It’s time to say goodbye to April and hello to May — and better still, to the latest and greatest in nonfiction. Scary as it is how quickly the months fly by, it’s always a comfort to know that at least another fantastic read is just around the corner. This month has plenty of those, so hopefully your to-read list has room to grow.
Some of May’s highlights include memoirs from celebrities like Gabourey Sidibe, Ian Harding, and Ashley Graham. There are also crime stories you won’t be able to put down, new takes on relatable topics like love and work, and essay collections guaranteed to make you feel. Forget the flowers: May nonfiction is where it’s at.
With spring in full swing, you may be feeling the fever. Yet even if you’re feeling restless and it’s hard to sit still, reading shouldn’t be out. You can deal with the issue by switching to audiobooks, or even just trying out new authors or material. Do whatever it takes, because there are so many good books on the way.
It was hard to narrow down this month’s new releases down, but below are 20 of the best nonfiction books coming in May 2017.
‘This Is Just My Face’ by Gabourey Sidibe (May 1; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Gabourey Sidibe offers a window into her life in her new memoir, This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare. In doing so, the Academy Award-nominated actress definitely doesn’t shy away from personal subjects. With raw honesty and humor, she delves into topics ranging from her father’s polygamy to her weight to working as a phone sex “talker.”
‘Jane Austen, the Secret Radical’ by Helena Kelly (May 2; Knopf Publishing Group)
Helena Kelly explores the work of one of the world’s most beloved writers in her new book, Jane Austen, the Secret Radical. Kelly highlights the author’s intelligence and makes a case for her having been even more subversive than she gets credit for. Austen’s novels aren’t just fluffy love stories, that’s for sure.
‘Odd Birds’ by Ian Harding (May 2; St. Martin’s Press)
You may know Ian Harding as the Pretty Little Liars dreamboat Ezra Fitz, but he is a birdwatcher, too. He uses this special hobby to deliver a unique take on Hollywood in his new book, Odd Birds. Harding looks at people he knows and aspects of is life — from his career to his romantic relationships — through this distinct perspective, making it a memoir you won’t want to miss.
‘My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward’ by Mark Lukach (May 2; Harper Wave)
‘Priestdaddy’ by Patricia Lockwood (May 2; Riverhead Books)
Moving back home as an adult takes adjustments, but that is especially true in the case of Patricia Lockwood, the daughter of a Catholic priest. In Priestdaddy, she writes about returning to her parents’ rectory for an unexpected eight-month stint, her non-Catholic husband in tow. Luckily for us, she finds the humor in the situation — lots of it.
‘You’re the Only One I Can Tell’ by Deborah Tannen (May 2; Ballantine Books)
Deborah Tannen provides a nuanced examination of female relationships in You’re the Only One I Can Tell: Inside the Language of Women’s Friendships. Her book looks at how women bond and communicate with one another, in both positive and negative situations. Tannen supports her case with interviews with dozens of women from various backgrounds and stages of life.
'One Day We'll All Be Dead And None Of This Matter' by Scaachi Koul (May 2; Picador)
In this essay collection, Buzzfeed culture writer Scaachi Koul shares her experiences growing up as the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada. This timely, propulsive, and funny memoir tackles a number of heavy subjects — immigration, life as a woman of color, gender roles, gender roles within different cultural identities, and more — in a way that feels utterly relatable.
‘How to Be Everything’ by Emilie Wapnick (May 2; HarperOne)
If you still don’t know what you’re doing with your life, Emilie Wapnick’s new book will make you feel better. Called How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up, it explains why having diverse passions isn’t a bad thing. You’re not a flake — you’re a multipotentialite, and that’s awesome.
‘Becoming Cliterate’ by Laurie Mintz (May 9; Harper One)
Laurie Mintz is working toward closing the orgasm gap. Her new book, Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It, argues that we’ve been thinking about sex wrong, in part thanks to what we see in the media, in movies and TV, and in porn. Mintz, a psychology professor with expertise inhuman sexuality, explores the cultural and historical reasons behind the gap as well as provides tips for “cliterate sex.” You’ll be reading for pleasure in more ways than one.
‘A New Model’ by Ashley Graham, Rebecca Paley (May 9; HarperCollins)
Ashley Graham opens up about her modeling career, body image, health, and more in A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like. Written with Rebecca Paley, the collection of essays is empowering and thought-provoking. This book will up the amount of body positivity in your life, which is always a good thing.
‘My Soul Looks Back’ by Jessica B. Harris (May 9; Scribner)
Jessica B. Harris revisits a special time in her life in My Soul Looks Back: A Memoir. A friend of celebrated authors Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, Harris was part of a fascinating social circle in the early ’70s. She shares a unique look at their lives and work, while also opening up about her own career and relationship with one of Baldwin’s colleagues. As a bonus, each chapter has a related recipe.
‘Spies in the Family’ by Eva Dillon (May 9; Harper)
Eva Dillion uses her father’s work in the CIA as inspiration in Spies in the Family: An American Spymaster, His Russian Crown Jewel, and the Friendship That Helped End the Cold War. Her poignant book explores his complicated friendship with a Soviet double agent and how it affected both of their families.
‘The Fact of a Body’ by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (May 16; Flatiron Books)
Alexandra Marzano-Lesnevich reveals how her beliefs were shaken in The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir. Her book brings us back to the summer she interned at a law firm and became obsessed with a case involving convicted murderer Ricky Langley. As she digs deeper into his case, she slowly unveils secrets from her own life, making the story all the more suspenseful and spellbinding.
‘Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give’ by Ada Calhoun (May 16; W. W. Norton Company)
Ada Calhoun’s Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give does away with the fabled “happily ever after,” and aims to portray marriage realistically. This isn’t a manifesto against the institution; rather, Calhoun shows how challenging yet rewarding it can be. She makes her point with stories from her own married life as well as those of friends, and she also sprinkles in wisdom from experts.
‘How Dare the Sun Rise’ by Sandra Uwiringiyimana, Abigail Pesta (May 16; Katherine Tegen Books)
How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child tells a powerful and at times painful story. Written by Sandra Uwiringyimana, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with Abigail Pesta, it reveals the struggles not just of losing family and leaving home, but also of being welcomed into a new country.
‘Give a Girl a Knife’ by Amy Thielen (May 16; Clarkson Potter Publishers)
Amy Thielen brings us from rural Minnesota to the kitchens of New York City and back in Give a Girl a Knife: A Memoir. Her book looks at how she built her career as a big-city chef, along with how she and her husband later ended up living in a cabin in the woods. Though her life undergoes big changes, at least one aspect remains constant throughout: the mouth-watering descriptions of food.
‘The Long Run’ by Catriona Menzies-Pike (May 23; Crown Publishing Group)
You don’t have to be a runner to appreciate The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion. A story of grief and endurance, it recounts how author Catriona Menzies-Pike got into running on a whim, only to use it as a way to cope with the loss of her parents. Along the way, she also explores the history of women in running, which turns out to be equally engrossing.
‘Geek Girl Rising’ by Heather Cabot, Samantha Walravens (May 23; St. Martin’s Press)
Heather Cabot and Samantha Walravens look at women in Silicon Valley in Geek Girl Rising: Inside the Sisterhood Shaking Up Tech. The book features fascinating entrepreneurs who are battling a “bro-y” culture and leaving their mark. Hello, new girl crushes.
‘We Are Never Meeting in Real Life’ by Samantha Irby (May 30; Vintage)
‘Theft by Finding’ by David Sedaris (May 30; Little, Brown and Company)
David Sedaris has 40 years of journaling behind him, and we get to read some of his writings in Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002). As you can imagine, the topics he covers over the years are wide-ranging, from gossip to IHOP to conversations with strangers. Sedaris’ usual humor-laden insight is on full display, so get excited.