Ah, January. Sure, it’s the start of a new year, new beginnings, and all that, but it’s also the start of a whole new year of new releases to look forward to. Think of all the fabulous books that will be released in 2023! (My wallet is crying and I’m sure my already overflowing TBR pile isn’t too happy, either).
It might also be the start of some new reading challenges or some new reading resolutions, or you might just want to explore something different. Lucky for you (and for everyone, really), January nonfiction is full of different options. It’s the perfect opportunity to grab a book that looks interesting, sit by the fire with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, and layer on the blankets while you read the day away.
There’s a personal essay collection about pre- and post-transplant life, a book exploring what it’s like to be mixed race and issues of belonging and acceptance, memoir/cultural criticism about alcohol’s role in our culture and what happens when you don’t partake, a reported memoir about stuttering, and much more.
This is not a comprehensive list of every nonfiction book being released in January, but these are the ones that especially caught my eye. Let’s take a look!
Your Hearts, Your Scars by Adina Talve-Goodman (Jan 24)
This posthumously published collection of essays is a slim book, but packs a punch. Talve-Goodman was born with a congenital heart condition, going through many surgeries during childhood, and eventually receiving a heart transplant at the age of 19. Through these essays, she explores growing up chronically ill, societal responses, living in the medical world, and knowing that your survival is due to someone else’s death. It’s a raw, deeply honest collection of writing that looks squarely at the hard stuff but also celebrates life.
Bloodbath Nation by Paul Auster (January 10)
Auster saw firsthand how gun violence can affect a family: his grandmother murdered his grandfather. In this book, he isn’t calling for banning or regulating guns — it’s more of an expression of confusion at why our country seems to have no problem with 40,000 deaths every year from guns. He looks at Americans and the cowboy myths, fictional violence on television, and politicians who stoke fear in people while also twisting the truth. It’s personal and political, but it’s a book meant for everyone. Race, society, and more are all explored in this urgent and timely book.
The Racism of People Who Love You: Essays on Mixed Race Belonging by Samira K. Mehta (January 10)
In this book that weaves together memoir, cultural criticism, and theory, Mehta writes about being mixed race and feeling at ease or excluded from various spaces, including that of family. A common assumption is that being mixed race would mean you feel comfortable in multiple cultural spaces, but Mehta shows that one can also feel very isolated in those spaces, and explores the different layers of that. It’s a scholarly but also personal look at being mixed race, the assumptions people make (even family), and racism that one can experience in various spaces.
Drinking Games: A Memoir by Sarah Levy (January 3)
Levy’s life looked pretty perfect from the outside: living in NYC, lots of parties, and a good job — except what no one knew was that her drinking was quickly becoming a problem. She combines memoir with cultural examination in this book, looking at the culture of drinking and the role alcohol plays in our lives and in various circles, and what it means to opt out. It’s a surprisingly fresh look at this topic, and one that I think will resonate with a lot of people.
Superfan: How Pop Culture Broke My Heart by Jen Sookfong Lee (January 17)
Pop culture helped Jen Sookfong Lee escape the hard times, especially after the loss of her father, and helped her fit in to her surroundings. But as she got older, Lee began to realize how pop culture also was not made for people like her, the child of Chinese immigrants. She explores her adventures in pop culture while also dissecting them from her personal history and point of view, as well as her lived experiences as an Asian woman and single mom. It’s a really thoughtful, observant look at pop culture, what it can mean to us, and the power of cultural icons.
Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance by Alvin Hall (January 31)
People might know the Green Book because of the movie of the same name, or because of Lovecraft Country, but in this compelling nonfiction book, Hall details the real history of the guide while going on his own road trip. With a friend, Hall drove from New York to Detroit to New Orleans, visiting many of the motels, restaurants, and stores in the Green Book. He stopped at historical and cultural landmarks, and spoke to people who used the Green Book as a survival tool. This is a book that brings history to life, while also reminding us that history is not so far in the past.
Life on Delay: Making Peace with a Stutter by John Hendrickson (January 17)
If you read Hendrickson’s piece in The Atlantic about Biden’s stutter, you’ll want to check this book out. Hendrickson writes about living with a stutter, about the bullying, depression, and isolation stutterers face on a daily basis, family dynamics, and the history (and future) of speech therapy. This isn’t a book about “overcoming” a stutter; that’s important to know. It’s a book about living with a stutter. It’s a thought-provoking exploration of stuttering and its impact.
History Comics: Rosa Parks & Claudette Colvin: Civil Rights Heroes by Tracey Baptiste and Shauna J. Grant (January 3)
Graphic novels are a great way to impart information, and the History Comics series does a great job of this. They’re middle grade books but filled with historical information that make the books suitable even for older teens and adults. In this book, Baptiste writes (with Grant’s illustrations) about Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks — she writes about the details of their lives, and shows that there is more to them and their lives than what’s only taught in the history books.
Have you decided what you’ll read first, nonfiction-wise, in 2023?
If you’re looking for even more nonfiction books, check out the best biographies of 2022, and some nonfiction from indie presses. 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.