Holiday books: Our 31 nonfiction picks

Entertainers share their secrets, scientists tell it like it is (and historians like it was), while Robert Reich and Bill O’Reilly dig in.

Skip to: Entertainment | Current Affairs | History | Memoir/Bio | Science/Technology | Sports | Complete list


Unfaithful Music and Diasppearing Ink

Elvis Costello

Blue Rider Press, $30

The musician who brought the world “Everyday I Write the Book” finally makes good on his promise with this long, definitive autobiography.


A Pre-posthumous Memoir

Terry Gilliam

Harper Design, $40

The Monty Python member, animator and director of “Brazil” and “The Fisher King” tells his story in this manically illustrated book.

I'll Never Write My Memoirs

Grace Jones

Gallery Books, $26.99

The model, actress and singer reveals what it was like to go from Studio 54 VIP to James Bond film costar in this ironically titled book.

Why Not Me?

Mindy Kaling

Crown Archetype, $25

Comedian, television showrunner and bestselling author Kaling’s second book is a humourous essay collection focusing on friendship, Hollywood and love.


The Chairman

James Kaplan

Doubleday, $35

The sequel to Kaplan’s “Frank: The Voice” arrives in time for Sinatra’s centennial; it covers a lotta livin’ — romances, successes, scandals, films and music — from 1954 until his last days.

Los Lobos

Dream in Blue

Chris Morris

University of Texas Press, $22.95

The pride of East L.A. finally get a book about their incredible musical career. Journalist Morris chronicles the history of Los Lobos.

The Comedians

Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy

Kliph Nesteroff

Grove Press, $28

Nesteroff presents a history of the last century of comedy in the U.S., from the days of vaudeville to the new era of viral Internet videos.

Year of Yes

How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person

Shonda Rhimes

Simon & Schuster, $24.99

Consider it handled. The “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” creator explains her decision to challenge her introversion and how that changed her life.

The Song Machine

Inside the Hit Factory

John Seabrook

W. W. Norton , $26.95

New Yorker staff writer Seabrook explores how today’s pop hits are now less art than exacting science and why “Gangnam Style” gets stuck in your head.

M Train

Patti Smith

Knopf, $25

The rock musician follows up her National Book Award-winning “Just Kids” with this reflection on life as an artist and a human being.

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Current Affairs

The Courage to Act

A Memoir of a Crisis and its Aftermath

Ben S. Bernanke

W.W. Norton, $35

The two-term Federal Reserve chairman chronicles the institution’s response to the 2008 financial crisis that threatened to bring about a worldwide economic collapse.

The New Tsar

The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin

Steven Lee Myers

Knopf, $32.50

A biography of the controversial leader who grew up poor in Leningrad, joined the KGB, and has steered Russia to new prominence as prime minister and president.

Becoming Nicole

The Transformation of an American Family

Alice Ellis Nut

Random House, $27

Pulitzer Prize-winner Nutt reports on a family who adopted infant male identical twins and faced challenges within and without when one grew up to be a transgender girl.

Killing Reagan

Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Henry Holt, $30

The writing team behind “Killing Lincoln” returns with another bestseller focusing on President Reagan, whose career was almost ended by a would-be assassin.

Saving Capitalism

For the Many, Not the Few

Robert R. Reich

Knopf, $26.95

The former U.S. secretary of Labor argues that special interests have stacked the deck against American workers, resulting in the disappearance of the middle class.

Where Everybody Looks Like Me

At the Crossroads of America’s Black Colleges and Culture

Ron Stodghill

Amistad, $26.99

Despite the vital role historically black colleges and universities have played in our culture, Stodghill argues, the current moment presents them with critical challenges.

Objective Troy

A Terrorist, a President, and the Rise of the Drone

Scott Shane

Tim Duggan Books, $28

The story of the battle between President Obama and al-Qaeda terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who became the first American citizen killed in a U.S. drone strike.

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The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife, and the Missing Corpse

Piu Marie Eatwell

Liveright, $27.95

The strange story of the uproar that ensued around 1900 when a British woman claimed that her dead father-in-law had actually been a secretive, wealthy duke.

The Gay Revolution

The Story of the Struggle

Lillian Faderman

Simon & Schuster, $35

A definitive, detailed and readable history of the movement for civil rights for gay, lesbian and transgender people, from the 1950s to the present day.

The Making of Asian America

A History

Erika Lee

Simon & Schuster, $29.95

A monumental work that covers Asians in America since the 1500s, exploring the ways in which they were needed and discriminated against, banned and lauded.

Masters of Empire

Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America

Michael A. McDonnell

Hill and Wang, $35

Before the Revolutionary War, the Anishinaabeg were a dominant force in the Great Lakes region; this is a history of these long-neglected Native Americans.

Paradise of the Pacific

Approaching Hawaii

Susanna Moore

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26

Hawaiian novelist Moore considers Hawaii’s efforts to reckon with colonization between 1777, when Capt. James Cook spotted Kauai, and the American annexation in 1898.

Right Out of California

The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism

Kathryn S. Olmsted

The New Press, $27.95

Historian Olmsted looks at how the left of 1930s California prompted business leaders to create the powerful conservative movement that led to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.


Alecos Papadatos, Abraham Kawa and Annie Di Donna

Bloomsbury, $27

This graphic historical novel from the authors of the hit “Logicomix” details the birth of democracy in war-torn Greece 2,500 years ago.

The Devil's Chessboard

Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secert Government

David Talbot

Harper, $29.99

Bestselling author Talbot argues that as CIA director, Dulles was a deeply corrupt figure who operated with impunity at home as well as abroad.

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This Old Man

Roger Angell

Doubleday, $26.95

A collection of essays, letters and more from the 95-year-old New Yorker contributor best known for his intelligent writing about baseball.


A Memoir

Margo Jefferson

Pantheon, $25

Part memoir, part reflection on race and culture from an author who grew up in an upper-class African American household in Chicago.

My Kitchen Year

136 Recipes That Changed My Life

Ruth Reichl

Random House, $35

Reichl reflects on how her life was turned upside down when her magazine, Gourmet, was shut down in 2009 and how cooking helped her find her place again.

The Arab of the Future

A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984

Riad Sattouf

Metropolitan, $26 paper

In this graphic memoir, Sattouf recounts his childhood moving between France, Libya and Syria with his mother and his capricious father.

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3

Mark Twain

University of California Press, $45

The annotated conclusion of Mark Twain’s memoirs details the final years of the beloved humorist’s life, including rants against Teddy Roosevelt and travels in Bermuda.

Dietrich and Riefenstahl

Hollywood, Berlin and a Century in Two Lives

Karin Wieland

Liveright, $35

How the "Blue Angel" actress and the Nazi filmmaker came from similar backgrounds in Germany but ended up on very different sides of World War II.

Goddess of Love Incarnate

The Life of Stripteuse Lili St. Cyr

Leslie Zemeckis

Counterpoint, $28

This biography goes behind the curtain with burlesque queen St. Cyr, an entertainer whose discipline was overshadowed by her figure.

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Science / Technology

We Have the Technology

How Biohackers, Foodies, Physicians and Scientists are Transforming Human Perception, One Sense at a Time

Kara Platoni

Basic, $27.99

Oakland journalist Platoni explores new research that shows how sensory perception and human experience are unexpectedly complicated and changeable.

Thunder & Lightning

Weather Past, Present, Future

Lauren Redniss

Random House, $35

The author and artist behind the award-winning “Radioactive” returns with a graphic book about the past, present and future of weather and how it affects humankind.

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

Lisa Randall

Ecco, $29.99

Physicist Randall believes that dark matter is to blame for the extinction of dinosaurs, and she explains what this might mean for the future of life on Earth.

The Invention of Science

A New History of the Scientific Revolution

David Wootton

Harper, $35

Wootton explains how the work of scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries intersected with events, including the invention of the printing press, to reset how we perceive and engage with the world.

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Raw: My 100% Grade-A, Unfiltered, Inside Look at Sports

Colin Cowherd

Gallery Books, $26

The controversial sports radio host has never had much of a filter. His new book promises to bring readers an insider’s perspective on American sports.


Jeanne Marie Laskas

Random House, $16 paper

The basis for the Will Smith movie, Laskas’ book tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the medical examiner who investigated chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players.

I Feel Like Going On

Life, Game and Glory

Ray Lewis with Daniel Paisner

Touchstone, $26.99

The former Baltimore Ravens linebacker opens up about his childhood, his football career and the murder trial that almost ended his career.

Find a Way

Diana Nyad

Knopf, $26.95

Nyad’s 111-mile swim from Cuba to Florida at age 64 inspired the world; she explains how she was able to accomplish her incredible feat.

Got to Give the People What They Want

True Stories and Flagrant Opinions From Center Court

Jalen Rose

Crown Archetype, $28

The basketball commentator played for six teams during his NBA career; in this book, he offers both stories and his takes on life on the hardwood.

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