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8 Fabulous New Nonfiction Books to Add to Your TBR in October

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

It’s October! Here in the Northeast, where I live, it’s time for pumpkin and apple picking, breaking out the flannels on cooler days (just me?), changing colors on leaves, and each day gets a little shorter. But a new month also means new roundups of book releases, and my go-to genre is nonfiction. Why do I love nonfiction? Because there’s always something new to explore, and one of my favorite things lately is thinking that a book won’t hold any interest for me because I’m not usually interested in the topic…and then the author finds a way to have me become completely enamored with the subject. Plus, I have a very curious 7-year-old who asks me lots of questions, and while I’m totally fine with telling him I don’t know and we can look up the answer together, it’s always nice to share some new info with him or learn more about topics he’s super into.

In this list, you’ll read about coming-of-age memoirs, nature and wildlife nonfiction, parenting, socio-political topics, history, music, and more. Other great books coming out include Her Space, Her Time by Shohini Ghose; The Feminist Killjoy Handbook by Sara Ahmed; and White Holes by Carlo Rovelli. You can also 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.

So many great nonfiction books coming out this month — let’s take a look at some of them!

cover of How to Say Babylon

How to Say Babylon: A Memoir by Safiya Sinclair (October 3)

Sinclair grew up with a father who was part of a strict sect of Rastafari, and he eventually became obsessed with maintaining her and her sisters’ purity from Babylon or the outside influence of the world around them. For him, the highest virtue was obedience, and the family followed strict rules. While her mother stayed loyal to her father, she also gave the girls books, and for Sinclair, this was a lifeline that eventually empowered her to keep speaking up and to break free. This is a memoir of coming to terms with one’s culture and facing what it means to follow tradition; a memoir of discovering strength and exploring history and colonialism — all told in iron-strong poetic prose.

cover of What the Bears Know

What the Bears Know: How I Found Truth and Magic in America’s Most Misunderstood Creatures by Steve Searles (October 3)

I don’t know about you, but as a hiker, the only time I think about bears is when I think about how much I do not want to see one — please and thank you. But this book might change that. Searles, also known as “the Bear Whisperer” on Animal Planet, has written a compelling story about being hired by the town of Mammoth Lakes, CA, as a hunter to help cull the bear population, but he soon started thinking about alternative, non-lethal ways to control the bear population. Despite his lack of formal education, his techniques slowly became effective and changed the way we handle American black bears — but not everyone was so eager to accept this. This is a book not merely about bears but about our relationship with the natural world and about how wisdom and expertise aren’t always what we expect.

cover of The Cost of Free Land

The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance by Rebecca Clarren (October 3)

In this blend of memoir and investigative reporting, Clarren explores her family history and their ties to their homestead in South Dakota. Her great-great-grandparents, the Sinykins, and their children fled Russia amidst antisemitism and came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. They settled in South Dakota on 160 acres of land, and family lore has them as a success story — but what no one spoke of was that by the time the Sinykins came to the U.S., the U.S. government had broken treaties that reserved land for bands of the Lakota, and instead gave the land to white settlers — including the Sinykins. Clarren explores the cycles of oppression, trauma, and displacement, braiding the stories of her ancestors with those of the Lakota, and grapples with what it means that her ancestors benefitted from oppression and harm done to others and how this cycle still occurs today.

cover of A Day in the Life of ABed Salama

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy by Nathan Thrall (October 3)

Thrall writes a propulsive story about a 5-year-old, Milad Salama, who sets off one morning, excited for a field trip to a theme park right outside Jerusalem. But his bus collides with a semitrailer on the way. When his father, Abed, finds out, he rushes to the scene and finds absolute chaos: kids are being taken to various hospitals in Jerusalem and the West Bank, there are missing children, problems with identifying kids, and different stories being told. What follows is a kaleidoscope of the aftermath of a tragedy, told from different viewpoints, with multiple lives coming together, and the tragedy made even more difficult because of obstacles Abed and others face because they are Palestinian. This is an immersive story of an event, with its aftershocks reverberating for years.

cover of Gifted and DIstractible

Gifted and Distractible: Understanding, Supporting, and Advocating for Your Twice Exceptional Child by Julie F. Skolnick, MA, JD (October 17)

If you’re like most people, you probably are unfamiliar with the term “twice exceptional.” Twice exceptional refers to gifted children who also have one or more clinically diagnosed learning disabilities or diagnoses, like dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism, apraxia of speech, etc. Too often, the educational system focuses on what they perceive as “deficits” while ignoring the gifted diagnosis or potential diagnosis, leaving these students in a no-mans-land. Skolnick offers a strengths-based, non-ableist way to empower your child, advocate for and with them, and get them what they need in school (or out of school) to thrive.

cover of Everything I Learned, I Learned in A Chinese Restaurant

Everything I Learned, I Learned In a Chinese Restaurant by Curtis Chin (October 17)

Detroit in the 1980s was pretty rough, but Chung’s Cantonese Cuisine brought people together, no matter what their background or who they were. Curtis Chin, filmmaker and activist, grew up here — this restaurant was his family’s restaurant, and it is here that he learned how to truly embrace himself as a “gay ABC,” or American-born Chinese. He writes about all of this in this touching memoir, which is structured around the menu. This book is a love letter to family and to finding oneself and is a great cozy read. (Just don’t read it on an empty stomach!)

cover of Been Outside: Adventures of Black Women, Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming People in Nature, edited by Amber Wendler and Shaz Zamore

Been Outside: Adventures of Black Women, Nonbinary, and Gender Nonconforming People in Nature edited by Amber Wendler and Shaz Zamore (October 1)

Nature and outdoors writing has been notoriously white and male, but this book is a welcome reprieve. Wendler and Zamore have collected poems and essays from Black women, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people that encompass a love of the outdoors. The pieces explore how nature and the outdoors help shape someone, how identity can interact with the outdoors, the incident that helped kindle a love of nature or the experience of being Black outdoors. It’s an immersive collection that you’ll wish was longer so you can spend more time with it.

cover of Black Punk Now

Black Punk Now edited by James Spooner and Chris L. Terry (October 31)

This immersive, intense anthology will scoop you up and envelop you with its gorgeous writing and artwork. The writing and art discuss the punk scene, centering Black punks in all their diversity and glory, providing new points of view on the punk scene. There are comics, conversations, essays, short stories, interviews — it feels like a roundtable discussion of punk, with lots of voices contributing to the conversations. Different styles and identities of punk, various opinions, different music — it’s a celebration of punk and an exploration of the past, present, and ideas for the future.

With so many great nonfiction books coming out, which one are you going to pick first?

If you’re looking for even more nonfiction, check out this list of queer science and nature writing, and this list of political memoirs.