I know, I know, it feels like every week there’s a new Bookstagram challenge. But if you participate in any this month, let it be #NonfictionNovember.
I am the first to put up my hand and admit that I’m a fiction junkie. When it comes to books, novels are my first love. I even used to say I hated nonfiction.
Because I’m not always self-aware, I didn’t recognise that I was doing the very thing I accuse people who say they hate reading of doing. I had only ever tried to read one genre of nonfiction. Now, I realise that self-help is not for me. The premise of a lot of self-help/motivational books is often good, but I often find that they make their point in the first few chapters and then just pander for the rest. So, I’ll probably be staying away from self-help for this #NonfictionNovember.
I also have little to no interest in memoirs by people whose only point of interest is that they’re famous. But that’s just me.
However, there is so much more to nonfiction than all that.
This year I join another Bookstagram challenge set by Tasnim @reads.and.reveries to read 19 nonfiction books this year. Stepping out of my comfort uncovered a love for history I didn’t know I had, the discovery of some truly amazing memoirs, books that expressed so much of what I thought I alone felt as a black woman and just a wealth of knowledge.
If you’re looking for some books to read this month as part of #NonfictionNovember, here are 10 suggestions to get you started.
The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison
Dive deeper into the mind and work of Toni Morrison through this collection of her essays and speeches. In this volume, Morrison touches on issues of race, womanhood, and the place of the black writer in the American literary canon. A must-read for fans of her novels.
What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence edited by Michele Filgate
Whether estranged from their mothers or still very close, 15 writers examine the issues from their past they have never discussed with their mothers and the effect of this silence on this most crucial of human relationships.
Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez
From medication guidelines to the design of cars to the fact that there is always a queue for the women’s bathroom, Criado-Perez has collated her years of research into one volume showing that many of the daily inconveniences women have accepted are a result of gender bias. Warning: this book will make you rage, especially if you’re a woman.
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
Chanel Miller is the name of the young woman Brock Turner raped in 2015. In this gripping memoir, she reclaims her identity and tells the story as it happened from her point of view. She also points a critical gaze on a justice system that criminalises victims and seeks to protect the ‘potential’ of perpetrators. Know her name.
Radium was a glittering new element thought to have wonderful beauty and rejuvenation properties, and the women who worked in the radium-dial factories were to be envied. But when the women began to all fall mysteriously ill, the factories that had promised them so much avoided taking any responsibilities for the side effects of this element. The brave women banded together and fought through one of the biggest scandals in American history to win their worker’s rights.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla and Chimene Suleyman
Twenty-six upcoming voices—ethnic minority writers, actors, and musicians—explore why people emigrate, why they stay, and what it’s like to live in a country that makes it very clear that it does not want you. This is a collection that is long overdue in the immigration conversations. A great read for this #NonfictionNovember.
How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Sometimes it can feel like racism is so interwoven in modern society that there is no escape out of it. However, Kendi guides his readers toward new ways of thinking about ourselves, discussing race, and actively fighting for change.
I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying by Bassey Ikpi
Bassey openly discusses her battle with Bipolar II and anxiety in this raw and honest memoir. She is a huge advocate for mental health awareness and in this memoir, she explores the lies we tell ourselves that we think are necessary for our survival.
How to Fail by Elizabeth Day
Now, this is the kind of self-help book I can get behind. In a mixture of memoir and manifesto, Elizabeth Day tells stories from her own life to demonstrate how failure is not to be avoided but embraced.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
If you’re not singing Solange Knowles right now then I don’t know if we can be friends. Black hair is never just hair. It is a symbol and an allegory for the marginalisation and oppression that Black people have endured and still continue to endure. Emma Dabiri explores the ways in which Black hair has been ‘tamed’ and celebrated and just why we all got a little mad over Kim Kardashian trying to rename cornrows.
Don’t get me wrong, I am forever team fiction. But there is a whole world of great nonfiction books just waiting to be read and I am no longer going to ignore them.
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