Does Your Book Club Read Nonfiction?
These authors would love to make a remote appearance by videoconference
Authors from the group Lockdown Lit wrote illuminating nonfiction released in 2020. As long as “lockdown” prevents us from gathering in person, these authors would be delighted to make a “virtual visit” to your book club in 2021 to chat about their books!
Read on to learn more about their books. There are 19 names and book titles here! Would one of these be a good fit for your book club? If you’d like to invite an author to a special session of your group, please contact the author directly. They’d be happy to hear from you.
Author: Nina Renata Aron
A scorching memoir of a love affair with an addict, weaving personal reckoning with psychology and history to understand the nature of addiction, codependency, and our appetite for obsessive love.
“The disease he has is addiction,” Nina Renata Aron writes of her boyfriend, K. “The disease I have is loving him.” Their love affair is dramatic, urgent, overwhelming — an intoxicating antidote to the long, lonely days of early motherhood. Soon after they get together, K starts using again, and years of relapses and broken promises follow. Even as his addiction deepens, she stays, convinced she is the one who can get him sober. Writing in prose at once unflinching and acrobatic, Aron delivers a piercing memoir of romance and addiction, drawing on intimate anecdotes as well as academic research to crack open the long-feminized and overlooked phenomenon of codependency. Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls is a blazing, bighearted book that illuminates and adds nuance to the messy tethers between femininity, enabling, and love.
“Stunning.” — The Washington Post
“A beautiful, nuanced portrait of living alongside addiction.” — ★Booklist, starred review
Author: Cooper Lee Bombardier
Pass with Care is a testament to trans resilience, queer joy, and the power of finding freedom and adventure within a community of your own creation. Transgender writer, artist, and activist Cooper Lee Bombardier shifts effortlessly between lyrical essays, poetry, and narrative nonfiction as his own landscape changes over the course of two decades. From working-class New England to the queer punk scene of early ’90s-San Francisco to New Mexico’s deserts, Bombardier documents his experiences with compassion and reverence, offering us an expansive view of gender and sexuality, masculinity and tenderness, and the difference between surviving and thriving.
FEATURED IN PUBLISHERS WEEKLY’s “STILL HERE, STILL QUEER: LBGTQ BOOKS 2020”
Through lyrically constructed prose, Bombardier introduces us to the fraught and beaming world of being queer, trans, and of passing in the world as a man…Pass with Care: Memoirs is a necessary and important glimpse into a living trans history as Bombardier explores how much the world has changed and made room for trans people. — Berkeley Fiction Review
A reflection on generational changes of queer life, on two decades and change into life as a trans man…insightful and wise and touching — Lambda Literary Review
A gorgeously rendered response to what one might call the “Now what?” question: After an experience as metamorphic and all-consuming as a gender transition, what happens next? Who do we become after that becoming? Where do we locate meaning? —The Rumpus
Author: Susan Burton
For almost thirty years, Susan Burton hid her obsession with food and the secret life of compulsive eating and starving that dominated her adolescence. Empty is the relentlessly honest, fiercely intelligent story of living with both anorexia and binge-eating disorder, moving past her shame, and learning to tell her secret.
“The author’s anger gives the book its considerable power, its substantial grace and even, in the end, its meaning — which goes against every received idea of what good memoir is, and how it ought it to function…Burton’s memoir is valuable because she goes beyond simply confessing her shame…The result is a book that wields a fearsome intimacy.” — Claire Dederer, New York Times
“A breathtakingly related depiction of growing up and the intimacies of family, friendship, and romantic love. All memoir-lovers will be taken by Burton’s elegant prose, rare self-insight, and layered, superconfessional storytelling.” — Booklist
Author: Lisa Selin Davis
“Thoughtful…excellent…illuminating” — New York Times · “Intriguing” — People · “Fascinating” — Publishers’ Weekly (starred) · NYT Editor’s Choice · PW’s Best Nonfiction of the Year
When author and journalist Lisa Selin Davis’s six-year-old daughter first called herself a “tomboy,” Davis was hesitant. Her child favored sweatpants and T-shirts over anything pink or princess-themed, just like the sporty, skinned-kneed girls Davis had played with as a kid. In an era where some are throwing elaborate gender reveal parties and others are embracing they/them pronouns, Davis set out to find where the tomboys of her youth had gone and what they tell us about gender.
Davis traces the evolution of tomboyism from a Victorian ideal to a twenty-first century fashion statement, highlighting the forces that have shifted what we think of as masculine and feminine, delving into clothing, psychology, history and neuroscience, and the connection between tomboyism, gender identity, and sexuality. Davis’s comprehensive deep-dive inspires us to better appreciate those who defy traditional gender boundaries, and the incredible people they become.
Author: Maggie Doherty
In 1960, Harvard’s sister college, Radcliffe, announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, a “messy experiment” in women’s education that offered paid fellowships to those with a PhD or “the equivalent” in artistic achievement. Five of the women who received fellowships — poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Mariana Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen — quickly formed deep bonds with one another that would inspire and sustain their most ambitious work. They called themselves “the Equivalents.” Drawing from notebooks, letters, recordings, journals, poetry, and prose, Doherty weaves a moving narrative of friendship and ambition, art and activism, love and heartbreak, and shows how the institute spoke to the condition of women on the cusp of liberation.
Author: Maggie Downs
Over the course of one year, journalist Maggie Downs backpacked solo through seventeen countries―visiting all the places her mother, struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, could not visit herself―encountering some of the world’s most striking locales while confronting the slow loss of her mom. Interweaving travelogue with family memories, Braver Than You Think takes the reader hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, white-water rafting on the Nile, volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia, praying at an ashram in India, and fleeing the Arab Spring in Egypt, among other adventures.
“Fans of Eat, Pray, Love (2006) and Wild (2012) may find this a satisfying next read.” ―Booklist
“A timely tale to quell our increasing wanderlust . . . A story of love, grief and travel.” ―Laura Hampson, Evening Standard
“Deeply inspiring and profoundly moving, Maggie Downs’s journey reminds us to take stock of what’s truly important. Gorgeous prose, fascinating adventures, and a lot of heart will make this one of your favorite books of the year.” — Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance
Author: Pam Fessler
Carville’s Cure is the little-known story of the national leprosarium in Carville, LA, where thousands of Americans were confined against their will for much of the 20th Century. Their disease is only mildly contagious, but so stigmatized and feared that families were torn apart and lives ruined in the name of public health. But the patients fought back, regaining their freedom and rights, in an amazing tale of human resilience. My husband’s grandfather was one of the patients. His fate was a family secret for more than 60 years and the inspiration for this book.
“A remarkable and vivid case study” — Wall Street Journal
“Powerful” — David Maraniss
“A moving and passionate appeal to our consciences” — E. J. Dionne Jr.
Author: Phyllis Grant
Everything Is Under Control is a memoir about appetite as it comes, goes, and refocuses its object of desire. Grant’s story follows the sometimes smooth, sometimes jagged, always revealing contours of her life: from her days as a dancer struggling to find her place at Julliard, to her experiences in and out of four-star kitchens in New York City, to falling in love with her future husband and leaving the city after 9/11 for California, where her children are born. All the while, a sense of longing pulses in each stage as she moves through the headspace of a young woman longing to be sustained by a city into that of a mother now sustaining a family herself.
“In epigrammatic, nearly poetic diction, Grant…reminds us of how transformative the junctures where food and life collide can be.” — The New York Times Book Review
“Slim and sensuous.” — Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air
Author: Meg Heckman
“Heckman doesn’t pull any punches here. This is a portrait of a publisher whose deeply conservative political attitudes polarized voters in the 1980s and 1990s and, no doubt, will continue to either anger or inspire readers today…[Heckman] does a brilliant job in characterizing Nackey Scripps Loeb as an activist committed to limiting the power of the federal government, protecting private property, and stopping the spread of Communism. This was a woman with an ‘America First’ bumper sticker on her wheelchair and a powerful voice in the creation of today’s Republican Party.” — Molly McClain, author of Ellen Browning Scripps: New Money and American Philanthropy
“An underacknowledged newspaper publisher and conservative activist receives her biographical due.” — Kirkus Reviews
Author: Tucker Lieberman
In New York during the Depression, Edward Cumming — instead of following his father’s footsteps as a railroad businessman — tried to write a book about historical castrations. At thirty-nine, he died by suicide. What went wrong for him? In this train ride of an American biography, Tucker Lieberman tells the story of the would-be scholar of eunuchs. It is an essay about war, racism, gender, time, mortality, free will, money, argument, information architecture, and why a writer might not finish a book.
“Readers should prepare to have their perceptions blown…on a journey unlike anything else.” — IndieReader
Author: Meredith O’Brien
About losing one’s life as it was once imagined, and the ultimate, uneasy peace that’s achieved with the permanent uncertainty which accompanies living with a chronic illness. This uplifting memoir about adapting to change explores the multi-year odyssey of getting a medical name for what was happening to the author, and her struggle to carve out a new, forward-looking life as a multiple sclerosis patient.
“A clear-eyed and courageous voice, bringing the reader along with her as she navigates this profound, life-altering experience.” — Sarai Walker, author of Dietland
“A triumphant story of determination and resiliency.” — Marisa Bardach Ramel, co-author of The Goodbye Diaries: A Mother-Daughter Memoir
“Refreshingly honest, unguarded and reflective.” — Trevis Gleason, author of Chef Interrupted
Author: Ellen O’Connell Whittet
A lyrical and meditative memoir on the damage we inflict in the pursuit of perfection, the pain of losing our dreams, and the power of letting go of both. In this raw and redemptive debut, Ellen O’Connell Whittet explores the silent suffering of the ballerina — and finds it emblematic of the violence that women quietly shoulder every day. For O’Connell Whittet, letting go of one meant confronting the other — only then was it possible to truly take flight.
“Poignant and exquisite” — The Los Angeles Review of Books
“An inspiring and powerful book” — Booklist
“A genuinely absorbing read” — Kirkus
“Revelatory, honest, and wondrous.” — Chanel Miller, author of Know My Name
Author: Candace Jane Opper
Certain and Impossible Events orbits the death of a fourteen-year-old boy who shot and killed himself a week after Kurt Cobain’s suicide had become international news. Haunted by the hazy circumstances around her classmate’s death, Candace Jane Opper takes a kaleidoscopic lens to the cultural history of suicide in America, unearthing an invisible network and revealing the ways that no individual suicide — well-known or hardly documented — exists in a vacuum. Fusing personal narrative with history and science, Opper interrogates the ways suicide is handed down to us — from literature to YouTube, from middle school health class to sociological study, from the immutability of objects to the fluidity of oral history. In this candid and unsentimental epistolary essay, Opper invites us into her decades-long obsession with a boy she barely knew, creating space for herself and her readers to embrace a radical kind of unforgetting.
Selected by Cheryl Strayed as the winner of the Kore Press Memoir Prize.
Author: Adrienne Raphel
Thinking Inside the Box: Adventures with Crosswords and the Puzzling People Who Can’t Live Without Them
The crossword is a feature of the modern world, inspiring daily devotion and obsession from millions. Almost overnight, crosswords became a phenomenal commercial success, and have been an essential ingredient of any newspaper worth its salt since then.But why, exactly, are the satisfactions of a crossword so sweet that over the decades they have become a fixture of breakfast tables, bedside tables and commutes, and even given rise to competitive crossword tournaments? Blending first-person reporting from the world of crosswords with a delightful telling of the crossword’s rich literary history, Raphel dives into the secrets of this classic pastime. At the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, she rubs shoulders with elite solvers from all over the world, doing her level best to hold her own; aboard a crossword-themed cruise she picks the brains of the enthusiasts whose idea of a good time is a week on the high seas with nothing to do but crosswords; and, visiting the home and office of Will Shortz, New York Times crossword puzzle editor and US National Public Radio’s official Puzzlemaster, she goes behind the scenes to see for herself how the world’s gold standard of puzzles is made.
“This cultural and personal history of crossword puzzles and their fans, written by an aficionado who argues that ‘it’s hard to imagine modern life without the crossword,’ is diverting, informative and discursive.” — Editors’ Choice, The New York Times Book Review
Author: Jessica Pearce Rotondi
In the wake of her mother’s death, Jessica Pearce Rotondi uncovers boxes of letters, declassified CIA reports, and newspaper clippings that bring to light a family ghost: her uncle Jack, who disappeared during the CIA-led “Secret War” in Laos in 1972. The letters lead her across Southeast Asia in search of the truth that has eluded her family for decades. What she discovers takes her closer to the mother she lost and the mysteries of a secret war that changed the rules of engagement forever.
“Exceptional.” — Salman Rushdie
“Part memoir, part investigative journalism, and completely engrossing, What We Inherit is not a book you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.”— O, The Oprah Magazine (selected as one of their best books of summer 2020)
“A beautiful amalgam of memoir, travelogue, and investigative report that moves with the propulsive forward energy of a thriller.” — Ron Chernow, author of Alexander Hamilton
Author: Nikita Stewart
“It is a powerful book full of powerful women and it is well worth your time.” — Chelsea Clinton
“Few journalists write about those forced to the margins with the grace, compassion and humility of Nikita Stewart.” — Nikole Hannah-Jones
“A tale of how grassroots spirit and gritty determination can bloom into hope.” — Kirkus Reviews
Author: Leslie Gray Streeter
Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like “journey” in the Title
Black Widow follows the first year of my widowhood after the sudden death of my husband. It’s about love, death, race, religion, motherhood, adoption, being a daughter, journalism, friendship, grief and many many 80s pop culture references.
Author: Jennifer Steinhauer
“With a journalist’s eye for the telling detail, and valuable experience covering Congress for The New York Times, Steinhauer is often a few steps ahead of the newcomers. She conveys throughout admiration, sympathy and compassion for her subjects while they learn the hard way that hidebound traditions, a rigid seniority system and encrusted modes of governance do not yield readily to even the strongest convictions.” — Ellen Fitzpatrick, The New York Times
Author: Rachel Vorona Cote
Contact: See Twitter bio @RVoronaCote
Written in the tradition of Shrill, Dead Girls, Sex Object and other frank books about the female gaze, Too Much encourages women to reconsider the beauty of their excesses-emotional, physical, and spiritual. Rachel Vorona Cote braids cultural criticism, theory, and storytelling together in her exploration of how culture grinds away our bodies, souls, and sexualities, forcing us into smaller lives than we desire. An erstwhile Victorian scholar, she sees many parallels between that era’s fixation on women’s “hysterical” behavior and our modern policing of the same; in the space of her writing, you’re as likely to encounter Jane Eyre and Lizzie Bennet as you are Britney Spears and Lana Del Rey.
“Too Much defies easy categorization. It is as much a memoir as a work of impressive scholarship; it is as comfortable parsing the cultural meaning surrounding Britney Spears’ public disintegration as it is analyzing the feminine mores conveyed in obscure 18th-century texts aimed at improving girls and women.”―Washington Independent Review of Books
“Calling all women and people who love them: This comprehensive book perfectly interweaves academic scholarship, engaging storytelling, and extremely convincing arguments that will convert even those who think suffrage solved all of our problems. Anyone who has ever been told to sit down, shush, and that little girls should be seen and not heard, this one’s for you.”―Good Housekeeping
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