12 of the best non-fiction books of 2018 (updated)
While a great novel can be engaging, there's nothing quite like a true story—whether that story comes in the form of deep reporting, memoir, or personal essays.
Nonfiction gives us the chance to look at the world around us and learn something about how we fit within it. And nonfiction also tells us a lot about ourselves.
Here are the best nonfiction books of 2018:
A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia by Sandra Allen
Sandra Allen received a manuscript of her uncle Bob's autobiography in 2009, a sprawling 60-page piece of writing entirely in all caps and full of streams of consciousness. She learned more about her uncle than ever before, understanding from his perspective the mental illness from which he suffered. Using her skills as a writer and reporter, she translated his autobiography along with the help of their family history to create a powerful book that pays tribute to her uncle as well as paints a portrait of an often misunderstood disorder.
The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border by Francisco Cantu
Francisco Cantú grew up the the grandson of a Mexican immigrant in the southwestern part of the United States. When he became an adult, Cantú joined the Border Patrol and saw firsthand the never-ending challenge of policing people on both sides of that line. Years after leaving his position with the patrol, his examination of his time in the job—and after—is an urgent, necessary view of an increasingly complex part of the country.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
Following Trayvon Martin's death in 2013, Patrisse Khan Cullors co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement to address the persecution of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement across the country. In the years since, the movement has spread and raised awareness of inequality and white supremacy in our revered institutions—and it also brandished Cullors and her fellow activists as terrorists and traitors. Cullors's memoir reflects on her activism as well as her story as being a black woman in contemporary America.
I'll Be Gone in the Dar: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
The Golden State Killer was a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized Southern California between 1979 and 1986. Responsible for 50 rapes and 12 murders, the perpetrator was never caught—but he became the obsession of author Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who spent years trying to uncover his identity. McNamara died unexpectedly while writing this book, which includes an afterwards from her husband, Patton Oswalt.
Raw: My Journey into the Wu-Tang by Lamont 'U-God' Hawkins
Lamont "U-God" Hawkins reflects on his childhood and adolescence—raised by a single mother in the projects in Brownsville, New York—before his life took a major turn when he met his artistic collaborators and soul mates. Hawkins found compatriots in RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, and Masta Killa—the eight artists with whom he would found the Wu-Tang Clan, earning a ticket out of the unpredictable and underserved neighborhoods of New York City and into the spotlight as some of hip-hop's greatest performers.
Stealing the Show: How Women are Revolutionizing Television by Joy Press
Joy Press examines the feminist cultural revolution that has been happening on our small screens since the late '80s, when Roseanne Barr and Murphy Brown's Diane English openly questioned and redefined the role of women on their respective, controversial sitcoms. Since then, more and more women have made waves behind the scenes as writers, producers, and showrunners, ultimately changing how women are depicted on television and in the culture at large.
The Wisdom of Wolves: Lessons from the Sawtooth Pack by Jim & Jamie Dutcher
Jim and Jamie Dutcher are a husband-and-wife pair of Emmy-winning filmmakers who spent six years living in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho and examining a pack of wolves. The result is a gorgeous reflection on society—both human and animal alike—and the ways that mammals react to each other with camaraderie, compassion, kindness, and, at times, conflict.
Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss by Stephanie Wittels Wachs
Harris Wittels was an acclaimed comedian and star TV writer who wrote for Parks and Recreation. He also was a heroin addict, and he died from an overdose two months shy of his 31st birthday. Years after his death, his sister Stephanie reflects on her own grief following the loss of her brother—a comic genius who left behind him a wealth of friends and family who still mourn the art he didn't get to produce.
Just the Funny Parts: ...And a Few Hard Truths About Sneaking into the Hollywood Boys' Club by Nell Scovell
Nell Scovell has had an incredible career behind the scenes on some of the greatest comedy shows in recent memory. After a stint as a writer for SPY magazine, Scovell entered the TV world where she wrote lines for some of the funniest characters on television. In her memoir, Scovell shines a light on the male-dominated writer's rooms and how she was determined to break through them—which she did with great success. (Available March 20)
In the Shadows of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mich Landrieu
n May 2017, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu made national headlines when he announced the removal of the city's Confederate statues. Landrieu made the accurate acknowledgement that the statues were not simply icons of Southern heritage, but rather monuments to white supremacy. In his latest book, Landreiu reflects on his Southern upbringing and how he took the history of the region for granted in a compelling reconsideration of what it means to be a Southerner in contemporary America. (Available March 20)
The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison
This is not your typical memoir about substance abuse, although Leslie Jamison's own recovery serves as the basis for the book's existence. Taking a different approach to well-worn territory, Jamison looks at the ongoing struggle that comes after one hits rock bottom: the day-to-day effort to manage one's addiction and how that process reflected itself into the work of some of the greatest artists of the 20th Century and beyond. (Available April 3)
Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean
Michelle Dean's Sharp is a hybrid of biography, criticism, and cultural history, examining a group of respected and prolific women who made careers out of their opinions—and thus established an art form. With an array of characters that include Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, Susan Sontag, and Joan Didion, Sharp examines women who battled a sexist industry and a gossipy social scene (which sometimes led to public feuds) as they made their rise as public intellectuals, critics, and artists. (Available April 10)
And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O'Connell
Being a parent is, we're told, a beautiful and mysterious thing. It's also complicated and tough, as Meaghan O'Connell learned when she unexpectedly became pregnant in her lated twenties. Stripping away the mythical fantasies of motherhood, O'Connell delivers a poignant and funny look at what it means to be a parent in our current time. The warts-and-all examination is powerful reading for anyone with or without kids. (Available April 10)
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee
Acclaimed novelist Alexander Chee reveals his first collection of nonfiction essays, the subjects of which span politics, literature, and personal identity in its various, intersected forms. Looking outward at the world over the last two decades, Chee remains introspective and self-reflective without arrogance; recognizing the conflation of the personal and political, Chee is able to write about himself and, by extension, about all of us. (Available April 17)