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True Story

15 More Go-To Fun and Fascinating Nonfiction Reads

Hello hello, nonfiction friends! As promised, I’m here with something a little special for my last edition of True Story – an update of the very first edition I wrote back in January 2017. For the inaugural issue of the newsletter, I shared 15 of my go-to fun and fascinating nonfiction reads, a collection of some of the nonfiction I recommended most often to other readers.

Given how much I’ve read since then, I thought it would be fun to close my time as editor with an updated list – 15 more of my go-to fun and fascinating nonfiction reads. Let’s dive in!

bad blood by john carreyrou cover imageBad Blood by John Carreyrou – This book has become one of my go-to nonfiction recommendations, especially for people who are not avid readers but want something really page-turning. In the book, Carreyrou chronicles the rise and fall of Theranos and the company’s enigmatic founder, Elizabeth Holmes. The level of deception and willful ignorance at play through the whole scandal is astounding – you can’t help but keep reading to watch the whole house of cards fall apart.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann – This is one of my top recommendations for people who don’t think they want to read nonfiction. This true story of the murder of multiple members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma and the founding for the FBI reads like a thriller, which makes it great for readers who gobble up mysteries by Vince Flynn or James Patterson. Several members of my family (who are not nonfiction readers) have loved it.

 

all you can ever knowAll You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung – As a child, Nicole Chung was put up for adoption by her Korean parents, then raised by a white family in a small Oregon town. When she was pregnant with her first child, Chung launched a search for her birth parents to understand whether the story she’d been told about her adoption was true. I’m not sure if I’d call this memoir fun, exactly, but it is a beautifully written meditation on family, race, and community. If I were more of a re-reader, I am sure that I’d pick it up again.

Educated by Tara Westover – I don’t think I’m surprising anyone by telling you that this memoir is amazing. Westover is the daughter of Morman survivalists in rural Idaho, and experienced a childhood full of violence and misogyny. Despite not regularly attending high school, Westover manages to get into college, a move that estranges her from her family and sets her on a path to question everything she thought she knew. I just cannot tell you how good this memoir is, please go pick it up!

 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb – I’m fascinated by books that explore careers that I’ll never really get to experience. In this case, it’s therapy and how therapists work to help their patients move through difficult experiences and personal development. Gottlieb also writes about her own experience going to therapy, and her experience working with patients, in a way that’s open, vulnerable, and moving. This book made me think and gave me a lot of feelings, a potent combination.

I'll Be Gone In The Dark cover imageI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – For years, McNamara was part of an online community of true crime enthusiasts trying to uncover the identity of the Golden State Killer. In this book, published posthumously, she tells the story of the GSK and the hunt to bring him to justice. What makes this book better than most true crime books is the way McNamara always keeps her eyes focused on the victims and their stories – there’s nothing that feels exploitative about it in the way that many true crime books can feel. This might be the best true crime book I’ve read in the last five years, and that’s really saying something.

The Power of Meaning by Emily Esfahani Smith – I have read a lot of books about finding meaning in life, and this is one of my favorites. Rather than pursuing happiness, Esfahani Smith looks at how cultivation connection, working with purpose, telling stories, and seeking mystery can bring depth and joy to our lives. She gets at these ideas through an array of approaches like psychology, sociology, philosophy, neuroscience, and more, in a way that feels comprehensive and empathetic. I really liked this one.

Portage by Sue Leaf – This book is probably the biggest oddball on this list. I picked it up on an impulse while on a trip up North, devoured it in just a few days, and then spent months talking about how I wanted to take up canoeing to anyone who would listen. Leaf writes about her family’s experiences as canoeists, beginning with early trips to the Boundary Waters with her husband and ending with local river excursions with her grown children and their families. It’s a fascinating book about nature, wild places, relationships, and lessons we can learn when we let ourselves explore somewhere new.

Dark Money by Jane Mayer – In the last three years, there have been SO MANY books about politics and political life, but this one is probably one of the best. Mayer, a journalist for the New Yorker, takes a deep dive into “the hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the Radical Right,” to show how money has absolutely corrupted our entire political system. This book made me angry and sad and fired up – not exactly fun, but absolutely vital.

 

hidden figuresHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly – I am so jazzed about the number of books coming out that explore the previously unacknowledged role that women (especially women of color) have played in some of the major events and achievements of the last 200 years. This book, one of the first, looks at the female mathematicians who served as “human computers” at NASA and helped win the Space Race. This book is such a good read (and much more nuanced than the movie, although I loved that too).

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein – The last three years have also resulted in a lot of books about life in the Obama administration, which I have read as a way to soothe my soul and remind myself that politics can be rational and aimed towards the greater good. In this memoir, Dorey-Stein writes about her time as a stenographer, coming into the Obama administration as an outsider and eventually finding her place there. It’s also a coming of age story about finding purpose and making terrible romantic choices, which I thought was really funny. I remember seeing this one described as “Bridget Jones goes to the White House,” which sounds like a dig but is exactly correct and why I liked it so much.

The Class by Heather Won Tesario – In this book, Won Tesario spends the year inside an innovative high school science class, one without curriculum, tests, textbooks or lectures. Led by a former corporate scientist, the students in this class spend the year working on projects to compete on the high school science fair circuit, regularly bringing back top prizes to their school and themselves. The students in this book are bright, funny, brilliant, and also completely teenagers, which makes them really fun to read about. If you don’t mind going back to high school, this book is a total treat.

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi and Joshua David Stein – Food memoirs for the win! In this book, Kwame Onwuachi writes about how he went from being a kid in the Bronx to a celebrated chef in Washington D.C. His path took him all over, from New York to Nigeria to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. I loved how honest he was about his choices (both good and bad), and appreciated hearing about his perspective and experiences as a Black man in a largely white industry. I’ve recommended this one many times.

Catch and Kill cover imageCatch and Kill by Ronan Farrow – I read a couple of books about Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement, but this one is arguably a little more fun. In it, Farrow chronicles his experiences trying to break this major story, including the nefarious ways that rich and powerful men found ways to obstruct, intimidate, and embarrass victims and those who tried to tell their story. Farrow narrates the audiobook where he does some truly amazing accents – it’s ridiculous.

 

My Own Devices by Dessa – Dessa is a Minneapolis-based singer, songwriter, and writer who seems to be able to do it all. In this memoir, she “stitches together” stories about love, science, language, and life on the road. She has a background as both a technical writer and a rapper, which means she can write some absolutely gorgeous sentences. But she’s also curious and funny and lovesick and full of the kinds of random facts you expect someone who loves the things she loves to know. I really loved this one.

And that, my friends, brings me to the end of my time writing this newsletter. Thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting me to your inbox twice a week, it’s truly been an honor. You can continue to find me on Twitter and Instagram as @kimthedork and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

A New #OwnVoices Memoir From the Southern Border

Hello, nonfiction friends! Before we get into new books, I have some personal news to share – this will be my last week putting together this newsletter. While I’ve enjoyed writing it immensely, after three years of weekly and twice-weekly editions, it felt like it was time to pass the ship off to someone else with some fresh energy and ideas. And I am SO HAPPY to say that True Story will be in excellent hands when Alice, my co-host of the For Real podcast, takes over in February.

For now, I have one more selection of new books to share today, and then a special edition of the newsletter to close out my time as writer/editor at the end of the week. Keep reading, and be sure to click through on Friday!

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo – Given the ongoing discussion related to #OwnVoices stories about immigrants and the southern border, this book is especially relevant. In this memoir, poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo writes about what it was like to grow up undocumented in the United States. Castillo and his family crossed the border from Mexico when he was five, so the young boy grew up hiding in plain sight in California. In the book he writes about their experiences being visited by ICE, how he made a fake social security card, his father’s deportation, and more.

Further Reading: If you need a primer on where the #OwnVoices discussion is coming from, this post at Book Riot lays it out well. If you want more about this book, Hernandez Castillo had a great interview on NPR.

Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East by Kim Ghattas – In this book, journalist Kim Ghattas looks at how the modern Middle East unraveled, beginning with a rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran that helped spark the Iranian revolution in 1979. Ghattas uses historical research and her own reporting to address myths about the region, including how religion split Saudi Arabia and Iran, and how U.S. policy contributed to chaos in the region. I love Kim Ghattas’ writing, so I’m excited about this one.

Further Reading: Ghattas was interviewed for Bloomberg about why Iran was in trouble even before the killing of military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America by Gilda R. Daniels – This book looks at the issue of voter disenfranchisement “through the lens of history, race, law, and the democratic process.” Gilda R. Daniels, a former official in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, looks at the cycles of voter suppression and how methods adapt to find new ways to keep people from voting. Voter suppression feels like one of the most important issues going into the 2020 election, so this book is a must read.

Further Reading: Last summer, Daniels was interviewed by Detroit Today about how voter suppression is real and has been happening for more than 100 years.

And finally, a few other books I am excited about this week:

That’s all the new books for this week! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kimthedork and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Be sure to check back on Friday, I’m excited for what is coming! Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

Anthony Bourdain’s Last Book Coming This Fall

Hello, happy Friday! We’ve survived another week, my nonfiction-reading friends – that is something to cheer about!

I’m also cheering about the fact that I finally finished a book! Last weekend I practically flew through The Magical Language of Others, a beautiful memoir by E.J. Koh. When Koh was 15, her father accepted a lucrative position in South Korea, leaving Koh back in California in the care of her older brother. Over their separation, Koh’s mother wrote her weekly letters in Korean – letters Koh couldn’t fully understand until she learned enough Korean to translate them as an adult. Koh accompanies her own story with those of her mother and two grandmothers, creating a memoir about family, loss, trauma, and what it takes to find the language to tell our own stories. It was difficult to read in places, but very beautiful.

For this week’s newsletter, I’ve got a smattering of nonfiction news to share with you. Let’s get into it!

Anthony Bourdain’s final book is set to be published in October (sob). Titled World Travel: An Irreverent Guide, will be “an illustrated collection of Bourdain’s reflections on his favorite places to visit and dine around the world.” The book was finished by Bourdain’s longtime assistant, Laurie Woolever, and includes writing from his friends and family, along with the writer’s thoughts on places to visit and eat around the world.

The Jewish Book Council has announced this year’s winners of the National Jewish Book Awards, which includes several different awards for nonfiction in food writing, Jewish education and identity, autobiography and memoir, biography, and more. The biggest winner is Pamela S. Nadell, winner of the Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year for America’s Jew­ish Women: A His­to­ry from Colo­nial Times to Today.

Fraudster Caroline Calloway said she’s writing two books that will come out this spring. The infamous Instagram influencer will release a memoir (sold only on her website) called Scammer sometime in spring 2020. She claims to also be working on a second book, And We Were Like, about her time at Cambridge University. So… that’s news, I guess? (If you don’t remember anything about Calloway, this piece from The Cut will get you all caught up).

Mindhunter, Netflix’s true crime series about the formation of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in the 1970s and ‘80s, doesn’t appear to be getting a third season. According to Deadline, there’s been no movement from Netflix or David Fincher, the series’ director, to move ahead with the next season. Mindhunter is based on the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit written by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker.

And finally, a few links over at Book Riot you definitely don’t want to miss:

And that’s a wrap on yet another week! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kimthedork and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

A Trailblazing Woman in Politics and More New Nonfiction

Hello, nonfiction friends! Yesterday, the Twin Cities branch of the U.S. National Weather Service tweeted out some of the best news I could imagine: the average high temperature on Sunday was officially one degree warmer than Saturday… which means we’re finally up the upswing from winter where I live! We’re a long way from tolerable weather, but it’s getting closer. Huzzah!

Before we get into the business of new books, I want to quickly mention that Book Riot has launched another podcast! Novel Gazing (the best name, truly) is hosted by Louise and Mary Kay, and focuses on the world of literary fiction. Check it out!

And now, let’s get into some new books! Here are three I’m excited about this week:

American Queenmaker: How Missy Meloney Brought Women Into Politics by Julie Des Jardins – Although Marie Meloney was born into an America where women couldn’t vote, she recognized the power women held in the domestic sphere. Through her work getting men in publishing and politics to take women seriously, Meloney created the “female demographic,” a story explored in this new biography.

Backlist Bump: If you want a more personal look at women in politics, grab a copy of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics by Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, Minyon Moore, and Veronica Chambers.

Year of The Rabbit by Tian Veasna – In this illustrated memoir, cartoonist Tian Veasna tells the story of his family’s journey to escape the “murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.” Veasna was born three days after the regime seized power, so the family fled their urban home for the countryside where they survived in work campus until they could escape as refugees.

Other Suggested Titles: Over at Book Riot, David Mitchell Som wrote about three other books to help understand the Cambodian genocide, including two excellent-looking memoirs: First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung and The Years of Zero: Coming of Age Under the Khmer Rouge by Seng Ty.

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker – If you’ve ever wondered what the point of learning all that math in high school was, this book might be the one for you. In it, Matt Parker explores how math works quietly behind the scenes of everything from the code in websites to the design of skyscrapers… and the ways it can go awry. He explores glitches, near misses, and mishaps all caused by bad math to show the place it holds in the world.

Backlist Bump: Another great book on math in the real world is How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng. It’s fun!

And if that wasn’t enough books for you this week, here are five others that caught my attention:

That’s all the new books for this week! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kimthedork and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. This week, we talked about some of our favorite books about classic Hollywood. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

Nonfiction Recommendations for Read Harder 2020

Hello and happy Friday, nonfiction friends! For this week’s newsletter I wanted to do something a little different, a focus on Book Riot’s 2020 Read Harder Challenge.

Of the 24 tasks, there are three challenges that specifically call for nonfiction, 11 that call for fiction, and 10 more that fall somewhere in the middle. Today, I want to offer some nonfiction suggestions for those 10 tasks that don’t specify genre. Let’s get going!

1. Read a YA nonfiction book

3. Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt – I loved this atmospheric, character-driven true story about the murder of a young, male prostitute by a prominent Savannah antiques dealer.

4. Read a graphic memoir

5. Read a book about a natural disaster: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala – This book is a memoir by a woman who lost her parents, husband, and two sons in a 2004 tsunami that devastated of Sri Lanka.

10. Read a book that takes place in a rural setting: Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh – In this book, Sarah Smarsh shares her experience growing up poor on a small, family farm 30 miles outside of Wichita, Kansas in the 1980s and ’90s.

12. Read a memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your own

13. Read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before: Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson – Born in Ethiopia but raised in Sweden by his grandmother, Marcus Samuelsson tells his story of becoming a chef and opening his own “diverse, multiracial dining room” in Harlem.

15. Read a book about climate change: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert – There are a lot of nonfiction books about climate change you could grab, but I’m suggesting this one because Alice (my co-host of For Real) has raved about it. In it, Elizabeth Kolbert looks at previous mass extinction events and argues that we’re in the midst of a sixth right now.

16. Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – This book is a comprehensive history and impact of the Great Migration, a movement of Black and African American citizens from the South to cities across the United States. It’s long (640 pages in paperback), but reads fast.

17. Read a book by or about a refugee: The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya – At 15, Clemantine Wamariya and her sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre, spending six years migrating across Africa. When she was 12, they were granted refugee status in the United States. This is an incredible memoir.

20. Read a middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK: I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition) by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick – In this best-selling memoir, Malala Yousafzai shares her story of being shot by the Taliban on her bus ride to school. Since surviving the attack, Yousafzai has become an international advocate for education for girls and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner. This adaptation for young readers includes additional photos and material from the original.

The Collected Schizophrenias cover image21. Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non): The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang – In this collection of essays, Esmé Weijun Wang writes about her journey towards a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, including the complexities of labeling mental illnesses, the challenges for college students with mental illnesses, the dangers of institutions, and the challenges of living with a mental illness and chronic illness.

24. Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author: Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot – This memoir is a woman’s coming of age story while living on the Seabird Island Band in the Pacific Northwest, and how she used writing to cope with a dual diagnosis of PTSD and bipolar II disorder.

Whew, that’s a lot of books! Congrats on finishing another week, and good luck with your Read Harder 2020 endeavors. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kimthedork and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

Silicon Valley, the Great Migration, and More New Nonfiction

Hello and happy Wednesday, nonfiction readers! This week is cold and snowy in Minnesota, so I am planning to be cuddled up with books as much as possible over the coming days. This week, there are some great new books to grab, including one of the more anticipated memoirs of the year. Let’s take a peek!

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Weiner – In her mid-20s, Anna Weiner left an East Coast job in book publishing for a West Coast job in Silicon Valley. The book offers a first-hand account of “reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition,” a story we’re still sorting out today. This book is one of the most highly-anticipated titles of January, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Further Listening: In an interview with NPR, Weiner talks about the conflicting perks and values that were part of Silicon Valley culture.

Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream by Blair Imani – This illustrated history tells the story of the 60-year Great Migration and its impact on Black identity and American life as a whole. It explores topics like voting rights, domestic terrorism, activism, and civil rights, along with stories about famous and everyday people. It looks beautiful!

Backlist Bump: Imani’s first book also looks beautiful – Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History.

Father of Lions: One Man’s Remarkable Quest to Save the Mosul Zoo by Louise Callaghan – There’s a weird, specific sub-genre of nonfiction all about trying to save animals and artifacts from wars. This book is about the Mosul Zoo in Iraq, which served as a staging ground for ISIS fighters while the city was under siege. The caretaker of the zoo, Abu Laith, hid from insurgents to try and keep the animals from starving until the city is liberated.

Further Reading: If you don’t mind spoilers, you can read about the final evacuation of animals from the zoo, which took place in March 2017.

And finally, a few other books that might be of interest this week:

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

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True Story

JUST MERCY is Here, Plus More 2020 Nonfiction To Grab

Hello, nonfiction readers! We’re at the end of the first full week of 2020 and boy, does it feel like it’s been a doozy of a year already. I hoped that the turning of the calendar would help kick me out of the slower reading pace I seemed to adopt for all of 2019, but that hasn’t been the case – I still haven’t finished a book in 2020!

But, I’m trying not to let that get me down too much. The books I am reading (so, so slowly) are still excellent, but I don’t have anything new to report. I have high hopes that by this time next week I’ll be able to check a couple off my list. More to come!

This week’s nonfiction news is a mix – we’re starting with news about Just Mercy, highlighting a recently-announced book that sounds amazing, and finishing with a couple of 2020 reading lists. Let’s go!

Just Mercy cover imageA documentary about Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and subject of an upcoming film by the same name, is now available to stream for free! HBO’s True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality can be viewed for free on the Equal Justice Initiative’s website. If you haven’t read Just Mercy, please please please do yourself a favor and pick it up. It’s incredible.

Speaking of Just Mercy, the film adaptation of the book opens this week! The movie stars Michael B. Jordan as Stevenson, Jamie Foxx and Walter McMillan, and Brie Larson and Eva Ansley. From what I can gather, the reception has generally been good (even while acknowledging there are some storytelling formulas at work in the film):

TL;DR on all of that is to go see this movie because it’s based on a book that’s truly remarkable, and we all want to see good books get more attention.

Stacey Abrams (all around excellent person) is writing a book on voting rights and ending voter suppression that will come out in June. Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America will include her experience running for governor in Georgia, where her campaign raised questions about all sorts of activities related to voting access. She now leads the voting rights organization Fair Fight.

Electric Literature pulled together 56 books by women and nonbinary writers of color from 2020, which includes a good number of upcoming memoirs. I added American Harvest by Marie Mutsuki Mockett (April 2020 from Graywolf Press) and Conditional Citizens by Laila Lalami (April 2020 from Pantheon) to my list.

BitchReads suggests 17 memoirs feminists should read in 2020, and it’s quite a list. A couple that are on my list include The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore (June 2020 from Graywolf Press) and Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford (July 2020 from Little Brown).

And that’s all for this week! You can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at kim@riotnewmedia.com, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. This week, Alice and I took a dive into some upcoming 2020 tiles we’re looking forward to picking up. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

New Nonfiction About McDonald’s, Sex, and Language

Hello nonfiction lovers, it’s time to talk about new books! The first Tuesday of 2020 has plenty of excellent titles to get psyched about, so I’m going to skip the preamble and get right into it. I’ve got three books to highlight and another seven to mention for a total of 10 books to kick off your reading year. Onwards!

Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America by Marcia Chatelain – Looking from the civil rights to Ferguson, this book looks at “how fast food became one of the greatest generators of black wealth in America.” Chatelain explores the history of cooperation among “fast food companies, black capitalists, and civil rights leaders” to bring fast food restaurants to black neighborhoods and the long-running impacts those decisions have had. This one sounds fascinating.

Further Reading: Chatelain contributed to an interesting Politico piece about how history books will remember the 2010s. Her paragraph is first, but the rest of it is a good read too.

Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity by Peggy Orenstein – Following up on her book Girls & Sex, journalist Peggy Orenstein returns to the subject to look at how cultural forces around female sexiness and toxic masculinity can also affect how boys understand sex. Orenstein again draws on interviews with young people to reveal “how young men understand and negotiate the new rules of physical and emotional intimacy.” The book explores locker room talk, hookup culture and consent, sexual violence, and more. I felt like Girls and Sex was a must-read book for parents, and can only assume this one will be too.

Further Reading: In the Boston Globe, Orenstein talks about why she decided to revisit this topic, what it’s like to interview teens about sex, and what she hopes her book can do for parents.

Don’t Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth About Language by David Shariatmadari – Language can be difficult to study because we need to have a grasp of language to even get started. Over the last several decades, we’ve reached new insights in linguistics but still believe many outdated myths about how language works. In this book, Shariatmadari looks at the science of language, undermining nine myths about language while exploring “the fundamental insights of modern linguistics.” Word nerds, go find this one!

Further Reading: Shariatmadari is an editor at The Guardian who has written some great articles on language, including this one about the top 10 words of 2019.

And finally, a few more titles that caught my attention:

And that’s a wrap! You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kimthedork and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. This week, Alice and I talked about some of the books we’re looking forward to in 2020. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

Nonfiction By and About Journalists to Start 2020

Hello hello fellow nonfiction readers! Let me be the latest person to welcome you to 2020, a year that feels like it should still be in some distant future where we have robot servants and flying cars and all wear strange metallic clothing everywhere.

One of my favorite reading rituals each January is picking my first books of the year. If time and library holds allow, I like to try and pick books that are 1) already on my bookshelves, and 2) help set a tone for the year ahead. In a year I wanted to stretch creatively, I chose Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. In a year I was thinking about living a full life, I chose 2019, Awakening Your Ikigai by Ken Mogi.

This year, I’m thinking a lot about the connections in my life – to people, places, passions, and my work – and what I can do to deepen those bonds. To help with that, my first book this year is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, a book that’s been on my shelves for years but I never make time to read. I’m hoping that her lessons on how vulnerability can transform our lives will be an inspirational way to kick off this big year.

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

This week, I’ve got three news stories with connections to nonfiction and journalism that caught my attention late last year. Let’s go!

Bloomberg Opinion writers shared some of their recommendations for turning the page from 2019 to 2020. It’s an interesting list and, as you might expect, rather heavy on nonfiction (especially nonfiction by journalists, which you know I love).

A judge ruled that Edward Snowden won’t be making any money on his memoir, Permanent Record, because “he failed to get pre-publication clearance from U.S. security agencies.” Because he didn’t submit the book to both the CIA and the NSA for review of classified content, Snowden violated his employment contracts. The judge said he also can’t claim the government wouldn’t have reviewed the book in good faith and in a timely manner because he didn’t try to submit it.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is demanding that Warner Bros. release a statement acknowledging it took dramatic license” in the portrayal of journalist Kath Scruggs in the new Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell. The movie looks at the Centennial Olympic Park bombing at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, specifically profiling the security guard who discovered the bomb and was subsequently a suspect in the bombing. It suggests that Scruggs, a journalist at the paper, traded sex for tips from an FBI agent. This story is rather fascinating to me, definitely check out the details at the link.

And finally, there have been a few great posts over at Book Riot in the last few weeks I want to make sure you don’t miss:

And that’s all for this first week of January! I’ll be back to a regular newsletter schedule next week with new books on Tuesday and nonfiction news on Friday. You can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at kim@riotnewmedia.com, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim

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True Story

A Round Up of Best Nonfiction of the Year

It’s Friday, nonfiction friends! It’s also the last edition of this newsletter in 2019… how on earth did this happen? At the moment, I’m just hanging on through my last few days of work before taking next week off for a much-needed vacation and disconnect. I’m heading up to my parents’ house where I plan to read, eat, and nap as much as possible.

Picking out the books I want to bring on a vacation is one of my favorite things! I always try to pull together a mix of fiction and nonfiction that covers a range of topics and moods and styles. I haven’t settled on anything officially yet, but I anticipate The Education of an Idealist by Samantha Powers will be on my pile, along with a book I just picked up at the library, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal. But we’ll see, vacation reads are always a moving target until the moment I get out the door!

Given the impending holidays, it’s been a generally quiet week in the world of publishing news. I decided to use this last newsletter to bundle up a bunch of specific “best of the year” nonfiction lists all in one place:

I also wanted to point out the winners of this year’s 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards, which I usually like a lot because there’s such a variety of nonfiction represented in the different categories. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed in the nonfiction winners this year:

I’m not sure what about that list is rubbing me the wrong way. I think maybe there’s just not much there that’s surprising or feels particularly innovative. C’est la vie.

And if that’s not enough, I also admire the work that went into LitHub’s ultimate list of best books of 2019, which tallies up multiple lists to find the ultimate winners. I was excited to see a few nonfiction books on a majority of the lists, including In the Dream House and Trick Mirror on 16 lists and Say Nothing on 14 lists.

And that’s all you’ll hear from me in 2019! Thank you, again, for inviting me into your inbox twice each week. I’ll be back with more new nonfiction and nonfiction news on Friday, January 3. In the mean time, you can find me on Twitter @kimthedork, on email at kim@riotnewmedia.com, and co-hosting the For Real podcast here at Book Riot. Happy reading! – Kim