True Story

Political Memoirs, Bookish KonMari, and More in Nonfiction

Hello hello, nonfiction lovers! The big nonfiction news of this week was the release of Sen. Kamala Harris’ much-anticipated memoir, although the anticipation is really more about what the memoir says about her interest in running for president in 2020 than it is about the memoir as a memoir.

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The Truths We Hold is about her childhood, family, and political credentials, and specifically addresses her past as prosecutor (a possible sticking point for some Democrats). It’s also about “problem solving, in crisis management, and leadership in challenging times,” which is just so generic and political memoir-y I can hardly stand it.

But, the release of the memoir did get me curious to read a bit more about political memoirs more generally. I thought this piece from Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR best gets at the difficulty of campaign books – they’re delivery devices, not stories; marketing tools, not memoirs; and glossy rather than entirely truthful. This bit is my favorite:

So is it a great book? No. No, it is not.

But that’s not a particularly interesting question, as campaign books are rarely great reads. The question is whether it’s an effective book.

On that count, Harris is more successful. In The Truths We Hold, Harris presents herself as a potentially formidable presidential candidate. Which is to say: She efficiently makes her case, like the prosecutor she is.

If you want a little more on political memoirs, Voice of America ran a story about all of the 2020 Democrats who have penned books recently that was a good read. This Book Riot piece about how to write your political memoir also made me laugh, both when it was written and re-reading it now.

Looking for some great true crime? Crime Reads put out a list of true crime coming out in January that has a bunch of titles that missed my radar. I’m psyched about Burned by Edward Humes, a look at “rapidly-evolving world of fire forensics” and the science of arson. So interesting!

There have also been a couple of exciting book announcements:

Finally, the release of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix has resulted in another round of think pieces on the idea of decluttering and sparking joy. The critic at Esquire seems generally complementary about the show, although notes “the show itself lacks a certain entertainment factor—primarily because it’s not particularly enthralling to watch people sort through clothes and then fold them.”

The pieces about books have been kind of funny too – a writer at Oprah magazine said she’ll never get rid of her books, Twitter didn’t like the idea of decluttering books, and the Guardian argues we gain more from books than just sparking joy.

That’s all for this week! You can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim