True Story

Great Reporting that Leads to Great Books, and More New Nonfiction Releases

Last week, Ta-nehisi Coates published a stunning piece about Donald Trump and the Trump presidency in The Atlantic called “The First White President.” Reading it got me fired up, about both politics and my love for really good long-form reporting and analysis. Reported features can help introduce you to new writers, or help you get a handle on a topic you may not have considered before.

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Mary Jane’s Ghost by Ted Gregory.

Summer 1948 in Oregon, Illinois, a young couple visiting lovers’ lane is murdered. The crime garners nationwide headlines, but after a sweeping manhunt no one is arrested and the deaths of Mary Jane Reed and Stanley Skridla fade from memory. Fifty years later entrepreneur Michael Arians moves to Oregon, opens a roadhouse, gets elected mayor, and becomes obsessed with the crime. He contacts the Chicago Tribune and his letters fall to reporter Ted Gregory. For the next thirteen years Gregory remains beguiled by the case and Arians’s hopeless pursuit of justice. This is the story of these two odysseys

Several of my favorite books from the last few years started as long-form reporting. Katy Butler’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, one of the best books I’ve read on aging and our medical system, started as a New York Times Magazine piece called “What Broke My Father’s Heart.” I discovered Anthony Shadid and his beautiful memoir, House of Stone, through some of his reporting for the Washington Post. And Five Days at Memorial, Sheri Fink’s devastating account of decisions at a hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, began as a series that won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

But, even if you don’t want to go book length on some of these topics, there’s a lot of great journalism out there to discover. The Atlantic conveniently put together this list of more than 100 great works of journalism, which has a cool variety of pieces to peruse through with some authors I am sure you’ll recognize. The Best American series is also a good resource – I particularly like checking out Best American Essays and Best American Science and Nature Writing to find new writers to follow.

And now I turn to you, readers. What are some of your favorite sources for interesting reporting? Have you discovered a book or writer because of a piece in a newspaper or magazine?

New Releases on My Radar

Despite the fact that our TBR piles keep growing and our time for reading never seems to increase, this week was another great one for new nonfiction. In addition to Hillary Clinton’s much-anticipated memoir about the 2016 election, What Happened, here are a few books that made it on my radar:

  • Ranger Games by Ben Blum – A reporter investigates how his Marine cousin came to be part of a crew robbing a bank.
  • Unbelievable by Katy Tur – A CNN anchor recounts her experiences covering the 2016 Trump campaign.
  • Curry by Naben Ruthnum – Essays on curry, a dish that “doesn’t quite exist” but that “can have infinite, equally authentic variations.”
  • Bloodlines by Melissa del Bosque – A rookie FBI agent infiltrates a Mexican drug cartel through American quarter horse racing.

Over at Book Riot…

Ann Foster has a list of books on the well-behaved women of history.

I put together a list of 10 great YA nonfiction books (and have some most posts on YA nonfiction brewing – it’s a really interesting, growing genre).

Cindy Butor shared some basic background on DACA and the DREAMERs, and offers some reading suggestions to understand this issue better.

Katie MacBride rounds up some great audiobooks by women in politics.

And Tara Cheeseman writes about the Mitford sisters and suggestions some fiction, biography and memoirs to get to know them better.

Science and Math Kindle Deals

Add to your e-reader TBR with some of these great Kindle deals on books from the science and math section:

  • Console Wars by Blake Harris for $1.99 – A look at the battle between Sega and Nintendo during the early 1990s. I read this one, it’s pretty fun.
  • A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell for $1.99 – A memoir about the “ins and outs of beekeeping”A Book of Bees
  • The Network by Scott Woolley for $1.99 – The inside story of how America’s airwaves were developed through the relationship between an industrialist and an inventor.

A Look Ahead: National Book Awards!

Just after my deadline for this newsletter, the 10 titles that made this year’s National Book Awards longlist for nonfiction were announced. I’m hoping to write a little bit about them next week. With that, you know the drill – you can reach me on Twitter @kimthedork or via email at with questions, comments, suggestions, or book recommendations. Happy reading!

Today In Books

Amazon Removes Polarizing Clinton Memoir Reviews: Today in Books

Amazon Removes Hundreds Of Reviews For What Happened

Isn’t the internet exhausting sometimes? Slate reported that Amazon had to remove hundreds of reviews of What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s memoir. The listing drew over 1,500 reviews the morning after it was posted with most reviews giving the book either one or five stars. Few of those reviews (338) were posted by Verified Purchasers. Amazon removed both negative and positive reviews from unverified purchasers, which jumped the rating from 3.2 up to 4.9.

Books On Race And Politics Lead National Book Award Nonfiction Longlist

The Los Angeles Times noted that books on race and politics lead the National Book Award longlist for Nonfiction. The 10 finalists include “four books directly addressing the history of race relations between blacks and whites in America; two that consider conservative forces in American culture; and one, by Naomi Klein, that advocates for progressive action during Donald Trump’s presidency.” Check out the article for the full list.

Teacher Creates Harry Potter Wonderland For Students

A teacher in Oregon spent 70 hours creating a Harry Potter themed classroom for his students. Kyle Hubler of Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro brought his own Harry Potter merchandise to school and set to work decorating his new classroom a month before the start of the school year. He said he did it because his students love the books and because of the impact the series had on him as a kid. “The lessons in the books about acceptance, loyalty, and integrity stayed with me and inform a lot of the philosophy I have in my approach to teaching and how I interact with my students,” said Hubler.

Sponsored by Rakuten Kobo Inc.

Calling all listeners—audiobooks are now available from Kobo. Find all your eBooks and audiobooks together in the FREE Kobo App for iOS and Android. Save with a subscription for the best deal on audiobooks—your first 30 days are FREE.

The Goods

20% sitewide

3 days, 20% off everything in the Book Riot Store! Why? Because we like you.

Don’t know where to start? Get the new limited-edition Always Be Closing tee, available in five styles through 9/25.

Or celebrate readerly resistance! We found some extra Reading Trumps Ignorance tees from last month’s limited run, and we’d love for you to have one. Check them out!


Win a Copy of VASSA IN THE NIGHT by Sarah Porter!


We’ve got some copies of Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter to give away!

Here’s what it’s all about:

In Vassa’s Brooklyn neighborhood it’s easy to stumble into magic, it’s stumbling away again that’s hard. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and innocent shoppers. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has Erg, a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…

Go here to enter for a chance to win, or just click the cover image below:


Free Audiobooks!

Hey there, audiobook fans,

I love free and/or heavily discounted things. Love love love them. So much, in fact, that an ex-boyfriend used to call me “Bargain Bin MacBride” because if I see something that’s free, odds are I’m coming home with it. (You got a bunch of ugly refrigerator magnets at some work conference? Yes, I would love to take those off your hands.) Perhaps it makes sense that I gravitated towards a career in libraries–-they’re the OG free factory. (Yeah, ultimately you have to return stuff, but it’s still mostly free!). So this week, I thought it might be nice to review all the ways you can get your hands on (ears on?) free audiobooks.

This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Penguin Random House Audio.

Listen to your book club’s next pick. Visit for suggested listens and for a free audiobook download of The Knockoff!

With fall ramping up, it’s back to juggling busy school and work schedules with social engagements like date nights, yoga with friends, and book club. Luckily, you can listen to your book club’s next pick so you can stay on top of it all.

First up: Your public library:

Most libraries I have encountered use Overdrive. Overdrive’s platform is pretty straightforward, you just download the app or go to the website and create an account using your public library card. After that, you can download to your heart’s content (or, to whatever your library’s limit is—I think my library has a limit of 10.)

Hoopla is another service your library might be able to hook you up with—it’s a streaming service, so you’ll  won’t actually be downloading the books, but if you’ve got an internet connection in your home or office or other boring places where you’d benefit from some story time, it’s definitely worth seeing if your library has access to Hoopla. (Hoopla also offers streaming music and movies, so if your library does subscribe, you’ll have endless hours of entertainment at your disposal.)

Librivox: Librivox is awesome because it offers free audiobooks that are in the public domain, all read by volunteers. It’s kind of like a giant, digital web of audiobook lovers reading their favorite books to each other. Want to volunteer to read one of your favorite books?

Audiobooky websites

Mind Webs is an awesome site that provides “perfectly-executed, haunting old-time radio dramatization of over 150 of the most classic science fiction short stories.” Rioter Nikki wrote about it in this post, and I am so glad she did.

Open Culture: Open Culture is a great site to find audiobooks of the classics and often really neat recordings of authors reading their own work or actors reading famous works of literature. For example, you can listen to Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” read by Christopher Walken and/or James Earl Jones. There are plenty of complete audiobooks to choose from, but I’m also very partial to the author-read short stories they have as well. In general, Open Culture is a hub of interesting and informative delights. I subscribe to the newsletter and it’s lovely to not just wake up to BREAKING NEWS: THE WORLD IS 10 SECONDS AWAY FROM ENDING emails, but also have a “hey The Getty just added 77000 images to its open content archive” email. You know, something to look at before we all go up in flames.

Scribl (formerly known as Podiobooks):

Podiobooks has merged with Scribl. You can still get free audiobook content in a serialized (podcast) form (you just have to put up with some ads) as well as ad-free audiobooks you can purchase, based on their crowd pricing system. Here’s the coolest part: every audiobook you purchase comes with the free ebook edition. DREAMS COME TRUE.

If none of the above strike your fancy, check out Rioter Ashley’s post about everything audiobook app-related. She talks about free and subscription services, so you’re almost guaranteed to find one that works for you. (If I am wrong and you still haven’t found an audiobook delivery method that works for you, you can tweet mean things at me at @msmacb).  

New Release of the Week (publisher description in quotes)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

So I didn’t just pick this because I happen to be visiting Cleveland at the moment and the book is set in Shaker Heights, but that does add to the fun of listening to it right now. But I was interested in this title because Ng’s previous book, Everything I Never Told You, was such a powerful debut. Ng explores similar themes of family and identity here: Mia, a single mother, and her daughter move to the quiet Cleveland suburb. Mia rents a room from Elena Richardson, a steadfast rule follower.

“When old family friends of the Richardson’s attempt to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.”

Links for Your Ears:

Netflix Hack Day Creates Audiobook Version

Apparently Netflix has a “hack” day where the employees “take a break from everyday work, have fun, experiment with new technologies, and collaborate with new people.” Some genius (I’m not being sarcastic) came up with the idea for an “audiobooks” feature, in which one could click icon while watching a show on Netflix and get narration, as though one is listening to an audiobook of their favorite show. There’s a demo here.

I CANNOT OVERSTATE HOW BADLY I WANT THIS TO BE REAL. It likely never will be, for a million logistical reasons but oh man, I want audiobook Netflix!

Rosario Dawson narrates audiobook for The Martian follow-up Artemis

Count me in.

Kobo takes on Audible with its own audiobook subscription service.


Until next week!





Riot Rundown


Today’s Riot Rundown is sponsored by Penguin Teen.

John Green is the award-winning, #1 bestselling author of Looking for AlaskaAn Abundance of KatherinesPaper TownsWill Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan), and The Fault in Our Stars. His many accolades include the Printz Medal, a Printz Honor, and the Edgar Award. John has twice been a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and was selected by TIME magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. With his brother, Hank, John is one half of the Vlogbrothers and co-created the online educational series CrashCourse. You can join the millions who follow him on Twitter @johngreen and Instagram @johngreenwritesbooks or visit him online at John lives with his family in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Today In Books

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist Is Here: Today in Books

The Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announcement

Among the titles to make it on the shortlist are Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. According to the Guardian piece announcing the winners, judges were questioned about the Americanization of the UK award. Half of the authors selected for the shortlist are from the US. I was sure we’d see Arundhati Roy listed, but there you go.

Aaand We’ve Got The National Book Awards Longlist For Poetry

As mentioned in yesterday’s newsletter, the National Book Awards is releasing their longlist in pieces. Today they released the longlist for Poetry and, what with the proliferation of Instagram poets, I wonder if a lot more readers will pay attention to the list this year, compared to recent years. You won’t find Rupi Kaur here, but Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith made the list, as did three debut collections, including When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen.

Solving The Mystery of My Immortal

I find this story fascinating, even though I was only recently initiated into the mysteries of My Immortal. We are talking about the tale dubbed the worst fanfic ever and its mysterious writer. Vox wrote an in-depth piece about this fanfic phenomenon and the work’s author, Rose Christo, who reemerged and revealed her true identity after about 10 years of silence. You can read all about the legend of My Immortal, Christo’s upcoming memoir, and how it’s all connected to that other what-the-what story about Lani Sarem of Handbook for Mortals and New York Times best-seller list infamy.

Sponsored by Finding Grace, the chilling new drama from Warren Adler that gets to the heart of brainwashing and its power to corrupt and control.

When their twenty-three-year-old daughter Grace goes missing, divorcees Harry and Paulie are forced to leave behind their newly constructed lives to track her down on a sunny farm in California. Seemingly unharmed, the two soon learn that she is actually in the clutches of a notorious cult. Under the spell of mind control, she denies Harry and Paulie as her family, leaving them to search for answers in the most desperate of places. Harry and Paulie race to bring Grace back home – but will she ever be able to return? How do you help someone who doesn’t know they’re lost?



Win FIREBLOOD by Elly Blake!


We have 10 copies of Elly Blake’s Fireblood to give away to 10 Riot readers!

Here’s what it’s all about:

In this action-packed sequel to the New York Times bestselling Frostblood, Ruby must choose between her fiery homeland and the icy king who loves her.

Go here to enter for a chance to win, or just click the cover image below. Good luck!

Today In Books

National Book Awards Longlist: Today in Books

The National Book Awards Longlist Is Here…In Parts

It’s awards season and if you’re the type of reader who enjoys keeping up with the lists, you’ll have plenty of books to add to your TBR now that the National Book Awards longlist is being announced. Caveat: the National Book Foundation will be announcing one category from its longlist each day this week. First up is Young People’s Literature with titles including The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, and more. Check it out!

Kirkus’ New Diversity In Children’s Books Initiative

Kirkus announced a new initiative aimed at confronting the dearth of diversity in children’s books. Kirkus Collections will work to help librarians find books by and about marginalized people. Because standard subject headings aren’t always helpful in locating diverse books, this new tool features curated lists with headers like “Black & Disabled,” “Latinx Read-Alouds,” and “LGBTQIAP Love Stories.” Through positive reviews, the use of metadata, and filters, librarians will be able to browse and search for vetted books for their diverse patrons. Very interesting!

All The Books Hillary Clinton Name Drops In Her Memoir

What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s memoir about her presidential campaign, came out this week and the buzz is real. TIME has already published a list of all the books she mentions in the memoir. They include some classics we’ve been hearing a lot about recently, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, also Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and poetry by Maya Angelou. If you’re curious, you can take a look at the full list, or read the book and break up the sorrow with little moments of discovery.

Thanks to The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr for sponsoring today’s newsletter.

Robyn Carr has crafted a beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

For the Hempsteads summers were idyllic at the family house on Lake Waseka. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. Until the summer that changed everything.

After an accidental drowning turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. But one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships Sep 15

Happy Friday, friends! This week I’m reviewing Warcross and Midnight Crossing and talking about our newest podcast, awkward robots, Star Wars-inspired corn mazes, and more.

This newsletter is sponsored by The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein.

The Punch Escrow by Tal M KleinAnointed the must-read sci-fi thriller of the summer by Barnes & Noble, The Punch Escrow is a genre-busting debut—part hard sci-fi thriller, part love story, and part high stakes adventure through a world where teleportation is the norm. After he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting, Joel Byram must outrun the most powerful corporation on the planet and find a way back to his wife in a world that now has two of him.

The Punch Escrow is currently in development for film at Lionsgate. Paperback and ebook copies are available wherever books are sold.

In the first episode of our newest podcast Recommended, Robin Sloan puts forth a case for the actual Great American Novel, and it’s a science fiction title! Find out what he picked right here.

Syfy Wire is doing a series of “best of” lists for its anniversary, and this one of 25 creators of color that changed SF/F as a genre is excellent and useful. Not only does it include the usual suspects (Octavia Butler! Hayao Miyazaki!), but it has a few that might not be on your radar.

Who doesn’t love awkward robots? And has a review of two new titles that focus on said socially-impaired androids, Martha Wells’ All Systems Red and Annalee Newitz’s Autonomous.

What might a queer family in space look like? One Rioter talks about how the SFF of her adolescence gave her room to imagine beyond a mom, a dad, and 2.5 kids.

For fellow Trekkies who have lost track: Here’s a video discussing the timeline of Star Trek: Discovery, based on current canon (who knows what the show will change).

Today in whimsy news: someone made a Princess Leia corn maze!

Would you enjoy some cheap ebooks? I thought you might. The Real and the Unreal by Ursula Le Guin, which collects some of her best short stories, is only $2.99 this month. Also on deep discount ($0.99) are the first three installments in Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch series: Night Watch, Day Watch, and Twilight Watch. I can verify that that is a solid price for a lot of very INTENSELY BANANAPANTS Russian sci-fi!

And now, onto our reviews, which have nothing in common with each other aside from the word “cross.”

Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross by Marie LuI devoured this novel in one Sunday afternoon, friends. Cover to cover with barely a break!

It kicks off with 18-year-old hacker and bounty hunter Emika Chen, who’s tailing a gambler. She’s about to get evicted from her crappy NYC studio apartment (which she already shares with a roommate), she’s got no friends, no family, no money, and very little hope. When her bounty gets taken out from under her, she figures that’s it; with her criminal record, her job prospects are severely limited. Then she “accidentally” hacks into the biggest virtual reality game in the world during its annual Opening Ceremonies — the accident is that she gets caught doing it. The next thing she knows she’s flying to Tokyo to meet with the game’s billionaire creator and tech genius, and everything in her life changes. But life definitely isn’t easier, and Chen finds herself neck-deep in a plot that includes corporate espionage, hacking, the Dark Web, and family secrets.

With an excellent and highly inclusive cast of characters — LGBTQ, disabled, and POC characters all show up on the page — Warcross gives us a page-turning first installment in a new series from YA powerhouse Marie Lu, who already has two other series under her belt. I deeply appreciated that in this first book, there’s enough resolution to satisfy as well as a cliffhanger that will have you counting down the days to Book 2. Fun, smart, and fast — let me know when the video game companion is in production! (Surely someone will do one? Surely??)

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine HarrisI didn’t pick this up until I had already watched the pilot for Midnight, Texas (which is indeed delightful magical trash), but now I’m glad I did! This is, believe it or not, my first Charlaine Harris, and it won’t be my last.

Set in a tiny, dusty town called Midnight in (you guessed it) Texas, the book starts off with internet psychic Manfred Bernardo (yes, that really is his name). He’s just moved to the area, purportedly to find somewhere quiet where he can do his work and not be disturbed. He’s an actual psychic as well as a con artist, but that’s fine — Midnight is already populated by quite a few supernatural beings. We meet Lemuel, a vampire, and Fiji, a witch, almost immediately and they’re just the most obviously paranormal of the other residents. A local woman turns up murdered and there are few leads, so Manfred ends up trying to help out the investigation.

With a few clear exceptions, the first book and the pilot stick pretty close together, which means I’m already getting them mixed up in my head. What really struck me about Midnight Crossroad is that it’s a timelier plot than I was looking for; the story revolves around the actions of a group of white supremacists, and the residents of Midnight are battling more than just things that go bump in the night. It’s not particularly deep, but it does incorporate a wide range of characters and it moves quickly. If you’re looking for a fantasy escape, this one is a quick read but one with more weight than you might expect.

And that’s a wrap! If you’re interested in more science fiction and fantasy talk, you can catch me and my co-host Sharifah on the SFF Yeah! podcast. For many many more book recommendations you can find me on the Get Booked podcast with the inimitable Amanda.

Long days and pleasant nights,