11 Must-Read UK Nonfiction Books of 2019

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Rabeea Saleem

Staff Writer

Rabeea is a Karachi-based writer. Her two vices are cricket and literature. Book critic for various international publications including Chicago Review of Books, Irish Times and The National. She can be reached at

In times of turmoil, we turn to books to get a sense of the world around us. Nonfiction provides us a clear-cut, unreserved portrait of our present and where it might lead us to. Here is my selection of the top nonfiction books of 2019 that will not only expand your horizons but are also compulsively readable.

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

I dare you all to not howl with laughter while reading anything written by Adam Kay. His This Is Going to Hurt was a phenomenal, record-breaking bestseller with its impeccable blend of humor and poignancy. Here he continues to simultaneously crack us up and make us feel sympathy for the hectic life of hospital staff during Christmas time.

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison

One of the most esteemed contemporary name in nonfiction, the writer of The Empathy Exams is back with another blistering book. Biting and honest, this collection of essays revolve around themes of longing and obsession.

Superior by Angela Saini

Award-winning writer Saini explores the bases of race in science throughout history. A vital and urgent addition to political science.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

One of the most hysterically comical books you will read this year, Irby is at her smartest, candid best here. No wonder Roxane Gay loves it. If you are a fan of Fleabag, you will love this collection of self deprecating, outrageous and painfully awkward encounters.



Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith 

From the NBA-winning author and cultural icon, this is a sharply realized, poetic, and sophisticated memoir of a transformative year in Smith’s life.

Indelible in the Hippocampus: Writings from the Me Too Movement Edited by Shelly Oria 

A legacy of the #MeToo movement, this timely anthology provides daring and honest insights into the factors and patriarchal structures enabling this abuse against women. Featuring Black, Latinx, Asian, and queer voices, this book is a galvanizing effort to propagate this much needed movement.

Skin Deep by Gavin Evans

In this powerful book, Evans tears down racial myths which has been fortified by some of our most prolific scholars. The nature vs nurture debate regarding race is deconstructed with pertinent knowledge.

New Kings of the World: Dispatches From Bollywood, Dizi, and K-Pop by Fatima Bhutto

Tracking the cultural pivot of pop culture from the Western world to the East with examples of K-pop, Shah Rukh Khan, and Turkish soap operas. An important zeitgeist of our time. Entertaining and incisive.


Against Memoir by Michelle Tea

A brazen and audacious collection of personal and social essays from a queer icon. By turns sensitive and scathing, Tea leads timely and important conversations about our current culture.

A Woman Like Her: The Short Life of Qandeel Baloch by Sanam Maher

Qandeel Baloch was a controversial social media star in Pakistan who was murdered by her brother in 2016. This timely book attempts to piece together her life journey from the small village in Punjab to her stint in a woman’s shelter after her troubled marriage and finally to her rise to fame.



Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Zadie Smith hailed this as a ‘whip-smart, challenging book’. Imagine Rebecca Solnit for the millennial. Tolentino gives razor-sharp cultural commentary about our era of hyper individualism and tech obsession with shrewd insight.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

A path-breaking peek into the privates lives of three ordinary women. This book portrays a brazenly intimate portrayal of womanhood, love and desire.




When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back by Naja Marie Aidt

A devastating memoir about a mother mourning the tragic death of her 25-year-old son in an accident. A beautifully fragmented and hope filled book about embracing love and death.