The 17 Best Nonfiction Books of 2017
Even the most devoted of readers couldn’t have possibly read all of the intriguing nonfiction books that came out in 2017. There were just too many for those of us without Time-Turners to be able to manage. (Sleep is important, you know?) At this point, our best course of action is probably to hit some of the highlights, including the year’s 17 best nonfiction books.
The works on the list represent a diverse group of authors dealing with a wide range of subject matter. Politics was one of the big ones, of course, so you’ll find an abundance of options in that area. You also have other choices, though, if political reading material will only increase your stress levels. Instead, try humorous essay collections, thrilling true crime, or moving ruminations on life.
Prolific authors kept their work coming in 2017. The year’s nonfiction new releases included books from the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Sherman Alexie, and more. For all that we had certain complaints about the past year, its book selection was not one of them.
Below, in no particular order, are the best nonfiction books of the year. It’s never too late to start enjoying them.
'The Future Is History' by Masha Gessen
Masha Gessen won the National Book Award in nonfiction with The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia. Her timely tome examines the political situation in her native land as it follows the lives of four of her countrymen who reached adulthood after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
'Hunger' by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay bares her sole in Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. The acclaimed feminist writer opens up about numerous facets of her life, from her childhood to her sexuality to her personal struggles with food, anxiety, and loneliness.
'You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me' by Sherman Alexie
In You Don't Have to Say You Love Me: A Memoir, award-winning author Sherman Alexie delves into his relationship with his late mother. As he shows through his moving poems and essays, their relationship was a complex one, inspiring pain, love, and anger.
'Priestdaddy' by Patricia Lockwood
Priestdaddy invites readers along as Patricia Lockwood moves into her eccentric parents’ rectory after having already left home years before and gotten married. Both her unconventional Catholic priest father and quirky mother have their own way of doing things, and both Lockwood and her non-Catholic husband have to adjust.
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'We Are Never Meeting in Real Life' by Samantha Irby
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life comes from blogger and comedian Samantha Irby. Her essay collection is varied, and she deals with issues as wide-ranging as loss, Easter candy, poverty, and her qualifications for being the star of The Bachelorette.
'Killers of the Flower Moon' by David Grann
David Grann revisits a nightmare of a crime in Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. The chilling story is set in Oklahoma in the Osage Indian Nation, where tribe members begin to be killed in grisly, mysterious ways. Grann follows the tale as the then-nascent, corrupt, and struggling FBI gets involved.
'One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Matter' by Scaachi Koul
An essay collection by Scaachi Koul, One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Matter covers numerous subjects. In addition to opening up about growing up in Canada as the children of immigrants, Koul examines important and timely issues such as gender roles, online harassment, and privilege.
'What Happened' by Hillary Rodham Clinton
An election post-mortem, What Happened returns readers to the shocking 2016 presidential election through Hillary Rodham Clinton’s eyes. Not only does she own up to mistakes that her campaign made, she reveals the struggles of running against now-President Donald Trump and also the pain of having lost to him.
'The Blood of Emmett Till' by Timothy B. Tyson
Longlisted for the National Book Award, The Blood of Emmett Till centers on a well-known, historical tragedy. Written by Timothy B. Tyson, the book incorporates court transcripts, the accounts of key players, and even newly uncovered documents. Beyond that, it shows how the 14-year-old boy’s horrific murder propelled the civil rights movement forward.
'Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers her advice for raising a feminist daughter in Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. Although it was written for her childhood friend, her suggestions and reflections serve as Feminism 101 and can be useful for anyone.
'The Rules Do Not Apply' by Ariel Levy
Life can change quickly, and journalist Ariel Levy knows that all too well. She tells her story in The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir, sharing painful pieces of her past. After seeing her perfectly constructed life collapse, she has to reevaluate her pursuit of happiness and cope with more than one terrible loss.
'We Were Eight Years in Power' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates looks back at former President Obama’s two terms in the Oval Office in We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy. Through his essay collection, the acclaimed author reflects on each year of Obama’s historic tenure, as well as the current events and issues of the era. He also continues beyond that period, exploring the backlash that led to our current president.
'No Is Not Enough' by Naomi Klein
Activist-slash-journalist Naomi Klein contributes to the resistance with No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. In it, she makes the case that the administration is dangerous to the economy, national security, and more, plus offers solutions. Her work earned her a spot on the longlist for the National Book Award.
'American Fire' by Monica Hesse
A rash of crimes is at the center of American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land. Written by Monica Hesse, the book is set in struggling Accomack County in the fall of 2012, when arson suddenly became a nightly occurrence. The story isn’t just about the fires, though; it is also about the rural area’s desolation.
'Bunk' by Kevin Young
Yet another work that made the longlist for the National Book Award is Bunk: The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts, and Fake News by Kevin Young. As the title suggests, it looks at how truth became so hard to come by in our currently hoax-ridden culture. Young also examines the implications of the post-factual era we’ve reached.
'Cork Dork' by Bianca Bosker
Bianca Bosker undertakes the challenging task of becoming a certified wine expert in Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste. Her memoir centers on her year-plus journey to becoming a sommelier; it is not an easy one, but it delights the senses through the page.
'Word by Word' by Kory Stamper
Merriam-Webster has emerged as an entertaining presence on Twitter, but there is more you should know about the resource. In Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries, Kory Stamper shows just how interesting the lexicons can be, along with the people who work on them.