Happy December, nonfiction lovers! Just because the year is almost over, it doesn’t mean the reading has to stop. There are plenty of great books that tell the truth coming our way in the last month of 2023. Whether you like biographies, memoirs, history, social commentary, or other nonfiction, there’s something for everyone. There’s even an encyclopedia about The Cure! (It’s Curepedia: The A–Z of The Cure by Simon Price, for those interested.) That’s why I’ve put together this list of eight knockout new nonfiction books to read in December 2023.
Whether you are looking to add more nonfiction books to your TBR for pleasure or for a reading challenge, or searching for gifts for the upcoming holidays, you can find a book below that is sure to enthrall and educate. There’s a collection of compiled works from the late Anthony Veasna So, author of Afterparties: Stories; Dylan Jones has a big book about the seminal band The Velvet Underground; the longest-tenured Saturday Night Live cast member in history, Kenan Thompson, has written a memoir; there’s a new biography of the “First Lady of Song,” Ella Fitzgerald; and more. Now, without further ado, let’s get down to the truth!
The Black Joy Project by Kleaver Cruz
Fans of Humans of New York and beautiful art books should be sure to pick up this look at Black joy around the world. The book includes eight essays and 117 full-color photos of Black joy around the world, including Lagos, the Bronx, Namibia, Soweto, Candomblé, and Jamaica’s Blue Mountains.
Weightless: Making Space for My Resilient Body and Soul by Evette Dionne
Now in paperback! This is National Book Award nominee Dionne’s observations about navigating the world as a fat Black woman. She talks about the harassment and constant negative messages about being fat that she experiences every day, from television to the doctor’s office, and how she is at peace with her body.
Loaded: The Life (and Afterlife) of the Velvet Underground by Dylan Jones
The Velvet Underground is one of the most influential — and still mysterious — bands to come out of the 1960s. They were a mainstay in the world of pop artist Andy Warhol in NYC and brought fame (and misfortune) to singers Nico and Lou Reed. This is a comprehensive look at the legends.
The White Mosque: A Memoir by Sofia Samatar
Another great book, now available in paperback; this is a memoir/history hybrid. Samatar was curious about a group of German-speaking Mennonites who traveled from Russia into Central Asia in the nineteenth century. Her research into the event led to a revelation of mountains of little-known history. This great book was a PEN America finalist.
What is philanthropy, and who gets to practice it these days? Schiller takes a deep dive into the toxic side of giving and how it can be turned around to be more beneficial again. Along the way, she discusses the work of big givers (and billionaires) such as LeBron James and Warren Buffet.
Songs on Endless Repeat: Essays and Outtakes by Anthony Veasna So and Jonathan Dee
Anthony Veasna So was a talented writer whose life was cut short at a very young age. Following up his award-nominated collection of stories is this fantastic anthology of essays (with a few stories mixed in) about queer life, race, family, his refugee parents, growing up in California, culture, and more.
When I Was Your Age: Life Lessons, Funny Stories & Questionable Parenting Advice from a Professional Clown by Kenan Thompson
Actor Kenan Thompson has been a cast member on Saturday Night Live for a record 21 seasons — and counting. Thompson has been in the public eye since he was a kid, appearing in All That, Good Burger, and Kenan & Kel on Nickelodeon. This is a humorous memoir about reaching middle age and his life as a father of two young daughters, and the lessons he has learned.
And last but not least, a biography of one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. This is the first comprehensive biography of Fitzgerald since her death in 1996. It includes a lot of little-known stories and history, from her hard childhood in Yonkers and the death of her mother to her talent and rise to fame amidst racial discrimination in America to her lasting influence on musicians today.
For more great nonfiction, check out Truth Telling: 10 Great 2023 Nonfiction Books You (Maybe) Missed, and be sure to sign up for our nonfiction newsletter, True Story.
As always, you can find a full list of new releases in the magical New Release Index, carefully curated by your favorite Book Riot editors, organized by genre and release date.