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The Best New Nonfiction Books of 2021

A new year is an exciting time for new books, and we can’t wait for 2021 and all of its delicious new releases to arrive! If you’re a lover of nonfiction, then great news–there are so many amazing upcoming nonfiction books to look forward to. Whether you love a good memoir, dig a great self-help book, are always looking for more true crime, or want to read some great new history books, here are some of the new nonfiction books we are looking forward to! 

Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone by Sarah Jaffe

Maybe we all need to go into a new year with the lessons that this book can teach us about not buying into the myth that loving your job means you can’t be taken advantage of, or be miserable in your career. This is a great book about unfair labor practices and learning to draw boundaries.

The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine by Janice P. Nimura

Dr. Elizabwth Blackwell was the first woman in the United States to obtain her M.D., and her younger sister Emily followed in her footsteps. Although the sisters didn’t always agree, they founded the first hospital to be staffed entirely by women. This biography looks at their achievements, disagreements, and legacy.

We Came We Saw We Left: A Family Gap Year by Charles Wheelan

When the Wheelan family decided to pack up their lives for none months and travel the world on a budget, they had no idea what to expect. In this funny memoir, Charles Wheelan recounts the misadventures and challenges of international travel, offering suggestions on what to do, and not to do.

The Three Mothers:  How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin all became some of the most influential thinkers and activists of the 20th century, but little is told about the women who raised them. This history book looks at how each of the mothers grew up in similar circumstances during the Jim Crow era, and how their experiences shaped their sons.

The Princess Spy: The True Story of World War II Spy Aline Griffith, Countess of Romanones by Larry Loftis 

This book tells the story of Aline Griffith, who was born in New York to a quiet life, but desperately wanted to help in the war efforts when WWII broke out. She was trained as a spy and sent to Spain, where she penetrated high society and participated in dangerous count-intelligence agains the Nazis…and married the Count of Romanones along the way.

The Life She Wished to Live: A Biography of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling by Ann McCutchan

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings penned one of the most beloved children’s classics, The Yearling, but few readers know about the influences and circumstances that led her to writing that novel. This biography explores Rawlings’ love for the swampland community that literary fiction often overlooked, and her personal struggles and triumphs.

The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

As a kid, Liza Rodman was often left alone with a babysitter so her single mom could work long hours at multiple jobs. She spent the majority of that time with the handyman that worked with her mom, exploring nature, going out for popsicles, and passing the time. It wasn’t until Liza was an adult that she realizes her babysitter was Tony Costa, a serial killer–and she began to reckon with the facts of his crimes and her memories of a kind caretaker.

Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt’s Roaring ’20s by Raphael Cormack

When we think of the Roaring Twenties, we think of New York City or Chicago–not Cairo, Egypt. But Cairo’s flourishing arts scene in the 1920’s, and it’s multicultural influences, had a lasting impact on Egypt’s culture. This book looks at some of the most influential women of the time, performers and artists who would make a lasting contribution on their country.

Single and Forced to Mingle: A Guide for (Nearly) Any Socially Awkward Situation by Melissa Croce

In this laugh out loud guide, Croce guides readers through how to navigate social situations when single, from the dreaded wedding season to what to say to those nosy questions from your older relatives. Full of tips and tricks as well as empowering messages about the joys of being single, this is a funny book that will help you celebrate and commiserate at the same time.

Fucked at Birth: Recalibrating the American Dream for the 2020s by Dale Maharidge

Partly a memoir, partly investigative journalism, this book explores the realities of being poor and how for so many Americans, the idea of “the American Dream” has never been attainable because of life circumstances at play before birth. Maharidge explores how poverty and inequality have created these issues, and questions where we can go from here.

Do Better: Spiritual Activism for Fighting and Healing from White Supremacy by Rachel Ricketts

If you want to do better when it comes to anti-racist actions and study, but are looking for a book that takes into account your spiritual life, this is the book for you. Ricketts provides readers with applicable, secular activities and guidelines to fight for racial justice in this book.

The Flight of the Diamond Smugglers: A Tale of Pigeons, Obsession, and Greed Along Coastal South Africa by Matthew Gavin Frank

In this fascinating history and true crime book, Frank investigates South Africa’s infamous Diamond Coast, which is closed to the public due to overmanning. There, he learns that many still mine illegally, and they use carrier pigeons to smuggle the diamonds out, a highly dangerous task made even more perilous by a villain of epic proportions.

Made in China: A Prisoner, an SOS Letter, and the Hidden Cost of America’s Cheap Goods by Amelia Pang

In this investigative book, Pang tells the story of the American mother who uncovered an SOS letter in the package of cheap Halloween decorations she bought from Kmart, and how this sparked an investigation into Chinese labor camps. This book exposes unfair labor practices, and also asks readers to think more closely about the products they consume and the companies they patronize.

Winter Pasture: One Woman’s Journey with China’s Kazakh Herders by Li Juan

Li Juan, a convenience store owner in northwestern China, surprised everyone when one winter she decided to join a group of Kazakh herders to their winter pasture in a remote region across an unforgiving region. This book is her account of the rough and perilous journey, and the wonders of nature and resilience she encountered along the way.

More Than You Can Handle: A Rare Disease, A Family in Crisis, and the Cutting-Edge Medicine That Cured the Incurable by Miguel Sancho

When Miguel and his wife had their son, Sebastian, they were devastated to learn that he’d been diagnosed with a rare, incurable disease that essentially forced them to live in self-quarantine and strained every single aspect of their lives, even threatening their marriage. But they also were determined to find a way to help their son, and their persistence led them to cure the incurable.

Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water by Kazim Ali

Kazim Ali is the child of immigrants and has lived all over the world, but when he become an adult he was reminded of Jenpeg, a community surrounding a dam that he lived in briefly when he was young. Curious about the community and whatever happened with the dam, he goes back and learns a great deal about water, sovereignty, and the politics surrounding essential natural resources.

If you want to stay on top of all the amazing nonfiction releases in 2021, check out some of the best nonfiction book subscriptions! And consider signing up for TBR: Tailored Book Recommendations, a subscription service that only sends you books you want to read. Here’s how it works: Simply fill out the reader survey and let us know what you want more of–such as new memoirs or investigative journalism–and what you’re not keen on. Then, an expert Biblioligist will read your responses and recommend three books just for you. Receive your recommendation letter via email in about two weeks, or opt to receive your recommendations as brand new hardcovers from our partner, Print: A Bookstore in Portland, ME in about three to four weeks. Learn more and sign up now!

Looking to add more nonfiction into your book club’s roster? Check out our book club guide to Born a Crime by Trevor Noah!