A biography that will change everything you thought you knew about America’s first president, a sharp memoir by an Iranian novelist, and a laugh-out-loud essay collection are only some of the fantastic new nonfiction books by women you can’t miss. These seven titles, all with publication dates from the second half of 2019 through 2020, and all written by women, are only a tiny fraction of the great nonfiction writing women have been producing this past year.
Each of these highly acclaimed, fresh-off-the-presses titles are ultra-absorbing, super fast reads, if only because you won’t be able to put them down. Learn more about the real world, the past, or just be transported into someone else’s real life. With historical researchers, political writers, essays from comedy to tragedy and everything in between, there’s something for everyone in the nonfiction section.
Between fabulous back-lists and exciting new nonfiction books by women, it can be easy for even the most voracious readers to let recent releases slide to the bottom of the to-read stack. And that’s not even considering readers to tend to skew more towards fiction, only letting a couple nonfiction titles slide through the cracks. Pick at least a few titles from this list so you know you won’t be missing out!
You Never Forget Your First by Alexis Coe
You may not be shocked to read that out of the many (many) George Washington biographies out in the world, there are very (very) few written by women. Alexis Coe brings in added context often neglected by Washington’s usual biographers, including information on how his slaves lived and how his views on abolition developed—or didn’t—over time.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby is definitely having a moment right now, especially after The New York Times gave her latest essay collection such a glowing review. Of course, Irby has long had a devoted fan base, thanks to her hysterical blog, Bitches Gotta Eat. But if you’re new to Irby, don’t worry, she’ll have you hooked from page one.
Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit
In her new memoir, Solnit goes back to her young-adulthood in San Francisco. After finding a miraculously affordable apartment, Solnit endured the constant threats faced by existing in the world as a woman while shaping her iconic voice as a writer.
The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri
Celebrated Iranian novelist Nayeri turns to memoir to write about her terrifying journey out of Iran during the revolution. Her mother, who refused to capitulate to the extremist government, risked everything to escape with her children. Nayeri uses the word “ungrateful” in the title to emphasize how nonsensical it is to treat refugees as parasites instead of as people in the most desperate situations.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
When Chanel Miller’s writing first came into prominence, she was writing as Emily Doe, and publishing her victim impact statement via Buzzfeed. When Miller was assaulted by Brock Turner, the trial overwhelmed headlines, especially when Turner barely got a slap on the wrist for his violent attack. Miller, who graduated with a degree in literature from USC in 2014, writes beautifully about her experience and wider cultural issues of privilege and consent.
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
Even if you live under a rock, there’s no way you didn’t hear about Tolentino’s lauded collection. Quite possibly the New Yorker‘s most celebrated current staff writer, she’s been called the Millennial Joan Didion. The book has only been out since August, but if you’re still hundreds of slots back on the list to get a copy from your library, the paperback will be out in May.
Breathe by Imani Perry
A distinguished professor of African American studies at Princeton, Perry’s book is a collection of public letters to her sons. She chronicles the institutionalized racism her children must face, celebrates the richness of Black culture, and gives them touching maternal advice about how to live.