“So, what book are you reading next?”
When placed in the context of a book club, this question can be difficult to answer. This is usually because a group’s next read depends on how the book club is organized. Plus there are a few important questions to answer: Does one person pick the book at each meeting? Or is it the responsibility of the host to choose which book the group will read next? Or will you choose celebrity book clubs to follow, like Reese Witherspoon’s or Oprah Winfrey’s?
Whatever your answer is, I am here to help you whittle down your search for the ultimate read. There is a difference between a good book and a good book club book, after all. the goal of a great book club book is to spark discussion. Ideally, the person picking out a book will have to select not just a popular book, but the sort of book that will inspire reactions, challenge convictions and clarify beliefs.
So if you are trying to pick out some discussion-triggering non-fiction books for your book club, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered with five of the best nonfiction books for book clubs.
Let’s dive in.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community of African America (1619 – 2019)
A number of extraordinary people come together to tell the story of one of history’s greatest experiences: the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans–edited by Ibram X. Kendi, the author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, the author of Set the World on Fire.
The story starts in 1619, one year before the Mayflower, when the White Lion sends about two dozen Negroes to the shores of Virginia, beginning the presence of Africans in the land that would later become the United States. It also brings us to the present, when African Amercans, the descendants of the people on the White Lion and other routes to the U.S., are still fraught with inhuman oppression, stunning achievements, and visionary struggles.
These editors assembled ninety brilliant writers who tell the story of African Americans from 1619 to the present. Each of the writers take on a five-year-period of the four-hundred-year span. These writers document their periods through short stories, historical essays, personal vignettes and fierce polyemics.
They approach history through the eyes of historical icons and the untold stories of regular people. This book contains themes of resistance, struggle, hope and reinvention. It is a collection of diverse pieces that reflects ninety different perspectives, and deconstructs the ideology that African Americans are a monolith. Instead, it reveals the range of experiences and ideas that have always existed in the Black community.
Three Ordinary Girls: The Remarkable Story of Three Dutch Teenagers Who Became Spies, Saboteurs, Nazi Assassins—and WWII Heroes by Tim Brady
This book details, for the first time, the startling true story of three fearless female resisters during World War II whose innocent and youth shielded their extraordinary bravery in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.
Recruited as teenagers, Hannie Schaft, and Dutch sisters, Freddie and Truus Oversteegen serves as spies, saboteurs and Nazi assassins with great courage. Smart, political, fiercely devoted to the cause and “with nothing to lose but their own lives,” Hannie, Freddie and Truus worked against Nazi targets. They provided shelter for fleeing Jews, Dutch resisters and political dissidents. They also sabotaged bridges and railways, and disguised themselves to take children from possible internment in concentration camps to safehouses. Not only that, they transported weapons secretly and set fire to military facilities. Not just that, they also assassinated German soldiers, traitors and people who worked according to Nazi ideology.
In Three Ordinary Girls, Tim Brady tells this real life story through the eyes of a fierce trio of freedom fighters. He shows a never-before-seen side of the Dutch resistance during the war and the lives under threat. He also shows how these brave young women became involved in the underground and how their dedication to their country resulted in them taking dangerous, life-threatening missions on behalf of their country people, damning the consequences.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
You might think you know or remember much from Barack Obama’s first term as President of The United States, but this book reveals things about the former president that many people don’t know.
In this lengthy, but worthy, book, Barack Obama highlights his journey from being a young man trying to make his way in the world to becoming the leader of the land of the free and the home of the brave. He describes in great detail his political education and great moments of the first term of his historic presidency.
Reflecting on his time in office, Obama thoughtfully explores the great reach and limits of presidential power, along with insights into the dynamics of the partisan politics and international diplomacy of The United States.
He discusses his thought processes as he grapples with a global financial crisis, assembles his cabinet, deliberates with Vladimir Putin, overcomes insurmountable obstacles to successfully pass the Affordable Care Act, tackles Wall Street reform, locks horns with generals about U.S. actions in Afghanistan, responds to the tragic Deepwater Horizon explosion, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which results in the death of Osama bin Laden.
In this book, Obama is honest about how he balanced running for office as an African American and meeting the moral straits of high-stakes decision-making. He is frank about the forces that stood against him both at home and abroad, frank about how life in the White House affected his wife and children, and unafraid of expressing disappointment and self-doubt. Yet, his belief in the progress of America and the betterment of the world never wavers.
With this book, Obama brings readers with him inside the Oval Office, the White House, and to Cairo, Beijing, Moscow and various other places. A Promised Land is the intimate and introspective story of one man’s strength, resilience and faith tested on a global stage.
Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes by Gabrielle Korn
In this book, Gabrielle Korn who is the former editor-in-chief of Nylon magazine takes readers on her difficult journey to being named the youngest editor-in-chief in Nylon’s history.
Korn talks about how she started her professional life with all the right elements: a prestigious college degree, a loving family, pretty offices, and a tight-knit group of friends. She discusses how her life took a sudden turn when she was named the youngest editor-in-chief of fashion’s most influential publication. Soon after her historic achievement, she started getting invited to the world’s best parties, dressed in beautiful clothing and accessories from the world’s most popular designers, and asked about her opinion on everything from gay rights to makeup.
In front of cameras, everything looked perfect, but behind the scenes, everything was going wrong.
In this collection of deeply personal and inspirational essays, Gabrielle Korn reveals what it’s really like in the world of fashion, struggling with anorexia, trying to find love as a young lesbian in New York City, and trying not to lose herself in the whirlpool of Instagram perfection and women’s empowerment.
She also recounts her battles with long-held insecurities about her body, while coming out in the era when alluring lesbians were portrayed as skinny, power-hungry and fashion-perfect. Korn takes readers with her from New York Fashion Week to her doctor’s office, showing succinctly that the forces that try to shame women are more pervasive than people like to admit, especially in a world that is now ‘woke’.
From the #MeToo movement to commercialized, performative body positivity, Korn’s Everything (Else) Is Perfect is a breath of fresh air in the sea of feminist commentary books.
The Beauty of Living Twice by Sharon Stone
You may know Sharon Stone as the psychopathic and cruelly beautiful Catherine Tramell in the 1992 movie, Basic Instinct. She is one of the most iconic actresses of our generation.
In this book, she tells the story of how her career spiralled downhill when she suffered a massive stroke that cost her her health, family, career, fortune and fame. She chronicles her journey to rebuild her life and recover her health.
Stone talks about the iconic roles she’s played, her deep friendships, her greatest accomplishments and her worst disappointments. She reveals how she navigated a violent, trauma-filled childhood to land in Hollywood, a business that regularly featured those same assaults and hid them under the carpet of glamor and money.
In these pages, Stone also explains the strength and meaning she found in her children and philanthropic efforts. She shared how she fought to find her truth and her family’s reconciliation and love.
The Beauty of Living Twice is a book for the broken-hearted and for survivors. It’s a celebration of the strength and resilience of women, and a call to activism.
In an industry that does not tolerate failure, forgive mistakes and silences voices, Sharon Stone found the courage to speak up in a bid to make a difference in the lives of women and children all over the world.
Wrapping It Up
These books listed above explore the complexity of race and identity, sickness and health, war and hardship, dreams and aspirations, and self-doubt. This makes them the perfect books to facilitate engaging and impactful conversations.
Your book club will be discussing long into the evening after choosing a book from this list of the best nonfiction books for book clubs.
If you’re having trouble picking some more motivational and self-help books, check out our post on how to do that, and our favorite nonfiction books in this genre.