10 Nonfiction Books to Add to Your Reading List–Even If You Don't Normally Read Nonfiction

Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Add to Their Reading List

Are you looking to add more nonfiction to your reading list in 2020? Or do you generally enjoy nonfiction but want reading recommendations? Look no further! These are some of my favorite nonfiction books that I believe will be interesting and relevant to a wide audience, no specific interest in the topic necessary.

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Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt

Nabakovs Favorite Word Is Mauve

Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve is a great choice for readers interested in nonfiction about reading and writing and even what characteristics can make writing seem “good.” Blatt uses data science to explore what classic authors do in their writing (do they avoid too many adverbs? write short or long sentences?), which is thought-provoking whether you’re working on your own novel or just thinking about books you’ve read. He also addresses things like how to judge book covers and whether you can tell who wrote most of a book that is co-authored.

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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet by Susan Cain

A 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Winner, Quiet explains the benefits of introversion and how extroverts can better support and maintain positive relationships with introverts. The book received a lot of attention when published and was even adapted for a younger audience, but its message about how introverts work differently than extroverts remains relevant, and its suggestions about creating workplaces and educational spaces that allow introverts to thrive without relying on things like open office plans and public speaking still haven’t been implemented in many places.

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The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan

Case Against Education

The major conclusion of this book is that it is beneficial for people, under the current system, to obtain an advanced degree (because “everyone else” has one), but the look at credential inflation and his argument that education is more about “signalling” capability/conformity/sometimes knowledge more than actually knowing things is fascinating. It helps add some nuance to the question of whether countries should provide free university education to all citizens, and it’s an interesting topic since all of us have been through the educational system to some degree or another; you don’t have to agree with all of Caplan’s points to get something out of the book.

Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse Is Making Our Kids Dumber by Joe Clement and Matt Miles

Screen Schooled

Another book about education that will resonate with readers because it addresses a topic people have big feelings about: Is a reliance on technology helping or hindering students’ education? The general argument of the book is NOT that technology is overtly bad but rather that it’s not always good and is often a distraction, so it should be utilized thoughtfully when it has a clear advantage over a non-technological approach. Again, one needn’t agree with all of the raised points, but the book is based in an impressive amount of research and provides lots of food for thought.

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein is a fascinating exploration of the history of memory and the capacity of human talent.  It does offer a disclaimer that it is not a self-help book to teach the reader how to capitalize on his memory, but there are just enough tricks mentioned to pique one’s curiosity and perhaps even get one started in learning.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction

Monster, She Wrote is an incredibly thorough overview of women authors who wrote and pioneered horror and speculative fiction, ranging from Gothic authors like Ann Radcliffe to modern-day writers. Including anecdotes from the authors’ lives and summaries of their most prominent (or just strangest) works, it’s sure to help you add a bunch of books you’ve never heard of before (but probably should have) to your reading list.

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Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

Wonder Women

Wonder Women is a delightfully informative yet informal look at amazing women in STEM. Maggs purposely tends toward less-known women (personally, I’d heard of about six), meaning the book isn’t just the same-old stories of Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart (though these women get mini bios at the end of each section).  Maggs explores the lives and accomplishments of 25 historical women in the fields of science, medicine, espionage, innovation, and adventure, and sprinkles in some interviews with women currently working in STEM to help inspire readers to go do all the science.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud book cover image

Understanding Comics is itself a comic book that explains how to read and interpret comics, starting with basically terminology like what a gutter or a frame is and then moving on to more advanced topics. If you’re interested in reading more comics or graphic novels but don’t know much about them from a technical aspect, this may be the book for you.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women Book Cover

A 2019 Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, Invisible Women takes a detailed look about how nearly everything in our lives has been designed for (often by) men, from cars where the safety features are tested for the “average male” to office temperatures set to be comfortable for the “average male” to medicines that are often tested only on groups of men (because women’s hormones might “complicate” the data!). This book has been receiving a ton of attention and I hope it receives more and accomplishes some social change, to get women noticed in the design of, well, everything from bathrooms to military equipment to city planning.

Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating by Charles Spence

Gastrophysics

Everyone eats, so although this book is frequently focused on high-end food the likes of which I personally have not actually eaten, it provides a fascinating look at how external factors can influence the way we perceive/taste food. For instance, chip bags are noisy because the crispy sound of the bag open makes people rate the chips as fresher and crisper than the exact same chips in a quiet bag. This book explains this and more about the science of food and how you can be manipulated by chefs or big food companies into having specific thoughts about their food.

30 thoughts on “10 Nonfiction Books to Add to Your Reading List–Even If You Don't Normally Read Nonfiction

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I hope you enjoy Quiet!

      I wouldn’t necessarily say I read a lot of nonfiction, but considering so many people read NONE, I guess it’s all relative. 😉 Mostly I go through the “new” nonfiction books at the library and see if anything catches my eye.

      Like

  1. Unchaptered says:

    Such a good selection of books I’ve never heard of, apart from Quiet which had a big impact on me. Thank you for the recommendations ☺️

    Liked by 3 people

      • Unchaptered says:

        Exactly! It’s such a shame how people’s voices get lost amongst those perceived as more competent just because they come across more confident. I think every institution lead should read it, if for no other reason than to make themselves aware that there is more than one way to get things done.

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I’ve been trying to pay attention to the way people (often men) speak who are perceived as competent (and often are, to be fair), but what strikes me is that so many of them are just REPEATING themselves. Apparently if you say the same thing three times in a row with slight wording variations, you sound confident and as if you’re saying a lot, but if I say something succinctly once, I get stares like, “Is that all? Are you done?”

          Liked by 1 person

          • Unchaptered says:

            😅 I have the same problem. And I have noticed that about repetition, it does come across as though the person is speaking at length about the topic when in reality the message could be put across in far fewer words. I think it can be applied to blogging too: my posts tend to be shorter than other people’s even though I’ve said all I wanted to say, but I still can’t get rid of that feeling of inadequacy and falling for the old ‘quantity is quality’ myth.

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  2. Isobel Necessary says:

    Love this! I’ve been meaning to get around to several of these – I’ve heard so much about both “Invisible Women”, and “Quiet”.
    “Understanding Comics” is fantastic, and I’ll second your recommendation. I really enjoy when nonfiction illustrated or in graphic novel form, and this is meta- as well, so it’s right up my street.
    The Ben Blatt book is new to me, so thanks for bringing it to my attention. I love some book stats / digital humanities data analysis.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Georgiana says:

    I read “Quiet” and I liked it! “Wonder Women” sounds very interesting – in Romania we have a book called “The Rebellious” (RO:Nesupusele) about 100 Romanian women who did not conform to the rules of society. I haven’t read it all, but I have it at home and I browse through from time to time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael J. Miller says:

    Perez’ ‘Invisible Women’ has been on my reading list since I first saw you write about it here and I’m hoping to get to it in the next month or so. But now I want to check ‘Screen Schooled’ out too! I taught for a year or two at my present school before we did our one-to-one iPad roll out. I grant there are many wonderful things we can do with them and I’m certainly not a “all technology is the end of the world” kind of person. However, my own anecdotal experience is that it has hurt my students’ ability to focus, think and write critically, and be comfortable in silence. So I’m very, very interested in what a scholarly investigation into the issue will yield. Thank you for the recommendations!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      When I glanced through the Goodreads reviews when I first read Screen Schooled, I got the impression a lot of educators didn’t like it and thought it was overstating the dangers of technology or was fear mongering essentially, but I thought it was really interesting. Even just teaching while I was in grad school, I observed a lot of what the book talks about, and I hear about the same problems from my teacher friends now.

      My experience is that everyone thinks THEY’RE not the ones distracted by their phones and THEY can easily multitask, so it’s not a problem….but the problem is that a lot of people are distracted and unfocused who don’t even realize they are. Just the studies on how many times a day someone stops to check their phone are kind appalling and a good indication that many of us are not nearly as focused as we would like to think.

      I mean, sure the book does take the argument that technology has a lot of downsides so it’s not coming across as neutral, but I think it makes good points that various studies keep supporting, even if someone doesn’t agree with every single one.

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  5. Sahi says:

    This is a great list and I’m gonna have to check out some of these… I finished reading Invisible Women just a couple weeks ago and that was illuminating and infuriating in so many ways 😬😬😬

    Liked by 1 person

      • Sahi says:

        Ohh that’s true.. it was very eye opening and some were so relatable, i was surprised to realize it wasn’t a “me” problem .. and I’ve been discussing it with all my friends since because I really feel more women should know about it all…

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        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          Yes! Even stupid things where I’d be like, “Oh, I’m so short. I can’t reach the grab bar in the subway to hold on, ha ha.” Except I’m not short. I’m average height for an American woman, so basically tons of women (and shorter guys) can’t hold on either, and no one figured this out when they designed the subway and no one has ever FIXED it since the original design! Maddening.

          I’ve been recommending the book left and right and flat-out buying it for people who were kind of like, “Oh, yeah, that sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll get to it eventually…” I’m hoping to buy a few more copies as gifts for upcoming events, especially since the paperback comes out this year. I really do hope more people read the book, and it leads to some changes!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sahi says:

            I’m taller than average but I totally understand what you mean.. in my case, it was wearing a sweater or jacket to work 365 days of the year because it was freaking cold and I would keep sneezing all the time… it’s only after quitting my job that I realized that I actually don’t have sinus infections, I just can’t tolerate the cold… I hate the office air conditioners with a passion 😡😡😡

            I love the idea of gifting the book… I probably can’t afford a lot now, but I’m definitely gonna save up a bit and give it to a few of my friends who I know will understand the significance of it…

            Like

  6. Grab the Lapels says:

    The food book sounds interesting. I studied marketing in an art class years ago, and was surprised at all the subtle things a company does to make you BUY!

    I will second your McCloud choice. Even if you read comics frequently, his book gives you the language to think about and discuss comics beyond “I liked it.”

    The Mauve book may be the one I check out, though, as I am one of those writers who tend to hyper-focus on one thing when I’m writing. The last one I can remember is everyone kept removing hair (shaving, plucking, hair cuts, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Wonderful timing for this list! So many of my blogger friends (and me!) are aspiring to read more non-fiction in 2020. I haven’t read any of these books, but Quiet, Monster, She Wrote, and Invisible Women are all on my TBR already.

    Did either of you listen to audiobooks for any of the above? I prefer to absorb non-fiction in audiobook format, but a bad narrator ruins the experience for me. I’d love to know if there are stellar narrators for these books!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. shanayatales says:

    I read a lot of non-fiction, and this is such a fantastic list. Quiet has been on my TBR for a long time. And now thanks to this list, I have added 3 more books to my TBR – Monster She Wrote, Understanding Comics and Wonder Woman. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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