Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (2023)

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (1)

Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain (Feb 2, 2021)

In 1619, the White Lion condemned African’s to the shores of Virginia in the inauguration of the African presence in what would become the United States. This is a uniquely written flow of history that follows African Americans through the four hundred years of oppression and achievements that have been experienced and made. Through ninety different perspectives, it is an image and loud presence of voices that tell the untold stories of places, people, laws, and history. Illuminate the past and think about the future with this resounding book.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (2)

The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs (Feb 2, 2021)

James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm have a couple of things in common, but one similarity that is overlooked is the extraordinary women that raised them. Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little lived during the time of the gruesome prejudices of Jim Crow. These women passed on their strengths, their knowledge, and their unwavering hope to their sons. They used their motherhood to push their sons to greatness, taught them resistance, and most importantly they taught their sons to fight with the conviction that every human being deserves. Each woman represents a piece of history that is so often untold and this book is the celebration of Black motherhood that is long overdue.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (3)

Under a White Sky by Elizabeth Kolbert (Feb 9, 2021)

The world is out of balance, in terms of nature that is. Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert gives us the challenges that we face with our climate crisis, while also taking us on her journey with researchers from around the planet. It isn’t just the climate, she explains the problems that real people are dealing with every day and how each community is trying to help and come up with remedies in their own ways. Humans changed the world, and now we’re trying to change it again but hopefully for the good. Kolbert is innovative and solution-seeking for a better future.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (4)

Broken (In The Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson (Apr 6, 2021)

Jenny Lawson suffers from depression, but that is not going to stop her from sharing her journey with her mental and physical health. Jenny humanizes the relationship with anxiety and depression that so many of us face on a day-to-day basis. She reminds everyone that they are not alone and even might make you laugh a couple of times along the way. There is nothing left to the imagination as Jenny takes the reader with her and stands as a beacon of hope in a time that we might need it the most.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (5)

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (Apr 13, 2021)

Secrecy and self-delusion are powerfully intriguing, especially when it exists through three generations of history. The Sackler Family created Oxycontin, the opioid that sent the world into an epidemic in the 1990s. Empire of Pain covers the addiction of a family’s legacy and power and how one of the greatest fortunes of the world comes with a greater cost than anyone could imagine. It might make your blood boil, but it is a masterpiece and ferociously compelling.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (6)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Apr 20, 2021)

Michelle Zauner tells of her experiences growing up as a Korean American and the challenges that she faced with her mother. It is a story of growth and identity, but more importantly, it is a story of love. When Michelle’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she is desperate to hold onto the memories that they have made and create new ones to remind her of the old ones. She starts to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history that her mother had given her. Told through beautiful honesty, this memoir is true to the heart and leaves no emotion unturned.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (7)

What Happened to You? By Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry (Apr 27, 2021)

This book is going to change the way you see your life. Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry ask the question that not many of us ask: “What happened to you?”. Circumstances, situations, and relationships have an important role in the shaping of our lives. This is a book about understanding your life and the experiences that have made you who you are. Winfrey shares her own trauma and adversity from her own life and changes the way we approach trauma. It is a conversation about our future and the power of healing.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (8)

The Bomber Mafia by Malcolm Gladwell (Apr 27, 2021)

Malcolm Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history. In the setting of some of the most horrible events of World War II, Gladwell attempts to revise history and ask the question, “Was it worth it?”. An innovative perspective of what civilized war could look like.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (9)

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (May 18, 2021)

The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. John Green uses his gift of storytelling to write a collection of essays about the paradoxical power of humans. We have drastically changed the world, but are far less powerful when it comes to changing it back. It is a conversation about humans, with humans, and falling in love with the world.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (10)

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (May 11, 2021)

In the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie father’s death and the pandemic overturning the world, meditation and hope were fundamental to her life. The loss of her father left unavoidable anger and loneliness, but Adicihie is able to bring his spirit back to life through the stories of his past. Through one of the most universal human experiences, Adichie bonds us in the unexpected, overwhelming time of grieving and love.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (11)

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford (Jun 1, 2021)

This is a must-read memoir of a Black girl growing up in Indiana and is one of the most deeply layered memoirs I’ve read in a very long time. It touches on Ashley C. Ford’s complicated and sometimes emotionally unstable relationship with her mother while reflecting on a childhood without her father, who was incarcerated. The writing feels so tender to Ashley C. Ford’s inner child. It is a reminder to allow childhood memories without questioning them or trying to pick them apart as an adult now.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (12)

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith (Jun 1, 2021)

Legacy, some of it is honest and some of it is not. Clint Smith takes monuments and landmarks that stand as historical stories of how slavery has been central in the shaping of the United States. From Monticello Plantation in Virginia to Angola in Louisiana, this is the trail of reflection and insight for our nation. A deeply researched and transporting exploration of the legacy of slavery and its imprint on centuries of American history, How the Word Is Passed illustrates how some of our country’s most essential stories are hidden in plain view.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (13)

This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan (Jul 6, 2021)

What is a drug? Why are tea leaves acceptable and a seed head of an opium poppy a federal crime even though both have addictive properties? Michael Pollan takes a look at three plant drugs: opium, caffeine, and mescaline. He explores the cultures that grow up around these particular drugs and thinks about the human attraction to psychoactive plants. Through history and science, this memoir takes experiences and these plants to a whole new perspective in what is fundamental to our human needs and aspirations.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (14)

Shooting Out The Lights by Kim Fairley (Jul 27, 2021)

This is the intimate tale of Kim Fairley and what she thought would be the start of her dream life. She was drastically mistaken. Kim was twenty-four when she married the love of her life, Vern. She didn’t care that he was twice her age, she felt a connection between them that was irresistible. When she became pregnant, she thought it was the start of something great, but the ghost of Vern’s past came knocking. A life that was created before her, she must adapt and survive Vern’s past if she wants to maintain the love they have for each other. A riveting story of the test of love and marriage and how the grueling effect of the past can also come with healing.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (15)

Sometimes I Trip on How Happy We Could Be by Nichole Perkins (Aug 17, 2021)

Pop culture is the Pandora’s Box of our lives. Racism, wealth, poverty, beauty, inclusion, exclusion, and hope — all of these intractable and unavoidable features course through the media we consume. Nichole covers the damage done to women, especially Black women, by society’s failure to confront myths and misogyny. She uses her own experience of mistreatment and mental illness to offer a mirror into our own lives

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (16)

Seeing Ghosts by Kat Chow (Aug 24, 2021)

After her mother’s death, Kat Chow sets out on a journey to understand the legacy of her family, her late mother, and herself. It is through grief and writing that she is able to both preserve and exorcise the loss and overwhelming fear that follows death. Chow’s memoir takes the reader on a journey from China and Hong Kong to Cuba and America. She reclaims her family’s history and her own through this masterpiece of experience.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (17)

Unbound by Tarana Burke (Sept 14, 2021)

Powerful, empathetic, intelligent, and courageous. If those words inspire you, then so will the story of Tarana Burke. She writes about her journey of healing and the life that empowered her to speak up and make a difference for those around her, and herself. Tarana not only changed the way of society but the way she viewed herself. This memoir might just be the self-help book that everyone needs.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (18)

Speaking of Race by Celeste Headlee (Nov 2, 2021)

We gain nothing, we learn nothing, by not engaging with people who disagree with us. Celeste Headlee argues that we have to talk about uncomfortable topics and what change looks like in order to enact it in society and the world. Race is a subject that many stray from talking about, but Headlee draws from her own experience of defending her race and the conversation she’s had as a journalist and researcher to show that these conversations can bring us closer together.

Best Nonfiction Books of 2021 (19)

These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett (Nov 23, 2021)

In Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, she recounts stories of her past and present experiences. The title essay follows Patcheet after she meets Tom Hanks’ assistant, Sooki, and the two become friends. She recounts their time as friends, even during the global pandemic, and their correspondence between the two. Along with this essay, she brings readers along through her thought process of writing The Dutch House, her childhood memories of Paris, the cherished gifts from her three fathers, and much more.

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