You probably already know that I am a big fan of reading nonfiction. I set myself the goal of reading at least one a month a few years ago, and never looked back. I’ve learned a lot of new things and read a lot of really great books.

So, I thought it might be interesting (hopefully) to talk about some of the nonfiction books that are up next on my list. I am planning on getting to all of these this year (even though some of them are massive – the first one on this list is over a thousand pages).

One book not on this list, because I am already a good ways into it is Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I’ve talked about this one before. I started this at the beginning of January, and then kind of got mad reading about some of the best presidents we’ve ever had while also keeping up with the news. This book is great, but it makes it hard to keep my rage in check. So, I do want to finish it this year. But I also don’t want to feel like smashing things, so we’ll see.

Anyway, onto the actual list:

Grant by Ron Chernow

Very rarely do people in my real life recommend books to me (not a lot of them read very much). So it’s extra rare when two of them recommend the same book, especially nonfiction. But that’s exactly what happened with Grant. I did read Chernow’s Hamilton biography a few years ago and really liked it, so I have pretty high expectations for this one.

I have actually already read the first chapter (and loved it!), but decided this will be perfect for Tome Topple next month, so I’m going to put it on pause and just start over. That first chapter had a lot of content, so it’ll be nice to reread it anyway. I am also reading this for an upcoming secret TBR post, so keep an eye out fo that!

Know the Beginning Well: An Inside Journey Through Five Decades of African Development by Kingsley Y. Amoako

I had not heard of this book before the publisher reached out to be about it. And I am so very glad they did, because this sounds really great! It’s kind of outside my comfort zone – when I read history, I tend to go for like nineteenth-century at the latest – but I also haven’t read any African history at all, and that’s something I do want to fix.

The author himself is also pretty impressive, having previously been the head of the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa. I think a lot of us, myself included, really don’t know much about Africa’s history and current political and economic climate, so why not learn more? Worst case scenario, this just adds to the massive collection of random facts inside my brain. Best case, it helps me go forward and try to make a difference.

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michelle Harper

One thing I did want to focus on in my nonfiction reading this year is reading more books by authors of color. I set this as an overall reading goal for myself. But I realized that almost all of the nonfiction books I’ve been reading have been by white authors. So I was really excited to see that this was a Book of the Month selection. (It’s only been a month since they committed to increasing their diversity, and I was pretty impressed with what they have done so far.)

This is a memoir by an African American female ER physician, who goes through the ending of her marriage just as she’s starting her career. She learns to heal herself as she heals others. I actually work at a medical school (luckily, one that focuses a lot on diversity), but I have definitely noticed a major lack of African American physicians/medical students. So I think it would be really interesting to read a book from that perspective.

Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston

In 1927, Hurston interviewed a man called Cudjo, the last person alive who had been transported to America as a slave. Honestly, just reading the synopsis of this book feels heavy. This feels like such an important part of history. And, though I know it will probably hurt me (a lot), I have to read it. As a former history major, I am fully aware that history has been written – for the most part – by white men. And I really want to make an effort to seek out other stories.

I recently read Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi – which I highly recommend – and it definitely made me rethink my view of history. I am aware of what black people have gone through (shout out to my high school history teacher that made us all lie on the floor packed together like we were on a slave ship so that we understood what that felt like – it still makes me panic a little, and I’m glad for it). But I am realizing more nd more than my life of privilege has kept me from fully understanding. I accept that I probably never will, but I will definitely try my best. Because it is incredibly important. And I think books like this are a great way to do that.

Birth of the Chess Queen: A History by Marilyn Yalom

I had to throw in one fun book. For after the last one makes me depressed. This one has been on my TBR for a while, because it just sounds really interesting. I am not a big chess player (apologies to the very nice Indian man who once spent five hours trying to teach me on a cross-country flight). But have definitely been curious as to why the queen is far more powerful than the king. At least on the board.

This book examines how chess went from missing the queen for five-hundred years to making her the most valuable piece on the board. We all know Medieval queens were kind of badass, so she definitely deserves this. But I really want to know the history of it. Just me?

And that’s it! I actually do have quite a few more nonfiction books on my TBR for the year, but these are the five I am most excited to get to. There are some very outside my TBR, at least one that might make me cry, and one that will probably make me even more annoying to play board games with.

What nonfiction books are on your TBR?

17 thoughts

    1. Pretty sure I own the history of Venice book, so no need to justify yourself to me haha. I love Tudor history, but tend to read more fiction. Have you read any Alison Weir? She writes Tudor fiction and nonfiction, and it’s all fantastic!


            1. That one is good, but I actually enjoyed the others better because I knew less about them going in. I really like how she makes each queen the protagonist in their own story. You hate Anne in Katherine’s book and then you get the other side of it. It’s interesting.


    1. Thank you! If you’re looking to read more, I would definitely recommend setting yourself a goal (however many per month or year, etc.). I started reading one per month about four years ago and now I don’t even have to think about it.

      Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Good for you for reading so much nonfiction! It looks like an interesting list.

    The nonfictionbook I’m recommending right now is The True History of the First Mrs. Meredith and Other Lesser Lives (NYRB). The biographer, Diane Johnson, was haunted by the omission of George Meredith’s first wife, and set out to find out who she really was.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’d not heard of Know the Beginning either, but could also definitely benefit from learning more about Africa! Honestly, while I know the most about Europe, I feel like my knowledge of the world outside the US is shockingly limited and it’s something I’m slowly working on improving 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel the same way (and I literally have a degree in history). And reading Stamped from the Beginning earlier this year also made me realize how little I know about US history, too. We were only taught one side of the story. Hopefully this one is a good start to fixing all of that. I’m planning to do a post about it in the next week or so.


  3. Thank you for this list! I love reading and writing nonfiction, especially memoirs. I recently read John Updike’s “Self-Consciousness” and Jamison’s “Unquiet Mind” and loved them both a lot! If you like Virginia Woolf’s fiction, I’d recommend reading her memoirs as well (“A Sketch of the Past” is amazing).

    Liked by 1 person

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