12 New Nonfiction Titles to Look Forward to in 2019

I’m still working on compiling my favorites of 2018 booklist, but it’s hard to focus on the past when 2019 has so much exciting new nonfiction on the way! Let’s experience some Vorfreude (that wonderful German word describing the excitement of thinking about happiness to come) looking at some of 2019’s upcoming releases in nonfiction.

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In Putin’s Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia’s Eleven Time Zones, by Nina Khrushcheva and Jeffrey Tayler, St. Martin’s Press, February 19 – In a work of “travelogue, current affairs, and history,” Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter and an expat living in Russia try to define Russia’s place on the world stage, in particular its antagonism with the West, through tracing Putin’s attempt at giving a New Year’s Eve speech across the country’s 11 time zones and his relationship to the country’s “outback citizens”. This one folds a lot of elements into the mix and I’m not even entirely sure I understand exactly what it’s about, but I’m excited to find out! (Amazon / Book Depository)

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The Wrong End of the Table: A Mostly Comic Memoir of a Muslim Arab American Woman Just Trying to Fit in, by Ayser Salman, Skyhorse, March 5 – The chapter titles alone are cracking me up in this one! (See: The Weinstein Years: The Best of Times/The Worst of Times; Donald Trump Nearly Cost Me My Best Friend, But Oprah Winfrey Saved Us; None of My Exes Live in Texas; Too Much Hair to Manage). A self-described “shy, awkward” girl from Iraq puts a comic spin on coming-of-age Muslim in America as she gives a “how-not-to-guide” to assimilation. I’m sold. She’s a writer/producer/editor for major Hollywood studios so I’m especially curious about the trajectory of her story and how she tells it. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story, by Cara Robertson, Simon & Schuster, March 12 – Attorney Cara Robertson spent more than two decades researching the Lizzie Borden case, one of those American murder mysteries we never seem to tire of. This is a thorough accounting of the strange family dynamics, the Gilded Age social atmosphere of stuffy Fall River, Massachusetts, and as the title indicates, the sensational trial. I’ve read an advance and it’s a detailed, informative telling that lets you reach your own conclusions. The cultural angle is completely fascinating. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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No Beast So Fierce: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Man-Eater in History, by Dane Huckelbridge, William Morrow, February 5 – I can’t resist narrative nonfiction about deadly animals of history so I couldn’t wait for this account of a Royal Bengal tiger that claimed 436 lives in India and Nepal around 1900 before being brought down by a hunter who later become a conservationist. It’s a terrifying story, true; but the bigger story told is that of colonialism and how it detrimentally affected the natural world and ecosystem, making it possible for the world’s deadliest man-eater to even exist. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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Without a Prayer: The Death of Lucas Leonard and How One Church Became a Cult, Susan Ashline, Pegasus (W.W. Norton), August 6 – An Emmy-nominated journalist tells the full story behind a strange murder: a man killed by a gang of church members (scary enough already) including his own family, an event that exposed the sinister developments within the Word of Life Christian Church in upstate New York. I hadn’t heard of any of this, but that summary is enough to make me want to know everything. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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The Sun Is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds, Caroline Van Hemert, March 19, Little, Brown Spark – I really enjoyed another book about travels in Alaska this year, so I’m primed for this one. Wildlife biologist Van Hemert and her husband trek from the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic Circle, learning the extent of what they’re capable of while experiencing nature in “some of the wildest places left in North America”. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times by Scott Pelley, Hanover Square Press, May 21 – The 60 Minutes reporter reflects on his award-winning journalism career, which includes “running south towards the World Trade Center on 9/11 to report from the scene, reveals private moments with presidents (and would-be presidents) who he’s known for decades, and chronicles hair-raising risks he’s made to report from the frontlines of America’s wars abroad.” A particular emphasis is placed on values and truth-telling, invariably important messages but especially in our age of crying “fake news” and attacks on journalism/-ists. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide, by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, Forge (Macmillan), May 28 – Dealing with anxiety and figuring yourself out, with some true crime (obviously) thrown in for good measure, the My Favorite Murder podcast hosts’ dual memoir sounds unusual, even if I’m not sure what to expect of it yet. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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Syria’s Secret Library: Reading and Redemption in a Town Under Siege, by Mike Thomson, PublicAffairs, May 7 – A basement library existed with thousands of rescued books under the rebel-held Syrian city of Darayya, where “despite a devastating four-year siege, people risked their lives to read”. BBC reporter Thomson highlights the courage in the personal stories of those who upheld Syria’s literary traditions and “long, unbreakable pursuit of knowledge, enlightenment and beauty” amidst utter turmoil. This sounds simply incredible. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 9 – Rubenhold does for Jack the Ripper’s “canonical five” victims what Robert Kolker did for the victims of the Long Island Serial Killer in Lost Girls – that is, give them back their dignity by telling their nuanced life stories, since their identities and histories have been subsumed in the mystery of their murderer. If you know going in that this is a book about what’s known or can be surmised of the lives of these women leading up to their infamous ends, and NOT true crime about their deaths, there’s so much to love about it. (I just read the ARC this weekend and was glued to it.) Perhaps most shocking? Rubenhold makes the case that several of the women weren’t even prostitutes. We get history so wrong sometimes. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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The Witches Are Coming, by Lindy West, Hachette, May 28 – Smart, super-funny Lindy West turns her sharp eye for pop cultural analysis on topics of “how patriarchy, intolerance, and misogyny have conquered not just politics but American culture itself.” That sounds heavy, and it is, but West’s signature is using humor to dismantle the uglier behaviors we know and highlight where things must change, so a “witch hunt” in her hands is sure to be not only enlightening but delightfully amusing. It’s also described as being “as much a celebration of America’s potential as a condemnation of our failures” and I think that’s a special skill she has, in not only pointing out a problem but showing how common sense easy it is to do better. (Amazon / Book Depository)

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I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays by Bassey Ikpi, Harper Perennial, August 6 – Ikpi immigrated to Oklahoma from Nigeria, a story I’d already be interested in, but her assimilation was “further complicated by bipolar II and anxiety that would go undiagnosed for decades”. She’s a spoken word artist and mental health advocate who has spent years “examining the ways mental health is inextricably intertwined with every facet of ourselves and our lives.” This sounds powerful, to put mildly. (Amazon / Book Depository)

Do any of these new releases pique your interest? What upcoming nonfiction are you most looking forward to next year?

49 thoughts on “12 New Nonfiction Titles to Look Forward to in 2019

    1. I read an ARC and I liked but didn’t love it. It gets purple prosey and the history is pretty dense in parts. But it has some good moments and I think my expectations were too high because another book about a tiger is one of my forever favorites, so I got a little too excited about lightning striking twice! It has a lot to recommend it and others possibly won’t mind what bothered me about it.

      I’m so curious about Without a Prayer, I hadn’t heard anything about that group or incident and I’m so intrigued!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ugh, bummer! That’s interesting that it gets purple prosey because I found his novel very sparsely written? It was a sweet little story that could have been way too saccharine, but Huckelbridge didn’t overdo the sentimentality. Which is the other tiger book you’ve loved? I should check that out, I am obsessed with big cats but have not read a book on them!

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      2. How interesting that the fiction is so different in that regard, I’m surprised! One problem here was that there wasn’t a wealth of concrete information available on the story of the incidents, more of a general outline. He did a massive amount of research and that accounted for parts about the history of the region and colonialism, and a lot about tigers and attacks and why they happen (this part was fascinating, I think you’d like it too since you like big cats, I’m also obsessed!) But in telling the narrative of what this tiger did, there was a lot of speculation around what might have happened and reconstructing scenes as they may have played out (as in, knowing they happened, just no specific account to draw on) and they became kind of over-dramatized. The best parts were when he explains the culture around tigers and their meaning to the people in the region, it was excellent.

        The book I love is The Tiger by John Vaillant (he quotes it in this book too). It’s about a tiger that began hunting people in Siberia and it is incredible. It weaves in so much, like how communism actually worked there, once it was gone everything fell apart (leading to tiger poaching), and ecology of the taiga and a million other fascinating things while telling the narrative of this unusual but also unfortunately human-created tiger. I can’t recommend it enough, it’s one of my favorites!

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      3. I can imagine it’s tricky to approach writing a nonfiction book when you have more of a general impression than concrete facts – I definitely see where the impulse to add some color to the narrative comes in, annoying as that ends up being for readers. Purple prose is a big pet peeve of mine as well… I may still give this a try at some point but definitely lowering my expectations.

        That sounds absolutely fascinating, adding it to the TBR now!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked the Lizzie Borden one, it was pretty interesting. There’s so much interesting-sounding stuff coming next year, I’m sure you’ll line up some good nonfiction once you start looking 😊 I’ll have at least one more of these lists to help, too 😉

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  1. Yes!!!! Thank you so much for putting this list together — I knew I could count on you to find out interesting non-fiction books. The Wrong End of the Table sounds amazing. The chapter titles are making me so intrigued! I’ve seen the first book available for request on NetGalley, maybe you could request it from there? Like you, I have no clue what it’s about but a) Russia, b) travel log, and c) history? I’m already very intrigued to see someone review it and maybe pick it up myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re so welcome, I’m glad you liked it so much!! I spend waaay too much time looking up new releases but I love having stuff to look forward to and glad I can share it 🙂 I did request the ARC of In Putin’s Footsteps as soon as I saw it, I just haven’t been able to get to it yet (thank you for letting me know though, so thoughtful!) I don’t know why I seem to go through phases with just a couple of review copies and suddenly, 10 at once. I want to get to it soon though, it sounds like it covers a lot of ground, literally and figuratively, and her perspective has got to be really interesting.

      The Wrong End of the Table just sounds like it’s going to be so much fun. Hope you’ll read some of them too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have added ‘No Beast So Fierce’ to my TBR! I have a pending request for ‘The Five’ on NG, and will be anxiously awaiting the audiobook for “Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered’ to show up in my library.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t even think about the audiobook for Stay Sexy, of course they’ll be reading it so that definitely seems like the way to go for that one! The Five is really good, I felt like it’s worth highlighting that it’s about their lives and not their deaths because I just have a feeling people will complain that it’s not true crime-y. But it’s such a fascinating social history and she manages to tell their stories accurately even when not a lot is known…that’s so hard to do without spiraling into endless speculation but it’s so well-researched. Hope you’ll read it soon!

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  3. So many exciting titles to look forward too, Syria’s Secret Library and The Trial of Lizzie Borden were already on my wishlist! I’ve now added No Beast so Fierce – I’ve openly read one nonfiction book about animals (American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee), I really enjoyed it so I’m interested to see how I fair with this one, maybe a new genre of nonfiction will open itself to me as a must seek out genre!

    Without A Prayer, and The Five, sound really interesting too, so adding them! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Doesn’t Syria’s Secret Library sound wonderful? I can’t wait for it. The Trial of Lizzie Borden is really good and I was surprised by how much I ended up loving The Five, it was such an excellent and revealing social history.

      I remember you loved American Wolf, I really liked that one too! No Beast So Fierce has similarities but I think it’s a pretty different style. The wild animal book I recommend endlessly is also about tigers, this one – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7624594-the-tiger
      It’s about a tiger that begins hunting people in Siberia and the group that’s meant to protect tigers in the area but have to hunt it instead. It reads more like a thriller in parts, and it incorporates so much fascinating (but totally readable) history of the region and its ecology, and of course about tigers…it just astounded me with how good it was. No Beast So Fierce has some great parts, especially the cultural aspects of human-tiger relations in that region, but the regional history and colonialism chapters felt dense for me. I’m still recommending it, I think the things that bothered me may not bother others. I hope you read some of these, would love to hear your thoughts!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I really can’t wait for The Witches are Coming!! It just sounds so good. Lizzie Borden was a good overview of that story and especially the culture of the times and certain elements of the scandal around it, I really liked that perspective.

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  4. Excellent list! I hadn’t heard about Without a Prayer but it really sounds excellent. I cannot wait to read the new Lindy West, I adored her first book.
    Other than that there are a few memoirs coming out that I am intrigued by. But I think the book not on your list I am most looking forward to No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so intrigued by Without a Prayer too! I liked Shrill, I didn’t entirely love it, but I’m so intrigued by the premise of her new one. I hadn’t heard of No Visible Bruises, I’ll look into that one…sounds intense but important.

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  5. i really missed reading your blog in December but hope to get some rest and recuperate
    now since its 2019 i am really fired and what to read lot of non fiction this year and am interested in two books here
    1-In Putin’s Footsteps
    m really interested how Putin long reign shaped modern Russia and our perception of it
    2-No Beast So Fierce
    i really love reading about how and why wild animals attack animals .
    thanks always for pointing great books to me

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    1. I read an ARC of In Putin’s Footsteps and it’s quite good, but not biographical of Putin. It’s more of a travelogue through the regions with history and politics and social issues thrown in. I’ve read The Man Without a Face, it’s definitely to be recommended. Masha Gessen is an incredible journalist. Here’s my review of that one: https://whatsnonfiction.com/2017/09/08/imagine-you-have-a-country-and-no-one-to-run-it/

      I thought Possessed by Memory looked like quite an interesting read!

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