True Story

Nonfiction for the New Year

Happy new year, fellow nonfiction lovers! I always love the feeling of a new year, even if the idea of a fresh start for goals and plans and life changes is mostly just in my head.

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Part of getting in the zone for me is choosing a nonfiction book that will help set the stage for the year. In 2018, a year when I wanted to explore new things and stretch creatively, my first book was Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This year’s first book is Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day by Ken Mogi because I’m hoping to spend time thinking about how the different pieces of my life fit together and help me feel fulfilled.

Have you ever deliberately picked a first book to help set the tone for your year? I’d love to hear about it!

Before we finally get going, one quick piece of newsletter-related news. Starting next week, you can expect to see True Story in your inboxes on both Wednesday and Friday mornings. Twice the bookish goodness!

This week, I want to play a little bit of catch up with some nonfiction news that almost got lost in the focus on favorites and best of lists at the end of 2018. There were some big memoirs and adaptations announced that I think you’ll find interesting, so let’s get going!

NPR put together a brief look at all of the political nonfiction that came out in 2018, noting that part of the reason it’s been such an unusual year for political nonfiction is that so many people leaving the White House have chosen to write books about what’s happening inside rather than just how they got there. The article also highlights the number of books on authoritarianism that came out in 2018 – an alarming trend if ever there were one.

YALSA has announced finalists for the 2019 Excellence in Nonfiction for Adults award. The list has an interesting range of titles – from a YA memoir of Sonia Sotomayor to a collection of stories about Syrian refugees – that I’ll be checking out, as part of my interest in reading more YA nonfiction. The winners will be announced in late January.

Speaking of young adult books, Katherine Johnson, “the pioneering NASA mathematician and computer scientist whose work was integral to the Apollo 11 mission to the moon,” will be releasing an autobiography for young readers this year! Reaching for the Moon will be targeted at middle grade readers, which seems perfect. Can’t wait? Make some time to read Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, in which Johnson is one of the main characters.

BuzzFeed collected their list of best nonfiction of 2018, which is another list that has several of my favorites and managed to surprise me with titles that I missed this year – Retablos by Octavio Solis, Passing for Human by Liana Finck, and Spying on Whales by Nick Pyenson, to just grab three.

Cher is writing a memoir! In early December, Cher tweeted that she’ll be sharing her life story in a book and biopic scheduled to come out in 2020. Apparently she also has a collection of essays called The First Time that was published in 1998. Excuse me while I go search for that one at the library…

The first eight episodes of Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Condo dropped on January 1. I haven’t seen much about it yet, but from the trailer it seems like this will fit right in with what Netflix is doing in the self-improvement show space.

If you’re someone who loves lists and data, LitHub has put together a massive collection of the biggest nonfiction bestsellers of the last 100 years, as well as the books we actually remember from each year instead. It’s big, long, and very full of white dudes, but still an interesting skim if you’ve got some time on your hands.

And that’s all for this week, fellow readers! You can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Let me know how you’re kicking off your year of books! – Kim