2021 has been a great year for nonfiction so far. Here are four titles you may have missed:
These love-filled essays encompass dance marathons, Soul Train, Dave Chappelle, Whitney Houston, Josephine Baker, Aretha Franklin's funeral, and much, much more, all combined with Abdurraqib’s own life story. I read this weeks ago and can’t stop thinking about it.
9/16 update! It was just longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction.
This was a great thing to read a year and a half into a pandemic. The overall point was that interactions with strangers promote empathy and produce feelings of happiness and connection. It's dehumanizing (to yourself and others) not to engage with the people around you. I especially liked the observation that you feel a strange sense of relief after talking to strangers--so true, although I had never noticed it before.
This had lots of easy-to-implement ideas: people watching, making eye contact, breaking the script in small talk ("Everybody behaving in here today?"), smiling, and expressing gratitude. As a librarian, I also liked the shout-out to public libraries as being places that encourage interactions with strangers.
This is so chock-full of interesting facts that you’ll end up reading most of it aloud to whoever’s in the vicinity. Did you know that a vitamin deficiency caused by corn might be the root of the vampire myth? That honey literally lasts forever? That your taste preferences are determined by what your grandparents ate when they were young? That the creator of Kellogg's Corn Flakes could conceivably have been Jack the Ripper?
Speaking of Jack the Ripper...
I don't want to raise your expectations too high, but it must be said that this has a little Devil in the White City about it. The main thing I learned was how easy it was to be a criminal in Victorian times. Getting a bad reputation because you're accused of killing people? Spent ten years in jail? All you have to do is move!