The 21 Best Nonfiction Books Of Summer 2016
For some, Memorial Day means pulling out all of their white clothing and accessories, but for book-lovers, it means we can get finally serious about summer reading. Although you should never need an excuse to pick up a book, the warmest season offers plenty of them, from beautiful weather to vacation days to long trips. On top of that, the coming months bring intriguing new releases, including plenty in the nonfiction category.
Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we’ll be able to get our hands on real-life love stories, wild adventures overseas, and even a look at one of the most influential TV series of the recent past. There are also memoirs from well-known comedians coming out, inspiring stories of struggle and triumph, and cultural examinations. To say the options are varied is an understatement; no matter your summer-day activity, you’ll be able to find the perfect book to bring along.
Reading on the beach may be the visual many of us get when talking summer tomes, but you don’t have to plans to visit a sandy destination to get excited about upcoming titles. Find a hammock, a tree stump, or whatever makes you comfortable, and check out the 21 fantastic nonfiction books below.
1. Sober Stick Figure by Amber Tozer (May 31; Running Press)
Amber Tozer documents her complicated relationship with alcohol in Sober Stick Figure. The memoir brings us along on her journey — from her first drink as a child to her descent into alcoholism to her ongoing sobriety today — with the help of stick figure illustrations. Naturally, the stand-up comedian uses humor along the way, while still deftly handling a tough subject.
2. I Do It with the Lights On by Whitney Thore (May 31; Ballantine Books)
The star of TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life reveals herself in a new way in I Do It with the Lights On: And 10 More Discoveries on the Road to a Blissfully Shame-Free Life. Thore opens up about her own difficult yet gratifying path to self-acceptance, plus candidly tackles everything from eating disorders to harassment. Her work is stirring and serves as yet another step in her fight to end body shame.
3. Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings (June 7; Crown Books for Young Readers)
With transgender issues in the national spotlight, Jazz Jennings’ book comes at the perfect time. In Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen, the young activist gives readers an intimate look at her experience and the struggles that have come with it. As she shares her inspiring story, Jennings challenges us to accept others’ differences.
4. This Is Not My Beautiful Life by Victoria Fedden (June 7; Picador)
Described as a “real-life Arrested Development,” Victoria Fedden’s This Is Not My Beautiful Life centers on the circumstances that led to her parents being sent to prison and the difficult aftermath. To make matters worse, she was living with them at the time and pregnant. In spite of the unfortunate situation, though, the story manages to be both poignant and funny.
5. Sex Object by Jessica Valenti (June 7; Dey Street Books)
Jessica Valenti scrutinizes feminist issues while discussing her own life in her memoir, Sex Object. While often comical, her work deals with painful topics as well. Her memories are relatable and raise important questions about how society treats and views women.
6. All Strangers Are Kin by Zora O’Neill (June 14; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Zora O’Neill brings readers to North Africa and the Middle East in All Strangers Are Kin: Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World. As she explores local Arabic cultures, she also highlights the often humorous trials and tribulations of learning the difficult language. Along the way, her writing brings to life dynamic settings and captivating people.
7. Love Wins by Debbie Cenziper, Jim Obergefell (June 14; William Morrow)
The Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling inspired an upcoming movie, but in the meantime, it’s the subject of Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality. Written by Debbie Cenziper with lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell, the book centers on the landmark case and the love story at the heart of it. Not surprisingly, Love Wins is as touching as it is informative.
8. I’m Just a Person by Tig Notaro (June 14; Ecco)
Comedian Tig Notaro takes pain and successfully converts it into laughs in I’m Just a Person. The book looks back at a short time period in which she suffered a breakup, a debilitating disease, a cancer diagnosis, and the death of her mother. It’s an intriguing and inspiring look at one woman’s way of pressing on.
9. Face Value by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano (June 21; Simon & Schuster)
Women’s beauty is put under the microscope in Face Value: The Hidden Ways Beauty Shapes Women's Lives. Autumn Whitefield-Madrano explores how our looks affect our lives, including in light of today’s technology. Her work weaves together real-life anecdotes and in-depth research, creating an interesting cultural analysis.
10. Bukowski in a Sundress by Kim Addonizio (June 21; Penguin Books)
Author Kim Addonizio opens up about the ups and downs of being a writer in Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life. She meanders through a variety of topics, from writing in bed (I've been there) to the time her daughter found erotica she had published. It’s an emotional ride, full of honesty and humor.
11. The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen (June 28; Harper)
Anu Partanen compares life in America to that of her native Finland in The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life. The book lays out numerous ways life in her new home country could benefit from a little Nordic influence, in spite of what many Americans may believe. Partanen builds a strong case as she looks at everything from filing taxes to education.
12. Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (July 5; Simon & Schuster)
Seinfeld fans and non-fans alike will be fascinated by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s look at the TV series. In Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything, she dives into the history of the show and takes readers along for the ride. In addition to sharing intriguing stories about what went on behind the scenes, the book discusses ways Seinfeld has altered television.
13. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman (July 5; Ecco)
Blair Braverman’s adventures in the Norway and Alaska are the focus of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North. Her unique story has everything from corrupt police to dogsled teams, plus physical and mental challenges. It’s an intense journey, but there are lighthearted moments as well.
14. You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein (July 12; Grand Central Publishing)
Going from girl to woman isn’t easy for anyone, but Jessi Klein celebrates her awkward transition in You’ll Grow Out of It. Her experiences run the gamut from hilarious to humiliating, making them relatable to many of us.
15. Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips (July 12; Scribner)
Nicolaia Rips’ Trying to Float: Coming of Age in the Chelsea Hotel focuses on her childhood in Manhattan. Her unconventional home life and outsider status make for intriguing stories, and the city provides a vibrant backdrop. The book also features a colorful cast of characters who play a role as she finds her place.
16. La Americana by Melanie Bowden Simón (July 19; Skyhorse Publishing)
A vacation turns into a love story in Melanie Bowden Simón’s La Americana. The memoir follows as she meets her future husband in Cuba and contends with subsequent relationship obstacles. Her emotional journey also involves dealing with her mother’s death and adapting to a new culture.
17. The Age of Bowie by Paul Morley (July 26; Galley Books)
Paul Morley honors a music icon in The Age of Bowie: How David Bowie Made a World of Difference. Fans get to follow Bowie from his South London beginnings to international stardom, right up until the very end. Along with highlighting key moments from the British musician’s career, Morley explores his lasting impact on various facets of the industry.
18. The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward (Aug. 2; Scribner)
Inspired by writing from James Baldwin in the 1960s, Jesmyn Ward’s The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race is a collection of short essays, memoir, and poems. The work digs into race in America with the help of a large group of contributors. As such, it offers various perspectives as it looks at our current situation and toward the future.
19. Land of Enchantment by Leigh Stein (Aug. 2; Plume)
A coming-of-age memoir, Land of Enchantment centers on author Leigh Stein’s relationship with an ex-boyfriend as she comes to terms with his death. His worrisome behavior before he was killed adds another layer to her poignant coping process.
20. Black Lotus by Sil Lai Abrams (Aug. 2; Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing)
The importance of race comes into question in Black Lotus: A Woman’s Search for Racial Identity. Author Sil Lai Abrams takes on the complicated issue as she tells the story of discovering the truth about her biological father. Her journey is both unique and fascinating.
21. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer (Aug. 16; Galley Books)
Amy Schumer’s trademark satirical comedy comes to fans in book form with The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo. The comedian opens up about her personal life in a collection of essays that includes stories from her youth, her love life, and more. It’s safe to say that if you’re a Schumer fan, you should add this to your reading list immediately.