True Story

Nonfiction: Because There’s No Alternative to the Facts

Happy February, nonfiction lovers! Ever since the bonkers phrase “alternative facts” made its way into our lexicon, I’ve been thinking even more about the importance of solid, well-researched nonfiction in all formats – books, news articles, essays, documentaries – that can help us make sense of the world and our place in it. Here’s hoping the books I’ve got to share this week can help in that respect.

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Penguin Random House Audio.

Start off the new year with some inspiring audiobooks!  From personal improvement, to spiritual listens, to health and fitness advice, audiobooks are a great way to digest this useful content while on the go!

Visit for listening suggestions.

 February 7: New Books Day

This Tuesday is a big day for new books, including several nonfiction picks that have been on my radar for quite awhile. In no particular order, here are four I’m excited about:

All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey (Grand Central Publishing) – This collection of essays, about “best friends who happen to be famous strangers” looks to connect pop culture with the personal that includes Angelica Houston, Winona Ryder, Princess Diana and Sylvia Plath. I’ve been doling this one out slowly over the last few days and so far find it delightful and smart.

Bonus Read: Did Taylor Swift rebound from her breakup with Calvin Harris to quickly? Why the hypocrisy in the way men and women bounce back after heartbreak. Massey explores these questions in an essay for The Guardian.

The Perpetual Now by Michael Lemonick (Doubleday) – Books on how our minds work, especially the complicated territory of memory, always fascinate me. In this book, Lemonick tells the story of Lonni Sue Johnson, an artist with no memory of the past and no ability to create new memories, who still maintains many of her musical and artistic talents.

Bonus Read: For a taste of Lemonick’s accessible writing style, you can check out his archive at Scientific American, where he’s an opinion editor.

Age of Anger by Panka Mishra (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) – If you’re a reader looking at the current administration with as much confusion as I am, this is a book I think you will want to look for. Mishra, and author and columnist based in London, looks at the forces that have left individuals “susceptible to demagogues and their simplifications” causing “intense hatred of supposed villains, the invention of enemies, (and) attempts to recapture a lost golden age.” As soon as I have a brain that can handle political reading, I will be picking up this book.

Bonus Read: Mishra took on this topic in a December 2016 long read for The Guardian, a good read if you’re skeptical or nervous about book-length political nonfiction.

Pretend I’m Not Here by Barbara Feinman Todd (William Morrow) – As a journalist myself, one job I have always wondered about is ghostwriting. How do you get one of those gigs, and does it pay well? I’m not sure if this book will answer those questions, but I’m still looking forward to this memoir, about a young copy aide at the Washington Post who eventually had the chance to help famous folks like Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee, Hillary Clinton and more. I’m here for this!

Bonus Read: This 2006 commentary for Morning Edition shares some funny thoughts on the life of a ghostwriter.

Emmett Till, Revisited

The violent, racially-motivated murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, a Chicago boy visiting the Deep South in August 1955, is one of those horrifying stories that is at the core of the American Civil Rights movement. Yet it seems there’s still more we can learn about it. In a recent Vanity Fair piece, author Timothy Tyson shares new information he gathered on the incident, including the (unsurprising) revelation at the woman who accused Till made up much of her most sensational testimony. The piece is a super interesting look at how even our most familiar stories can be revisited in time.

Reading More Nonfiction?

Sign up for this newsletter because you’re trying to get more nonfiction in your reading life? Over at Book Riot, Sophia Khan has three suggestions for how to make that happen.

On My Nightstand

The bananas political environment, along with some major changes in my personal life over the last six months, have put me in a strange reading mood – I can’t seem to settle down to read a book, but know that shutting down all the noise to take some time of deep focus might be exactly what I need.

The one book that’s been holding my attention is The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, a look at the four pillars of building a meaningful life and how to create meaning in a more secular world. It’s been calming and inspiring, which feels like what I need in this moment.

And there you have it, another couple of weeks of the world in nonfiction to fill up your inbox and toppling TBR. As always, suggestions, recommendations, and feedback are welcome. You can reach me at or on Twitter at @kimthedork. Happy reading!

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