Best Nonfiction of 2019

I read a lot of really great books this year. Although I didn’t read as many as in past years, I feel I really dialed in my reading preferences and found books that I could really dig into. First I’ll share my favorite nonfiction reads, more to come from young adult and fiction.


I started the year off with Womanish (2019), a series of essays from Kim McLaren. It was the perfect read for the new year, as I felt inspired to both reflect on myself and plan for the future. I felt empowered by her writing. At the same time, I felt grateful that so much of her essays were not for me, but instead a glimpse into someone else’s life experience.

Educated (2018) was stunning. Tara Westover is a PhD from rural Idaho, who grew up without formal education for most of her life before falling hard into her studies. This memoir blew me away. I had heard good things, but it was truly one of the most original and eye opening stories I read this year.

Heart Berries (2018) is written so well and with such a unique flair. Therese Marie Mailhot both shocked and inspired me with her story, but the best part of it was that it wasn’t for me. It was raw and honest and seemed primarily focused on her own processing of the situations in which she had been through in her lifetime.

Heavy (2018) reminded me why Kiese Laymon is one of my favorite authors. I first read Long Division in 2015, and was really looking forward to this memoir. I was not disappointed. He is so wise and articulates his wisdom so well.

Born a Crime (2016) is Trever Noah’s first memoir. I had so much to learn and so many gaps to fill in in my understanding of Apartheid and South Africa’s history in general, and Noah helped me through some of that. His humor and ability to look positively on difficult situations was inspiring. And of course his mother was my favorite character in his stories, I would read most things that he would write about her.

Motherhood so White (2019) is a memoir from Nefertiti Austin about becoming a mother through adoption through the foster care system. She talks about what it means to be a single black mother raising a black son in America. She talks candidly about her family, her privileges, her worries for her son’s future, her struggles and joys in adopting through the foster care system, and others’ perceptions of her choosing to be a single black mother. I learned that her black community was unsure about adoption in ways I had never considered before. Austin’s commentary on adopting a black son addressed stigmas that I have considered in productive and supportive ways.

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