Nonfiction November – Ask the Expert

This is one of my favorite prompts and I’m so glad to see it come back. It has a ton of choice:


Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

This year I’m going to ask you guys for some help!

I love finding and reading books by authors from marginalized groups. This includes people of color, LGBTIA+ folx, those who practice a non-Christian religion, those with disabilities, and more. Most often these diverse authors are called to write about issues and experiences relating to their identity – a black person discussing racism, someone with a chronic disease examining the health care system, or an LGBTQIA+ person writing about marriage equality.

I want to be clear – this is awesome. We need the voices of those affected by all kinds of issues to write books about them. I’m totally here for it.

However, diverse people have been pigeonholed into this role.

That’s not cool. So I want to know – what are your favorite nonfiction books by diverse authors where the subject is not related to their identity? Here are a few to start us off:

The Checklist Manifesto (or anything else) by Atul Gawande

Medical nonfiction written by a man of color.

Columbine by Dave Cullen

A deep, riveting account of the Columbine shooting, written by a gay man.

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

An examination of book design by a woman of color.

I’d like to add to this list – give me your suggestions!

29 thoughts on “Nonfiction November – Ask the Expert

  1. What I understand is that you are looking for contemporary diverse American writers who have managed to go beyond the pigeon-hole, right? (I’m playing the devil’s advocate here, don’t take it the wrong way) Because otherwise books in translation give you the unique insight of different countrypeople on whatever is going through their minds and not especially their identity. Or like Flaubert or Balzac were gay, but they didn’t write about their identity either (because they couldn’t, and they wanted to write about something entirely different too). I don’t like this pigeon-hole thing either, but I feel it’s rather a contemporary trend that you have to write about what/who you are and nothing else.

    1. Thank you for this comment – I see I should have been more specific in my ask and I’m going to edit it right now. I’m looking for nonfiction, specifically. Books in translation are awesome, and nonfiction in translation is something I’m always looking for, but Flaubert etc. wouldn’t apply because they wrote novels. I hope that makes sense?

  2. Michael

    Interesting idea! Searching my shelves I found Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles, a collection of writings about NASA, and Sianne Ngai’s Our Aesthetic Categories, a book about postmodern aesthetics.

  3. One that might tick the right box for you, although not an American perspective is Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor. As someone from another country colonised by the British (Australia) and still living with the consequences of this early colonial governance, I’m fascinated by this alternative perspective.

    1. Ah, Muhkerjee! I really need to read The Emperor of Maladies… the size is daunting but I’m sure it would be worth it. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. I’m really going to have to put my thinking cap on for this one (which is your point, right?!). I’m thinking memoirs and will get back to you if I come up with any to fit the bill.

    1. It is my point – it felt so weird to go through the nonfiction I’ve read and only have a few books qualify, and only one by a woman at that! I’m thankful that you and others in the comments are giving it their thought and attention – thank you. 😊

  5. Kelly @ STACKED

    Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement by Nadya Okamoto is about how she, at 20 (!!), has successfully started her own nonprofit with a focus on menstrual education and securing menstrual products for those living with housing instability. It’s a fascinating and powerful read.

    Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi is pretty explanatory in the title! It’s not really about productivity so much as it’s about the power of boredom and how that can be a great way to jumpstart your focus and creativity.

    I read so many nonfiction titles by queer people, people of color, and those who are in those intersections, but the bulk of them are memoirs, so this was a tough one to tease out some titles!

    1. Kelly, thank you so much for these recommendations! Period Power sounds especially amazing. I was shocked at the lack of examples when I went through my own reading as well – hopefully more books will be published in this vein in the future!

  6. I keep a list of these! Here’s some on a bunch of topics.

    Brazillionaires by Alex Cuadros

    On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta By Jen Lin-liu

    A Path Appears by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn

    Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

    Rejection Proof: 100 Days of Rejection, or How to Ask Anything of Anyone at Anytime by Jia Jiang

    Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy – Part memoir, part issues

    Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy

    Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World by The Women’s March Organizers

    A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions by Muhammad Yunus

    The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes and Racism in America’s Law Enforcement and the Search for Change by Matthew Horace

    We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés

    My Own Country by Abraham Verghese (medical memoir of the early AIDS years in rural TN)

    Somewhere Inside: One Sister’s Captivity in North Korea and the Other’s Fight to Bring Her Home by Lisa and Laura Ling

    Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede, Jessica Posner

    Here’s the link to my whole Diverse Nonfiction list

    1. Thank you for all these books, but I’m looking for nonfiction that is NOT related to a person’s identity. That throws out all the memoirs, unfortunately, but Brazillionaires and A World of Three Zeros still work. Thanks for the suggestions!

  7. I read such a book just recently actually. River Queens by Alexander Watson is a book by a gay man about the boat he and his significant other buy, fix and take out on the water. They do mention the discrimination they occasionally find but the book is overwhelmingly about boats.

  8. Ooh, I love this idea! I certainly find it easiest to determine the identity of an author if it’s featured in their book, so it’s a little harder to intentionally read books that aren’t all by white men when reading on other topics.

    Muhkerjee was the first author I thought of and I love his books, so I’ll second that recommendation.

    Translated nonfiction isn’t something I’ve found much of, but I’ve really loved everything by Svetlana Alexievich. I’m pretty sure Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens is translated as well.

    Mostly your question has just made me realize how much of the nonfiction I read is by white authors! I read plenty of nonfiction by women, but will definitely have to pay attention to reading nonfiction by a more diverse collection of authors.

    1. Yeaa, Muhkerjee, and Alexievich is on my list! I’ve had a heck of a time finding (reasonably priced) copies of her stuff.

      I haven’t run the numbers but I’d guess that out of my romance, fiction, and nonfiction reading the nonfiction is the least diverse. Part of it may be because a lot of the books by marginalized folks are on these heavy, own voices topics – racism, colonialism, immigration, disability, mental health, and more. I can only take so many of those at a time! 😅 So glad for your and other recommendations to widen my scope.

  9. What an excellent topic… Atul Gawande is excellent and I will second (or third) Muhkerjee . Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would be an excellent addition to your list.

  10. I’ve been thinking about the same issue lately — trying to find diverse authors on topics that aren’t specifically about identity. I’d second The Art of Choosing, it’s a great book. Another favorite is The Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (or his second book, Rest). My other suggestions are ones I haven’t read yet — Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu, Black Edge by Sheelah Kolhatkar.

  11. Pingback: Nonfiction November – New to my TBR – Always Doing

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