Happy 2024! It’s the start of a new year, which means new reading challenges, new books coming out, plenty of new reading goals, and new TBR piles to start stacking up! I love the wintertime: it’s the perfect time to stay indoors, throw on some soft and comfy sweats, curl up with your favorite blankets and some pillows, and get nice and toasty while trying to make a dent in your never-ending book stacks.
Whether you’re a nonfiction novice or all about nonfiction all the time, there are plenty of nonfiction releases from which to choose in January. I’ve chosen a handful to highlight, but this is by no means a complete list. We have an essay collection about HBCUs, nonfiction about the importance of human connection, an exploration of physics and the multiverse, a book about intergenerational trauma and healing, a memoir about life within various subcultures, and much more. Whether you love pop culture or self-help, are more of a memoir fan, or want to read more about science, there’s something for everyone here.
Don’t forget to also check out Black Women Taught Us: An Intimate History of Black Feminism, Transient and Strange: Notes on the Science of Life, and Benny the Blue Whale: A Descent into Story, Language, and the Madness of ChatGPT. You can find more on Book Riot’s New Release Index, too.
Get cozy with a blanket and a hot beverage, and let’s take a look at some nonfiction reads to add to your never-ending book piles this month!
Break The Cycle: A Guide to Healing Intergenerational Trauma by Dr. Mariel Buqué (January 2)
Buqué, a trauma psychologist, has written a book about not just intergenerational trauma but healing it. She braids scientific research with accessible and practical exercises and therapy anecdotes to create a very readable, practical guide while also illustrating how unresolved intergenerational trauma can create long-term physical and emotional problems. She takes a look at how this trauma affects relationships, how we relate to larger problems, and how history reaches into the present. It’s a must-read contribution to the existing body of literature about intergenerational trauma.
On Thriving: Harnessing Joy Through Life’s Great Labors by Brandi Sellerz-Jackson (January 9)
Sellerz-Jackson, a doula, has written a book based on her experiences both in her own life and her doula work, about the things she and her clients have had to work through to find “more” in their lives. What is the difference between living and surviving? She explores this idea and what it would take for us to have “more” in our lives, however that might look for each of us. She puts forth ways for readers to recognize behaviors we’ve picked up for survival and how to swap those out for tools for living and thriving. Combining memoir, storytelling, and research, this is a great book to start off a new year.
The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World by Sharon Brous (January 9)
Brous is a rabbi who weaves together faith and justice, and she’s written a timely book that is much needed in our current societal climate. Our society is filled with loneliness and isolation despite all the social media and online communities. Real-life connection and community are lacking, and this is having a profound effect on people. What does it take to show up for each other? What does this even mean anymore? She writes that only by truly connecting with each other can we begin to heal. I tore through this book, which is full of storytelling, personal anecdotes, science, and ancient Jewish teachings, and want to recommend it to anyone and everyone. This is a book that’s exactly what we need right now.
The Allure of the Multiverse: Extra Dimensions, Other Worlds, and Parallel Universes by Paul Halpern (January 16)
We hear “multiverse” all the time, mostly in terms of Marvel, sci-fi, and comics, but what does it mean? Halpern takes us into the story of how science became a little obsessed with the multiverse and the subsequent drama that has accompanied this and provides the history and philosophy of the concept. There are controversies, strong opinions (and plenty of them), and lots to explore. He writes about leading thinkers in the field on the topic and brings in popular culture to explore the possibility of multiverses. This is an accessible — and even fun — book to read and will certainly get you thinking.
The Last Fire Season: A Personal and Pyronatural History by Manjula Martin (January 16)
This memoir is a personal story as much as it is the story of a place — Northern California. It reminds me of Joan Didion crossed with Terry Tempest Williams. Martin focuses on the worst fire season on record, writes about the evacuation faced by residents during a pandemic, explores the role of fire in ecology, and, at the same time, writes about her own recovery through nature from a health crisis. It’s a chronicle of nature, place, relationships to land, and relationships with each other.
So Fetch: The Making of Mean Girls (And Why We’re Still So Obsessed With It) by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (January 16)
Pop culture historian Armstrong (Seinfeldia, Sex and the City and Us, among others) is back with another immersive, entertaining dive into a pop culture phenomenon. Twenty years ago, Mean Girls came out in theaters, changing the landscape of pop culture and impacting a generation. In this book, Armstrong writes about the story of the movie and Tina Fey’s adaptation of the self-help book it was based upon and looks at the influence the movie has had on things like female relationships, LGBTQ+ culture, and tabloid culture. It’s a smart, incisive look at a film that remains relevant today.
Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons With Racism in Medicine by Uché Blackstock (January 24)
This memoir is more than a memoir; it’s also a look at the systemic inequalities in the U.S. healthcare system. Despite swearing that they’d never be doctors, Blackstock and her twin sister followed in their mother’s footsteps at Harvard Medical School, making them the first Black mother-daughter legacies there. She writes about her life growing up and her journey in clinical and academic medicine, but also about how her experiences in the field made it clear that Black patients and physicians face a variety of different systemic barriers in medicine, healthcare, and academia. She also writes about the way forward and how to make a change and advocate for better care and a better system.
HBCU Made: A Celebration of the Black College Experience edited by Ayesha Rascoe (January 30)
This essay collection, which includes contributors such as Stacey Abrams, Oprah Winfrey, Branford Marsalis, and April Ryan, not only celebrates the Black joy of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) but also details how these schools have impacted and shaped the students who attend them. The contributors write about how and why they chose their schools, what it was like, and notable people there who influenced them. It’s a book about the power of these institutions, as well as community and care. The personal aspects of the essays draw the reader in, providing a glimpse into day-to-day college life and making it a compelling read.
Subculture Vulture: A Memoir in Six Scenes by Moshe Kasher (January 30)
The title and subtitle of the book are pretty self-explanatory, but there’s so much more here. Kasher’s memoir follows his journey after he got sober at the age of 15 when he wondered what was next for him. He takes the reader through a whirlwind tour of six different subcultures that became part of his life for various amounts of time, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Burning Man, the ultra-Hasidic world in which he grew up, and the comedy world where he is now. It’s a witty, insightful collection of connection with others and figuring out where you belong at any given point in time.
What will you be reading first?