Recent non-fiction recommendations

At the beginning of this year I scoured the best of 2021 non-fiction lists and began working reading several books that seemed appealing. Not all of them are worth recommending (and are not mentioned here), but all of the following are worth your time.


The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, by Jane Goodall (October 2021,Celadon Books). In this conversation between naturalist Goodall and author Doug Abrams a wide range of topics are covered, all related to Goodall’s hope for the future. Goodall tells stories from her life and if you’ve never read anything by her this is a good introduction. Goodall maintains an enthusiastic optimism for the future of humanity.

Taste: My Life Through Food, by Stanley Tucci (October 2021, Gallery Books). In this gastronomic memoir, actor Tucci recounts first learning the wonders of the table while growing up in an Italian-American family that took food very seriously. He goes on to share stories about his dining experiences and what food means to the quality of his life. Recommended for anyone who, like Tucci, loves to eat.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Isaacson (March 2021, Simon Schuster). This book tells the important story of the development of the CRISPR DNA editing tool and the pioneering work done by Jennifer Doudna, who won a Nobel Prize for her efforts. It also dives into the scientific, political, business and ethical jockeying that has occurred following the invention of the technology.

Crying in H Mart, by Michelle Zauner (April 2021, Knopf Publishing Group). An honest and moving autobiography by the lead singer of Japanese Breakfast. Zauner mourns the loss of her Korean American mother and reflects on her identity and coming of age as a musician.

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family, by Ron Howard and Clint Howard (October 2021, William Morrow). The Howard brothers take turns telling their unique story of growing up as child actors and the family dynamics that allowed them to survive and eventually thrive in the entertainment business.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman (August 2021, Farrar, Straus and Giroux). This is fresh look at time management and may be one of the most honest books on the subject I’ve read. Burkeman acknowledges that no matter how efficiently you plan your time, you can never never complete everything on your todo list. The harder you work, the more things get added to your list. Instead, Burkeman stresses the need to focus on the most important things in your life or work and embracing the fact that you can’t (and shouldn’t try to) get everything done.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life, by George Saunders (January 2021, Random House). Saunders reviews seven short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, examining both the writing craft and the deeper meaning of each piece. Saunders is the author of Lincoln in the Bardo and this book was developed from a class on Russian short stories he teaches at Syracuse University.