Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

New Nonfiction for Spring 2022

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Rebecca Hussey


Rebecca holds a PhD in English and is a professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. She teaches courses in composition, literature, and the arts. When she’s not reading or grading papers, she’s hanging out with her husband and son and/or riding her bike and/or buying books. She can't get enough of reading and writing about books, so she writes the bookish newsletter "Reading Indie," focusing on small press books and translations. Newsletter: Reading Indie Twitter: @ofbooksandbikes

There are so many great new releases in nonfiction coming out in the next few months! I’ve rounded up some of the most exciting nonfiction to be published this spring, but the list could easily be much longer.

Included below are memoirs, essay collections, and works of cultural criticism. I’ve included books about motherhood, illness, climate, grief, race, and real estate. There are no straightforward history, science, or political science books on the list (I’ll be honest, those are not my genres), but many of these titles incorporate elements of these genres into their structure.

I’m constantly on the lookout for my favorite nonfiction form, the kind that is hard to classify. Many of the books below reflect that preference: they are wide-ranging, innovative, and surprising. These books make their arguments or analyze their subjects from various angles. They might combine history and memoir, or maybe sociology, political science, literature, and criticism. Others are more traditional in form, the memoirs in particular, and may offer the comforts of the familiar while telling new stories and posing new questions.

A couple of these books are out this week, and the rest are available for preorder. Either way, keep an eye out for them and see what you think!

cover of The Trayvon Generation: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow by Elizabeth Alexander, black with white font and a photo of a young Black boy in the center

The Trayvon Generation: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow by Elizabeth Alexander (Grand Central Publishing, April 5)

The Trayvon Generation began as an essay originally published in The New Yorker. For the book, Alexander has expanded that essay into a wide-ranging look at race in America. She interweaves her ideas and observations with works of art by contemporary artists. It’s an essential book for understanding tragedies of the past and present and the current movement for change.

Bittersweet by Susan Cain book cover

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain (Crown, April 5)

Susan Cain is best known for her 2012 book Quiet. In this new one, she uses a similar method of combining research and memoir to explore sorrow and the lessons we can learn from painful experiences. She argues for the importance of acknowledging grief and longing and the power those experiences hold to bring humans together. She shows how pain can transform into creativity and connection.

cover of Constructing a Nervous System: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson; illustration of two women dancing. One is fully illustrated and one is made of squiggly lines

Constructing a Nervous System by Margo Jefferson (Pantheon, April 12)

In this follow-up to her 2015 book Negroland, Margo Jefferson takes the memoir genre in an entirely new direction. She writes in fragments about central life moments, combining criticism and personal writing to capture how she has constructed a self. With a wide range of cultural references and analysis, this book is dazzlingly varied, wide-ranging, and intimate.

Left on Tenth by Delia Ephron book cover

Left on Tenth: A Second Chance at Life by Delia Ephron (Little, Brown and Company, April 12)

Left on Tenth tells a story of grief and new love. Delia Ephron lost her husband and sister to cancer and was reeling from those blows when a friend from over 50 years earlier contacted her. Soon, romance bloomed. But not long after this, she was diagnosed with a form of leukemia. Ephron’s memoir is a warm, honest look at life’s highs and lows.

Thin Places by Kerri ní Dochartaigh

Thin Places: A Natural History of Healing and Home by Kerri ní Dochartaigh (Milkweed Editions, April 12)

Thin Places is both a memoir and a work of nature writing. Kerri ní Dochartaigh describes growing up in Derry, a city on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. During the Troubles, she was subject to poverty and violence and found solace and escape in the natural world. Her book is an argument for understanding the landscapes that surround us and a call to live in peace with nature and with each other.

Shelter by Lawrence Jackson book cover

Shelter: A Black Tale of Homeland, Baltimore by Lawrence Jackson (Graywolf Press, April 19)

Shelter is a memoir in essays about real estate, fatherhood, and race. Jackson returned to his childhood city of Baltimore after getting a job at Johns Hopkins. His new neighborhood was shaped by racial covenants and is largely white. In the book, he describes what this move was like as a Black man, while also exploring his own past and Baltimore’s history.

Finding Me by Viola Davis book cover

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis (HarperOne, April 26)

Finding Me tells the story of Viola Davis’s life from her childhood in Rhode Island to her time on the stage in New York City to her success in film. It’s an honest and personal tale of overcoming adversity and finding her purpose and voice. It’s also an inspirational call for readers to find their own sources of creativity and courage.

Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera book cover

Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes by Jazmina Barrera, Translated by Christina MacSweeney (Two Lines Press, May 3)

Linea Nigra is an intimate, philosophical meditation on pregnancy and motherhood. The book ranges widely, bringing earthquakes, plants, animals, books, and more into the discussion. Barrera, known for her previous book On Lighthouses (also translated by Christina MacSweeney), makes a call for a new canon of literature on pregnancy and the body.

Ill Feelings by Alice Hattrick book cover

Ill Feelings by Alice Hattrick (Feminist Press, May 10)

Ill Feelings tells the story of Hattrick’s mother’s struggle with pneumonia and then Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, followed by Alice’s own illness. Alice seemed to have the same sickness as their mother but with no physical cause. The book blends memoir, medical history, biography, and more to explore Alice and their mother’s illnesses as well as the maladies of famous women in literature, arts, and history.

Essential Labor by Angela Garbes book cover

Essential Labor: Mothering as Social Change by Angela Garbes (Harper Wave, May 10)

Essential Labor is a much-needed look at how little support our society offers to mothers, even though the labor of mothering is essential. Garbes uses research and personal experience to explore cultural assumptions about the value of care and labor. She offers her perspective as a first-generation Filipino American, showing how that experience affects her understanding of the work of mothering and its potential to affect social change.

Ma and Me by Putsata Reang book cover

Ma and Me: A Memoir by Putsata Reang (MCD, May 17)

Putsata Reang’s family fled Cambodia when she was 11 months old. Reang barely survived the journey. Ma and Me is a memoir of Reang’s efforts to live up to her mother’s high expectations of what a daughter should be. Reang also described what happens to their relationship when she came out as gay and married a woman. Her book is an in-depth look at cultural traumas and familial debts.

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World by Barry Lopez cover

Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World: Essays by Barry Lopez (Random House, May 24)

This essay collection gathers some new work and some old in a tribute to the great environmental writer, Barry Lopez, who died in Christmas Day, 2020. The pieces include memories, stories, reports, and meditations on landscape. They include travel writing and reflections on Lopez’s teachers. It’s a book about the importance of remaining present to the beauty around us on earth.

On the lookout for even more nonfiction? Book Riot has you covered. You can check out 20 of the best nonfiction books of the decade, or perhaps 50 of the best nonfiction books of the last 100 years. You can listen to our nonfiction podcast, For Real, and find more articles than you will know what to do with in our nonfiction category. Happy reading!