Spring is here, and as you thaw out from the long, cold winter, why not settle in with a new nonfiction book? This season, readers can dive into new books by Oliver Sacks, T Kira Madden, and the hosts of My Favorite Murder, to name a few. Whether you’re in the mood for true crime, a memoir about a 1000-kilometer horse race, or an illustrated work of science writing, there’s a book here to suit every reader. Read on for a look at spring 2019’s must-read nonfiction!
You likely know Alex Kotlowitz as the author of There Are No Children Here, which was released to critical acclaim in 1991. Now he’s back with a new work of narrative nonfiction about the people affected by gun violence in Chicago. Readers will meet Chicagoans who have owned and fired guns, as well as some who have suffered from gunshot wounds, and gain a more human understanding of the people behind the sobering gun violence statistics about the Windy City. This book takes place during the summer of 2013 and explores the profound effect that violence can have on communities, families, and individuals. This book is relevant and heartbreaking.
On shelves: March 5
Solitary by Albert Woodfox
Albert Woodfox was serving a prison sentence for armed robbery in the Angola prison in Louisiana when a white corrections officer was stabbed to death in 1972. Woodfox was convicted of the killing despite a total lack of evidence, and put in solitary confinement. Two other inmates, Robert King and Herman Wallace were also convicted, and the trio became known as the Angola Three. Woodfox remained in solitary confinement for more than 40 years and was finally released in 2016. It’s hard to even comprehend horror of decades spent in complete isolation, but Woodfox writes about the experience with candor and insight. This book is perfect for readers interested in the U.S. prison system, and also for those who want to learn more about the Angola Three.
On shelves: March 5
Sissy by Jacob Tobia
The official copy for this book calls it “A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.” We can’t say it any better than that. In Sissy, Jacob Tobia writes about coming into their identity as a genderqueer person. Tobia was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in a Methodist family. As a child, they were sometimes called a “sissy” for their love of sparkly things and strong interest in the arts. You’ll love getting inside Tobia’s head as they navigate the ins and outs of identity. For readers interested in gender, there is no better book to pick up this spring.
On shelves: March 5
Fans of T Kira Madden’s essays are in luck. She’s back this spring with a memoir. Growing up, Madden watched both of her parents struggle with addiction: Madden’s father (a highly successful shoe entrepreneur) had a drinking problem and was periodically abusive, and Madden’s mother took painkillers. Madden’s family lived in a wealthy enclave of Florida and from the outside, her life appeared to be glamorous and happy. She felt isolated, however, and built a family of her own: the titular “tribe of fatherless girls.” This memoir spans Madden’s childhood and move to New York City, and takes on addiction, abuse, sexuality, and family dynamics.
On shelves: March 5
You’ve heard of Christopher Columbus, but in The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books, you’ll meet a lesser-known member of his family: his son. Hernando Colón also wanted to see the world, but had a different objective in mind. Instead of claiming already-occupied land as his own, he wanted to collect books. His goal was to create a massive library that would hold the world’s writings all in one place. Colón didn’t discriminate based on genre, length, format, or reception: He wanted it all. We think bookworms will delight in reading about Colón’s adventures compiling an awe-inspiring 15,000-volume collection.
On shelves: March 12
Readers, you know Andrew Rannells from his acting in The Book of Mormon and on Girls. Now, he’s putting pen to paper in this memoir about his rise to fame and the setbacks he’s faced along the way. Rannells is from Omaha, Nebraska, but moved to New York City for college and stayed in the Big Apple to break into the theater scene. In this book, Rannells opens up about how challenging it was to make it to Broadway and how many trials and tribulations he weathered along the way. Fans of Rannells will be delighted at how seamlessly his wit and humor translate to the page.
On shelves: March 12
Do you love true crime and Victorian novels? If so, Claire Harman’s Murder by the Book just might be the perfect hybrid for you. Set in London in 1840, this work of narrative nonfiction details the murder of Lord William Russell who was found dead and nearly beheaded in his bed one morning. The crime itself was disturbing enough, but what really got people talking was the killer’s confession: He said he had acted in response to a popular crime novel he had read. Could a work of fiction have inspired a man to kill? Readers will be fascinated by the interplay between London’s literary world and the crime at the center of this work.
On shelves: March 26
Ella Frances Sanders’ new book will give readers a gorgeously illustrated look at the scientific principles governing our universe. Readers will learn about evolution, the sun (as the title would suggest), the human body, and photosynthesis, among other things. All the while, Sanders uses a tone that will feel approachable to a wide variety of readers, not just those with a background in the sciences. This book manages to be highly informative and strikingly beautiful at the same time, and we bet you will find yourself utterly captivated.
On shelves: April 16
Oliver Sacks passed away in 2015, and was famous for writing about the brain and the effect that neurological conditions could have on sufferers. This volume contains a selection of pieces from Sacks’ career, including some of the case studies that were a hallmark of his work. The essays touch on conditions like Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder, and Tourette’s, and also delve into non-neurology material like cinematography and social media. This collection will be a real treat for any fans of Sacks who are still mourning his loss, and we wholeheartedly recommend it.
On shelves: April 23
No matter how close you are with your mother or mother figure, there are probably still some things you cannot discuss with them. Michele Filgate wrote an essay on this subject for Longreads in 2017, detailing the strain that her stepfather’s abuse put on Filgate’s mother-daughter relationship. In this anthology, Filgate is joined by more than a dozen other authors including Leslie Jamison and André Aciman, all of whom open up about the things they don’t talk about with their mothers. This is an intimate collection that shines a light on the many kinds of relationships that can exist within families.
On shelves: April 30
Rough Magic by Lara Prior-Palmer is one of the season’s most buzzed-about memoirs, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the tale of Prior-Palmer’s victory at the Mongol Derby, a punishingly long and difficult horse race that takes place in Mongolia. Contestants race 1000 kilometers (the equivalent of more than 620 miles), harkening back to Genghis Khan’s 13th-century network of messengers across his empire. Prior-Palmer was just 19 when she won, and was the first female and youngest racer ever to win the event. If you’ve been daydreaming of traveling and seeking adventure, Rough Magic just might scratch that itch. Prior-Palmer’s story will both entertain and inspire you.
On shelves: May 7
This book doesn’t come out until the end of May, but anticipation for its release is already reaching a fever pitch on the internet. And why wouldn’t it be? Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark are the co-hosts of My Favorite Murder, a mega-popular true crime and comedy podcast. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered is a dual memoir from Kilgariff and Hardstark, and both women open up about their struggles and anxieties. If you just can’t wait to get your hands on a copy, you can head over to Vulture for an excerpt.
On shelves: May 28