Who said nonfiction books are boring? Though they may lack fantastical destinations, mythical creatures, or sci-fi battles, many nonfiction books contain the drama, the quirk, and the heart of real-life narratives. Some good ones tackle the issues we face today through the lens of the author or the historical figure, making societal ills feel more personal and more approachable. From racism to American food systems, below are a few captivating nonfiction books that will ignite discussions after reading:
1 . How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell
You’ve probably encountered the phrase “social media detox” or the routine escape and reset from being online. But artist and Bay Area-native Jenny Odell believes there are better ways to reclaim our attention from these apps that are specifically designed to keep us addicted. Through bird watching and nature walks, Odell explores what it means to do nothing when anything and everything can be monetized, capitalized, and posted online.
2. And Then We Grew Up: On Creativity, Potential, and the Imperfect Art of Adulthood by Rachel Friedman
What happens to child prodigies when they grow up? Former child violinist Rachel Friedman asks this question to her peers from her summer camp for talented children in the arts. Each person gives a different perspective on maintaining their creativity while coming to terms with the pressure they faced as children. It’s a perfect book to give hope to anyone who gave up their dream to be something special.
3. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
Yes, your therapist actually has his/her own therapist. Lori Gottlieb takes the reader by the hand into the world of psychotherapy through her practice and her self-improvement with another therapist. Humorously blunt, Lori Gottlieb reassures the reader that they’re not alone in experiencing insecurity, fear, and embarrassment during their mental health journey.
4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
If you’ve ever experienced anxiety walking into a supermarket, this book is for you. Humans are the only animal that experiences the dilemma of figuring out what to have for a meal. Is organic really healthier for you? How bad is fast food really? Food journalist Michael Pollan traces the American food systems to discover the answers to these questions and how they influence our food preferences. Grocery shopping will never be the same again – but maybe for the better.
5. I Have Been Buried Under Years of Dust: A Memoir of Autism and Hope by Valerie Gilpeer and Emily Grodin
Through the mother and daughter memoir, Valerie describes the trials and joys of learning to understand her daughter, Emily, who has autism. Silent for the majority of her life, Emily wrote her first sentence at the age of 25. They titled the book with this haunting sentence, revealing the feelings of a woman struggling to communicate. With scattered poetry and memories juxtaposing her mother’s story, Emily is able to give a voice to people with autism as well as hope to their families.
6. The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs
We all know about the men who made an impact on the civil rights movement during the 20th century, but very few ever asked about the women who raised them. Tubbs pays tribute to Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little by sharing their stories, their values, and how they raised their children. Despite their differences, living in a time of extreme discrimination, these women have proof they stood tall and refused to back down.
7. When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong
The hidden story of how women led the way to how we watch and produce television today. Because the Golden Age of Radio was more accessible and the industry was overtaken by men, four very different women saw an opportunity in television. Irna Phillips, Gertrude Berg, Hazel Scott, and Betty White were able to create equality for women to showcase their talents and entertain people all over America. Although World War II forced equality out of television and created a new culture, their legacy remains.
8. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks unknowingly gave scientists millions of her DNA, and this biography memoir goes into the how and why. Her story and her daughter’s search for answers are told by the journalist who uncovered the secret. This intimate look into the importance of Lacks’ contribution to amazing scientific discoveries and the atrocity of leaving a struggling woman of color in the dark, will reveal what lengths people will go to sacrificing the one for the many.
Our Her Nexx Chapter Community is hosting a Book Club. Join us here where women are connecting with each other’s stories, exploring different experiences, and transforming ideas.