In a year where we couldn't take our eyes off the news, these non-fiction titles offered us some solace and empowerment by educating us on social justice issues, telling stories that inspire us, and showing us the most humane and strange sides of our world. Here are some of the best non-fiction titles that kept us going this the year.
To celebrate the start of 2021, and the many new bookish adventures that await you there, we've provided a list of five thrilling new reading challenges. Jump into some novel written terrain with these biblioriffic book challenges for 2021!
When the Black Lives Matter Protests were in full swing this past May, in response to the police killing George Floyd, there was not only a flooding of people in the streets showing their passion and support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the end of systemic racism, but also a rush of book orders through black-owned bookstores.
Two weeks after this coming election day, the first volume of Barack Obama’s memoir will be out for the public to get their hands on. The book is called A Promised Land and will detail his time as president during his first term into his presidency.
“I’ve spent the last few years reflecting on my presidency, and in ‘A Promised Land’ I’ve tried to provide an honest accounting of my presidential campaign and my time in office: the key events and people who shaped it; my take on what I got right and the mistakes I made; and the political, economic, and cultural forces that my team and I had to confront then — and that as a nation we are grappling with still.”
The memoir will give the reader a glimpse of the personal journey that he and his wife, Michelle Obama, went through while in their stations as President and First Lady respectively. The book will be distributed by a division of Penguin Random House and a second volume hasn’t been determine as of yet.
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When Lynne Truss began to write Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The No-Nonsense Approach to Punctuation, she probably didn’t expect it to become such a best seller. “Certainly I didn’t,” she tells The Guardian. “My last novel sold poorly (and I’d received a large advance), which made me poison as far as another publishing contract was concerned.”
The journey started back in the early 2000s. Truss was working freelance after writing about sports and television for The Times in the 90s, leaving in the aftermath of her sister’s death. Andrew Franklin of Profile Books approached her at a party, where they discussed whether she thought she could write a book on punctuation. She told him, “honestly, no, there were several fine books on punctuation already, and I wasn’t an expert.” But Franklin persisted, and a year later, the two would be at the same party with Eats, Shoots and Leaves, not only published but a number one bestseller.
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Lynne Truss chalks the way the book was written up to timing. Being forty seven meant that she had read a lot of books. She knew about how Emily Dickinson loved dashes, how Nicholson Baker felt about semi-colons, and that James Thurber wrote about commas. Her background in editing also helped, giving her a “practical understanding of the subject, and a romantic attitude to print.”
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Once she had the book published, Lynne Truss and those around her did not expect much to come of it. A journalist friend warned her that it would be torn apart, while her mother advised her to say the book was “FOR THE SELECT FEW.” But, Eats, Shoots and Leaves was a hit. By Christmas, it sold 570,000 copies. All in all, Lynne Truss sold three million books.
On her success, Truss says this: “Luckily I was old enough – and jaded enough – not to take any of the experience as either normal or deserved. It was a fantasy version of publication. But it happened, and now I’ve got a nice house to sit in and write comic crime novels, so I’m not complaining.”