Fall 2019’s Best New Nonfiction

Fall 2019’s Best New Nonfiction

Even if you’re not headed back to school this fall, you can still learn something new. And what better way to broaden your understanding of the world than reading a great new work of nonfiction? Whether you’d like to learn about the experience of being a refugee, the life of a lonely whale, the importance of boundaries in mother-daughter relationships, or how to complete ordinary tasks in ridiculous ways, there’s a book here for you. Pick up some of fall’s must-read nonfiction! School is in session.

The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri

When author Dina Nayeri was eight years old, an extremist group in her home country of Iran threatened her family with violence. She and her family left Iran and moved to a refugee camp in Italy before settling in Oklahoma. In this book, Nayeri draws on her firsthand experiences as a refugee to open readers’ eyes to the experience of fleeing one’s country and the challenges inherent in starting over somewhere new. This is sure to be a fascinating book for readers interested in learning more about the experiences of refugees worldwide, and Nayeri expertly works in contextual information about refugees in the world today as she tells her own story. 

On shelves: September 3

How To by Randall Munroe

Xkcd fans, get excited: Randall Munroe is back with an unconventional “how-to” book. In How To, Munroe doesn’t provide advice that you’d necessarily want to follow. The strategies he proposes for doing things like throwing a pool party and making a friend range from hilariously inefficient to downright ridiculous. This is less a book about how to solve specific problems and more about enjoying far-fetched solutions of questionable legality. How To is mind-bending in the best way, combining humor, creativity, and Munroe’s beloved drawings. We know existing xkcd fans will love this book, and we bet it’ll win Munroe some new fans, too!

On shelves: September 3

The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff

In The Only Plane in the Sky acclaimed journalist Garrett M. Graff gives readers new insight into the events of September 11, 2001 based on extensive reporting and interviews. Graff narrates in great detail the entire day through the eyes of those directly affected by the attacks. Readers, of course, will pick up this book knowing that it’s not a happy story: The loss of human life on 9/11 was tragic, and Graff captures countless human moments that will have you reaching for your box of Kleenex. The book comes out in time for the 18th anniversary of the attacks, and it’s a fitting and timely read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what happened on 9/11. 

On shelves: September 10

Think Black by Clyde W. Ford

John Stanley Ford, the author’s father, was IBM’s first black software engineer. He was recruited to the company in 1947, but was treated exceptionally badly by his white peers who were unhappy to have a black coworker. The abuse Ford faced in the workplace inevitably wore him down. While he insisted on producing work of the highest quality, his coworkers’ racism took a real toll on him. Clyde W. Ford writes about his father’s horrible treatment at IBM and his own experiences there as an employee. This book provides readers with a glimpse inside a highly toxic and racist work environment, and an intimate look at a father-son relationship. This memoir is perfect for readers interested in the early days of the tech industry.

On shelves: September 17

Make It Scream, Make It Burn by Leslie Jamison

Leslie Jamison’s nonfiction is beloved for a reason: She excels at taking readers on adventures and helping them to understand ideas, events, and people that they might not otherwise come into contact with. Make It Scream, Make It Burn is no exception. These essays address a variety of topics including a museum of breakups, a socially isolated whale who sings at a frequency that no other whale can hear, and children who remember oddly specific historical details that they believe are from a previous lifetime. We’ll make this really simple: If you’re looking for a book of essays to pick up this fall, there is no better choice than Jamison’s latest. 

On shelves: September 24

Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith

Patti Smith has been called the godmother of punk and the punk poet laureate, and she’s also an impressive prose stylist. Her memoirs have been captivating readers for years and even won her a National Book Award. Her latest, Year of the Monkey, is about Smith’s 2016. It was a year marked by loss: One close friend died and another dealt with a serious illness, and Smith struggled to cope. It was also a year of searching. Over the course of 2016, Smith traveled around the United States and processed what she was seeing, hearing, and thinking. These are her musings, punctuated with dreams and digressions, and they are sure to please Smith’s fans as well as memoir readers with a penchant for the poetic. 

On shelves: September 24

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones’ memoir How We Fight for Our Lives is one of this season’s buzziest titles. In it, Jones writes about his upbringing in Texas as a gay black man with a Buddhist mother and a devoutly Christian grandmother. Faith, race, sexuality, and ever-shifting familial relationships are handled with nuance and care in this insightful volume. In a five-star review on Goodreads, Roxane Gay wrote: “Most of all, this memoir is a rhapsody in the truest sense of the word, fragments of epic poetry woven together so skillfully, so tenderly, so brutally, that you will find yourself aching in the way only masterful writing can make a person ache.” This is an important book, and we encourage you not to miss out. 

On shelves: October 8

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

It’s no secret that the Bookish editors are super excited about Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur: We’ve already announced it is Kelly’s Pick for this season, and we’re giving readers all kinds of goodies to plan the perfect book club meeting. In Wild Game, Brodeur writes about her beautiful and charismatic mother, Malabar, who confided in Adrienne at a young age about an affair she was having with a close friend. This secret shapes the course of Adrienne’s life from the moment she first hears it, and she is haunted by the accompanying guilt and betrayal for years to come. Wild Game is an excellent pick for readers who love reading about the complexities of mother-daughter relationships and for anyone who enjoys memoirs. The Bookish editors couldn’t put this one down.

(Psst: Read an excerpt of the book here!)

On shelves: October 15

The Arab of the Future 4 by Riad Sattouf

Riad Sattouf’s graphic memoir series continues with this fourth installment that focuses on the years between 1987 and 1992, beginning when Sattouf was an adolescent in France and was grappling with his own identity in the midst of a tense home life. His mother and father weren’t getting along, and his father moved the family around for his job, much to his wife’s chagrin. Meanwhile, Sattouf had to deal with all of the ins and outs of being a teenager. Sattouf’s father plays a big part in this chapter of the story, and readers will watch him transform into a religious fundamentalist with extreme views about the world. This is the second-to-last entry in Sattouf’s beloved series, and you won’t want to miss it!

On shelves: November 5

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

Susannah Cahalan first made waves in the book world with her memoir Brain on Fire, which described her terrifying struggle with a mysterious ailment. Now she’s back with The Great Pretender, which digs into a famous study conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan. Decades later, Rosenhan’s study (in which healthy subjects checked into American asylums and then tried to convince their doctors that they were not, in fact, mentally ill) still looms large in the medical field. This book is very much in conversation with Brain on Fire, and will provide readers with fascinating insight into the ways in which medicine understands what constitutes a mental illness. Check back later this fall for Bookish’s interview with Susannah Cahalan!

On shelves: November 5


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