Books

33 Nonfiction Books to Read This Fall

September

Beyond the Wall: A History of East Germany, by Katja Hoyer

A historian turns her eye to the country of her birth in this political history of the German Democratic Republic, which existed from 1949 to 1990. Contrary to common depictions, Hoyer presents a picture of a vibrant society that weathered intense state suppression but also enacted solidarity.

Basic Books, Sept. 5

Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet, by Ben Goldfarb

Humans have built 40 million miles of road on earth, which have profoundly influenced our world. Goldfarb’s account examines roads in context of the environment around them — touching on the Trans-Canada highway that conservationists called “the meatmaker,” and even the mountain lions trapped in California’s Santa Monica Mountains — and profiles the scientists, engineers and organizers seeking to mitigate their ecological harm.

Norton, Sept. 12

Elon Musk, by Walter Isaacson

The best-selling author of “Steve Jobs” returns with a biography of the richest man on earth. Isaacson spent two years shadowing Musk, the head of X (formerly Twitter), Tesla and SpaceX, and interviewing both his friends and foes. The resulting book delves deep into the billionaire’s demons, including childhood bullies and a difficult father, and interrogates their relationship to his success.

Simon & Schuster, Sept. 12

Glossy: Ambition, Beauty, and the Inside Story of Emily Weiss’s Glossier, by Marisa Meltzer

The cosmetics behemoth Glossier began in 2010, with the lifestyle blog “Into the Gloss.” Meltzer emphasizes the entrepreneurial savvy of the brand’s founder, Emily Weiss, who blogged in the mornings before her internship at Vogue and eventually secured funding from the same venture capital firm as Apple and Google, turning Glossier into the rare billion-dollar company helmed by a woman.

Atria/One Signal, Sept. 12

Larry McMurtry: A Life, by Tracy Daugherty

A celebrated literary biographer takes on the life of McMurtry, a fellow Texan known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Lonesome Dove,” and other best selling Westerns. Daugherty’s perceptive analysis brings alive McMurtry’s trademark wit — he often wore a shirt that said “minor regional novelist” — along with his solitary tendencies and disciplined approach to writing.

St. Martin’s, Sept. 12

Father and Son: A Memoir, by Jonathan Raban

Raban died in January, but this meditative memoir tells two parallel stories: Raban’s own, coming to terms with the limitations of his body after suffering a stroke at 68; and his father’s, who was evacuated at the Battle of Dunkirk during World War II and with whom his relationship was distant for many years.

Knopf, Sept. 19

American Gun: The True Story of the AR-15, by Cameron McWhirter and Zusha Elinson

Two Wall Street Journal reporters dig into the history of this controversial weapon, which was invented in a 1950s California garage, used widely by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War and adopted by mass shooters in the 2000s. The book’s measured examination considers how World War II, pop culture and profit contributed to the AR-15’s proliferation.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Sept. 26

Germany 1923: Hyperinflation, Hitler’s Putsch, and Democracy in Crisis, by Volker Ullrich. Translated by Jefferson Chase.

This history investigates the forces that led to the Weimar Republic’s eventual collapse, many of which came to a head in 1923. Economic pressures, along with occupation by French troops and Hitler’s failed coup all made for a “year of lunacy,” Ullrich writes, though such forces would not succeed in toppling Germany’s first democracy for another decade.

Liveright, Sept. 26

Thicker Than Water: A Memoir, by Kerry Washington

The star of “Scandal” and “Little Fires Everywhere” offers a view into her private life and identity. Her memoir touches on childhood traumas, the mentors who helped her career, the motivations behind her political advocacy and her tumultuous but satisfying path to finding her authentic self.

Little Brown Spark, Sept. 26

October

Alfie and Me: What Owls Know, What Humans Believe, by Carl Safina

The author, an ecologist, and his wife rescued a screech owl in bad shape, expecting it would be well on its way soon. But the owl’s prolonged stay, which coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic, brought a sense of “consistent magic,” prompting Safina to reflect on nature, spirituality and human existence.

Norton, Oct. 3

Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and The Washington Post, by Martin Baron

The former executive editor of the Post details the many difficult decisions involved in maintaining journalistic integrity during the years he ran the paper, from 2013-2021. Especially fascinating is Baron’s inside analysis of the forces at play when Jeff Bezos bought the Post in 2013, and three years later, when Donald Trump became president and expected Bezos to censor it.

Flatiron, Oct. 3

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy, by Nathan Thrall

A Palestinian father desperately looks for his 5-year-old son after his school bus crashes outside of Jerusalem. As his search is slowed down by bureaucratic hurdles and a scattered emergency response, Thrall depicts the agony of losing a child and how it’s intensified by the discrimination Palestinians face under Israeli rule.

Metropolitan, Oct. 3

Eve: How the Female Body Drove 200 Million Years of Human Evolution, by Cat Bohannon

Bohannon traces the development of mammalian milk from a field mouse that lived 200 million years ago, investigates the biological mystery of menopause and provides evidence that women utilized tools before men in this comprehensive book, which synthesizes a wide breadth of scientific research to reframe the story of evolution around the female body.

Knopf, Oct. 3

Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet, by Taylor Lorenz

The Washington Post reporter presents a history of social media, “the greatest and most disruptive change in modern capitalism.” She reports on “mommy bloggers” and the birth of influencers, catalogs the rise and fall of platforms that have shaped online culture and offers a sober assessment of their toll on our collective mental health.

Simon & Schuster, Oct. 3

Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon, by Michael Lewis

Lewis, the author of “The Big Short” and other books cataloging financial breakdowns, first met Sam Bankman-Fried after a friend asked him to vet Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency platform FTX. About a year later, both men were in the Bahamas when Bankman-Fried was arrested and charged with fraud. This new book, based on many months of interviews, chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of both the company and the man.

Norton, Oct. 3

How to Say Babylon: A Memoir, by Safiya Sinclair

“The scorch-marks of his anger were everywhere I looked, my family withered and blistered,” the Jamaican poet recalls. As she recounts her upbringing under the surveillance of a restrictive and volatile Rastafari father, she reflects on childhood trauma, colonialism and her growing affinity for poetry.

37 Ink, Oct. 3

Making It So: A Memoir, by Patrick Stewart

Stewart reflects on not only his years in the Royal Shakespeare Company and his famous “Star Trek” role as Picard (about which his feelings have changed), but also his working-class childhood in northern England, his changing relationship to family and even his love for nearly-burned toast. Now 83, the actor insists he has no intention of retiring from his lifelong calling: “Why would I stop?”

Gallery, Oct. 3

A Man of Two Faces: A Memoir, a History, a Memorial, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer pushes the boundary of genre in his new memoir, which investigates his personal history as a Vietnamese refugee forced to flee at age 4, as well as the many narratives that form the idea of America itself. Film criticism, poetry and self-effacing jokes are involved, but ultimately, “this is a war story,” he writes.

Grove, Oct. 3

Madonna: A Rebel Life, by Mary Gabriel

At over 800 pages long, Gabriel’s detailed biography seems to follow every peak and valley of Madonna’s life, tracing her childhood in 1960s Michigan and the loss of her mother at 5 years old; rise to fame in the nascent years of MTV; AIDS advocacy; and much more.

Little, Brown, Oct. 10

The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All — But There Is a Solution, by Greg Lukianoff and Rikki Schlott

Lukianoff, an author of “The Coddling of the American Mind,” explains the phenomenon of cancel culture, shows how it’s employed by liberals and conservatives alike and explores its context within a greater struggle for status and power in America. Along with Schlott, a columnist at The New York Post, he provides suggestions for reclaiming free speech.

Simon & Schuster, Oct. 17

Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia, by Gary J. Bass

After World War II ended, Japanese military leaders were put on trial for war crimes, an attempt to reckon with atrocities that took more than two years. Bass’s history shows that, unlike its more famous counterpart in Nuremberg, the Tokyo trial provided few decisive resolutions, and argues that its legacy still reverberates today.

Knopf, Oct. 17

Worthy, by Jada Pinkett Smith

Pinkett Smith described her upcoming memoir as “an adventure, a search for love and self-worth.” In it, she opens up about her early life in Baltimore, her marriage to Will Smith and addresses the “falsehoods” she says have circulated about her life over the past several years.

Dey Street, Oct. 17

I Must Be Dreaming, by Roz Chast

“I am creating them. So why, as they unfold, am I always so surprised?” the renowned cartoonist asks about her dreams in this inspired graphic narrative. She enlists everyone and everything she can — Aristotle, Freud, neuroscientists — in her quest to find out, in vivid color.

Bloomsbury, Oct. 24

Romney: A Reckoning, by McKay Coppins

Romney has played many political roles — Massachusetts governor, presidential candidate, senator from Utah. He granted Coppins, a staff writer at The Atlantic who has covered the Republican Party and religion for years, access to private journal entries, emails and texts and sat for interviews. Coppins said he was “astonished by his level of candor” while working on this biography.

Scribner, Oct. 24

Tupac Shakur: The Authorized Biography, by Staci Robinson

Robinson, who knew Shakur in high school, draws on the rapper’s letters and notebooks along with interviews with close family and friends, in the first biography authorized by the Shakur estate. It includes photos, handwritten lyrics, and other artifacts from the estate’s archives.

Crown, Oct. 24

Being Henry: The Fonz … and Beyond, by Henry Winkler

Winkler is known for his role on the beloved 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” and he’s been a television fixture for decades; his performance on “Barry” won an Emmy in 2018. His new memoir chronicles the vagaries of his career, his struggle with dyslexia, his experience writing children’s books and more.

Celadon, Oct. 31

November

Class: A Memoir of Motherhood, Hunger, and Higher Education, by Stephanie Land

In this follow-up to “Maid,” a best-selling memoir about her grueling life as a domestic worker in Washington State, Land recounts the years in which she juggled her pursuit of a writing career with the reality of life as a single parent “who struggled to make ends meet in endless, sometimes impossible ways.”

Atria/One Signal, Nov. 7

To Free the Captives: A Plea for the American Soul, by Tracy K. Smith

Smith, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, draws on her personal and family history to make sense of the “din of human division and strife” in America. Beginning with her grandfather’s experience as a World War I veteran in Sunflower, Ala., and touching on her own spiritual life, she offers searching questions about the nation’s future.

Knopf, Nov. 7

My Name is Barbra, by Barbra Streisand

This book has been hotly anticipated since its announcement years ago. Streisand offers a highly detailed (nearly 1,000 pages) account of her life. It covers her early struggles to become an actress, the hardships she endured as a Jewish woman directing in Hollywood, her friendships with fellow celebrities and much more.

Viking, Nov. 7

World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music, by Jeff Tweedy

The frontman and a founding member of Wilco reflects on 50 songs that have shaped his life and art, including tracks by Joni Mitchell, Otis Redding and Billie Eilish, as he meditates on what compels us to listen to and create music.

Dutton, Nov. 7

Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Harmful Secrets, by Jeff Horwitz

Horwitz, a technology reporter at The Wall Street Journal, has written award-winning investigations of how Facebook shielded its elite users, enabled human and drug trafficking and amplified anger on the platform. He expands on that reporting in this book, providing a view of the company’s operations and highlighting the employees who identified concerns, proposed solutions and fought efforts to slow them.

Doubleday, Nov. 14

Chasing Bright Medusas: A Life of Willa Cather, by Benjamin Taylor

Taylor’s biography captures Cather’s early life in Virginia and Nebraska in the late 19th century, and covers her development as a journalist and writer who eschewed contemporary fashions. It offers a thoughtful analysis of her work and makes a case for its relevance today.

Viking, Nov. 14

Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative, by Jennifer Burns

Burns, a historian at Stanford and the author of an intellectual biography of Ayn Rand, gives Friedman, a driving force in the postwar embrace of free-market economics, similar treatment in this rigorous account. She draws on archival material to trace his influences, assess his work and recount the struggles and triumphs that shaped his life.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Nov. 14

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