They say that this is the most wonderful time of the year, and based on this season’s nonfiction new releases, we have to agree. This winter brings a diverse crop of nonfiction books that range from a fascinating study of century’s worth of presidents to a humorous tome for the lovelorn from comedy writers Laura Lane and Angela Spera. Film buffs can pick up a biography of Maggie Smith, and those who love current events can read an in-depth exploration of a refugee camp the size of Atlanta. No matter what you’re looking for, ‘tis the season for great nonfiction.
Dating with a twist
Engagement season is upon us, and if you’re tired of the bling and bouquets in your social media feeds, this book might be just what the doctor ordered. Laura Lane and Angela Spera are comedy writers, and you might recognize their names from their This Is Why You’re Single sketch show, YouTube channel, and podcast. Lane and Spera have read the advice in women’s magazines, and they’re determined to give readers something a little more special in this book: great advice and laughter. Whatever your dating mistakes have been, Lane and Spera are here to help, and they promise it’ll be a good time.
On shelves: December 8
Whether you are obsessed with the American presidency, or just vote every once in a while, this book is sure to make you think about the history of this powerful political office. Esteemed historian William E. Leuchtenburg (who is considered the authority on Franklin Delano Roosevelt) unpacks the storied history of this prestigious office. Leuchtenburg focuses on the presidents between 1901 and 2001; he begins his study with the assassination of William McKinley and subsequent term of Teddy Roosevelt, and finishes with Bill Clinton. History buffs: Don’t miss this one.
On shelves: December 17
10 points for Gryffindor
You might know Maggie Smith best as Professor McGonagall. Or maybe you remember her from Downton Abbey. Or The Lady in the Van. And those are just her recent roles. Oscar-, Golden Globe-, and Emmy-winning Maggie Smith in undeniably one of the great actors of our time, and in this biography, Michael Coveney tells her story. Smith granted Coveney a lot of access in the making of this book, and it shows. Readers will understand Smith’s personal life and her professional accomplishments more fully than even before in this exciting new volume.
On shelves: December 29
A horrifying history
Something terrible happened in Georgia on January 22, 1912. In this troubling book, journalist Karen Branan tells the story of that horrific day, and examines her own family’s complicity in it. Branan’s ancestors in Georgia (where Branan herself was born and raised in the 1940s) were responsible for the murders of four African Americans in a brutal lynching, which included the first hanging of an African American woman in Georgia. Here, Branan tells the story of several lynchings in the South, and the stories of the activists and journalists (many of them women) who fought to end such monstrous behavior.
On shelves: January 5
It’s an emergency
Kevin Hazzard was an EMT, so he has seen some things that most of us have not. This book takes readers on a high-adrenaline and often-gory ride through emergency medical work in the Atlanta area. Readers will encounter a variety of medical crises as well as the ins and outs of working in a fast-paced, high-stakes environment. Whether you’re obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy and House, aspire to working as an EMT, or are just fascinated by the medical field, this narrative will keep your heart rate elevated through the last page.
On shelves: January 5
A refugee crisis
Ben Rawlence is a former researcher for Human Rights Watch, and in this book, he focuses on the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. The scale and breadth of Rawlence’s research is staggering, and he transports readers to Dadaab where almost half a million refugees have fled from the civil war in Somalia. Rawlence follows nine Dadaab inhabitants closely, and his findings will trouble readers and open their eyes. Written in the same vein as Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, this is a difficult book that will change the way readers see Kenya’s refugee camps, and maybe the world.
On shelves: January 5
A dangerous pastime
There are extreme sports, and then there are extreme sports. Free diving is at the “really crazy” end of the spectrum: It involves very deep underwater dives–sometimes as deep as 100 meters (or 328 feet)–all while the diver holds his or her breath. When it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. Free divers can lose consciousness or even die from the extreme water pressure and bodily stress of holding their breath for minutes on end. In 2013, Nicholas Mevoli died while free diving, and the world took notice of the extremely dangerous sport. Take a deep dive into a very extreme sport with this thrilling book. The best part? Readers don’t have to hold their breath.
On shelves: January 12
The Unabomber’s brother
What do you do when your brother is one of the most notorious killers in American history? If you’re David Kaczynski, you write a book about it. David’s brother, Ted Kaczynski, is better known as the Unabomber, who killed three people and injured many more with homemade bombs between 1978 and 1995. David doesn’t make excuses for his brother’s crimes, but does provide the reader with a fuller portrait of Ted’s life and his mental health. This book paints a picture of a deeply troubled and mentally ill man, from someone who is in a position to know: his little brother.
On shelves: February 5
Fang Lizhi was an astrophysicist, but because of his work, he was also an enemy of the state in China. This memoir, now available in a translation by Perry Link, recounts the incredible life that Lizhi led between his birth in 1936 and his death in 2012. Lizhi first wrote this memoir immediately following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, while hiding out at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Lizhi was an incredibly gifted scientist, but his work earned him unwanted attention as a counterrevolutionary. This book will entertain history buffs, science nerds, and general readers alike. Lizhi’s story is one of a kind.
On shelves: February 9
Life as a writer
If you’re a reader, you have probably heard of Jhumpa Lahiri. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her first short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, and has written several wildly successful and critically acclaimed novels since then: The Lowland, The Namesake, and The Unaccustomed Earth. In this memoir, Lahiri gives readers stunning insight into her life as a writer and her relationships with the English, Bengali, and Italian languages. For fans of Lahiri’s work, and for anyone interested in issues of translation and language, this book is not to be missed.
On shelves: February 9