True Story

Virginia Woolf, the Pope, and New Nonfiction Paperbacks

Happy Tuesday, nonfiction lovers! I’m trying not to start every newsletter with a comment about the weather, but I live in Minnesota where that’s basically the entirety of our small talk. And this week it’s actually relevant! We’re in the middle of a historic cold snap, with high temperatures in the negatives. It’s awful, and makes me just want to curl up with a good book.

Luckily, there are even more to choose from! This week I’ve got three new books to feature, plus some nonfiction favorites recently out in paperback. Onward!

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New Books

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth – Books about books are such a beautiful thing. In this one, Katharine Smyth dives deep into Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, a novel she first read while living with her father. After his death, she returned to the book “as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.” The book offers a personal reading of the novel that mixes memoir, literary criticism, and biography.

Further Reading: Smyth published an essay in LitHub called “How Virginia Woolf Taught Me to Mourn” that I thought was lovely.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig – Following up on a 2016 memoir about living with depression, Matt Haig looks at the ways the world and modern society contributed to his anxiety and panic disorders as an adult. This book collects observations about how some technological advances can hinder happiness and what we can do to change that.

Further Reading: Haig was interviewed about the book for Salon where he talked about the book’s structure, effective coping skills in a busy world, and more.

The Pope: Francis, Benedict, and the Decision that Shook the World by Anthony McCarten – In this book, a Hollywood screenwriter shares the story of how the resignation of conservative Pope Benedict XVI led to the unlikely choice of Francis, the first non-European pope in more than 1,000 years. The book explores a bunch of questions about this decision, but the one that intrigues me most is this: “If, as the Church teaches, the pope is infallible, how can two living popes who disagree on almost everything both be right?”

Future Watching: The book is being adapted for a film by Netflix, although I couldn’t find information on a release date. You can get a peek of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in costume though.

New in Paperback

Finally, I’m going to round out this newsletter with some nonfiction favorites recently out in paperback if you, like me, vastly prefer to read books in that format:

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