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.
The 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.
Will 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.
Over 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?
Make 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.
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.
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 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.
Burn 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.
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.
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.
Little 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.
The 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.