Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Nonfiction Galore

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Jenn is joined by Kim Ukura and Alice Burton, hosts of the For Real podcast, for a special nonfiction-themed episode!

This episode is sponsored by Rebound by Kwame Johnson and the Bruno Johnson Series by David Putnam.

Subscribe to the podcast via RSS here, or via Apple Podcasts here.
The show can also be found on Stitcher here.

Enter our mystery giveaway!



1. Hi there,
This never-ending winter has me looking forward to the vacation I’ve planned for this June and I have visions of laying on the beach for days at a time with a good book. I’m not worried about being able to find good vacation reading material for myself, but my wife is a much pickier reader. Can you help me find a book that will keep her entertained so I can relax with my own book? She loves nonfiction and particularly enjoys heavy topics like the holocaust, dictatorships, and cults. Recent reads she has enjoyed include Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich by Norman Ohler and Without You, There is No Us: Undercover Amongst the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim. I recently put The Road to Jonestown and Lilac Girls in her hands, but neither of those worked for her.
Thanks in advance for your help!


2. I’m a single woman in my mid-30s and, while I am fine with my single status and enjoying my life as it is, almost all of my friends are partnering off and having children. I was feeling blue about it until I read Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies and Kate Bolick’s Spinster, and am now looking for more reads that celebrate single women, especially single women without children. I’m looking specifically for books with female protagonists who get to enjoy a happy ending without being coupled off or having kids, or where the happy ending is not focused on coupledom (though it’s fine if there’s a relationship in the story). I read all fiction genres except horror and I also enjoy nonfiction, especially memoirs and biographies.

Thanks in advance. I love the podcast!


3. Hi Amanda and Jenn!

I just have to say y’all are the best, and I love this podcast so much. My to be read list grows every day (mostly because I just discovered this podcast so I am just binging my way through it :))

I have a request for a book for my boyfriend. He likes to read, but he’s a really slow reader (this was my way of saying, he likes to read but doesn’t read a lot, you know?), and we just moved in together and I noticed that almost all of his books are by straight white males. My new years resolution is to get him only books by…not straight white males.

So. He likes fantasy and science fiction. (He loved the Name of the Wind, I think he liked Game of Thrones.) But I’ve already recommended him Octavia Butler, and N.K. Jemisin is on my to-read list.

He also LOVES true crime and nonfiction/historical-ish books, like Devil in the White City. (I also already got him Killers of the Flower Moon before I made my resolution. Whoops.)

Any recommendations are so welcome, in these genres or feel free to go crazy.



4. I’ve been feeling the inadequacy of my high school level American History education lately, as I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts that have happened to bring up Asian American historical events that I realize I know very little about. I would like to brush up on my Asian American history in general but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any nonfiction recs in this area, both in the overview theme and more specific and particular events and ethnic groups? Thank you much!


5. I am getting very interested in language itself. This began with just loving novels with beautiful and pithy prose (so rec’s in that vein are certainly welcome). Now I’m increasingly interested in linguistics and philology. While I’m so far fascinated by Steven Pinker’s “The Language Instinct”, I am hoping for books (nonfiction, memoirs, essay collections, or even novels) more welcoming to the lay linguist. For instance, Bill Bryson’s “The Mother Tongue” is very much the sort of thing I’m hoping for more of, and I am currently working through and enamored by Jhumpa Lahiri’s beautiful “In Other Words”. So, where do I go when I finish that one? Thanks y’all!


6. Hi-ya!

I am trying to be a less stupid white person. Recently I have read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates, the March series by Congressman John Lewis, and the quite excellent satire, I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett. I loved them all, and would like to read more like them. I am planning to read more satires like Welcome to Braggsville, The Sellout, and Blackass, but are there other books on race that you can recommend, fiction or nonfiction? I would especially love some gems from the past that I may have missed, or something written by a woman!

Many thanks!!


Books Discussed

Not So Stories edited by David Thomas Moore

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Death in the Air: The True Story of a Serial Killer, the Great London Smog, and the Strangling of a City by Kate Winkler Dawson

Bachelor Girl by Betsy Israel (trigger warning: discussion of rape)

The Extra Woman by Joanna Scutts

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself by Jen Kirkman

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum

Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell

The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee

The Song Poet by Kao Kalia Yang

Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People by Helen Zia

“Stories of Your Life” from Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Proust and the Squid by Maryanne Wolf

The Adventure of English: The Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg

Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

From #blacklivesmatter To Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor