Nothing like joining a tough reading challenge to make you examine habits. I saw this older post over at What’s Nonfiction about the 2021 Nonfiction Challenge and thought it was just the thing to pull me out of last year’s nonfiction reading slump. In fact, overconfidence was so high I thought “I’ve been blogging for five years now, why don’t I put together a list of some books I’d recommend?”
First mistake: I review books for all ages, so a lot of my nonfiction reviews are for children’s books.
Second mistake: I read a lot of books that don’t make it onto this blog, either because they aren’t diverse, or because I have to return them to the library.
Third mistake: Apparently the diverse adult nonfiction I do review mainly falls into three categories: biography, historical nonfiction, or parenting.
Here is the list:
4. Essay Collection
8. Indigenous Cultures
10. Wartime Experiences
12. Published in 2021
Well, let me suggest what I can. You can search my non-fiction tag (although it will contain reviews for every age level) or the biography tag (which also covers autobiography and memoir, and every reading level again). If you don’t want to scroll through the list, go to my top recommendation for this particular challenge!
Some biographies I’ve reviewed will work for other categories so I mention them there. Here are a few that won’t but would still be good choices for this category.
Redefining Realness is the searing memoir of a modern transgender woman. Mock is technically part indigenous Hawaiian, but it wasn’t a big enough part for me to consider this an indigenous book. A similar topic but very different book is Colapinto’s As Nature Made Him, the story of how one boy was raised as a girl after a freak accident while his twin was raised in his birth gender, how a researcher lied about it all and had an outsized impact on our understanding of gender. This goes a bit beyond a traditional biography but is focused on one person from infancy to adulthood. Two memoirs with relevance for people living in the USA today are Just Mercy and Uncensored.
Four African biographies. Tears of the Desert is a Darfur survival story but also a moving recounting of the author’s culture of origin. Born a Crime has nothing to do with the author’s talk show and is simply a blunt, funny, heartbreaking look at what it meant to be biracial growing up in South Africa during apartheid. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is Malawian story of triumph through engineering and libraries, and Queen of Katwe is the biography of a young Ugandan chess prodigy, with some other stuff mixed in.
Staying abroad, Dalai Lama, My Son is a simple but intriguing portrait of the mother of the 13th Dalai Lama. Born on a Blue Day is the narrative of a British man with autism, synesthesia, and some other conditions who traveled the world and did some remarkable feats. I’m too far out from reading it to remember if Dressmaker of Khair Khana is technically a biography or more of a narrative nonfiction, but it remains by far the best bargain bin book I’ve ever read. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl brings us back to the USA and is a very powerful reminder of why most of the slave narratives read in school are probably written by men or heavily censored. I read a paperback copy but Incidents is also available as a free ebook, which also brings me to that tag – I’ve only reviewed one fiction so most items under it are nonfiction reads free within the USA (and possibly elsewhere, but I don’t check copyright for other countries).
Two Tickets to Freedom, Kidnapped Prince, Rosa Parks – My Story, Twice Towards Justice. These are all technically MG or YA nonfiction, so I’m not sure if they’re allowed, but all bear mentioning (and if allowed, might be a good way to get a quick read in). The first two are based on longer adult works which might also be good reads.
Apparently I haven’t reviewed many self-help books. The only ones I think would count are The Little Book of Life Hacks, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up., and Getting a Life with Asperger’s. Of the three I found the first most personally useful, but others might be drawn to one of the others.
Okay so I’ve been working on this for a while now, with a goal to read 100 books by indigenous authors, buy 50, and review at least 25. I have a (very infrequently updated) page about it, although the review tag is probably much more useful. Lots of fiction on those. Unfortunately, the only adult nonfiction I’ve reviewed so far is Lakota Woman. My review for The Right to Be Cold will (finally) be going up later this year. I enjoyed and learned from but didn’t love either, so hopefully this year I’ll find some books in this category to endorse as heavily as my top pick for the next category.
I LOVED Yes, Chef, and it’s the one I’d recommend for this section.
I saved this one for last so I could end on a high note, but All the Women in My Family Sing is the BEST ESSAY COLLECTION I have ever read. It’s entirely written, edited, designed, and marketed by women of color and if you only read one book I recommend here, make it this one. The essays are short, so they are easy to skip if you don’t like one, and there are a lot, so it’s a good value and will introduce you to many new-to-you authors.
Maybe those will help someone. I’m officially aiming for all 12 categories this year, but I’ll be okay if it’s less. After all, remember 2018, the year I wanted to read ten books about Africa and even owned six already and instead I only read two?
I want to talk about more biographies, ha! We can see where my nonfiction interests lie. Instead I’ll leave you with this older post of my Five Strategies for Reading Nonfiction. My nonfiction reading habits were heavily linked to my daily routine – when the pandemic happened, car reading and lunch break reading didn’t exist. Eventually I nearly stopped reading nonfiction and during 2020 focused heavily on middle grade fiction (since it can be read in one sitting, or with children).