My Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2021

My Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2021

I read nonfiction books differently. I tend to read them in hardcover and highlight them, making notes in the margins. I take this approach when I want to actively learn from them. Or I listen to them as audiobooks, especially if they’re memoirs. I love listening to memoirs and self-help books.


Regardless of how I read it, I have a nonfiction book going all the time.


I read 125 books in 2021. Below are reviews of seven of the nonfiction books I loved.

1. Broken (In the Best Possible Way)

Jenny Lawson cracks me up. Don’t get me wrong, I know mental health issues are nothing to laugh about. Lawson knows it too because she has multiple psychological and physical health issues. But Lawson chooses to share humor with her readers as a form of coping and informing people to help them better understand others’ struggles. 

Broken (In the Best Possible Way) made me laugh out loud when Lawson wrote about she always loses one shoe in public places or the business ideas she wants to pitch on Shark Tank. 

I also loved Lawson’s book Furiously Happy. It made me laugh and cry. It showed the humanity behind Lawson’s mental health issues. This latest book just made me laugh. Don’t listen to Lawson if you’re easily offended. Otherwise, get ready to chuckle then think, “That’s not funny!”

2. Did I Say That Out Loud? Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them

I don’t know if I’m in midlife or not. But I suspect you are if you have to question it. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed Kristin van Ogtrop’s book so much.

Did I Say That Out Loud? Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them seemed to take the approach of needing to laugh about the stuff that happens to us as we age so we won’t cry. I found myself thankful that it wasn’t just me who couldn’t work the TV remote anymore (or even see the guide from across the room for that matter). And don’t even get me started on the part where you just stop sleeping. I’ve always been a sleeper! I need my sleep!

But I love that this book also talks about all of the things you don’t miss once you reach a certain age. Isn’t it lovely to be comfortable enough with yourself to not give a rats about what others think?

3. Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance

We communicate differently today than we did just a decade ago. And younger people do and think about digital communication differently. 

Digital Body Language by Erica Dhawan, an expert in digital teamwork, is an essential read for today’s professionals.

The gist of the book is that we rely on body language when we communicate in person. Body language, including facial expressions, helps us better understand the intent of messages. But we don’t have those luxuries with digital communication, even Zoom. So we’ve created a kind of shorthand for digital body language. They’re new signals and cues that replace body language across genders, generations, and cultures. And, if you want to be effective communicators today, you need to understand them.

4. Laziness Does Not Exist

How could you not read this book after seeing a title like Laziness Does Not Exist?

But laziness actually does exist. It just isn’t real for most of the overachievers who think they’re lazy. In short, people who actually are lazy, probably don’t realize it or care.

For those of us who feel bad giving ourselves a break. Dr. Devon Price says STOP IT!

People today do more than any others in history, but we still feel like it’s never enough. Dr. Price wants readers to understand that your productivity does not define your worth and it’s time for you to embrace doing enough before you make yourself physically ill, as she once did.

5. My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope and Redemption

If you think our justice system works, you need to read My Time Will Come.

No, Ian Manuel isn’t another person who claims he’s wrongly incarcerated. He did what he was punished for. He shot a woman during a robbery in 1991. She did not die, but she was severely wounded, as you can imagine. He was 14 years old. He was abused and already traumatized when it happened. Then he was sentenced to life in prison.

Because Manuel was a minor, he couldn’t be put in the general prison population. That meant he spent 18 years in solitary confinement. Most of us can only imagine what that does to a person’s mental health.

Manuel deserved punishment for what he did. But our system doesn’t handle regular offenders well, let alone those who are minors and convicted of serious crimes. This book uncovers some of these issues.

6. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho is practical. He says we have to know we have a problem with racism so we can fix it.

Acho then identifies a series of common racist thoughts or ideas, unpacks the history of them, tells the reader what’s acceptable today, then provides simple action items at the end of each chapter to help allies take the next steps.

Acho’s book is not intimidating for people who just want to learn and get it right. But, if you read it, you need to get ready to be called out on some long-standing bull. The book may be uncomfortable for some, for sure.


7. What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing

We would better understand people and the happenings that shaped their thinking, behaviors, and lives, in general, if we stopped asking, “What’s wrong with you?” and started asking, “What happened to you?” That’s the premise of this groundbreaking mental health book by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey.

To truly understand people and their mental health issues, you have to first explore what caused those problems. What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing is the best book I’ve read about how early childhood experiences shape people. No, we’re not going back to blaming our parents here. We’re talking about how things that happen in childhood shape our paradigms.

This book also is a nice mix of science from trauma expert Bruce Perry and personal experience from Oprah and things she learned through the years from guests on her show. I listened to this book the first time, but I’m going to buy it so I can read it again and highlight it a lot.

My Favorite Nonfiction Books

There they are! Some of my favorite nonfiction books of 2021. I hope you find something on the list to read and love. And, as always, happy reading!