Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #3: Read a Book About Activism

Activism is a huge topic that could be easily targeted in many different directions. You could read a book for kids or books for teens, books about antiracism or books about the environment, or any number of works of fiction that explore the lives of activists. 

For this post we wanted to focus on works of nonfiction about activism by choosing books that can offer examples, books that can inspire action, or books that allow activists to tell stories in their own words. Here are four works of nonfiction about activism and four memoirs by contemporary activists.


book cover As Long As Grass Grows

As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

The Indigenous community in the United States has a long and rich history of activism related to the environment. In this book, researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker chronicles Indigenous resistance to government and corporate intervention via treaty violations, threats to food and water, and more. These different threads all came together throughout 2016 when the protest at Standing Rock brought national attention to Indigenous activists and highlighted how much modern environmentalists have to learn from their history.

book cover How to Do Nothing

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell

While it seems funny to include a book about “doing nothing” on a list about activism, this one really does fit well. Artist and activist Jenny Odell argues that attention is our most important (and exploited) asset that we need to take control of in order to succeed at political action like saving the environment. She pushes back against capitalist narratives about productivity and technology, to argue that being in nature and away from screens can help us rethink our place in the world.

book cover all the women in my family sing

All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World, edited by Deborah Santana

This book is an anthology “documenting the experiences of women of color at the dawn of the twenty-first century.” Through poetry and prose, it captures the experiences of women across careers, economic status, sexuality, and cultures as they “exercise autonomy, creativity, and dignity.” It includes pieces by actresses, activists, journalists, executives, authors, and more. It’s especially cool that the book was entirely produced by women of color, in addition to featuring their voices.

book cover From Memes to Movements

Memes To Movements: How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power by An Xiao Mina

This book takes a global look at the impact of memes as pieces of “pop culture, politics, protest, and propaganda” both on and offline. An Xiao Mina is a digital media scholar and technologist interested in understanding how memes work and how they “reinforce, amplify, and shape” politics and culture. She argues that the silliness of meme culture is directly tied to the way memes can also direct attention to important social issues, poking at those in power in ways that aren’t always possible directly. 


book cover Year of the TIger

Year of the Tiger: An Activist’s Life by Alice Wong

Alice Wong is a disabled activist, writer, and director of the Disability Visibility Project. The title of this memoir comes from Chinese culture, where the tiger is “deeply revered for its confidence, passion, ambition, and ferocity” — qualities Wong embodies each day. This memoir combines essays, previously published work, graphics, photos, and art from other disabled and Asian American artists. Through this “impressionistic scrapbook,” she shares a look at her life as an activist, writer, and community organizer. This memoir is innovative, moving, and readable.

book cover when they call you a terrorist

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Patrisse Khan-Cullors’ was raised by a single mother in a poor Los Angeles neighborhood where she experienced the prejudice Black Americans experience at the hands of the police. Thanks to her mother and teachers, she was able to attend a well-supported charter school in an adjacent neighborhood. This book is the story of her childhood, her early work as an activist, the people she has loved and who have loved her, and more. Khan-Cullors gets into the details of founding the Black Lives Matters movement with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi in the last part of the book, sharing how it went from a hashtag to a full movement around accountability from law enforcement.

book cover we are not here to be bystanders

We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance by Linda Sarsour

Linda Sarsour is a Palestinian Muslim American activist who was a co-organizer of the Women’s March. In this memoir she writes about growing up in Brooklyn, attending protests in Washington D.C. and discovering her “innate sense of justice” in the wake of the September 11 attacks. She also writes about learning how to be a community organizer and shares her experiences fighting for “racial, economic, gender, and social justice” throughout her career. Inspiring!

book cover native country of the heart

Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir by Cherríe Moraga

This book is a dual memoir of a daughter and her mother, queer Latina feminist Cherríe Moraga and her mother, Elvira, who grew up picking cotton in California. In the 1920s, Elvira left California to work as a cigarette girl in Tijuana, a choice that allowed her to learn lessons about “power, sex, and opportunity” from the wealthy men she met. Moraga parallels that story with her own journey of self-discovery, passion for activism, and history of her community. As Elvira slips into the grips of Alzheimer’s disease, Moraga digs deeper into stories of the Mexican American diaspora.

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If none of those books feel like the right fit, we have even more Book Riot posts you can peruse including middle grade books on activism, books for baby activists, and books about digital activism. Grab a book, get inspired, and then get out there and change the world for the better!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

True Story

Some Nonfiction Favorites from 2022

Happiest of Fridays, nonfiction friends! I want to open this edition with some personal news. This will be my last edition of True Story – beginning next week, Kendra will be taking over the newsletter full time. I’m thrilled to be getting even more of her nonfiction recommendations!

While I’m sad to be ending my time writing this newsletter, it feels like the right moment to step back and see what other ways I can share my love of books with others. You can find me talking books, cats, and the weather on Instagram at @kimthedork as well as co-hosting Book Riot’s For Real podcast. Thank you for reading, and enjoy this last edition!

Bookish Goods

book with paper butterflies coming out

Book Art — Paper Butterflies by ButterflyBooksCo

I stopped my scroll when I saw this beautiful paper butterfly sculpture. Gorgeous! $35

New Releases

book cover making love to the land

Making Love with the Land: Essays by Joshua Whitehead

I’m not sure I can do a very good job of describing this one, but I am going to try! In this collection Joshua Whitehead, an award-winning novelist, “explores the relationships between body, language, and land” through a mix of memoir and essays. Whitehead is both queer and a member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, and brings both of those aspects of his identity to these pieces. He writes about coping with trauma, urges us to rethink the relationship we have with mental health struggles, and explores how we are all finding new modes of connection to each other and the land. It sounds beautiful and challenging.

book cover Dickens and Prince

Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius by Nick Hornby

This is another one I am having trouble figuring out how to describe. Nick Hornby, another novelist, writes about the “cosmic link” between two great artists — Charles Dickens and Prince. The connections aren’t immediately obvious, beyond the fact that both were major artists when they were alive “whose legacy resounded far beyond their own time.” While part of the connection he draws is between how prolific each was, Hornby finds other parallels in their personal lives, social status, and more. This one is odd but really delightful.

For a more comprehensive list, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

For my last newsletter, I thought I’d change things up a bit and share some thoughts on two of my favorite nonfiction reads this year — one published in 2022 and one that just made it on my radar.

book cover dog flowers

Dog Flowers: A Memoir, An Archive by Danielle Geller

Danielle Geller grew up estranged from her mother, an alcoholic who loved her daughters but lost custody when they were small. In her 20s, Geller receives a phone call that her mother has been admitted to a Florida hospital and may not live much longer. At that moment, they hadn’t spoken in more than six months. Geller heads down to Florida and discovers that her mother’s life can be packed up in just eight suitcases. She finds one filled with diaries, photos, letters, photo negatives, and some sage. She brings this one home, then uses the contents to try and excavate her mother’s life. This book is a memoir of her childhood, and the story of reconnecting with her family and understanding the mistakes they all made. This one is really difficult to read, but it was incredibly beautiful, too. 

book cover invisible child

Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival, and Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott

This book got on my radar after winning this year’s Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and it’s basically ruined most other nonfiction since I read it. Reporter Andrea Elliott spent eight years chronicling the life of Dasani, a young girl growing up homeless in Brooklyn. Through this reporting, Elliott puts a face and family at the center of the homeless crisis, tracing it back through history and through the institutions that are part of the problem as well as a potential solution. It’s a huge, beautiful, heartbreaking book I could not put down.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Nonfiction for Veterans’ Day

Happy weekend and happy Veterans’ Day, nonfiction friends! I am totally wiped after spending part of the week helping with election support, so I’m going to skip the preamble and get right into the books.

Bookish Goods

dark green tshirt with the word Booktrovert on the chest

Booktrovert T-Shirt from TrendyGiftShopUS

Show off your introversion and your love of books with this great T-shirt! It comes in a ton of great colors. $18+

New Releases

book cover Marked for Life

Marked for Life: One Man’s Fight for Justice from the Inside by Isaac Wright Jr.

At 28 years old, Isaac Wright Jr. was experiencing a peak in both his work as a music producer and his personal life with his wife and daughter. His life began to come apart after he was accused of being a drug kingpin and jailed in New Jersey. Lacking support from white defense attorneys, Wright learned the law so he could represent himself in court. Despite losing and being sentenced to 70 years in prison, Wright continued to learn the law so he could represent other inmates and continued to fight for his freedom, seeking to unravel the conspiracy that put him behind bars in the first place.

book cover The Pirate's Wife

The Pirate’s Wife: The Remarkable True Story of Sarah Kidd by Daphne Palmer Geanacopoulos

Captain Kidd was a notorious and well-known pirate, with a secret weapon on his side — his wife, Sarah Kidd. After being widowed twice before she was 21, Sarah worked within “the strictures of polite society” to help her husband. Despite his deeds, Sarah was able to eventually become a prominent citizen of New York and make a mark in her own way. I love newly-discovered history like this!

For more new releases, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

November 11 is Veterans’ Day in the United States, a chance to recognize those who have served and thank them for their “patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”

book cover Half American

Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad by Matthew F. Delmont

Although more than 1 million Black men and women served the United States during World War II, they were ostracized and separated during their service — then kept out of many of the benefits available through the GI Bill. This book seeks to uncover stories of Black veterans and those who supported them, covering citizens like Thurgood Marshall, Ella Baker, and more. This feels like a particularly important and relevant piece of history to pick up right now.

book cover Ashley's War

Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Women have not typically been allowed to participate in combat missions in the same way, except for some special circumstances like those shared in this book. In 2010, the Army created Cultural Support Teams, an effort to place women alongside Special Operations soldiers in Afghanistan to help connect and build relationships with Afghan women. This book is the story of the first class of CSTs and how they worked to prove “that women are physically and mentally tough enough” to participate in Special Operations teams. The center of this story is Ashley White, a CST who was beloved and effective in her service.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Native American Histories

Welcome to November, nonfiction friends! If you are an alliterative person, November is the perfect month to indulge in all things nonfiction…and if you don’t love alliteration, I’m not sure we can be friends.

This week, I’m sharing a few books to read in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Let’s get on to the books!

Bookish Goods

wood coasters with old library due date cards

Book Lovers Coaster Set Library Due Date Card Wood Coasters by CheltenhamR

Protect your tables and celebrate your love of libraries with these vintage due date card coasters. $22

New Releases

book cover white women by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao

White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao

Regina Jackson and Saira Rao are the founders of Race2Dinner, an organization that facilitates conversations about racism and white supremacy among white women. In this book, they take on a common theme from these dinners — how white women’s niceness and perfectionism actually upholds white supremacy culture. The book challenges white women to think about whether being nice has actually ever been helpful, then deconstruct “aspects of traditional white woman behavior” that hurt all of us. This is a slim book that nevertheless will have a big impact.

book cover requiem for the massacre

Requiem for the Massacre: A Black History on the Conflict, Hope, and Fallout of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by RJ Young

Just over 100 years ago, the Black residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, were the victims of a massacre — a story that’s been covered up or ignored ever since. In this mix of memoir and journalism, RJ Young looks at contemporary Tulsa, a city that both combats the racism of the past and continues to allow racial injustice today. Young tells the story of Tulsa’s Greenwood district, while also challenging previous narratives of this community, and exploring how Tulsa recognized the 100th anniversary of this event.

For more new releases, check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

In honor of Native American Heritage Month in November, today I want to share two books that explore complex aspects of Indigenous history in the United States — both of which were finalists for the National Book Award!

book cover the other slavery by Andrés Reséndez

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez

Although slavery of Native Americans was illegal in much of the United States, it was still practiced for centuries as an open secret in many states, and was not part of the abolitionist movements that sought to end slavery for Black Americans. In this history, Andrés Reséndez argues that mass slavery, rather than disease epidemics, destroyed Indigenous populations across North America. This is a part of American history I’ve never heard about but am eager to learn.

book cover the heartbeat of wounded knee by david treuer

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer

This book challenges some of our received ideas of Native American history, including that history basically ended in 1890 with the massacre at Wounded Knee. Instead, David Treuer shows that Native people didn’t disappear, and that their work to preserve language, traditions, and culture means that their story is “one of unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention.” This is another book that blends memoir and reporting to look at how challenges of each historical era led to new and creative survival mechanisms among native people.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Books About Democracy

Happy Friday, nonfiction lovers! This week has been a stretch, with some work travel and inconsistent weather that’s left me feeling a bit discombobulated. For today’s newsletter, I want to celebrate the upcoming election with some books about the importance of democracy.

Bookish Goods

navy blanket with embroidery: "Sorry I'm All Booked Up"

All Booked Up Blanket from HandcraftedWithJoy

Who doesn’t need another throw blanket for your reading nook. I love all the colors this one comes in. $36

New Releases

book cover the song of the cell

The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human by Siddhartha Mukherjee

A new Siddhartha Mukherjee book! In this book, Mukherjee explores “medicine and our radical new ability to manipulate cells.” Like his other two magnificent books, he goes back in history to the 1600s with the creation of the microscope. From there, he follows the implications of understanding cells, including understanding humans as a “cellular ecosystem” to medicine that works by manipulating cells. His writing is so empathetic and human while still being great science — I can’t wait!

book cover brave hearted

Brave Hearted: The Women of the American West by Katie Hickman

Many of the stories about the American West center around the experiences and impacts of men. In this book, best-selling history writer Katie Hickman tells the stories of women — wives and mothers in wagon convoys, Chinese sex workers in San Francisco, displaced Native American women, and more. To tell these stories, Hickman looks to primary and secondary sources to share many specific and universal stories about how women helped transform the country. This sounds great, and the cover of this book is so good too!

Looking for more new releases? Check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

With the midterm election less than two weeks away, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a couple of books about why supporting democracy is so important:

book cover the great democracy

The Great Democracy: How to Fix Our Politics, Unrig the Economy, & Unite America by Ganesh Sitaraman

This book looks at two big eras of American democracy — the liberal era from the passing of the New Deal through the 1970s, and the neoliberal era “of privatization and austerity” from the 1970s forward. Ganesh Sitaraman, a legal scholar and policy expert, argues that as the neoliberal era starts to fall apart, we have the chance to look at what’s next — nationalist oligarchy or “great democracy.” I’m excited to read this one to get a sense of the kinds of things we may need to do to get to the culture we want.

book cover how democracies die

How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

After the 2016 election, scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt began to ask an almost unheard of question — is our democracy in danger? Both have spent more than 20 years studying the breakdown of democracy in Europe and Latin America, and so in this book, turn what they’ve learned to the United States. They argue that democracy, more often than not, ends with a whimper — a slow eroding and weakening of critical institutions and political norms. I appreciate historians who can make connections to today, so this is definitely on my list.

One final recommendation is a daily newsletter from historian Heather Cox Richardson — Letters from an American. Each day she summarizes the major headlines and gives them some context, often back to the period after the end of the Civil War. She also co-hosts the Now & Then podcast and is the author of two books — How the South Won the Civil War and To Make Men Free: A History of the Republican Party. She’s amazing, highly recommended!

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Memoirs

Hello and happy weekend, nonfiction nerds! The transition into the chilly part of the fall has given me a lot of “big black trash bag” energy — that feeling of wanting to just throw everything out and start all over again from nothing. That’s obviously not feasible, though, so I’m trying to keep that impulse in check. Now let’s just cut the preamble and get to the books!

Bookish Goods

vintage library card bookmarks

Vintage Library Card Bookmark from BookEmphemera

I can’t get enough vintage library card memorabilia. I think these bookmarks are a delight! $4+

New Releases

book cover this arab is queer by elias jahshan

This Arab is Queer, edited by Elias Jahshan

This anthology is a collection of essays written by queer Arab writers, writing under their own names and anonymously. Stories in the collection range from the personal to the public, and include intimate connections and personal accounts of things like what it was like to be at a concert in Cairo when a rainbow flag was raised above the crowd. The book’s editor, Elias Jahshan, is a Palestinian/Lebanese Australian writer, editor, and journalist who served as the editor of Australia’s longest-running LGBTQ+ media outlet. I’m so interested in picking this one up.

book cover stroller by amanda parrish morgan

Stroller (Object Lessons) by Amanda Parrish Morgan

This book is the latest entry in a series I’d never heard of before — Object Lessons from Bloomsbury. Each short book explores the hidden life of an ordinary thing, everything from blue jeans to hyphens to strollers. This addition explores strollers, one of the most visible symbols of both “status and parenting philosophy.” The book goes back to the invention of the pram in the 1700s, to the various kinds of strollers you can buy today, to discussions about what it means to avoid getting a stroller at all. I love a compact deep dive!

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, this week I want to feature two memoirs written by breast cancer survivors.

book cover twisting fate by pamela munster

Twisting Fate: My Journey with BRCA―from Breast Cancer Doctor to Patient and Back by Pamela Munster M.D.

Dr. Pamela Munster is one of the top oncologists in the country, treating breast cancer patients who came to the University of California. At 48 years old, Munster learned her mammogram showed “irregularities,” and was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. This book combines her personal experience with the BRCA gene mutation along with her academic research around breast cancer and other inherited cancers. That combination seems particularly powerful for a memoir on this topic.

book cover everybody's got something by robin roberts

Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts is a well-loved anchor for Good Morning America who has experienced many of her most difficult times while being on television. In this memoir, she writes about her breast cancer diagnosis, followed five years later by a diagnosis of a rare blood disorder. She also writes about losing her mother, returning to work after medical leave, and the lessons she has learned along the way. I have to think this one would be excellent as an audiobook. 

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Hispanic and Latine History Books (October 14)

Welcome to the weekend, nonfiction friends! It’s been a week of ups and downs for me. On Monday I celebrated World Mental Health Day with a stupid little walk outside on a beautiful fall day. But Thursday temperatures had dropped into nearly winter coat weather, with rain and threats of snow in the forecast. I am not ready!

This week I’m wrapping up Hispanic Heritage Month with a couple of books on Hispanic and Latine history. Enjoy!

Bookish Goods

white coffee mug with a cartoon ghost and the words "Read More Boooooooks"

Bookish Halloween Coffee Mug from MeloiraStore

For whatever reason, this mug made me actually stop and LOL when I saw it on Etsy. That’s a good enough reason to recommend it! $20 (on sale for $10)

New Releases

book cover: bad vibes only

Bad Vibes Only (And Other Things I Bring to the Table) by Nora McInerny

As the host of the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, Nora McInerny tells stories about people going through some of the hardest and most awkward experiences in life. This is her fourth nonfiction book, and is a collection of essays about optimism culture, self-improvement, and living life online. It’s also a book for “the overthinkers, the analyzers, the recovering Girl Bosses, and the burned-out personal brand,” which is a list that makes me laugh every time I read it. I suspect this one would also be great on audiobook. 

book cover home bound

Home Bound: An Uprooted Daughter’s Reflections on Belonging by Vanessa A. Bee

Throughout her life, Vanessa A. Bee has lived everywhere from Yaoundé, Cameroon to Reno, Nevada, with multiple stops along the way. In this book, she grapples with the questions her “adoptive, multiracial, multilingual, multinational, and transcontinental upbringing” have caused: what is home, and how does home connect to our ideology and social status? She wrestles with these questions through a personal lens and through the lens of economic justice, trying to contend with her (and our) place in the world.

For a more comprehensive list of new releases, check out our New Books newsletter.

Riot Recommendations

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to an end, I want to wrap up by sharing a couple of great books about Latine and Hispanic history:

book cover Harvest of Empire

Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan González

First published in 2011 and updated in 2022, this book is a look at five centuries of Latine history in the United States. Journalist Juan González begins with America’s colonization and continues through the 2020 election, showing the growing impact of Latine people on American culture and politics. He offers profiles of Latine pioneers, including stories about why they came to the United States, giving voice to many different experiences.

book cover An African American and Latinx History of the United States

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz

This book is described as a “revolutionary, politically charged narrative history” that uses the stories of African American and Latinx people to show how U.S. history is a story of “the working class organizing against imperialism.” Paul Ortiz links historical movements like segregation, Mexican labor organizing, and the Civil Rights Movement to show how different historically oppressed groups worked together to push back against the dominant narrative. I’m interested to learn how these stories all work together.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Memoirs for Hispanic Heritage Month

Happiest of Fridays, nonfiction friends! The next few days are not looking especially releaxing for me (yay, helping with a move!), but I’m still excited to be away from screens and seemingly endless emails for a few days. For this week’s newsletter, I’m excited to recommend a couple of great memoirs for Hispanic Heritage Month, along with some great new books.

Bookish Goods

watercolor painted bookshelf

Book Lover Watercolor Print from BeWildandFree

I am absolutely in love with this beautiful watercolor bookshelf print. And if the rainbow isn’t your thing, it comes in a bunch of different colors and sizes. Love. $16+

New Releases

book cover the future is disabled

The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes and Mourning Songs by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

I feel like I am taking inspiration from Kendra in sharing this book with you, which is great – her attention to disability in nonfiction has been opening my eyes to books I may have overlooked previously. This book was written during the pandemic, during two years of isolation which offered Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha some space to ask questions like “What if disability justice and disabled wisdom are crucial to creating a future in which it’s possible to survive fascism, climate change, and pandemics to bring about liberation.” It sounds so interesting.

book cover all that is wicked

All That is Wicked: A Gilded Age Story of Murder and the Race to Decode the Criminal Mind by Kate Winkler Dawson

Gilded Age criminology! In this book, a crime historian explores the story of Edward Rulloff, a prolific serial killer many thought was too smart to ever be caught. During his time, Rulloff chose his victims “out of revenge, out of envy, and sometimes out of necessity,” across multiple states and decades. Once he was finally caught, “mindhunters” of the time tried to understand him through the limited techniques available at the time. This sounds so, so good.

And don’t forget that for a more comprehensive list of new releases, you can always check out our New Books newsletter!

Riot Recommendations

September 15 – October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, so I wanted to highlight a few books you could read to celebrate. This week, I’m sharing two memoirs I really loved:

book cover In the SHadow of the Mountain

In The Shadow of the Mountain by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado

I just finished reading this one in September, and I am going to be recommending it a lot (although content warnings abound). As a child, Silvia Vasquez-Lavado experienced violence and sexual abuse at home. She came to the United States for college, then managed to make it big in Silicon Valley… all while hiding her sexuality, trying to manage her alcoholism, and repressing her trauma. After hitting a deep low, she turned to mountain climbing as therapy. The book tells her story, along with following her quest to lead a group of female sexual assault survivors on a climb to Mount Everest Base Camp before attempting the summit herself. That sounds like a lot, but the whole book comes together beautifully, with emotional highs and lows as well as a terrifying mountain climb. I tore through it.

book cover Ordinary Girls

Ordinary Girls: A Memoir by Jaquira Díaz

This is another memoir about overcoming childhood trauma and violence that’s equally as moving and inspiring. Jaquira Díaz grew up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, first with her family and then with friends and relatives after her mother’s schizophrenia became too much to deal with while parenting. She writes about coming into herself amidst violence, discovering her sexual identity, and connecting with her found family. This one is so vivid and evocative and full of heart.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

Learn More About the Weather

Hello, nonfiction fans! This is Kim, filling in on the mid-week newsletter send for Kendra. Today, I’ve got book recommendations from across the nonfiction spectrum — history, memoir, science, and public policy. Let’s dive in!

Bookish Goods

double wick candle with text: rainy day reading

Rainy Day Reading Candle from FlickTheWick

I’m not a huge candle person, but the slide into fall always makes me *wish* that I was. This 11 ounce, double wick candle seems like a great addition to any reading nook. $25

New Releases

book cover the evolution of charles darwin by diana preston

The Evolution of Charles Darwin: The Epic Voyage of the Beagle That Forever Changed Our View of Life on Earth by Diana Preston

In 1831, Charles Darwin joined the crew of the HMS Beagle as they headed out on a five-year voyage around the globe. Twenty-two-year-old Darwin had no idea of the impact the voyage would have, on his life and on our scientific understanding of the world. This book uses letters, diaries, and recollections from other participants to chronicle the entire voyage as it happened, following Darwin’s adventures and scientific discoveries. This book caught my attention because I know so much about what happened after Darwin returned to England, but almost nothing about the trip itself. Should be interesting!

book cover token black girl by danielle prescond

Token Black Girl: A Memoir by Danielle Prescod

This book caught my attention for two reasons: the note about how it covers “racial identity, pop culture, and delusions of perfection” and the really striking cover. Danielle Prescod grew up in a largely white community, further marginalized by the whitewashing of nearly all the media her friends consumed. This resulted in her trying to “shrink her identity” through chemical hair treatments, impeccable fashion, and disordered eating. She continued in that way as she made her way into the fashion industry, until finally deciding to confront the damage white supremacy in the media has caused.

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Riot Recommendations

As Florida continues to reel from the enormous impact of Hurricane Ian, I thought this week I could highlight a couple of books related to weather and climate change:

book cover the weather machine by andrew blum

The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the Forecast by Andrew Blum

If you want to dig deep into how weather forecasting works, this is the book for you! Andrew Blum is interested in systems and infrastructure, the nitty gritty of how things we take for granted actually work. The book explores the history of weather forecasting, the current network of weather monitoring stations, the computer models that run current forecasts, and the potential impacts of climate change, privatization, and more on the forecasts we take for granted.

book cover the black agenda

The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System, edited by Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman

This book is a little more of a stretch, but I didn’t think it was fair to suggest books about the weather without acknowledging the impact that climate change is having on the extreme weather we’re experiencing. This book is a collection of essays by Black intellectuals and experts across disciplines looking at how anti-racist policies would impact all of us. There’s a fascinating section looking at the climate movement, highlighting the systematic changes needed to ensure environmental justice for all.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!

True Story

The Marvels of a Good Microhistory

We’re so close to the weekend, nonfiction friends! My trip out to Masachusetts last weekend was a real delight — the windy weather and witchy vibes of Salem really put me in the mood for fall, which has set in pretty hard here in Minnesota. Bring on the apple cider and cozy cardigans!

This week’s back to school theme looks to history, specifically microhistories, on a couple of my favorite subjects. Let’s dig in!

Bookish Goods

sticker with an open book and a rainbow with the words support your local library

Support Your Local Library Sticker from SheMakesMeLaugh

Did you know September is Library Card Sign-Up Month? I couldn’t let the commemoration go by without something celebrating libraries. This support sticker is perfect! $5

New Releases

book cover stay true by hua hsu

Stay True: A Memoir by Hua Hsu

At first glance, 18-year-old Hua Hsu didn’t really like Ken — a fellow college student who “represents all that [Hsu] defines himself against.” Despite their vast differences, they become friends over the mutual feeling that they just didn’t fit into American culture. Less than three years later, Ken was killed in a violent carjacking. Hsu immediately began writing as a way to hold onto the memories of one of his closest friends — writing that turned into this book. One of the blurbs calls this book “exquisite and excruciating,” which means I’ll be picking it up when I need something to hit me in the feels.

book cover fen bog swamp by annie proulx

Fen, Bog and Swamp: A Short History of Peatland Destruction and Its Role in the Climate Crisis by Annie Proulx

In this book, novelist and environmentalist Annie Proulx takes us on a journey through the historical and environmental role of wetlands. She writes about how fens, bogs, swamps, and estuaries help preserve the environment by storing carbon emissions, and tell stories about some of the most significant wetlands around the world. She also looks at diseases that are connected to wetlands and the role that peat has in manufacturing and industry. This one just has to be good.

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Riot Recommendations

One of my favorite types of nonfiction books are microhistories — a book that does a deep dive into a single subject while also using that topic to explore bigger trends and stories in history. To wrap up this month’s dive into books for classes, I’ve got a couple of microhistories that might have a place in any world history class.

book cover Worn by Sofi Thanhauser

Worn: A People’s History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser

In this social history, writer and artist Sofi Thanhauser tells the stories of five fabrics — linen, cotton, silk, synthetics, and wool — to explore our clothing and what it says about us. In addition to looking at how fabrics were made and decorated, she also interrogates the modern clothing industry and the widespread environmental impacts of fast fashion. This book is smartly organized and full of fascinating stories.

book cover crude by sonia shah

Crude: The Story of Oil by Sonia Shah

This book tells the story of oil, from the moment it was discovered through its use in nearly all aspects of modern life. In addition to fuel and electricity, crude oil and related products are also in plastics, pavement, and fertilizers for plants. In this history, Sonia Shah also tells the story of people affected by oil — protestors, scientists, politicians, and more. I can think of a lot of materials that could make a great microhistory, but few that have impacts as wide-ranging as oil.

If neither of those is appealing, check out this collection of 50 must read microhistory books over at Book Riot.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork or send an email to Happy weekend!