theGrio’s Top 50 books to read this summer: ‘Nonfiction’

From hard-hitting historical and political analysis to candid memoir to cultural criticism and travel, for enlightenment and even inspiration, look within

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Feed the mind; free the soul. There’s a dizzying and inspiring array of brilliant nonfiction by Black authors being published right now. From hard-hitting historical and political analysis to candid memoir to cultural criticism and travel, for enlightenment and even inspiration, look within.

The Cruelty Is the Point by Adam Serwer (Politics)

Essays to understand how we got here. A brilliant collection of essays on the political culture of the Trump era by a brilliant thinker and one of the best and most accessible nonfiction writers of our time. I’ve read the Nationalist’s Delusion several times and I’ll return to it again. 

When the Stars Begin to Fall by Dr. Theodore Johnson

Few books are more constructive or more timely than this refreshing and heartfelt meditation on history, national identity and the way forward. This hybrid memoir and history, Dr. Ted Johnson shows why real national unity can only come from reckoning with the past, not denying it. A poignant and personal family history combines with what few others have provided: a real vision for how Americans can find a way forward together based on shared values and what he calls civic religion. Disclosure: the author is a colleague and friend. I had the privilege of reading an early copy of this manuscript as it was being written. 

U.S. Civil Rights Trail: A Traveler’s Guide to the People, Places, and Events that Made the Movement by Deborah D. Douglas

If you’re visiting the south this summer, this is a great book to bring. Covering Charleston, Atlanta, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham and more, this multifaceted guide can make a weekend away more memorable and meaningful or help organize a road trip through the south that brings the sites of the civil rights movement to life. Includes profiles of national leaders as well as a wealth of information on where to find Black-owned businesses, museums and nightlife.

The Disordered Cosmos by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (Science and Society)

As if being a professor of physics and astronomy and faculty in women’s and gender studies wasn’t enough, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein can now add gifted storyteller to her already long list of talents and qualifications. With her personal and engaging writing voice, she makes the theories and wonders of the universe accessible to those like myself who don’t typically read about science and also provides a passionate and frank analysis of the politics involved in the pursuit of scientific discovery. 

Steadfast Democrats: How Social Forces Shape Black Political Behavior by Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird (Political Science)

It’s a well-known if sometimes lamented fact that Black Americans comprise the Democratic Party’s most loyal base. African Americans are also “the most unified racial group in American electoral politics.” But what’s not often recognized, especially outside Black communities and sometimes even within it, is that African American political cohesion persists alongside substantial ideologically diversity. As a result, even though 80% to 90% of African Americans have identified as Democrats and voted for Democratic candidates in presidential elections in recent history, a significant number of Black Americans consider themselves to be conservative.

That group cohesion makes a real difference at the ballot box and not just in presidential elections. In the Alabama senate race of 2017, for example, African American voters were pivotal to Doug Jones’s success. They comprised 29% of the electorate, and 96% supported the former civil rights attorney. In this critically praised, well-researched, and now award-winning book, White and Laird dig deep into the roots of that powerful political cohesion and how it’s maintained in the presence of diversity, digging into the historical and social forces that combined to make it so in unprecedented depth. We’re thrilled to see that Steadfast Democrats is the 2021 American Political Science Association best book of the year.

Sometimes I Trip On How Happy We Could Be by Nichole Perkins (August 17)

As co-host of the Thirst Aid Kit podcast, an unapologetic celebration of pleasure and desire, Nichole Perkins is already well-known for her bold voice and fearless approach to celebrity culture. In this intimate memoir, one of our most distinctive commentators digs even deeper into her experience as a southern Black woman navigating pop culture, relationships, and real life. Witty, poignant and devastatingly candid, this is 2021’s ultimate non-fiction beach read. 


More theGrio Top 50 Book picks: Family Ties | American Art and Ideas | LGBTQ+ Pride | Black Love and Black Glamour | Spreading Our Wings | Crime and Consciousness | Historical Reckoning | Nonfiction | Thrills and Chills: Mystery/Suspense/ThrillerLove and Romance | Historical Fiction | Fiction from the Diaspora | Contemporary Fiction

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