These Are the Best Non-Fiction Books of 2020 and No, Sorry, You Won’t Be Able to Put Any of ‘Em Down


Novels are great when you need an escape from reality (so, like, every day this year, huh?) but sometimes you’re hankering for a read that’s a bit more grounded in real life. Lucky for you, 2020 has produced a ton of fantastic non-fiction books. Whether you’re in the mood for a deep-dive on the royal family’s drama, a juicy celebrity memoir, an I-literally-can’t-put-it-down-true-crime story, or you’re looking to further your anti-racism education, there’s a book for you here.

If you’re like “that all sounds nice, but what I really need is a book to resuscitate my reading habit,” I can relate! Despite having oodles of free time to devour whatever the latest bestseller is, I’ve struggled to get my brain to focus on much of anything during quarantine. For those of you in the same boat, I feel pretty confident that one of these books will change that for you.

By the way, if your heart isn’t completely settled on a non-fiction book, might I recommend a few other lists? We’ve got the funniest books ever, the best young adult books of 2020, great graphic novels if that’s more your speed right now, popular thriller books to ruin sleep forever, and a super long list of the best books by celebrities.

Here are the best non-fiction books of 2020—so far. Lemme know if you wanna start a book club.

1

‘HRH: So Many Thoughts on Royal Style’ by Elizabeth Holmes

If you spend your free time analyzing Meghan Markle’s every fashion choice, you will love style journalist Elizabeth Holmes’ book—which, yeah, is inspired by her uber popular “so many thoughts” Instagram series. 

2

‘Hidden Valley Road’ by Robert Kolker

True-crime fanatics, this one’s for you. Robert Kolker (author of Lost Girls) is back with another mind-blowing story. The seemingly normal Galvin family—mom, dad, and 12 (yes, TWELVE!) kids—lived in Colorado in the middle of the 20th century. Behind closed doors, the family dealt with disturbing patterns of abuse and psychological breakdowns. After six of the 12 kids were diagnosed with schizophrenia, the family became one of science’s best hopes at figuring out what causes the disease.

3

‘Too Much and Never Enough’ by Mary Trump

4

‘Untamed’ by Glennon Doyle

In this extremely raw and honest memoir, Glennon Doyle offers up a hefty dose of female empowerment. We’re talking the importance of making peace with yourself, not striving to meet other people’s expectations, and listening to the voice inside your own head. She’ll also teach you one of the most important lessons she’s learned: a good mother is not someone who will slowly die for her children; a good mother is someone who will show them how to live life to the fullest.

5

‘Get Out of Your Head’ by Jennie Allen

It’s like someone told Jennie Allen, “hey, the world is going to sh*t and everyday feels like the same old horror show, do you mind writing a book to address all that?” Here, she delivers life-changing advice that focuses specifically on how to break out of negative thought patterns and take control of your circumstances.

6

‘White Tears/Brown Scars’ by Ruby Hamad

A raw look at how white feminism has historically been used as an agent of white supremacy and patriarchy against Black women, Indigenous women, and women of color. Ruby Hamad’s analysis is extensive—from the slave era when white women fought to keep ownership of their slaves, the 19th century lynching of Mexicans in the Southwest, Hunger Games, all the way up to AOC. Exactly the kind of book that every ally needs to read right now.

7

‘Relationship Goals’ by Michael Todd

Pastor Michael Todd goes *deep* on lasting love using material based on his popular sermon series of the same name. Even if you’re not Christian, or even religious for that matter, you can squeeze a lot of value from his love-life advice. 

8

‘Make Life Beautiful’ by Syd and Shea McGee

If you’re not following @studiomcgee on Insta already, add “smashing the follow button” to your to-do list because their interior design shots will be the best thing on your feed. In this book, the couple explains how Shea’s dream of working as an interior designer lead them to become one of the fastest-growing design studios in the country.

9

‘His Truth Is Marching On’ by Jon Meacham

Read all about late civil rights icon John Lewis’s life (with an afterword written in his own words) in this new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham. At just 25 years old, John Lewis marched in Selma and was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He became a life-long civil rights leader, serving 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. His impact is unquantifiable, but this book’s a good (and inspiring) start. 

10

‘The Beauty in Breaking’ by Michele Harper

In this memoir, Michele Harper shares her experience of being a Black woman working as an emergency room physician—a field that’s dominated by white men. On top of all that, her husband tells her he’s ending their marriage—two months before she’s supposed to start a new job in central Philly. While dealing with her own pain, as well as that of her patients, she learns that it’s not the breaks, but how we try to mend them, that matter.

11

‘Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man’ by Emmanuel Acho

Flatiron Books: An Oprah Book
Amazon

This is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to better understand what it’s like to be a Black, Indigenous, or person of color in America. Emmanuel Acho, a former NFL linebacker, answers questions, both big and small, that white people might be afraid to ask. He dives into important subjects like cultural appropriation and white privilege, urging you to find a way to join in the fight against racism.

12

‘The Answer Is…’ by Alex Trebek

Simon & Schuster
amazon.com

Raise you hand if your weeknights are spent watching Jeopardy! and convincing yourself that you totally have what it takes to go on the show and win a ton of money. Everyone’s favorite gameshow host Alex Trebek has finally written a memoir, giving fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the three decades he’s spent as host, plus an intimate look at his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

13

‘Looking for Miss America’ by Margot Mifflin

Counterpoint
amazon.com

$28.00

The history of the Miss America pageant is nothing short of fascinating. In this deep-dive, Mifflin focuses on the pageant’s presence during periods of social change, highlighting individuals like Yolande Betbeze, who refused to pose in swimsuits, and Vanessa Williams, the first Black Miss America who received death threats after she won.

14

‘A Very Punchable Face’ by Colin Jost

Hard to believe you could lock down Scar-Jo with “a very punchable face,” but the title is just the tip of the highly hilarious iceberg in book form by Saturday Night Live writer Colin Jost. If you thought being attacked with potato salad by Czech teenagers *and* having a bug lay eggs INSIDE YOUR LEG was too much craziness to happen to one person, Jost is proof that unfortunately it’s not. 

15

‘Power Your Profits’ by Susie Carder

If you’re working on launching a business of your own (or even just daydreaming about it), this book can help you start plotting your money moves. Susie Carder—who, btw, typically charges $5,000 an hour in coaching fees—delivers tons of practical advice for the modern entrepreneur, from strategies for running your daily operations to tactical advice on how to exponentially grow your profits. 

16

‘Separated’ by Jacob Soboroff

Jacob Soboroff, an award-winning NBC correspondent, delves deep into the Trump’s administration’s systematic family separation practice. It’s a bleak but necessary read about why this inhumane policy is allowed to happen in America.

17

‘Breath’ by James Nestor

Turns out there’s something super simple we can all do to improve our health: breathe properly. James Nestor is here to inform you that apparently, none of us are actually doing that one small thing, along with a crash course in ancient breathing techniques that can supposedly fix a whole buncha problems. An unusual but interesting read.

18

‘Keep Moving’ by Maggie Smith

Atria/One Signal Publishers
amazon.com

$24.00

Award-winning poet Maggie Smith brings you a deeply emotional book of essays and quotes about new beginnings and how we can find opportunities for transformation in difficult moments. Considering the state of the world right now, it’s a very prescient read.

19

‘The Meaning of Mariah Carey’ by Mariah Carey

Andy Cohen Books
amazon.com

It’s the memoir we’ve all been waiting for. Mariah herself said that writing this memoir was “incredibly hard, humbling and healing,” so you know it’s gonna be J-U-I-C-Y. By the way, yes, there *will* be an audiobook version voiced by Mimi—try to contain your excitement! 

20

‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla F. Saad

It’s one thing to acknowledge white privilege is real, but it’s another thing to examine your personal role in upholding white supremacy. This book will take you on a 28-day journey, complete with journaling prompts and exercises, to help you understand how you can stop harming people of color and commit to active allyship.

21

‘Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood’ by Trixie Mattel and Katya

Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race (so that’s all of us, right?) will love this laugh-out-loud satirical guide to womanhood, all about how to master the “feminine mystique” through the magic of beauty and homemaking.

22

‘The 100% Solution’ by Solomon Goldstein-Rose

At just 26-years-old, Solomon Goldstein-Rose has already served as a U.S. House Representative *and* has become a leading climate activist (excuse me while I watch my 15,876th episode of Friends). Pick this book up if you want to learn about the climate-related actions we can all take and the targets we need to hit by 2050 to save our planet.

23

‘My Time to Speak’ by Ilia Calderón

Emmy award-winning journalist Ilia Calderón was the first Afro-Latina in America to anchor a high-profile newscast for a major Hispanic broadcast network. Her journey, from being a young girl in Colombia to an anchor for Telemundo, and the racism she dealt with along the way, is both eye-opening and inspiring.

24

‘Taking Sexy Back’ by Alexandra H. Solomon

Women are constantly bombarded with conflicting messages about needing to being “sexy” but not coming off as too “sexual.”  Enter: relationship expert Alexandra Solomon’s how-to guide on connecting with yourself, acknowledging your desires, and forming intimate connections.

25

‘This Is Ohio’ by Jack Shuler

Every overdose is a policy failure, argues journalist Jack Shuler in this must-read. With the opioid epidemic raging rampant in Ohio, Shuler gets into the nitty-gritty of the crisis, analyzing how other factors—income inequality, the loss of manufacturing jobs across the Rust Belt, lack of access to health care, to name a few—have contributed to the problem. An insightful look at how issues in Ohio affect the rest of the country.

26

‘Two Trees Make a Forest’ by Jessica J. Lee

Catapult
amazon.com

$16.95

When Jessica J. Lee discovers letters written by her immigrant grandfather, she decides to head to her ancestral home of Thailand to connect with his experiences. She hikes mountains, swims in lakes, and soaks up all the beautiful scenery that her grandfather once knew. Through this time, she learns more about her family’s past, including how colonialism shaped their fate. 

27

‘How to Listen and How to Be Heard’ by Alissa Carpenter

Dealing with people at work isn’t always, um, the easiest. You’ve got to navigate a bunch of different personalities, so chances are… you’re gonna butt heads with someone from time to time. Hence why knowing how to handle tricky situations and communicate effectively is absolutely necessary for a successful career.

28

‘Calm the H*ck Down’ by Melanie Dale

Atria Books
amazon.com

$16.99

If you know anyone who’s about to become a parent, dear god, just order this book for them ASAP. Parenting books have a rep for being kinda, well, pretentious, so this giggle-inducing read is a very welcome change. Melanie Dale’s main advice? Stop putting so much pressure on yourself.

29

‘The Biggest Bluff’ by Maria Konnikova

Ever wondered what it takes to become a world-class poker player? For Maria Konnikova, it’s great math skills and an intuitive understanding of human decision-making. Konnikova parlayed her PhD in psychology into hundreds of thousands of dollars in poker winnings, so yeah, she knows what she’s talking about.

30

‘Open Book’ by Jessica Simpson

You may think you know Jessica Simpson from watching Newlyweds, but it turns out there was a whole lot more going on than any of us ever knew. The singer, actress, and fashion mogul opens up about her battles with addiction, abusive relationships, and her crippling need to please. It’s a raw look into the lesser-known troubled side of her life, and how she still manages to see the positive side of everything.

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