2015 nonfiction by women

Upcoming Nonfiction by Women



A few weeks ago, I took a good look at my nonfiction reading and decided I wanted to shift my focus toward choosing more titles by female writers. In an effort to combat the male-centric nonfiction media focus—and to create a mental reading list for myself—I took a deep dive into 2015’s publishing catalogs and surfaced with nine fantastic sounding upcoming titles written by women.

Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm (January 20, 2015)

“While the core of this book is told from inside the camp, the story also sheds new light on the evolution of the wider genocide, the impotence of the world to respond, and Himmler’s final attempt to seek a separate peace with the Allies using the women of Ravensbrück as a bargaining chip. Chilling, inspiring, and deeply unsettling, Ravensbrück is a groundbreaking work of historical investigation. With rare clarity, it reminds us of the capacity of mankind for both bestial cruelty and for courage against all odds.”

The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell (January 20, 2015)

“Combining big-picture World War II history with a little-known event in American history that has long been kept quiet, The Train to Crystal City reveals the war-time hysteria against the Japanese and Germans in America, the secrets of FDR’s tactics to rescue high-profile POWs in Germany and Japan, and how the definition of American citizenship changed under the pressure of war.”

Ghettoside by Jill Leovy (January 27, 2015)

“Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential American murder—one young black man slaying another—and a determined crew of detectives whose creed was to pursue justice at all costs for its forgotten victims. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of murder in America—why it happens and how the plague of killings might yet be stopped.”

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon (February 17, 2015)

“The inside story of the world’s most famous board game-a buried piece of American history with an epic scandal that continues today. The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man’s lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game’s questionable origins.”

Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger (March 10, 2015)

“As scientific discoveries increasingly complicate our traditional ideas about human identity and behavior, Dreger poses an urgent question: How do we balance social justice and scientific freedom when these ideals seem to be in open conflict? As she shows was the case with Galileo, in spite of how scientists and activists may think their values differ, justice and truth are inextricably bound up. Galileo’s Middle Finger ultimately makes the case for treating the quest for evidence as essentially sacred, and doing so specifically to advance justice.”

Eye of the Beholder by Laura J. Snyder (March 16, 2015)

“‘See for yourself!’ was the clarion call of the 1600s. Natural philosophers threw off the yoke of ancient authority, peered at nature with microscopes and telescopes, and ignited the Scientific Revolution. Artists investigated nature with lenses and created paintings filled with realistic effects of light and shadow. The hub of this optical innovation was the small Dutch city of Delft. Here Johannes Vermeer’s experiments with lenses and a camera obscura taught him how we see under different conditions of light and helped him create the most luminous works of art ever beheld. Meanwhile, his neighbor Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s work with microscopes revealed a previously unimagined realm of minuscule creatures. The result was a transformation in both art and science that revolutionized how we see the world today.”

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed by Meghan Daum (March 31, 2015)

“In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, thirteen acclaimed female writers explain why they have chosen to eschew motherhood…This collection makes a smart and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path to a happy, productive life, and takes our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. In this book, that shadowy faction known as the childless-by-choice comes out into the light.”

That’s Not English by Erin Moore (April 14, 2015)

“In That’s Not English, the seemingly superficial differences between British and American English open the door to a deeper exploration of a historic and fascinating cultural divide. In each of the thirty chapters, Erin Moore explains a different word we use that says more about us than we think. For example, ‘Quite’ exposes the tension between English reserve and American enthusiasm; in ‘Moreish,’ she addresses our snacking habits. In ‘Partner,’ she examines marriage equality; in ‘Pull,’ the theme is dating and sex; ‘Cheers’ is about drinking; and ‘Knackered’ covers how we raise our kids. The result is a cultural history in miniature and an expatriate’s survival guide.”

Spinster by Kate Bolick (April 21, 2015)

“From the first pages of this lyrical, heartfelt, and thought-provoking memoir, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick draws us into the vibrant world she has made for herself. Vital to this private universe is a cast of pioneering women of the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have lit the way for Kate and emboldened her at crucial personal junctures to remain single: poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, essayist Maeve Brennan, novelist Edith Wharton, journalist Neith Boyce, opera diva Ganna Walska, and social critic Charlotte Perkins Gilman. By connecting the dots between single women past and present, Kate reveals the long arc of slowly changing attitudes toward women and marriage, and shows us why, even today, the choice to remain single is a source of considerable debate and societal handwringing.”

  • What a great – and eclectic list! I’m adding a couple of these to the TBR. Monopoly, FDR, childless by choice (though I do have 2 kiddos), and maybe Ghettoside.

    • I love that you’re willing to read Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed even though you have kids!

      • Ha! I think it’s because, though I love my kiddos dearly, there are some days when I would pay a gazillion dollars to just have some time to myself to be selfish!! I’ve never pined for time to do whatever I want so much in my life :) I hear that gets better as the kids get older, though.

  • Also -I’m reading a really good memoir by a woman right now…Without You, There is No Us. About her time teaching in an elite boys’ school in North Korea.

  • Oh my goodness, Galileo’s Middle Finger? I’m hooked just from the title. I’m tagging a bunch of these on Edelweiss, but I’m especially dying to read Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, That’s Not English, and Spinster. I need more feminist non-fiction in my life.

    I don’t know how you find such great upcoming non-fiction. Whenever I try to search NF on Edelweiss, it just seems like a huge undertaking and I don’t know where to start. What’s your secret?!

    • Kerry M

      I second Leah’s question… I get so overwhelmed in Edelweiss that I can’t imagine how you did this.

      • Hopefully this will get to Leah, too. It took me a little while to figure out how to do it right, because there’s definitely a TON of academic stuff that’s tough to wade through (and I still feel like I don’t do a great job in some big areas like science and history), but it’s all about using those subcategories. I can screencap when I get home…maybe this would be a good Nonfiction November post?

    • I am OBSESSED with Galileo’s Middle Finger…doesn’t it sound great? I replied to Kerry about the Edelweiss question, so hopefully it sent to you, too!

  • Kerry M

    You are killing my to-read list, lady. (In the best way possible.)

    So excited to see a new Meghan Daum book out, and The Monopolists looks amazing (my family has a *thing* for Monopoly, so I know what everyone is getting for Christmas next year already!). Also That’s Not English. And Spinster. And I’ll stop listing now, because ALL OF THEM.

    Great post!

  • Love this list! I’ve already jotted down three titles – Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed, That’s Not English, and Spinster. Those three sound right up my alley and I’m super excited to read them! Thanks so much for bringing them to my attention :) Cheers!

  • I’m looking forward to Ravensbrueck and The Train to Crystal City. Time to add some titles to the suggestion box at the library…

    • I’ve been doing the same! I wish they would also hold them for me when they come in, but they’ll only hold them once they’re published.

  • What do you have planned for Non Fiction November? Any good female writers?

  • Lindsey Stefan

    Thanks for this, Shannon. It’s easy to focus on women authors in fiction but it seems a bit harder to do that for non-fiction! I really want to check out The Train to Crystal City.

  • These all sound so great, and I’m not a big non-fiction reader. I usually love the war stories, but the spinster book and the childless-by-choice book have me intrigued. I like the idea of reading about the opposite of my own life (the grass is always greener…)! :)

    • Karen White

      I’m with Naomi, those titles look good to me, too. Love that you’re bringing to light such a diverse group of non-fiction books and supporting female writers! They never get the same marketing attention that men do.

    • I’m always pretty intrigued by anything set in a war, too, but I’ve really been digging into the psychology of families lately!

  • Isi

    “That’s not English” sounds good to me in order to learn more!

  • Jennine G.

    Of course, the English book sounds interesting to me, but it figure that’s a given. The Monopolist sounds even more so! Who knew there was actual history behind it?

    • I can’t wait to find out what the history is!! It also makes me a little curious about other board games, too.

  • As I’m getting ready for Non-Fiction November, I’m realizing how few females I have on my non-fiction shelf! EEP! Selfish, Shallow, Self-Absorbed sounds interesting–I feel as if this is a battle between moms and those who aren’t moms and I don’t think it should be! Great list!

    • I was shocked by my shelves when I took a peek (especially because I tend to skew way more toward women in my overall reading).

      I’m totally intrigued by Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed for the same reasons. I’m waiting/debating kids and there’s definitely a ridiculous rift, so I love to see books that address the topic (I loved Jessica Valeniti’s “Why Have Kids?” because it looked at the reasons for being childfree even though she does have a child).

  • Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed sounds good! I’ll be interested in what everyone has to say — hopefully it won’t end up being one of those things where people who made one decision act like their decision is the best and shiniest decision.

    • I was thinking the same thing. It sees like it might be more of a defense, so hopefully it still understands the other lifestyle choice.

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  • Well, there are all going on my to-read list! Thanks for putting this awesome list together!

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