33 Of Fall's Most Highly Anticipated Nonfiction Reads

Wouldn't it be amazing if you could read brand-new books by Mary Karr, Ellen DeGeneres, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Margo Jefferson, and Mindy Kaling all in one season? Like, starting this month? Well, your fall is looking up.

For whatever reason, the literary gods are feeling especially generous in the last third of 2015. Not only is Karr finally teaching us how she writes such perfect memoirs, but Beyoncé expert J. Randy Taraborrelli is giving us the true story of Queen Bey's childhood. Patti Smith is unveiling the secrets behind her most famous lyrics. Drew Barrymore is allowing us to feast our eyes on her most personal photographs, DeGeneres is inviting us into her jaw-droppingly designed homes, and one of the best historical writers alive is diving deep into the history of Salem's witches. Click ahead, and start clearing room on your shelves.

Make sure to check out the rest of Refinery29's Fall Entertainment Preview, here!
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Tales from the Back Row (Simon & Schuster)
By Amy Odell
September 1

The fashion industry is kind of like an exclusive club: Lots of people clamor to get in because it looks impossibly glamorous from the outside. But what goes on inside, in the back row, in the front row, backstage? This delightful book of essays by Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell pulls back the curtain and shows that it’s not always so fabulous climbing the fashion ladder. Expect cameos from Anna Wintour, Rachel Zoe, Alexander Wang, and others.
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.
$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (Houghton Mifflin)
By Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer
September 1

As the title of this book suggests, $2 a day sounds like almost nothing, but millions of Americans, many of them children, are living on just that. This book is an affecting study of poverty and the welfare system in our country, juxtaposing academic research with journalistic reporting. Profiles and interviews make it heart-wrenchingly clear that these are actual American people — not just statistics — who are barely hanging on, doing whatever they can to make frayed ends meet. Whatever your position on welfare reform, this book is required reading for living in the United States.
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.
The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools? (Houghton Mifflin)
By Dale Russakoff
September 8

Back in 2010, Facebook kingpin Mark Zuckerberg teamed up with Mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie, pledging $100 million to reform struggling schools in Newark, NJ — with the idea of creating a model that would work nationwide. Zuckerberg may have earned cheers from Oprah’s audience, but the task turned out to be not quite so simple. Washington Post reporter Dale Russakoff unpacks the whole mess, and adds moving accounts from the families directly affected to create a fascinating and troubling portrait of the state of American education today.
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Photo: Courtesy of Picador.
Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine (Picador)
By Damon Tweedy
September 8

It’s easy to think that medicine is blind. A physician treats the body and its symptoms the same, no matter what. But in this thought-provoking memoir, an African-American doctor discusses not only how “being Black can be bad for your health,” but also the complex cultural and physiological reasons why, including the dearth of Black doctors in America. He also writes about his own struggles with race and health, both as a Black man in a profession dominated by white people and as a patient himself.
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Photo: Courtesy of Doubleday.
Reckless: My Life as a Pretender (Doubleday)
By Chrissie Hynde
September 8

Rock memoirs may be a dime a dozen these days, but Chrissie Hynde is one of the most badass chicks around. The Grammy award-winning lead singer of The Pretenders has been pretty much killing it since the ‘70s. Reckless chronicles her life from all-American kid to young punk to rock star and beyond. As with any life, there’s struggle, joy, and tragedy — it’s just that Hyde turned it all up a little louder than your average girl from Akron.
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Photo: Courtesy of Morrow.
Fracture: Barack Obama, The Clintons, and the Racial Divide (Morrow)
By Joy-Ann Reid
September 8

You may have noticed that America has a race problem. In this timely book, MSNBC national correspondent Joy-Ann Reid discusses race as a political, cultural, and social fault line — one that will have a huge effect on the 2016 election. She unpacks President Obama’s track record on racial issues and compares his approach to those of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The book also takes a broader look at views on race within the Democratic party, and addresses questions of how Clinton’s campaign might deal with one of the most pressing issues facing the nation.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pantheon.
Negroland: A Memoir (Pantheon)
By Margo Jefferson
September 8

You can get a peek at this memoir from Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson in this Guernica post from summer 2014. Be forewarned, though: Once you start reading Negroland, it’s hard to stop. Jefferson’s beautiful, unsettling account of growing up as a child of Chicago’s 1950s Black upper class may be a story about the past, but her observations on racial tension and prejudice in America ring true today as well.

This is not just a book about one woman’s history; it’s a biography of the United States and the everyday struggle for equality. Beautifully written, Negroland borrows an archaic term from the past and reveals its place in our present.
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The Art of Memoir (Harper)
By Mary Karr
September 15

It’s not a stretch to call Mary Karr the queen of the memoir. Combining brilliant storytelling with unparalleled attitude and a voice you’ll never forget, her 1995 account The Liar’s Club helped jump-start the memoir obsession that’s still going strong today. In her new book, Karr investigates what it takes to make a memoir powerful and long-lasting. It’s part appreciation of form, part process book, part examination of memory. It’s entertaining, wise, and passionate — and will likely launch a thousand new memoirs.
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Photo: Courtesy of Riverhead Books.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (Riverhead)
By Elizabeth Gilbert
September 22

“This, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” If this is the sort of phrase that makes you cringe a little bit, then you are probably not going to like the latest from inspiration guru Elizabeth Gilbert.

While Eat, Pray, Love launched the author into a secondary career as a thought leader and — at the arm’s length of Twitter, a life coach — her latest endeavor takes those thoughts even further. Is that a good thing? Perhaps. Gilbert is, indeed, an expert at making “art” into income these days. But something about this book smacks of platitudes instead of practical wisdom. Magic will only get you so far in life, after all.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gallery Books.
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs (Gallery)
By Grace Jones
September 29

Well, that turns out to be a lie. Legendary model, actress, singer, and all-around badass pop culture icon Grace Jones has, in fact, written a memoir reflecting on her career and life since the 1970s. And this, friends, is a life worth reflecting on, filled with decadent Studio 54 parties, fame both cult and mainstream, lovers, music, and art. She is an avant-garde surrealist superstar the likes of which we’ve really never seen before — and have yet to see again.
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Photo: Courtesy of Crown Publishing.
Why Not Me? (Crown Publishing)
By Mindy Kaling
September 29

Everything Mindy Kaling all the time, please. The hilarious actress-writer-producer has accomplished a ton since her 2011 release, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), and accordingly, her new book is more honest (but just as funny), tackling body-image issues, her relationship with B.J. Novak, and how it feels to be dumped by a friend. Kaling has become an essential voice in contemporary culture, both as an entertainer and as a powerful force for positivity. This book promises to deliver on both counts.
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.
Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter (Houghton Mifflin)
By Kate Clifford Larson
October 6

You may not have heard of Rosemary Kennedy. That was the intention. Her powerful family — American royalty — hid her away because of her intellectual disability, and eventually her father had her lobotomized at the age of 23. This fascinating book tells the story of her life, from her early struggles to her acceptance back into the family once afraid to fully claim her. A new and compelling story in the ongoing dialogue about how we deal with mental illness in this country.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
M Train (Knopf)
By Patti Smith
October 6

Patti Smith is just about everything: a poet, a musician, an artist, a memoirist, a legend. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that her newest book is just as multifaceted — part memoir, part lyric notebook, part dream journal, and part photo album. Smith has described it as “a roadmap to my life,” and like a map, it winds and twists on its way to informing and inspiring. Think of M Train as the fruit of Smith’s Just Kids (a more straightforward memoir) and her multi-format poetry. No matter which parts of her you love best, this book will give you more.
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Photo: Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.
Fast Forward: How Women Can Achieve Power and Purpose (Houghton Mifflin)
By Melanne Verveer and Kim K. Azzarelli
October 6

Malanne Verveer and Kim K. Azzarelli look to current female leaders and entrepreneurs to investigate how women can realize their power (particularly their economic power) and potential to change the world. In her introduction, Hillary Clinton writes, “The stories in this book of people making a difference give me hope. No more rewinding the rights of women and girls. We can move fast and we can move forward. We can use our power and purpose to help all women achieve their own. And once we do, we can fast-forward to a better world for all.” Amen.
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Photo: Courtesy of Running Press.
Strong Is The New Sexy: A Kick-Ass Memoir (Running Press)
By Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
October 13

You remember Snooki, right? We met her in 2009 on MTV’s Jersey Shore, where we learned that she loved pickles and blacking out. But things have changed. "Let's be honest, five years ago, most of the people who saw me on TV thought I'd wind up in rehab, a psych ward, or prison," she writes. Now, she’s a happily married, super-fit mother of two, who credits her transformation to working on her physical and emotional strength (not mental strength, she says, “because then I’d be screwed”). It just goes to show that any party girl can be reformed, and still keep that hilarious attitude.
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Photo: Courtesy of St. Martin's.
Humans Of New York: Stories (St. Martin’s)
By Brandon Stanton
October 13

If you use social media, you’ve probably heard of Humans Of New York, photographer Brandon Stanton’s attempt to take a picture of every single person in New York City. The project has been growing in popularity since he started five years ago, and a book of his work came out in 2013. But this second volume promises to be different from the first: It’s not just photos with brief captions, but longer, fuller stories about what makes each one of these humans, well, human. And, don’t worry, there are still some perfectly pithy quotes. These snapshots of other lives are moving and funny and sometimes truly inspiring. Plus, you might see someone you know.
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Photo: Courtesy of Knopf.
Find a Way: One Wild and Precious Life (Knopf)
By Diana Nyad
October 20

On September 2, 2013, 64-year-old Diana Nyad stepped onto Key West sand. She’d swum alone from Cuba, 110 miles away. It had taken her 53 hours, and she’d dodged sharks without the protection of a cage. Here, she tells the story of her history-making journey by water. If you need a little bit of inspiration to follow your dreams this fall, look no further: You’ll be primed to swim your own equivalent of 110 miles by the time you finish.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin.
Wildflower (Penguin)
By Drew Barrymore
October 27

Drew Barrymore has been through some difficult times, as she chronicled in her first memoir, Little Girl Lost, which she wrote when she was just 14. Her new book comes from a different Barrymore: a grown woman of 40 who’s happy and healthy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Little, Brown.
The Witches: Salem, 1692 (Little, Brown)
By Stacy Schiff
October 27

Stacy Schiff, the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of 2010’s Cleopatra, is one of the best biographers working today. With this book, she takes on a chapter from history that still nags at our cultural consciousness, the Salem witch trials. You might be frightened by how much of what Schiff uncovers about the way women were seen in American society in 1692 still resonates in contemporary culture.
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Reporting Always: Writings from The New Yorker (Scribner)
By Lillian Ross
October 27

This book collects 60 years of excellent writing from legendary New Yorker journalist Lillian Ross, who started at the magazine way back in 1945. Her style — funny, evocative, sharp, and sometimes novelistic — has been influential to (and imitated by) writers new and old for decades. A must-read for any budding reporter, or those who just want to read some damn good journalism, including profiles of a host of famous figures from Ernest Hemingway to Robin Williams.
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Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
Becoming Beyoncé: The Untold Story (Grand Central)
By J. Randy Taraborrelli
October 27

Prolific biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli (who has also written books on Diana Ross, Cher, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Sinatra) attempts to chronicle the life of the reigning queen of pop, following Beyoncé from her childhood dreams to her current reign. You either care, or you're getting a frightening visit from The Beygency soon.
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Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
Home (Grand Central)
By Ellen DeGeneres
October 27

Here’s something you might not know: Ellen DeGeneres isn’t just a hilarious host/actress/comedian. She has another major talent: interior design. DeGeneres has renovated some dozen abodes over the last 25 years, and in Home, she shares her love of design, many of her own personal spaces, and tons of ideas on how to improve your own house, even if you’re not part of the 1%. "You don't have to have money to have good taste," she reminds us.
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Photo: Courtesy of Dey Street Books.
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Dey Street Books)
By Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
October 27

The rise of Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an internet meme is one of those delightful phenomena that makes us think that technology might just have a killer sense of humor. The brilliant Supreme Court justice, staunch feminist, and Jewish grandmother has been hailed as a beloved badass, and crowned with the monicker the Notorious RBG. Even President Obama knows her nickname!

Now, the founders of the Notorious RBG Tumblr have written a new kind of biography for a new kind of Ginsburg fan, telling the story of her life and accomplishments, all while popping a Biggie crown on her head whenever possible.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gallery Books.
How to Be a Bad Bitch (Gallery)
By Amber Rose
October 27

According to Amber Rose, model, actress, and outsize personality, a “bad bitch” is defined as “a self-respecting, strong female who has everything together… a woman who gets her way by any means necessary.” Also according to Amber Rose, we should all be bad bitches. How might we achieve this? By buying this guide, of course, which is filled with stories of Rose’s secrets for living the best, most confident, baddest life you can.
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Photo: Courtesy of Avalon Publishing.
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living (Avalon)
By Jes Baker
October 27

From the force behind the blog The Militant Baker and the anti-Abercrombie “Attractive and Fat” campaign comes a manifesto that’s actually quite simple: Love your body. Millions of Americans are plagued by crippling body-image issues born from a culture that tells them they’re not beautiful. With this book, a combination of research, personal anecdote, and writings from other experts, Baker says: Reject that noise. Three cheers for that.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl (Penguin)
By Carrie Brownstein
October 27

Before Portlandia, Carrie Brownstein was the guitarist for the seminal ’90s feminist punk-rock band Sleater-Kinney. Her rock-star past is the focus of her first memoir, a coming-of-age story that delves into just how much Brownstein’s life was tangled up in the band. The book spends a lot of time on the creation of songs and albums, making this a memoir that every Sleater-Kinney fan or riot grrrl should own.
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Photo: Courtesy of Penguin.
The Sartorialist: X (Penguin)
By Scott Schuman
October 27

If you can believe it, the reigning king of street style blogs was founded 10 years ago, when Scott Schuman left his fashion job to spend more time with his daughter, and wound up snapping photos of inspiring (and not just model-type) people he encountered on the street. Now, he’s a household name, and his third book is hitting stands, filled with all the color, shape, beauty, and daring fashion (not to mention gorgeous photography) so essential to his blog. Schuman also includes snaps from some less established fashion capitals, like Peru, Dubai, and South Africa, for a more global look at the best-dressed humans around.
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Photo: Courtesy of Regan Arts.
Strong Looks Better Naked (Regan Arts)
By Khloé Kardashian
November 3

Well, there’s no arguing with that title. And the Kardashians do know a thing or two about nakedness. In her first official book, Khloé Kardashian tells personal stories about her struggles with love, life, and self-image. She offers practical advice and advocates for strength (of body, heart, and mind), not just because it makes you look better naked, but because it’s the key to happiness.
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Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Books.
David Lynch: The Man From Another Place (Amazon)
By Dennis Lim
November 3

True Twin Peaks fans will already have derived the show’s relationship to Lim’s book title. But this book isn’t just about the series: It dissects the mind of the man who created and shaped it. David Lynch has long been a standout cult figure in the realm of avant-garde creatives, and The Man From Another Place digs deeper into his personal psychology. Readers, take heed: This is a heady book, not the kind of feel-good biography you’re going to zip through in a weekend. For whatever it may lack in immediate accessibility, though, it more than makes up for in recreating the David Lynch mind space. Reading Lim’s book feels like a visit to the Lynchian world — full of dreamy grey space. It’s transportive. It’s thorough. It’s work — but it’s worth it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Norton.
Cast of Characters: Wolcott Gibbs, E.B. White, James Thurber, and the Golden Age of The New Yorker (Norton)
By Thomas Vinciguerra
November 9

Ninety years ago, The New Yorker was born. Since then, it has risen to become the most prestigious magazine in the country, and more importantly, it has published the work of hundreds of the world’s best writers. Thomas Vinciguerra’s new book focuses on a few of these people, most notably Wolcott Gibbs, hilarious theatre critic; James Thurber, blind cartoonist; and E.B. White, grammarian and stylist par excellence. If you’ve ever wanted entrance into the inner circle of a great American literary institution, it’s now yours for the taking.
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Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
Year of Yes (Simon & Schuster)
By Shonda Rhimes
November 10

When Shonda Rhimes, the kick-ass creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder, decided to spend a year saying “yes” to everything that came her way, she didn’t know what would happen. But it was one of the best decisions this savvy woman ever made (and you’ve already seen some of its direct results — remember that cameo on The Mindy Project?). Her memoir details the effect that one little word had on her life.
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Photo: Courtesy of Grand Central.
Timeless Beauty (Grand Central)
By Christie Brinkley
November 10

Believe it or not, Christie Brinkley is 61 years old. There are a few reasons why that might surprise you, the main one being that she’s never looked a day over 35. But, Brinkley is much more than her notoriously pretty face. Or, at least, that’s what her new book aims to prove. With mostly lighthearted prose describing her diet, exercise, makeup, and fashion routines, Timeless Beauty is a testament to Brinkley’s outside. We're much more curious, though, to know more about her inside, and what life has been like for someone whose identity often seems inseparable from her appearance. Memoir, please!
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Photo: Courtesy of Dey Street Books.
Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour (Dey Street Books)
By Dita Von Teese
December 1

Burlesque queen, actress, model, designer, and diva extraordinaire Dita Von Teese knows from eccentric glamour. Her new 400-page book is filled with tips and tricks for bringing out your inner bombshell, from skin care to nutrition to hair to, of course, the most luxurious of face painting techniques. Hey, the world could always use a little more va-va-voom.
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