5 Best-Selling Nonfiction Books of 2020

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Alice Burton

Staff Writer

Chicagoan and aspiring cryptozoologist Alice Burton has a B.A. in Comparative Literature and is an Archives Assistant with the Frances Willard Historical Society. When not booking or historying, she is singing soprano wherever people will have her. She will watch any documentary on Neanderthals or giant extinct animals, and has a Stockholm Syndrome-like love for Chicago and its winters. Blog: Reading Rambo Twitter: @itsalicetime

This list of best-selling 2020 nonfiction books was originally published in our nonfiction newsletter, True Story. Sign up for it here to get nonfiction news, reviews, deals, and more!

I try to highlight some weird or obscure nonfiction on here when I can, but what if we just went all in on popular nonfiction? That seems fun, right? So I looked at the top 100 selling books and did some cherry picking because I can. Enjoy!

A Promised Land book cover

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Of course of COURSE this is on here. Obama’s 700+ page memoir is the first in a two-volume set. This volume goes from Obama’s early years through the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, so before he was elected for his second term. According to Wikipedia, Obama took the longest of any president writing a memoir since it started being a regular “thing” with Calvin Coolidge. But it’s a massive book, so we get it, Obama. We get it.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Doyle’s previous books include Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior. Her most recent memoir “is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live.” She discusses her divorce, her marriage to Abby Wambach, and their blended family. The book is divided into three sections: Caged, Keys, and Freedom. It’s all about empowerment for women and finding courage. My wife loves this book.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

This was on so many antiracism lists last year, so it’s not a huge surprise it was one of the top sellers! Kendi talks about antiracism as “a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism” and “points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other.” He relates how racism creates false hierarchies in society and makes everything actively worse. So we should stop that.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson

Pulitzer Prize–winning Wilkerson’s new book was a big, big release of last year. Despite America’s proclamation of being based in the notion that all people are created equal, all people are not treated equally. Wilkerson posits that there is a hidden caste system, which can be defined through eight pillars, including divine will and bloodlines. You know. The things people have used for millennia to say why they’re inherently better than other people. This came out last August, which both feels forever ago and “what, only eight months ago?”

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

This one surprised me, so I looked into it! For those of you in the know, forgive me, but I was shocked to see this has been a NYT bestseller for a full decade, so it made the top nonfiction list for 2020. All the reviews are very either “this book immediately changed my life” or “this book is garbage nonsense!” So it sounds like something to arrive at your own opinion about!