The best nonfiction of July

Chris Schluep on July 21, 2020

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On the nonfiction docket this month is a book about friendship, a memoir about a face you might want to punch, an inspiring story of ambition and overcoming, and a consideration of end times. It seems we are offering books to meet a wide assortment of emotional dispositions this month; but there's even more in the complete list of the best nonfiction books of the month. Be sure to check out all of our selections here.

Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman

The hosts of the popular podcast Call Your Girlfriend take a look at their own friendship, which has had its shares of ups and downs. But it's not just what happens between two people that can put a strain on a friendship. Things that have nothing to do with a friendship, like health scares and job difficulties in their case, can draw a person away from another—and yet Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman have always chosen to invest in their bond. Close, non-familial friendship is a relationship that sometimes gets short shrift in the media. Not here, my friend.

A Very Punchable Face: A Memoir by Colin Jost

When you give your book a title that tips its hat to the fact that you have a very punchable face, there's a chance the material inside your book will be self-deprecating. Such is the case with Colin Jost's book A Very Punchable Face. Here's how Amazon editor Al Woodworth describes the book in her Best of the Month review: "With ceaseless wit, relentless optimism, and a healthy dose of self-awareness, Jost recounts his childhood in Staten Island, why he loves his mother (you will too, after you read that chapter), writing for The Harvard Lampoon, interviewing for Saturday Night Live, getting thrown out of a wrestling ring, and all the sketches and 'Weekend Updates' in between. Whether or not you’re an SNL fan, this feisty, funny memoir is well worth the read and the punches—I mean, the laughs. Oh, the laughs."

A Most Beautiful Thing: The True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team by Arshay Cooper

I have called out this book in some other lists, but I'll do it one more time. This is the inspiring, exhilarating story of the first all-Black rowing team, which was formed by a group of young men on Chicago's West side. We picked it as our Best of the Month spotlight, and again, Al Woodworth reviewed the book. She says in part, "This is a story about triumphing over adversity, of mentorship and personal investment, of sports and endurance, and of faith—in yourself, in others, and your team."

Desert Notebooks: A Road Map for the End of Time by Ben Ehrenreich

Maybe you don't believe the earth is warming, but Ben Ehrenreich does, and he has written a book that is part climate science, part celebration and appreciation of the desert, and part roadmap for how we might complete our journey toward—as he puts it in the subtitle—the end of time. A book about the apocalypse shouldn't be uplifting; but somehow this book manages to be, while at the same time remaining very unflinching. Ehrenreich writes about a lot more than the desert in this book. He's weaving a tale for how we got here. But after you read it, you won't be able to stop thinking about where we are headed.

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