could Move Clouds sounds like an exemplary new entry in the library of “stranger than fiction” memoirs: a true story of Rojas Contreras’ life that includes fortunetelling, amnesia, ghosts and a mother-daughter road trip. She’ll weave together family secrets, Colombian history and personal narrative with the distinct skill of a novelist to create a book that, more than any other on this list, has the potential to convert readers who think they don’t care for nonfiction.

Body Language edited by Nicole Chung and Matt Ortile
Catapult | July 12

An all-star list of contributors, including Bryan Washington, Bassey Ikpi, Destiny Birdsong, Jess Zimmerman and Toni Jensen, explore the beautiful, painful and political realities of life in a physical body: ability, race, gender, age, desire, fertility, illness, weight and more. Thirty essays, originally published by Catapult magazine and compiled here by Catapult executive editor Ortile (The Groom Will Keep His Name) and author Chung (All You Can Ever Know), showcase the power of candid personal essays to undermine stereotypes, defy expectations and refresh our assumptions about how bodies should look, function and move.

The Crane Wife by CJ Hauser
Doubleday | July 12

Based on Hauser’s beautiful 2019 Paris Review essay by the same name, The Crane Wife is her debut work of nonfiction following two novels, Family of Origin and The From-Aways. A memoir-in-essays, The Crane Wife will build on Hauser’s viral story—about traveling to Texas to study whooping cranes 10 days after calling off her wedding—with 17 additional pieces that explore how to cultivate an unconventional life, from robot conventions, to weddings, to John Belushi’s grave. Hauser’s wisdom radiated out of her viral Paris Review essay, which resonated with more than a million readers. What could be better than a whole book made of that same elegant, precise and perceptive stuff?

Crying in the Bathroom cover

Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sánchez
Viking | July 12

Sánchez’s young adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2017, and in 2021 it was announced that America Ferrera will make her directorial debut with a film adaptation of the novel for Netflix. So if you aren’t already familiar with Sánchez’s work, now is the perfect time to familiarize yourself—especially because she also has a memoir coming out this year. Crying in the Bathroom is a memoir-in-essays about growing up in Chicago in the 1990s and raising hell, in a good way. She touches on everything from the failures of white feminism and living with depression to loving comedy and being raised by parents who are Mexican immigrants. This book is bracingly candid, funny and pissed off. And not that this is the most important thing about it, but it’s also got a gorgeous cover that you will look very cool with if you take it to the pool this summer.

Dirtbag, Massachusetts by Isaac Fitzgerald
Bloomsbury | July 19

The founding editor of Buzzfeed Books and Saeed Jones’ best friend, Fitzgerald seems to pop up everywhere you look—as an editor, children’s book author (How to Be a Pirate), essayist and tattoo enthusiast (Pen & Ink). This summer, he’ll make his solo debut with an essay collection about his rough-and-tumble upbringing in Boston and rural Massachusetts and the choppy waters of his west-coast adulthood, learning to navigate the pitfalls of masculinity, body image, class and family strife. There will be tough stops along this journey—including discussions of violence, homelessness and trauma—but Fitzgerald’s signature tenderness, humor and generosity will carry readers gently the whole way.

Butts cover

Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke
Avid Reader | August 9

In the immortal words of Jurassic Park chief engineer Ray Arnold, “Hold onto your butts.” Radiolab reporter and contributing editor Radke’s debut book will tackle the ever-elusive, always-alluring topic of the female derriere. How did butts come to be sexualized and mythologized? Why do certain body types fall in and out of fashion? Which powerful institutions shape how we feel about ourselves and our bodies? Radke will tackle these questions and many more, creating a kaleidoscopic cultural history of a body part that just won’t quit.

You Hide That You Hate Me and I Hide That I Know by Philip Gourevitch
FSG | September 13

Philip Gourevitch is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, which was published in 1998 about the Rwandan genocide. For his latest book, Gourevitch returned to Rwanda 20 years later to capture the ways that those who killed and those who survived have continued to live alongside one another since then. It’s part travelogue and part investigative reportage, with personal narratives and political analysis all rolled in. Much like his first book, You Hide That You Hate Me and I Hide That I Know promises to be a groundbreaking exploration of the effects of genocide—nationally, politically and, most of all, personally.

Nerd by Maya Phillips
Atria | October 11

Poet and critic Phillips is known for her well-formed analyses of theater, TV, movies and books in the New York Times—but of course, professional popular media obsessives weren’t born that way. Their nerd statuses were created through long, arduous hours of discovering, loving and devoting themselves to good stories. Growing up in the 1990s, Phillips put in the hours, from Star Wars, superhero cartoons and Harry Potter to “Doctor Who,” Tolkien and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” She writes about these influences and more in Nerd, exploring the way fandoms shape young people’s perceptions of themselves and the world through their portrayals of race, gender, religion and other key components of fans’ real experiences and identities. With humor and exacting criticism, Phillips serves up food for thought—a whole meal, really—for anyone who’s ever struggled to see themselves as the hero.

Check out our most anticipated titles of 2022 in every genre!

New year, new nonfiction, same old towering TBR stack.

In Lori Gottlieb’s newest book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, the therapist is the one on the couch. After an unexpected breakup, the author, herself a therapist, begins the arduous process of finding someone to talk to. This book is the wise, funny and warm account of Gottlieb’s therapeutic journey, stitched through with tales of her patients’ fallibility and resilience. The result is an all-too-human portrait of our vulnerability and power as people struggling to get by and get better.

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author who writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column. Here’s what she’s been reading lately.


Inheritance

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

This is a surprising book because, even though the ostensible mystery at the heart of Dani’s story—who her biological father really is—is solved at the beginning of the memoir, the book reads like a suspenseful existential thriller as she unravels the big questions of identity that are both specific to her and universal to the human condition. How much of our essence is determined by genetics? By environment? By who loved us or didn’t love us the way we wanted to be loved? How do even the best-kept secrets seep into our lives anyway? 


The Tennis Partner

The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese

I’m actually rereading this, because it’s the kind of book you return to again and again. This is a beautiful story about a doctor in El Paso and the intern training under him. They meet at a time when both are going through personal crises: the doctor’s marriage is falling apart, and the intern is trying to stay sober from a drug addiction. It’s a gorgeous memoir about friendship and its power and powerlessness to heal someone you care deeply about. Keep the tissues nearby.


The Elephant in the Room

The Elephant in the Room by Tommy Tomlinson

Yep, there’s a pattern here—I’m a sucker for a good memoir. I just got this book a few days ago, and I keep staying up way too late reading it. If the first two books deal with secrets, shame and addiction, this one tackles all of those things along with our complicated relationship with body image and self-esteem. Tomlinson’s honesty and vulnerability, along with his humor and powerful prose, make the sleep I’m losing well worth it.

Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author who writes The Atlantic’s weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column. Here’s what she’s been reading lately.

Lovers of nonfiction, rejoice. This fall is full-to-bursting with incredible memoirs, social science, biology and essays—including new books from Leslie Jamison, Augusten Burroughs and Lindy West. So pull out your scarves, dust off your boots and add a few more books to your TBR stack.


TidelandsThe Plateau by Maggie Paxson
Riverhead | August 13

Although it has elements of memoir, biography and anthropological fieldwork, The Plateau is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a complex portrait of the Plateau du Vivarais-Lignon in southern France, a place whose inhabitants have taken in refugees, given shelter to migrants and offered hospitality to strangers for centuries. Anthropologist Maggie Paxson, after years of studying war and conflict, travels to the Plateau to study peace instead. Her findings are collected here, artfully told and heartbreakingly poignant.


The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power 
Dey Street | September 10

Former United Nations ambassador Samanta Power writes with disarming vulnerability about her journey from immigrant to war correspondant to presidential Cabinet official in her memoir, The Education of an Idealist. In addition to the story of her political activism and public service, Power delves into the harrowing toll her public work has taken on her private life, such as the impacts of working a 24/7 national security job while raising two small children. Ultimately this memoir is an inspiring look at our potential to advance the cause of human dignity in the United States and the world, written with deep insight and searing hope.


A Door in the EarthWill My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty
Norton | September 10

Death activist and mortician Caitlin Doughty (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, From Here to Eternity) takes on questions from the grimmest, most morbid members of society: children. Since kids tend to ask about the gruesome details that adults won’t, Doughty started collecting their questions: Do conjoined twins always die at the same time? We eat dead chickens, why not dead people? Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? addresses these questions with the grace, humor and candor that Doughty feels all people deserve.


A Polar Affair by Lloyd Spencer Davis 
Pegasus | September 24

Lloyd Spender Davis is one of the world’s leading penguin experts—and the first scientist to discover that male penguins sometimes have sex with each other. Or so he thought. What follows is a back-and-forth account of his own research and that of George Murray Levick, the scientist who actually discovered this fact about penguins in 1912 but obscured his findings so as not to offend delicate Victorian sensibilities. Take it from me: A book about penguin sex has no business being this funny or this good, but by some miracle, A Polar Affair is both of these things in extravagant quantities.


QuichotteOver the Top by Jonathan Van Ness
HarperOne | September 24

When I surveyed the other editors at BookPage about which celebrity memoir they were most looking forward to reading this fall, all of them had an answer that they wish were true and an answer that was actually true. This is the answer that was actually true. Jonathan Van Ness, the beloved icon of self-acceptance and positivity from “Queer Eye,” writes about how he survived years of mockery for being “over the top” without being crushed by people’s judgment. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and so long as you’re not dead inside, you will love it.


Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
Sourcebooks | September 24

As a single African American woman, Nefertiti Austin decided to adopt a black baby boy out of the foster-care system—but institutionalized racism blocked her at every turn. In this unflinching account of her parenting journey, she explores the history of adoption among black Americans, faces off against stereotypes of single, black motherhood and examines the question: What is it like to be a black mother in a world where the face of motherhood is overwhelmingly white?


TestamentsMake It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison
Little, Brown | September 24

Leslie Jamison (The Recovering) is a master of blending memoir, criticism and journalism. This collection presents 14 new essays about the world without (the eerie past-life memories of children, an entire museum dedicated to relics of broken relationships, the world’s loneliest whale) and the world within (eloping in Vegas, becoming a stepmother, giving birth). Jamison’s characteristic fusion of the intellectual and emotional is in full force here, cementing comparisons of her work to that of Joan Didion and Susan Sontag.


Fair Play by Eve Rodsky
Putnam | October 1

Watch out for Eve Rodsky. Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine, has anointed her as the Marie Kondo of relationships, and we think they might be on to something. Burned out by all the invisible work she was doing to keep her household running while her husband (literally) watched television upstairs, Rodsky decided she had had enough. The result is Fair Play, a step-by-step system for identifying, taking stock of and evenly distributing labor within a marriage and family.


The Secrets We KeptToil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs
St. Martin’s | October 1

Just when you thought Augusten Burroughs had exhausted all of his life’s most entertaining material, he goes and writes a memoir about being a witch. In Toil & Trouble, Burroughs reveals that he is a witch, his mother was a witch, and he in fact comes from a long line of witches. He may not believe in God or the Devil, but after a lifetime of spooky coincidences, uncanny knowledge and mysterious intuitions, he certainly believes in witchcraft. This is his first memoir in five years, and it’s coming out just in time to be the perfect October read.


Commute by Erin Williams
Abrams | October 8

Commute is an intimate, powerful and beautifully drawn account of a single day in author-illustrator Erin Williams’ life. On her commute to and from work in New York, strangers spark memories of her life before recovery: risky sexual encounters, nights of being blackout drunk, mornings of guilt and shame. The gap between consent and sexual assault is wide and blurry, and Williams explores this space with equal parts tenderness and ruthlessness. This book should be required reading for absolutely everyone.


The Shadow KingHow We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Simon & Schuster | October 8

This debut memoir by poet Saeed Jones will break your heart and put it back together over and over and over. Jones is a black, gay man from the South, and How We Fight for Our Lives is a commentary on race and queer identity, power and vulnerability, and how relationships can make and break us along the way—all told with the ease and control of a master storyteller.


Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
FSG | October 8

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in a family famous for its zealous intolerance and reprehensible pickets signs. Except, from her perspective as a child, her family was full of safe, loving people, and the rest of the world was intolerant toward them. This memoir about growing up, coming out of denial and leaving the Westboro Baptist Church is written with such heart-wrenching tenderness and narrative control, you’ll hang on every word even if you already know how it ends.


The World That We KnewBurn It Down edited by Lilly Dancyger
Seal Press | October 8

Women are socialized to keep calm, keep it together and keep the peace. But in truth, they’re mad, and they’re finally finding the words for their anger. Twenty-two writers—inlcuding Leslie Jamison, Evette Dionne and Melissa Febos—speak up and speak out in this practically hot-to-the-touch collection of essays about rage, power and how to take the last straw and turn it into kindling.


The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson
Doubleday | October 15

Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods, A Short History of Nearly Everything) is back, and his new book is an absorbing reminder of why we all love him. As he writes, “We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted.” The Body will cure that indifference with wondrous, compulsively readable facts about human biology and classic Bryson-esque anecdotes.


FrankisssteinWild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
HMH | October 15

When Adrienne Brodeur was 14, her mother, Malabar, woke her up in the middle of the night. “Ben Souther just kissed me,” Malabar told Adrienne, referring to a friend of the family who’d been visiting their house in Cape Cod. In the years that followed, Malabar relied on Adrienne to keep this affair a secret—from Malabar’s husband and family, from Ben’s wife and family—with calamitous results for everyone involved. Wild Game is Brodeur’s unbelievable memoir of the toll this secret took on her life, and believe me—if you don’t read this one, you will be out of the loop.


In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf | November 5

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, blew readers’ expectations of the genre to bits, and this memoir promises to do the same. In the Dream House recounts Machado’s entanglement with one magnetic but explosive woman. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian and explores the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.


Grand UnionLittle Weirds by Jenny Slate
Little, Brown | November 5

This debut essay collection by actress and comedian Jenny Slate is exactly as the title promises: weird. If you’ve seen her in “Parks and Rec” or on SNL, these short bursts of surreal, surprisingly lyrical thought might surprise you. But they are well worth your time—a lovely glimpse into the mind of a truly great creative force.


You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane
Voracious | November 5

Artificial intelligence researcher Janelle Shane taught her A.I. algorithm how to flirt, and the best it could come up with was, “You look like a thing and I love you.” Romantic! This entertaining primer on the technology that already runs our lives, from autocorrect to Google Translate, lays out both what A.I. is capable of and what it remains hilariously bad at.


Find MeThe Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
Hachette | November 5

As powerful men continue to fall—complaining about being victims of a “witch hunt” rather than taking responsibility for their transgressions—Lindy West (Shrill) says she’s ready to comply with their wishes. If they want a witch hunt so badly, she will be the witch, and she will hunt them down. This collection of essays takes a hammer to the societal, cultural and political scaffolding propping up the patriarchy and then makes you laugh as it comes crashing down.

The most anticipated memoir, history, biography, science and essays publishing this fall.

Soon the weather will turn cold, and we can all finally justify staying inside and reading mounds of books. Here’s a mound to get you started: the most gripping, funniest and best memoirs of 2019 so far—and some essays, too.


Inheritance

The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams
After a Stage IV cancer diagnosis, Yip-Williams plans her death carefully,with love, humor, insight and wisdom.

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
Shapiro unwittingly uncovers her biggest family secret yet: Her beloved, late father wasn’t her biological father.

Deep Creek by Pam Houston
Houston reflects on what it means to be a soft-hearted human in an ever-changing and sometimes frightening world. 

Black Is the Body by Emily Bernard
These 12 personal essays on blackness are brimming with hope and fury, joy and pain.

The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
Wang delivers stunning insights into the challenges of living with schizoaffective disorder.

The Collected SchizophreniasThe Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad
Pushing his piano into the bomb-ruined streets of Yarmouk, Ahmad and his impromptu choirs sang out songs of protest, mourning and hope.

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman
Hindman spent nearly four years performing as a violinist across America, without ever making a sound.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
What happens when a psychotherapist’s life falls apart? She finds her own therapist.

Greek to Me by Mary Norris
The Comma Queen confesses her passion for everything Greek—language, history, landscape and culture.

The Honey Bus by Meredith May
May invites us into her harrowing California childhood, immersed in the astonishing world of the honeybee.

SissyThe Light Years by Chris Rush
Rush’s detailed account of his turbulent, drug-addled adolescence may cause some flashbacks.

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl
This memoir about Reichl’s years as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine is filled with& endearing, delicious stories.

Women’s Work by Megan K. Stack
As a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, Stack was unprepared to trade in that work for the work of motherhood.

Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T Kira Madden
Madden beautifully chronicles her journey to find herself while reckoning with trauma, abuse and addiction.

Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia
In their fabulous, fierce voice, Tobia tells their story of coming out as genderqueer.

The Valedictorian of Being Dead by Heather B. Armstrong
Looking for relief from severe depression, Armstrong took part in an experimental medical treatment in which doctors put her in a coma 10 times.

Once More We Saw Stars by Jayson Greene
Greene recounts with exquisite detail the gargantuan task of grieving his 2-year-old daughter after her unexpected death.

Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl
These essays create a narrative that depicts not only the migrations of winged creatures but also the lives of Renkl’s family.

Don’t Wait Up by Liz Astrof
TV comedy writer Astrof is hilariously honest about motherhood in this series of personal essays.

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma
Girma was born deafblind in California, to refugee parents forced to flee war-torn Eritrea.

The Yellow HouseTravel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller
A sensitive, meticulously wrought portrait of one family’s sometimes-challenging dynamics, set against an unforgiving African backdrop.

The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom
Broom revisits the world of her childhood, decimated by Katrina, as she searches for the meaning of home and family.

Into the Planet by Jill Heinerth
Heinerth’s memoir is a thoughtfully structured and adrenaline-filled account of her life as a cave diver.

The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri
Nayeri offers a searing, nuanced and complex account of her life as a refugee. 

The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Power
Power’s new memoir is a record of her impressive life as a White House adviser on human rights and a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Soon the weather will turn cold, and we can all finally justify staying inside and reading mounds of books. Here’s a mound to get you started: the most gripping, funniest and best memoirs of 2019 so far—and some essays, too. The Unwinding of the Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams After a Stage IV cancer diagnosis, Yip-Williams plans […]

We’re over halfway through 2019, and somehow the best is still yet to come. Here are some amazing memoirs you’ll fall for (sorry) this fall.


Think Black

Think Black by Clyde W. Ford
Amistad | September 17

John Stanley Ford was proud of his position as the first black systems engineer at IBM, His son, Clyde, on the other hand, resisted following the path his father had paved. In Think Black, Clyde blends personal experience with technological and racial history to reveal how these things influenced one another. This wide-ranging memoir includes an exploration of IBM’s ties to oppressive regimes even as it honors the author’s father’s dreams and contributions to the digital age.


How to Be a Family by Dan Kois
Little, Brown | September 17

In 2017, Dan Kois and his wife asked themselves, “Could the two of us set aside our relentless quest to make sure our children had every material and educational advantage, and instead focus for twelve months on caring for all our hearts and souls?” They packed up their two daughters and all their belongings, ditched their suburban Washington, D.C., life and spent a year living in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Kansas. With Kois at the helm as a candid, comic tour guide, How To Be a Family is definitely a trip worth taking.


Motherhood So White

Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austin
Sourcebooks | September 24

As a single African American woman, Nefertiti Austin decided to adopt a black baby boy out of the foster-care system—but institutionalized racism blocked her at every turn. In this unflinching account of her parenting journey, she explores the history of adoption among black Americans, faces off against stereotypes of single, black motherhood and examines the question: What is it like to be a black mother in a world where the face of motherhood is overwhelmingly white?


Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs
St. Martin’s | October 1

Just when you thought Augusten Burroughs had exhausted all of his life’s most entertaining material, he goes and writes a memoir about being a witch. In Toil & Trouble, Burroughs reveals that he is a witch, his mother was a witch, and he in fact comes from a long line of witches. He may not believe in God or the Devil, but after a lifetime of spooky coincidences, uncanny knowledge and mysterious intuitions, he certainly believes in witchcraft. This is his first memoir in five years, and it’s coming out just in time to be the perfect October read.


Here We Are

Here We Are by Aarti Namdev Shahani
Celadon | October 1

NPR correspondent Namdev Shahani’s story fulfills what most call the American Dream. Her parents emigrated from India to America (via Casablanca) over 40 years ago, full of hope that this new country would offer their growing family more than their war-torn home. But when Shahani’s father accidentally becomes entangled with the California drug cartel, his life becomes mired in legal and immigration woes. Shahani’s raw and engaging debut recounts her family’s gut-wrenching struggle to immigrate despite a broken system.


Commute by Erin Williams
Abrams | October 8

Commute is an intimate, powerful and beautifully drawn account of a single day in author-illustrator Erin Williams’ life. On her commute to and from work in New York, strangers spark memories of her life before recovery: risky sexual encounters, nights of being blackout drunk, mornings of guilt and shame. The gap between consent and sexual assault is wide and blurry, and Williams explores this space with equal parts tenderness and ruthlessness. This book should be required reading for absolutely everyone.


How We Fight for Our Lives

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones
Simon & Schuster | October 8

This debut memoir by poet Saeed Jones will break your heart and put it back together over and over and over. Jones is a black, gay man from the South, and How We Fight for Our Lives is a commentary on race and queer identity, power and vulnerability, and how relationships can make and break us along the way—all told with the ease and control of a master storyteller.


Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper
FSG | October 8

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in a family famous for its zealous intolerance and reprehensible pickets signs. Except, from her perspective as a child, her family was full of safe, loving people, and the rest of the world was intolerant toward them. This memoir about growing up, coming out of denial and leaving the Westboro Baptist Church is written with such heart-wrenching tenderness and narrative control, you’ll hang on every word even if you already know how it ends.


Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
HMH | October 15

When Adrienne Brodeur was 14, her mother, Malabar, woke her up in the middle of the night. “Ben Souther just kissed me,” Malabar told Adrienne, referring to a friend of the family who’d been visiting their house in Cape Cod. In the years that followed, Malabar relied on Adrienne to keep this affair a secret—from Malabar’s husband and family, from Ben’s wife and family—with calamitous results for everyone involved. Wild Game is Brodeur’s unbelievable memoir of the toll this secret took on her life, and believe me—if you don’t read this one, you will be out of the loop.


Running With Sherman by Christopher McDougall
Knopf | October 15

When a neighbor asked Christopher McDougall (Born to Run) to make room on his farm for a donkey that had been rescued from an animal hoarder, he thought, Why not? But Sherman the donkey was in worse shape than he could have possibly imagined. To heal Sherman’s heart as well as his body, McDougall decided to teach him to run. Together they began training for the World Championship Pack Burro Race in Colorado, kicking off a journey full of heart and humor that will touch the animal-ambivalent as much as the animal-lover.


For Small Creatures Such as We

For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan
Putnam | October 22

Sasha Sagan, daughter of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan, grew up believing that the world is full of beauty and wonder—and that science, more than faith, fable or fairy tale, helps us see this beauty. In For Small Creatures Such as We, Sagan is a competent guide who shows us how to marvel. Part memoir, part guidebook, part social history, the book is divided by topic—from weddings to death to sex—as Sagan uncovers the meaning in our everyday rhythms and pays tribute to her father, her newborn daughter, her spouse and the natural world.


Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz
Algonquin | October 29

While growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, Jaquira Díaz longed for a sense of home. She found community and support among friends as her mother battled schizophrenia and her family fractured, but ultimately her life was upended by violence. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism. Díaz writes with raw and refreshing honesty, triumphantly mapping a way out of despair toward love and hope.


In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf | November 5

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, blew readers’ expectations of the genre to bits, and this memoir promises to do the same. In the Dream House recounts Machado’s entanglement with one magnetic but explosive woman. Weaving in and out of personal, reported and speculative vignettes, she looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian and explores the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.

We’re over halfway through 2019, and somehow the best is still yet to come. Here are some amazing memoirs you’ll fall for (sorry) this fall. Think Black by Clyde W. Ford Amistad | September 17 John Stanley Ford was proud of his position as the first black systems engineer at IBM, His son, Clyde, on the other […]

After I completed my list of the best nonfiction books of 2019, I couldn’t help but notice how serious they all were. Nonfiction as a genre has a way of raising the stakes—such that the books that stand apart at the end of the year do so because they’re Important, with a capital I. They give a voice to someone who hasn’t had a voice. They highlight an issue that hasn’t been adequately studied. They change the world.

But if I’m being honest, many of the books I loved the most in 2019 had ever so slightly lower stakes. I loved these books because they were entertaining, or inspiring, or they left me feeling warmer than when I began. I believe books like that are utterly essential, too, so I’ve rounded up 20 of my favorites.

For anyone who could use a respite from our hard and disheartening world, I recommend picking up one of these books, having a laugh, having some fun and coming away refreshed.


20. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham

When Christopher Ingraham (or as you may know him, the author of this epic cricket thread on Twitter) worked for The Washington Post, he wrote an article claiming that Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, was the ugliest place in America. But when he visited Red Lake Falls and actually experienced it for himself, he preferred it so strongly to his stressful life in D.C. that he moved there with his whole family. If city livin’ has got you down, let yourself escape into If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now and live vicariously through one man who successfully left it all behind.
 

19. You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane

After I read Janelle Shane’s blog post about AI-generated cat names, I knew I would follow her to the ends of the earth if I had to. Luckily, she wrote a book that made it easy to indulge in her brilliance and hilarity, so I just read You Look Like a Thing and I Love You instead. Every year, there are dozens of books that come out about AI—why it’s scary, why it’s going to destroy human civilization, why it’s our worst sci-fi fever dream come to life. Shane’s book is none of those things and therefore the only AI book I could ever truly love. She assures us that AI is really good at some things and really, really terrible at others—and, as it turns out, the latter is far more entertaining.
 

18. Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

If you’ve ever felt like you needed an Internet-to-English dictionary to interpret something your nephew posted on Snapchat, you are not alone. And if this sort of cross-cultural experience has ever made you lament the inevitable decline of our language’s structural integrity, Gretchen McCulloch is here to soothe your fears. This guide to the internet’s linguistic influence is a rollicking good time. It’s a wacky yet intellectual, enlightening and ultimately well-reasoned argument for why future humans won’t communicate solely by emojis and GIFs.
 

17. Medieval Bodies by Jack Hartnell

If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Middle Ages is Monty Python, Jack Hartnell’s Medieval Bodies will satisfy you for two reasons. First, its downright tender portrayal of medieval people’s humanity will banish your pitiful, cartoonish conceptions of the Middle Ages and help collapse the great distance between then and now. Second, it will amuse you with plenty of dirty illustrations from medieval manuscripts that absolutely live up to Monty Python’s comic standards. (Two words: penis tree.) This book is a great, weird and strangely heartening read.
 

16. Aloha Rodeo by David Wolman and Julian Smith

If your perception of cowboy culture has largely been shaped by Louis L’Amour, Lonesome Dove and John Wayne, hold onto your hats. Aloha Rodeo takes us even farther west than the Rio Grande—like, way farther west—to Hawaii. This stranger-than-fiction tale of Hawaiian paniolos (cowboys) is chock-full of little-known history, fascinating stories and narrative drama. There are ranchers, warriors, showmen, cowgirls, missionaries, immigrants, royalty and, of course, bull-riding cowboys with flowers perched on the brims of their ten-gallon hats. What more could you possibly want?
 

15. For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan

This gorgeous collection of essays from Sasha Sagan, daughter of astronomer Carl Sagan and producer Ann Druyan, is a wonder. This book will dazzle and comfort you no matter what your relationship to meaning-making in this vast, lonely universe is—but especially for readers who are longing for ritual in the absence of religion, Sagan’s book is a holy-feeling balm.
 

14. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

Maybe you should talk to someone . . . about how good this book is! (Sorry.) A psychotherapist’s life falls apart. She gets her own therapist. While falling apart, she continues seeing her own therapy patients. And she writes it all down for our great benefit. It’s memoir, it’s self-help, it’s a funny, wise, insightful emotional quest. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone will make you wish your therapist were as smart and cool as Lori Gottlieb.
 

13. How to Be a Family by Dan Kois

Not all running-away-from-it-all books are created equal, so if you’re looking to avoid the riffraff and zero in on the good stuff, How to Be a Family is choice as. (That’s New Zealand for “really good.”) Dan Kois, his wife and their two daughters escaped their overbusy lives in Arlington, Virginia, and spent a year abroad—in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica and Kansas. Kois is a witty, self-deprecating tour guide, and the ups and downs his family experiences along the way will make your heart swell.
 

12. The Book of Eating by Adam Platt

The way Adam Platt writes about food made me say, “Oh, this is why people love to read about food.” The Book of Eating is alternatingly farcical, profound, adventurous, gossipy and nourishing—as varied and unexpected as a really good meal. And, of course, that’s to say nothing of the actual really good meals that Platt describes with absolute precision and delight. This is a memoir that truly satisfies.
 

11. Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

If Haben Girma wasn’t already accomplished enough as a Harvard Law graduate, a celebrated disability rights advocate and an interesting, funny woman, now she’s the author of this brilliant memoir, too. Reading about Girma’s curiosity, daring and tenacity as a deafblind woman in a sighted, hearing world is definitely inspiring—but more than that, this book harnasses the power of storytelling in ways that are mesmerizing to experience. Plus, Haben shines an urgent spotlight on our need for more accessible schools and a more accessible world.
 

10. The Body by Bill Bryson

If Bill Bryson does’t actually know everything, he’s just about got me fooled. The Body is yet another example of Bryson’s singular talent for bringing levity to a complex topic, making it more accessible, more interesting and more fun to read about. So no matter how poorly you did in your high school anatomy class, consider giving the subject another chance. If you have a body, I guarantee this book will interest you.
 

9. The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski

I don’t know what I expected when I picked up this book about Harry Houdini, but it certainly wasn’t the wild and crazy tale that Joe Posnanski has spun for us. Houdini was an interesting figure in his own right—but his greatest magic trick was obscuring every aspect of his life and identity, making it nearly impossible to write a biography of the guy. However, Posnanski is less interested in teasing apart fable from fact and more interested in exploring why Houdini endures in our collective consciousness with such potency. The result is somehow both befuddling and electrifying.
 

8. The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott has written a story as dramatic and sensational as any novel—except that every bit of it is painstakingly true. The Ghosts of Eden Park is equal parts absolute feat and absolute romp. There’s murder, betrayal, political intrigue, witty repartee (every word of which was taken from a documented source). I spent this whole book oscillating between marveling at what Abbott had created and gasping at the extravagant tale she tells.
 

7. I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

Reading I Miss You When I Blink feels like curling up with your wiser, funnier friend, toe to toe on the couch, while she tells you a story. This friend is transparent about her disappointments, honest about her foibles and charming to boot. If you’ve ever felt lost, or self-critical, or hungry for more of something, Mary Laura Philpott’s collection of essays will break your heart open with understanding and laughter.
 

6. Greek to Me by Mary Norris

Mary Norris, also known as the Comma Queen, is sort of my idol. A grammar virtuoso, with a storied career editing some of the greatest writers of the last 40 years, and she studied Greek?? (I minored in Koine Greek in college.) It’s true that this book feels like it was written specifically for me, but I assure you that people with fewer than 18 credit hours of Greek under their belt will also find plenty to love here. Norris is a sharp-witted, word-perfect narrator, and her wells of knowledge are as deep as they are lyrical. Anybody with a reverence for words will bow down to this book.
 

5. Sea People by Christina Thompson

Have you ever wondered how native Hawaiians made it to Hawaii? The nearest non-Hawaiian land mass is hundreds of miles away (and it’s a tiny island), and the nearest continental land mass is nearly 2,000 miles away. The Pacific Ocean is enormous and scattered with islands that are at once sparse, remote and miniscule. With those odds, how did the Pacific Islands ever become populated in the first place, and who were the amazing people who managed to do it? Enter: Christina Thompson’s Sea People, a wide-reaching and totally immersive history of Oceania. If you’re ready to move beyond tiki bars and hula skirts, to understand Pacific Islanders as the complex and cunning people they are, this book is the perfect place to start.
 

4. Slime by Ruth Kassinger

I knew from the minute I saw this book’s cover that it was going to be good. You just don’t call a book Slime if you can’t deliver content that’s as unexpected, audacious and ridiculous as that title. Happily, Ruth Kassinger checks all of these boxes and then some, while making an awfully compelling case for what we might otherwise think of as mere pond scum. Plus, she does it with the sort of gentle, poetic prose that’ll make you wish you could hang out with her in her garden. This book is as delightful as it is important—and honestly, if someone can make algae interesting, don’t you think they deserve your attention?
 

3. A Polar Affair by Lloyd Spencer Davis

What can I say? A book about penguin sex has no business being this funny or this good, yet somehow, A Polar Affair is. Lloyd Spencer Davis is one of the world’s leading penguin experts and Antarctic explorers, and his book tells the story of the early 20th-century zoologist who discovered the sometimes-scandalous love lives of penguins. The fact that this book exists at all is a miracle, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
 

2. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty has spent her entire career making death fun and educational (stay with me, folks), but now she’s managed to make it kid-friendly, too. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? is collection of real-life death-related questions from real-life children, which Doughty has lovingly and meticulously answered in this volume. With every ounce of straight-talking spunk one could muster for this topic, Doughty delivers a surprisingly heart-warming read.
 

1. Cosy by Laura Weir

After I finished this book, I came to work and screamed about how much I loved it. Then I kept screaming until the other editors read it. Then they read it and also screamed about loving it, and long story short, now we’re starting a Cosy Cult with this book as our foundational scripture. Anyone who prizes warmth, comfort, contentedness, stew, wool socks, heavy blankets, rain on the windowsill, soft lighting, movies that make you feel like you’re glowing from the inside, walks down scenic country lanes, crackling orange fires or tea—this book is a love letter straight to you.

Nonfiction as a genre has a way of raising the stakes. They’re Important, with a capital I. But if I’m being honest, many of the books I loved the most in 2019 had ever so slightly lower stakes. I loved these books because they were entertaining, or inspiring, or they left me feeling warmer than when I began. I believe books like that are important, too, so I’ve rounded up 20 of my favorites.

The beginning of the year can be a bit bleak—between the short days, cold nights and muted gray sky. Luckily, these 25 nonfiction books will soon add a little color to your world. If you can manage to leave your blanket cocoon for a few moments, go ahead and mark your calendar, update your wish list and get excited for these incredible 2020 reads.


The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh
Tin House | January 7

When E.J. Koh is 14, her father lands a three-year contract with a company in Seoul. Her mother goes with him to Korea, leaving Koh and her older brother essentially on their own in California. An engaging, literary take on language and its role in the diaspora of a scattered family, this memoir speaks from—and to—the heart.


Imperfect Union by Steve Inskeep 
Penguin Press | January 14

Yes, that Steve Inskeep—host of NPR’s “Morning Edition.” All the things readers like in an American tale are present in his newest book: frontier adventure, fame and a conflict that’s cast as tragic and romantic.


Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
MCD | January 14

In her debut memoir, Anna Wiener (now a writer for The New Yorker) draws on her anxiety-addled experiences working at several tech startups during her mid-20s. This may be a defining memoir of the 2020s, and it’s one that will send a massive chill down your spine.


Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Harper | January 28

Poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo has written a gripping and unforgettable debut memoir about growing up undocumented in America. From the terrors of ICE to the multiplied pressures immigrants feel to blend in, this book offers an invaluable perspective from a stirringly lyrical voice.


You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe
Viking | February 4

Alexis Coe’s new book is being billed as a George Washington biography for “those who thought presidential biographies were just for dads”—and as a certified non-dad, I have to agree. Reading American history has never struck such a perfect balance of irreverent, funny and informative, and it probably won’t again—at least not until Coe’s next book.


When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann
Scribner | February 4

Ariana Neumann dives deep into hidden family history in a breathtaking memoir. She especially investigates the history of her father, whom she discovers was a Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis during World War II, leaving his home in Czechoslovakia and taking on a non-Jewish identity in the heart of Berlin, Germany, where he learned to hide in plain sight.


The Escape Artist by Helen Fremont
Gallery | February 11

One would be hard-pressed to find a family without secrets, but the secrets in Helen Fremont’s family were especially heavy to bear. After being legally disavowed from her father’s will, Fremont found the freedom to untangle the individual threads in her knotted family for the first time—and the result is illuminating, smart and darkly funny.


The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson
Crown | February 25

In his new book, the beloved author of The Devil in the White City tackles a slightly less obscure subject: Winston Churchill. In Larson’s trademark narrative style, he gives readers a lively, fresh and compulsively readable portrait of Churchill’s first year in office.


Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Viking | February 25

Mikki Kendall’s critique of mainstream feminism, especially its preference for white women, is beautifully written, impeccably reasoned and searing. While many contemporary feminists champion the privileged few—bemoaning the lack of female CEOs, for example—Kendall reframes issues like intimate partner violence, poverty, medical care and food insecurity as feminist issues that must be addressed before women and women of color can have a chance at liberation.


Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
One World | February 25

Poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong offers an electrifying reckoning with this cultural criticism/memoir hybrid. How do you describe the Asian American condition? Does such a thing exist? In a series of incredible and incredibly complex essays, Hong puts the lens of her life on history, culture, mental health, art, language and race, to devastating effect.


Nobody Will Tell You This but Me by Bess Kalb
Knopf | March 17

Bess Kalb’s debut memoir has an interesting conceit: The whole thing is written by Bess but told in the voice of her beloved late grandmother, Bobby. It’s warm, hilarious and wildly original—not to mention quirky, spirited, tender, complex and heart-wrenching. It nearly defies description, except to say that it’s very good.


The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey
Doubleday | March 17

How do you take topics as heavy as chronic illness, debilitating pain and medical misogyny and package them in a way that makes people want to keep reading? I don’t rightly know, but Sarah Ramey clearly does. This book about women with mysterious illnesses not being taken seriously by medical professionals had me laughing out loud from the very first line.


Wow, No Thank You. by Samantha Irby
Vintage | March 31

Continuing her tradition of laugh-out-loud-until-you-choke-on-your-own-spit essay collections—and her tradition of book covers with cute animals on them—Samantha Irby adds another essential volume to her repertoire. No one does self-deprecating humor like Irby, and Wow, No Thank You. may be her funniest book yet.


I Don’t Want to Die Poor by Michael Arceneaux
Atria | April 7

This new collection of essays from the author of I Can’t Date Jesus is, on the one hand, a bleakly transparent look at what it’s like to chase your dream when you’re at an economic disadvantage from the start. On the other hand, it’s a chuckle-inducing and relatable read that makes student debt as fun as it’s ever going to get.


Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami
Pantheon | April 28

Conditional Citizens is novelist Laila Lalami’s first nonfiction book, a deeply personal exploration of who has access to the liberties and protections of American citizenship and who is held at arm’s length. Threading Lalami’s personal experience as a Moroccan immigrant through the eye of historical research and reporting, Conditional Citizens paints a scathing portrait of the treatment of nonwhite Americans.


My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me by Jason Rosenthal
Harper | April 21

If you haven’t yet read (and subsequently cried over) Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Modern Love essay “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” as well as her widower Jason Rosenthal’s response, “My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me,” grab a box of tissues and do so now. When you’re through, mark your calendar for the release of Jason Rosenthal’s poignant memoir about carrying on after losing the love of his life.


Stray by Stephanie Danler
Knopf | May 5

Sweetbitter author Stephanie Danler pivots to nonfiction with her debut memoir, Stray. As Danler grapples with childhood wounds still reverberating in adulthood—a mother disabled by alcoholism, an absent father addicted to meth—she returns to her native California to confront past pain and free herself to follow a different path from her parents.

 

 

 


Keep Moving by Maggie Smith
One Signal | May 5

When poet Maggie Smith started writing daily posts online following her divorce, readers flocked to her vulnerability, candidness and wisdom. Her newest book gathers together a bouquet of quotes and essays about how to engage loss with creativity, strength and hope.


Resistance by Tori Amos
Atria | May 5

Singer-songwriter Tori Amos has been a politically engaged artist for the duration of her career, and Resistance shares her activist wisdom with fans and newcomers alike. Part musical autobiography and part actionable advice, this book provides hot-to-the-touch insight for anyone who’s ready to fight.


Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why by Alexandra Petri
Norton | June 2

Anyone who reads Alexandra Petri’s column at The Washington Post already knows why we’d be anticipating her newest book. If you laugh to keep from crying in this age of unending political, social and economic anxiety, give Petri a chance to make you laugh full stop. Her absurdist take on the otherwise horrific realities of our world is a welcome respite from the usual dose of dread.


Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey
Ecco | July 28

Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey has authored and edited multiple award-winning poetry collections, and now she’s releasing her first memoir. After Trethewey’s stepfather shot and killed her mother when Trethewey was only 19, she was suddenly alone and adrift. Her memoir tells the tragic, moving story of her journey out of the pit of grief and into her role as one of America’s most celebrated artists.


Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
Grove | August 11

H Is for Hawk author Helen Macdonald will be releasing her second book this year, a collection of essays about the natural world and beyond—from migraines to science fiction to meditations on the wisdom of animals.


Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen
HMH | September 22

Anne Helen Petersen’s viral Buzzfeed article marked Millennials as “the burnout generation.” Now her book-length exploration of this topic covers the unchecked capitalism, changing labor laws and performative pressures of the internet that created this generation’s uniquely burdened relationship with work.


The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager
Random House | August 18

After reading Chris Jones’ profile of Sara Seager in New York Times Magazine, I couldn’t wait to learn more about the fascinating MIT astrophysicist who’s searching for other planets capable of sustaining life. Her debut memoir explores this quest to find small lights in the huge, dark universe as she simultaneously navigates the darkness of grief after becoming a widow at age 40.

These 25 most anticipated nonfiction books will add a little color to your world in 2020.

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!