I asked two related questions on Twitter recently. The first was about short non-fiction books:
Seeking recommendations of books with the following properties:
- Available in paperback form with < 300 pages (ideally < 200).
- Taught you something interesting
- Accessible to a (reasonably well educated) general audience
At some point I realised that all of the books I had on my list for this and almost all of the recommendations were written by white men, so I asked a follow-up question:
Opening up the subquestion of this because it's made me go "wait a second...".
What are your favourite nonfiction books that are not written by white men? Bonus if they also meet the other criteria of the quoted tweet but not essential.
There are a lot of good answers to both tweets that I will not attempt to summarise here.
I then decided that if I was buying this many books in one sitting I might as well not give Amazon my money for this and decided to go to Foyles. I ended up leaving with uh, quite a lot of books. Book stores are very good for serendipitous discovery and purchase in a way that websites are not, especially with Amazon's dreadful recommendations.
There is some overlap with both the recommendations and the stated goals, but it's far from total. I ended up buying 15 books. Of these one was written by a man, and another co-authored by one. Of the women authors a couple were people of colour but I haven't checked that carefully which.
The Foyles haul was:
- How to understand your gender - Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker (short nonfiction, written by a trans man and an enby)
- The Remainder - Alia Trabucco Zerán (short but fiction, written by a hispanic woman)
- Flights - Olga Tokarczuk (longish fiction, written by a white woman)
- Give People Money - Annie Lowrey (short nonfiction, written by a white woman)
- Doughnut Economics - Kate Raworth (just squeezes under the short book criteria if you ignore appendices and references, written by a white woman)
- The Good Immigrant (fits the short book criteria, written by a variety of authors, some women, some men, I think mostly people of colour)
- Watching the English - Kate Fox (non-fiction but long, written by a white woman)
- Estates: An Intimate History - Lynsey Hanley (short non-fiction, written by a white woman)
- Big Capital: Who is London for? - Anna Minton (short non-fiction, written by a white woman)
- Chronicles: On Our Troubled Times - Thomas Piketty (short non-fiction, written by a white man)
- A Field Guide to Getting Lost - Rebecca Solnit (short non-fiction, written by a white woman)
- The Art of Cruelty - Maggie Nelson (short non-fiction, written by a white woman)
- The Lonely City - Olivia Laing (short non-fiction, written by a white woman)
- How to Suppress Women's Writing - Joanna Russ (short non-fiction, written by a white woman)
- We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ((very!) short non-fiction, written by a black woman)
There was no particular rhyme or reason to this selection. A bunch of these are books that were staff picks at Foyles, a few were ones from the recommendations I'd got. "How to understand your gender" has vaguely been on my to read list for a while. Mostly I just wandered around looking for things that caught my eye.
So once I've managed to plow through this pile (which due to reasons I have less than two months to do. Fun times) I should at least be a bit better in the gender balance of who I read nonfiction by! Race is still decidedly lacking though.