Sponsored by Oxford University Press.
Successful word-coinages — those that stay popular for a good long time — tend to conceal their beginnings. We take them at face value and rarely wonder when and where they were first minted. Engaging, illuminating, and authoritative, Ralph Keyes’s The Hidden History of Coined Words explores the etymological underworld of terms and expressions, uncovering plenty of hidden gems. This witty book will appeal not just to word mavens, but also to history buffs, trivia contesters, and anyone who loves the immersive power of language.
I try to highlight some weird or obscure nonfiction on here when I can, but what if we just went all in on popular nonfiction? That seems fun, right? So I looked at the top 100 selling books and did some cherry picking because I can. Enjoy!
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Of course of COURSE this is on here. Obama’s 700+ page memoir is the first in a two-volume set. This volume goes from Obama’s early years through the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, so before he was elected for his second term. According to Wikipedia, Obama took the longest of any president writing a memoir since it started being a regular “thing” with Calvin Coolidge. But it’s a massive book, so we get it, Obama. We get it.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Doyle’s previous books include Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior. Her most recent memoir “is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live.” She discusses her divorce, her marriage to Abby Wambach, and their blended family. The book is divided into three sections: Caged, Keys, and Freedom. It’s all about empowerment for women and finding courage. My wife loves this book.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
This was on so many antiracism lists last year, so it’s not a huge surprise it was one of the top sellers! Kendi talks about antiracism as “a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism” and “points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other.” He relates how racism creates false hierarchies in society and makes everything actively worse. So we should stop that.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson
Pulitzer Prize–winning Wilkerson’s new book was a big, big release of last year. Despite America’s proclamation of being based in the notion that all people are created equal, all people are not treated equally. Wilkerson posits that there is a hidden caste system, which can be defined through eight pillars, including divine will and bloodlines. You know. The things people have used for millennia to say why they’re inherently better than other people. This came out last August, which both feels forever ago and “what, only eight months ago?”
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
This one surprised me, so I looked into it! For those of you in the know, forgive me, but I was shocked to see this has been a NYT bestseller for a full decade, so it made the top nonfiction list for 2020. All the reviews are very either “this book immediately changed my life” or “this book is garbage nonsense!” So sounds like something to arrive at your own opinion about!
For more nonfiction new releases, check out the For Real podcast which I co-host with the excellent Kim here at Book Riot. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @itsalicetime. Until next time, enjoy those facts, fellow nerds.