Notable Nonfiction of Spring 2022, recommended by Sophie Roell

In the past few months, lots of history books about the past as well as excellent insights into the present have hit the shelves. Some are gripping reads offering a few hours of escapism, others contributions to our human quest to make the world a better place. Some manage both. Five Books editor Sophie Roell offers a roundup of the most notable new books of nonfiction published in March, April and May 2022.

The best books on Ukraine and Russia, recommended by Serhii Plokhy

Thousands of people have been killed since 2014 in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, in a war that has been rife with disinformation, misleading narratives and false flag operations. Here Serhii Plokhy, Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University, recommends books to better understand the conflict, from an introductory work by an eminent historian to the latest work of some of Ukraine’s leading novelists.

Notable Nonfiction of Early 2022, recommended by Sophie Roell

Even though we’re still in the first couple of months of 2022, there are already lots of really interesting nonfiction books either out or just about to be published. Five Books editor Sophie Roell surveys the flood of books that cover everything from Neolithic archaeology to the latest insights of neuroscience and genetics, as well as books that explore where we work, what we feel, and how we die.

The Best Memoirs: The 2022 NBCC Autobiography Shortlist, recommended by Marion Winik

Autobiography is evolving; increasingly we find the field dominated by ‘genre-fluid’ books that plait memoir together with strands of cultural criticism, history, journalism or even poetry. Here, Marion Winik, the memoirist and critic, talks us through the five books that have been shortlisted in the National Book Critic’s Circle autobiography category—and describes the face of memoir in 2022.

The Best Nonfiction Books of 2021, recommended by Sophie Roell

As the Covid pandemic gets another lease of life with the appearance of the omicron variant, those of us spending additional time at home may need a few more books to read. Here, Five Books editor Sophie Roell shares some of her favourite nonfiction books of the year, from history to economics, lessons on how to write like Chekhov to the part each of us can play in reducing political polarization.

The 2021 British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, recommended by Patrick Wright

Through careful research and compelling argument, the books shortlisted for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding cast light on globally significant problems, says Patrick Wright, chair of the 2021 jury and Emeritus Professor of Literature, History and Politics at King’s College London. Here he talks us through the books that made the 2021 shortlist as well as last year’s winner, works of nonfiction that “speak directly to the urgent challenges of the times in which we live”.

The Best Narrative Nonfiction Books, recommended by Samira Shackle

Narrative nonfiction is a style of writing that takes the facts and dramatises them to create novelistic retellings of real life events. Samira Shackle, author of Karachi Vice, a book that offers vivid insight into the lives of five of the city’s residents, recommends five books that have inspired her—and explains how a writer might begin to carve ‘plot’ and ‘characters’ from reams of research material.

The Best Nonfiction Books of 2020, recommended by Sophie Roell

As the world went into lockdown early in 2020, many of us without frontline jobs and lucky enough not to fall sick with Covid-19 found more time to read than usual. The sudden change to a slower gear also left more room to reflect on the state of the world and our place as humans in it. Sophie Roell, editor of Five Books, takes us through her personal choice of the best nonfiction books of 2020.  

The Best Nonfiction Books of 2019, recommended by Stig Abell

Every year, the Baillie Gifford Prize judges seek to identify the very best nonfiction books published in the last year. Here, the chair of this year’s judging panel Stig Abell talks us through the 2019 shortlist: a thrilling line-up of books that are as notable for their literary prowess as for their weight and significance.

The best books on Immersive Nonfiction, recommended by Will Storr

A good writer must always aim to write the truth – a more complex narrative than one of heroes and villains. But to find the truth, sometimes you’ve got to get up and go there yourself, says Will Storr, journalist and author of Selfie. Here he selects five books that have inspired his own immersive approach to nonfiction.

The best books on Libraries, recommended by Richard Ovenden

Knowledge is power and nowhere has it been better preserved down the millennia than in libraries. Here Richard Ovenden, author of Burning the Books and the librarian in charge of Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries, talks us through books that shed light on what libraries are and what they do, and why they remain absolutely vital in our digital age.

The Best Nonfiction Books for Teens, recommended by Marc Favreau

Whether you want your kids to know more about the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War or the life of Vincent van Gogh or Dmitri Shostakovich, we’re entering a golden era of nonfiction books for teens (also known as ‘Young Adult’ or YA nonfiction). Marc Favreau, author of the brilliant Spies, recommends some of the best.

Best Graphic Histories, recommended by Eleanor Janega & Neil Emmanuel

Graphic histories can offer complex and layered insights into the past and are underused as a medium, argue historian Eleanor Janega and illustrator Neil Emmanuel, authors of The Middle Ages: A Graphic History. Here, they recommend five graphic histories that show the power of comics not only for telling moving stories but also transmitting difficult concepts.

The Best Narrative Nonfiction, recommended by Peter Hessler

Writer and journalist Peter Hessler selects five books, from Haight Ashbury to a fifth grade classroom, which show how nonfiction can bring true stories to life through literary techniques. He chooses the best of narrative nonfiction.

The Best Nonfiction Books of 2018, recommended by Fiammetta Rocco

It’s a difficult task: to identify the very best nonfiction books of the year. But the Baillie Gifford Prize aims to do just that. The chair of the prize’s 2018 judging panel Fiammetta Rocco talks to us about the six fascinating titles that made the shortlist.