As great a form of escapism fiction is, I find myself reading a lot more nonfiction lately. A lot of brilliant writers have been publishing their books in the past few years, sharing their stories that offer mind-blowing revelations, interesting perspectives, and honest reflections on the human experience. IDK about you, but I think that's pretty awesome. And it's just refreshing to get out of your own head, read about other people's insights on life, history, pop culture, and all things grounded in this reality we all live in.
From a clueless aspiring dog-walking startup CEO to stories of women retracing their past and confronting their family histories, here are some of the best nonfiction books of 2021.
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below1'Crying in H Mart: A Memoir'Knopf $16 AT AMAZON
In this emotionally honest memoir, Japanese Breakfast singer-songwriter Michelle Zauner tells the story of her life—growing up Korean American in Oregon, having a complicated relationship with her parents, and pursuing a career in music. The memoir is centered around her mom's death, and how food became a means of grieving and therapy. 2'Somebody's Daughter: A Memoir'Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book $16 AT AMAZON
Ashley C. Ford talks about growing up as a Black girl in Indiana, dealing with poverty, the complexities of adolescence, and a fraught relationship with her mother. She often wished that she could confide in her father, but he was incarcerated for reasons she didn't know. Until one day—after going through a traumatic experience with a boy, which she kept from her family—her grandmother told her. And what she learned turned her entire world upside down. 3'You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey: Crazy Stories About Racism'Grand Central Publishing $14 AT AMAZON
New York-based comedian Amber Ruffin, along with her sister Lacey Lamar, share their everyday experiences when of casual racism. It gets especially bad for Lacey who still lives in their home state of Nebraska, and is a magnet for these ridiculous but all-too-real encounters. 4'A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life'Random House $25 AT AMAZON
If you want to get in touch with your creative side, this book might just be the trick. As the title suggests, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a literary master class that takes readers into the mind of Booker Prize-winning author George Saunders. He discusses what makes great stories, how they work, and what they say about ourselves and today's world.5'The 2000s Made Me Gay' St. Martin's Griffin $15 AT AMAZON
In this collection of essays, The Onion and Reductress contributor Grace Perry takes readers on a trip through pop culture and media during the early aughts. And as she does so, she shares hilarious stories from her own personal experiences, and comments on the decade that made her gay. 6'All In: An Autobiography' Knopf $22 AT AMAZON
Sports legend Billie Jean King writes an intimate self-portrait that talks about the highs and lows of her amazing tennis career, her work in activism, and the ongoing fight for social justice and equality. 7'London's Number One Dog-Walking Agency: A Memoir'William Morrow & Company $18 AT AMAZON
Kate Macdougall found herself in a post-college rut working at Sotheby's in London. After almost accidentally destroying a precious piece of art, she decided to quit and start her own dog-walking company instead. The problem was that she didn't know much about dogs, nor did she know anything about starting a business. But Macdougall got through it all by navigating her new life, her relationships, and jolly old London one dog walk at a time.8'The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet'Dutton $17 AT AMAZON
In this collection of essays, bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars John Green reviews the Anthropocene—the current geologic age—and how humans have reshaped the planet. An extension of his podcast, he rates different phenomena on a five-star scale, including QWERTY keyboards and the Madagascar film franchise.9'What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing'Flatiron Books $17 AT AMAZON
This book by Oprah Winfrey and brain and trauma specialist Dr. Bruce Perry provides scientific as well as emotional insights on healing and overcoming trauma. Through Winfrey's personal stories and Perry's expertise, they want to help readers reframe their way of thinking and instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?” as “What happened to you?”10'How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America'Little, Brown and Company $18 AT AMAZON
How the Word Is Passed walks readers through a tour of monuments and landmarks in the United States that tell the story of how slavery has been central in shaping the nation's history and people. And while a lot of the book delves into the past and stories of those who have passed, Clint Smith also brings it to life with the help of stories of people still alive today. 11'Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know'Viking $17 AT AMAZON
This book is all about the power of re-thinking and unlearning what you think you know. There's something to be said about questioning and challenging your own thoughts and opinions. Because, as the author and organizational psychologist Adam Grant suggests, being open to what others have in mind is part of the path to wisdom and success.12'Dog Flowers: A Memoir'One World $19 AT AMAZON
Danielle Geller returns to Florida after her mother dies, and finds a suitcase filled with diaries, photos, letters, undeveloped disposable cameras, dried sage, jewelry, and a bandana. She uses these items as a gateway to her journey in understanding her mother's relationship to her heritage and confronting her family history. This leads her back to the Navajo reservation her mother once called home.13'The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War' $24 AT AMAZON
The Afghanistan Papers is a thorough investigation by Washington Post reporter Craig Whitlock about one of 2021's most important political topics. It looks into how the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations mishandled America’s longest war and deceived the public.14'An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination'HarperNow 50% off $15 AT AMAZON
What some view as a tech company's fall from grace is actually a far more complicated story. This exposé written by New York Times reporters Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang gives readers a look into the truth of what really happened to Facebook and how it went from a success story to a social media platform constantly under fire. 15'Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir'Grand Central Publishing $23 AT AMAZON
After Kat Chow's mother dies unexpectedly, she and her family suddenly plummet into grief. To cope, Chow then decides to reclaim her family's story by tracing her extended family's roots—from China to Hong Kong, to Cuba, and finally to America.