Whether you’re looking to learn, be inspired or just lose yourself in a true story, 2020’s non-fiction books have you covered.
From fashion to race to food, 2020’s non-fiction books are wide-ranging, and sure to arm us with new knowledge.
Reflecting the world around us, a number of this year’s most-anticipated titles feed into conversations about race, belonging and unconscious bias, including Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy, which interrogates one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Giving a voice to issues which disproportionately affect women, and so are usually ignored, is also a big theme for 2020’s non-fiction books. Among those which are sure to ignite a conversation are Rachel Louise Snyder’s investigation into domestic violence, and two books about postpartum psychosis.
If you’re looking for something lighter after delving into those books, then there’s plenty to keep you entertained, including former Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman’s book on clothes. Staying in the fashion realm, Lauren Bravo’s look at fast fashion is both a fun read and a guide on how we can do our bit to help the planet by breaking up with fast fashion.
It’s never too early to add these 2020 non-fiction books to your to-read list.
How to Break Up with Fast Fashion by Lauren Bravo
We’re decreased our plastic usage by investing in to-go cups for our coffees, reusable boxes for our packed lunches and totes for our weekly shop. But, for all the good that does, many of us are still finding it difficult to break out of bad fashion habits; fashion is the second largest polluter of our planet after oil and gas, and our fondness for fast fashion does nothing to help this. In How to Break Up with Fast Fashion, journalist Lauren Bravo chronicles her year of quitting fast fashion, and crucially offers honest and realistic advice on how we can quit too. Bravo will inspire you to repair, recycle and give old items a new lease of life, all without sacrificing your style, and the planet.
9 January, £12.99, Headline Home
Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener
In her mid-20s, Anna Wiener left her job in book publishing to join a tech start-up, moving from New York to San Francisco to do so. While the move initially felt positive – Wiener was earning good money and felt like she was part of the future – it soon became apparent that the tide was turning on tech companies. Casual sexism was rife, sexual harassment cases were on the rise, and the whole industry was being seen as a surveillance operation. In Uncanny Valley, Wiener explores how our addiction to technology has changed our lives, and the battle between old and new.
23 January, £16.99, 4th Estate
You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
When was the last time you listened, really listened, to someone? According to writer Kate Murphy, as a society we’ve forgotten how to listen. Her new book You’re Not Listening lays out the arguments for why, when modern life is so busy and we rely on technology for much of our communication, it’s more important than ever to listen to the people around us. For the book, Murphy has spoken to people who actively listen for a living (think bartenders, priests and CIA interrogators) to discover why listening is the key to truly connecting with people.
23 January, £16.99, Harvill Secker
Motherwell by Deborah Orr
At the age of 18, the late journalist Deborah Orr left Motherwell, where she’d grown up, to go to university. But unlike many people, Orr was leaving against the wishes of her mother Win, who believed university wasn’t for the Orr family. This memoir explores Orr’s complicated and tense relationship with her mother, and how Motherwell and Win continued to draw her back to them, in the hopes that one day she’d be good enough for her mother.
23 January, £16.99, W&N
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
According to the Anti-Defamation League, extremist-related murders in 2018 in the US “were overwhelmingly linked to right-wing extremists”, with “white supremacists…responsible for the great majority of killings”. Yet, despite the threat from white supremacy, it’s still something our media and politicians are reluctant to speak about in the same ways they might talk about Islamic extremism. Layla Saad’s confrontational and much-needed Me and White Supremacy plans to change that. The book, which began as an Instagram challenge where Saad asked her followers to examine what white privilege really means, will cover different manifestations of white supremacy, from white privilege to white fragility, tone policing and white silence. But this isn’t just a book to passively read, each chapter ends with questions that will force the reader to reflect on their own positions and ideas and examine their own part in propping up the ideology of white supremacy.
4 February, £14.99, Quercus
How to Get Over a Boy by Chidera Eggerue
We’re strong, independent women, so we deserve a guide to dating that consists of something more than tips on “how to make him find you hot” and “how to get him to propose”. Step forward Chidera Eggerue, aka The Slumflower. In How to Get Over a Boy, Eggerue will reframe the stale goal of finding a man that has so often been seen as the pinnacle of a woman’s achievements. Containing tangible solutions for every part of your dating life, from that crush stage when we can’t stop thinking about the guy even though he isn’t replying to texts to helping us face society’s constant questioning about how we can possibly be happy AND single.
6 February, £12.99, Quadrille
Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives of Extremists by Julia Ebner
In her day job, Julia Ebner works at a counter-terrorism think tank, monitoring radical groups from the outside. Two years ago, sure she was only seeing half the picture, Ebner decided to go undercover in her spare hours, and adopted five different identities to join a dozen extremist groups from across the ideological spectrum. Her work saw her travel from a neo-Nazi music festival on the border of Germany and Poland to a global strategy meeting for Generation Identity at a pub in Mayfair. Ebner got relationship advice from alt-right “Trad Wives”, as well as Jihadi brides, and she spent time in the networks that would radicalise the Christchurch terrorist. Going Dark makes for terrifying reading, but it’s all the more essential for that, exposing just how closely we’re surrounded by fanatical ideology every day of our lives, and how that ideology is being countered.
20 February, £16.99, Bloomsbury
Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women White Feminists Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Feminism has often been dominated by the voices of white women, but the modern movement needs to be fully inclusive if it is to succeed. In Hood Feminism, author and activist Mikki Kendall looks at how feminism is neglecting marginalised communities, and what can be done to challenge and confront those inequalities from within the feminist movement.
25 February, £16.99, Bloomsbury
The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac
In 2019, the climate crisis finally made headline news, with the school strikes inspired by activist Greta Thunberg, and a number of books about the planet. In 2020, the attention will stay with the climate crisis, with The Future We Choose, by Christiana Figueres, who used to work for the UN and was the public face of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, and political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac. The Future We Choose is about understanding the climate crisis, and also includes things each of us can do every day to make a difference.
25 February, £12.99, Manilla Press
Lift As You Climb by Viv Groskop
There are few things more frustrating in the professional, and personal, lives of women than a woman who refuses to help or support you. In Lift As You Climb, journalist Viv Groskop examines what a “sisterhood” really looks like, and how it can be put into action. Lift As You Climb is a book about going after what you want without doing it at someone else’s expense, and how to be ambitious without losing your sense of self. Dynamic and practical, this book is all about succeeding, and helping others to do so as well.
5 March, £12.99, Bantam Press
Things I Learned from Falling by Claire Nelson
When Claire Nelson began to burn out, she left her hectic London life of work and social activity to travel, and ended up in Southern California after being asked to cat sit by friends for a few weeks. While there, she decided to do a six-hour hike in nearby Joshua Tree National Park to clear her head. But on the hike, she slipped and fell 30ft into a gap between two boulders, shattering her pelvis. With no phone signal, and no one who knew she was missing, Nelson spent four days alone on the trail, until she was miraculously spotted by a helicopter and rescued. Things I Learned from Falling is Nelson’s uplifting and brave memoir of what happened to her, and how it forced her to reassess what was making her unhappy and to change her life.
5 March, £12.99, Aster
The Home Stretch by Sally Howard
Recent research by UCL found that women still do the majority of housework, even in couple where there were similar education levels, paid working hours and shared beliefs on gender roles. And in the course of a year, the average heterosexual British woman puts in 12 days more of household labour than her male companion, but why? In The Home Stretch, Sally Howard combines history and her personal story to investigate the domestic labour gap. Spending time with feminist separatists, a cleaner, and latte papas, Howard takes a look at what the future could look like in a world where domestic labour is truly shared.
5 March, £14.99, Atlantic Books
Why Women Are Poorer Than Men and What We Can Do About It by Annabelle Williams
Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly give us choices, if we have enough of it. But there is no country in the world where women collectively earn as much as men, and the reality of being a woman is to face the fact that we’ll earn less than our male counterparts over the course of our lifetimes. In this book Annabelle Williams, a finance journalist for The Times, uncovers the realities of money in the modern world, and what exactly we can do about the fact that women are poorer than men.
5 March, £12.99, Michael Joseph
Death By Shakespeare: Snakebites, Stabbings and Broken Hearts by Hearts Kathryn
How would Cleopatra’s snakebite really play out? How did star-crossed Juliet play dead for 72 hours? Chemist and author Kathryn Harkup promises an in-depth look at the science behind the many, macabre ways Shakespeare chose to kill his characters. As well as putting some of the playwright’s grisliest fictional deaths under her scientific microscope and comparing them to real-life scenarios, she also explores the significant scientific strides during Shakespeare’s lifetime, which he often alluded to in his work.
5 March, £16.99, Bloomsbury
No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder
England and Wales has just appointed its first domestic abuse commissioner, but the welcome news is tempered by statistics that show the domestic violence death rate is the highest it’s been in five years. In the US, domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. The World Health Organisation has deemed domestic violence a “global epidemic”, yet because most domestic violence happens behind closed doors, it’s not an epidemic that’s being treated properly. In No Visible Bruises, journalist Rachel Louise Snyder gives an account of the scale of domestic violence and how it links in to everything from mass shootings to the education system. Through the stories of victims, perpetrators, law enforcement officers and more, Snyder explores the roots of domestic violence, and what it would take to stop it.
12 March, £9.99, Scribe
handiwork by Sara Baume
This short narrative sees writer Sara Baume exploring what it means to be creative and live as an artist. The author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither, which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, Baume’s handiwork features her signature beautiful prose, and charts the daily process of making and writing.
26 March, £9.99, Tramp Press
Lost, Found, Remembered by Lyra McKee
Norther Irish journalist Lyra McKee was one of the brightest voices of her generation when she was killed while covering a riot in Londonderry (also known as Derry) on Good Friday 2019. Aged just 29, McKee had already produced important pieces of investigative journalism. Lost, Found, Remembered will include both published and unpublished material by McKee, ensuring her words live on and continue to have an impact.
2 April, £12.99, Faber & Faber
Sway: The Science of Unconscious Bias by Dr Pragya Agarwal
As non-judgmental as we all like to think we are, experiments have shown that our brains categorise people by race in less than a tenth of a second, faster than we determine their sex. In Sway, Dr Pragya Agarwal uncovers the science between our “unintentional” biases, and how unconscious biases are affecting the way we communicate, make decisions and see the world. Covering ageism, sexism and racism, Agarwal uses research and theories from a range of disciplines to tell us how biases manifest, and whether there’s anything we can do to stop them.
2 April, £16.99, Bloomsbury
Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein
She tidied up our houses, and now Marie Kondo is turning her attention to our work lives. In Joy at Work, Kondo and organisational psychologist Scott Sonenshein will tell us how to improve the way we work, from organising our desks to clearing our emails and finding what sparks joy in the office. If the number of unread emails in our inboxes are anything to go by, this book will be an essential addition to our shelves.
7 April, £16.99, Bluebird
Clothes and Other Things That Matter by Alexandra Shulman
Who can forget the famous scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) explains to a sneering Andy (Anne Hathaway) why the work of fashion magazines and editors matter, and how it affects not just what we wear, but what we think our clothing is saying about us? In the funny and opinionated Clothes and Other Things That Matter, former Vogue UK editor Alexandra Shulman explores the meaning of clothes and how we wear them. From the little black dress to the white shirt and the bikini, she takes pieces of clothes and examines their role in her own life and the lives of women in general, touching on issues including sexual identity, motherhood, ambition, power and body image. A must-read for anyone, like Miranda Priestly, who knows that clothes might not maketh the woman, but they certainly help.
23 April, £16.99, Cassell
skinCARE by Caroline Hirons
Subtitled “the ultimate no-nonsense guide”, this book features straight-talking advice from skincare guru Caroline Hirons. Like her YouTube videos and Instagram posts, this book will cut the jargon and tell you what you need to know about looking after your skin without any fuss. Aimed at people of all ages and skin types, skinCARE includes cheat sheets, tips and tricks, information on how to understand ingredient lists and advice on choosing the products that will work for you.
30 April, £20, HQ
Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon
Journalist Bryony Gordon is well-known for her honesty. She’s already written openly about her mental health in Mad Girl, and now she’s turning her attention to alcoholism and addiction in her new book Glorious Rock Bottom.
The book is about Gordon’s 20-year relationship with alcohol and drugs, and how it was hitting rock bottom that saved her life. Glorious Rock Bottom will see Gordon relive some of the darkest moments of her addiction, and discuss the hard work involved in becoming sober. Dark and brutal, the book – in trademark Gordon style – will also be funny and full of hope.
14 May, £16.99, Headline
The Art of Disruption by Magid Magid
It’s rare to get excited about politicians these days, but the appointment of Magid Magid as Lord Mayor of Sheffield in 2018 was exciting. Magid, a refugee from Somalia, was the youngest person to ever hold the role and the first Green Party member to do so. He’s currently serving as the Green Party MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, and continues to inspire with his straight talking. The Art of Disruption is Magid’s guide on activism and fighting for the things that matter to you.
14 May, £12.99, Bonnier Books
Year of Music by Clemency Burton-Hill
Clemency Burton-Hill’s Year of Music will introduce a different piece of classical music for every day of the year, aiming to show the depth of the genre. Burton-Hill introduces each piece of music and explains why you should listen to it on that particular day, and reminds us that “finding a space to sit and listen to a piece of music every day can be a singular gift to yourself”.
28 May, £20, Headline
How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division by Elif Shafak
The Booker Prize-shortlisted author explores how humans cope with uncertainty – when everything is falling apart, how do we remain optimistic? Shafak considers how our emotions shape our politics and how we can guard against misinformation and fear of the unknown. The book builds on her PhD in political science and acclaimed public speaking as well as her love of language. Mixing memoir and polemic, politics and self-help, she argues that the power of stories can save both our wellbeing and democracy.
2 June, Wellcome Collection and Profile, £4.99
What Have I Done? by Laura Dockrill
Children’s author Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy, but as she went into labour things began to go wrong. After a traumatic birth and a slow recovery, little things piled up, and Dockrill soon began paranoid and delusional, imagining there were cameras watching her in a giant bear that had been gifted to her baby, and thinking about killing herself. Dockrill was institutionalised for a fortnight without her baby, and in the aftermath published a blog about her experiences, which went viral. Post-natal mental health is rarely talked about, and researched and funded inadequately; through sharing her experiences in What Have I Done?, Dockrill shows new mums that they are not alone. This is the first of two excellent memoirs about post-natal mental health out in 2020 (see also Inferno by Catherine Cho).
4 June, £14.99, Square Peg
Brown Baby by Nikesh Shukla
Writer Nikesh Shukla has been a driving force behind discussions of ethnic representation in the UK publishing industry, including with the essay collection The Good Immigrant, which he edited. For his newest work of non-fiction, he turns his attention to fatherhood. In this memoir he ruminates on how to raise his two young girls in a world that is beset by racism, sexism and the effects of climate change, while also teaching them to enjoy the world. Exploring how to bring up children to have positive role models of colour, and how to be a feminist dad, this is an honest yet hopeful book about parenting in the modern world.
11 June, £16.99, Bluebird
Fat Cow, Fat Chance by Jenni Murray
Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray brings the personal, political and scientific together in this look at what it’s like to be fat when society dictates that skinny is the norm, and the best. At 64, Murray was used to hiding her weight under baggy black clothes and a happy demeanour, while in private living with a growing sense of fear about her health. Fat Cow, Fat Chance asks why we overeat, how to help young people become comfortable with the way they look, and why fat shaming is so often called out but showing “fat cow” at a woman in the street is not included in the list of hate crimes. An intimate and powerful book about obesity on an individual and societal level.
25 June, £16.99, Doubleday
Not Quite White by Laila Woozeer
Laila Woozeer’s Not Quite White continues the conversation about race that took off in books like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Afua Hirsch’s Brit-ish. Part autobiography and part critical commentary, Not Quite White examines the experience of being mixed race in the UK. Woozeer looks at how pop culture and media representation has created a narrative about what being mixed race means, and at the emotional and psychological impact of being mixed race and being placed outside of the conversation. Woozeer combines anecdotes from their own life with insights from child psychology and academic texts to create a must-read book.
25 June, £16.99, Simon & Schuster
How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes
Journalist Pandora Sykes, who co-hosts the podcast The High Low with Dolly Alderton, offers an insight into modern life, with all its anxieties and agendas, in How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? In a collection of essays, Sykes interrogates the stories we’ve been told about everything from wellness and consumerism to happiness and womanhood, and encourages us to find our own paths to contentment.
9 July, £12.99, Hutchinson
Inferno: A Memoir of Motherhood and Madness by Catherine Cho
Shortly after the birth of their son, literary agent Catherine Cho and her husband James went to America to introduce Cato to family. But while there, Cho was admitted to a psychiatric ward in New Jersey. In this insightful and shocking memoir, Cho looks at what happened, and how she reconstructed her sense of self by pulling together threads from her past and present.
9 July, Bloomsbury
Hungry by Grace Dent
Described as a “nostalgic food memoir”, Hungry is the story of both journalist Grace Dent and the British food scene over the past 40 years. Chronicling Dent’s journey from 1970s Carlisle to her role as one of the UK’s most recognisable food critics, Dent talks with honesty about everything from pretentious restaurants to Michelin stars and eating offal. Hungry is also a book about family; Dent lost her dad to Alzheimer’s, and in Hungry chronicles how she visited him every weekend, taking him out for Wetherspoon’s curries and trying to get him to eat old favourites including Penguin Biscuits and yum-yum from Gregg’s. A touching story of familial love and connection as well as a romp through the modern history of British food, this is for anyone who understands that food is about more than just physical nourishment.
Release date to be announced, HarperCollins
Images: Book jackets courtesy of publishers. Layla Saad photo by Layla Saad; Chidera Eggerue photo by Rachel Sherlock; Lyra McKee photo by Jess Lowe Photography; Pragya Agarwal photo by Chris Thomond; Clemency Burton-Hill photo by Robert Hill; Laura Dockrill photo by Sonny Malhotra; Laila Woozeer photo by Yossy Akinsanya; Pandora Sykes photo by Getty.
Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.