Millie Walton picks seven titles to add to your must-read list for 2022.
Up your reading game this year with some of the most important non-fiction books to read including essay collections, memoirs, and manifestos on everything from love, music, and nature to gender, race, and feminism.
All About Love by Bell Hooks
When Bell Hooks died at the end of last year, social media feeds were flooded with passionate tributes, highlighting just how important she was and continues to be as an author, critic, and social activist. If you haven’t read any of her work, All About Love is a great place to start. It explores the different forms that love can take, how we misunderstand it, and how transformative it can be for individuals, communities, and societies. ‘The word ‘love’,’ she writes, ‘is most often defined as a noun, yet… we would all love better if we used it as a verb.’
Burning Questions by Margaret Atwood
Put a reminder in your diary for 1 March 2022 when Margaret Atwood’s latest collection of essays, Burning Questions is released into the world. Comprising over fifty pieces, the collection promises to explore topics ‘from debt to tech, the climate crisis to freedom’, each examined with Atwood’s sharp humour and uncanny insight.
Everything is True by Roopa Farooki
Told in fractured paragraphs, Everything is True records junior doctor Roopa Farooki’s first forty days of working in the pandemic from the frontlines of A&E and in the wake of her sister’s tragic death from cancer. Admittedly a book about COVID-19 might not sound hugely appealing at this point in time, but this isn’t just about the pandemic: it’s about grief, responsibility, and a holding onto our shared sense of humanity.
You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston
You Don’t Know Us Negroes brings together a collection of vivid, authoritative essays written over nearly four decades by novelist, anthropologist, and critic Zora Neale Hurston. Illustrating Hurston’s ‘lifelong attempt to reclaim traditional Black folk culture from racist and classist degradations’, the book is organised thematically focusing on ‘the Folk’, race, gender, art, politics, and the scandalous trial of a black woman who was accused of killing her white lover.
The Cost of Sexism by Professor Linda Scott
This year sees the paperback release of The Cost of Sexism (originally titled The Double X Economy), Linda Scott’s timely analysis of global gender inequality. The book revolves around the idea that beneath what’s generally regarded as the mainstream economy runs a shadow economy of work done by women who continue to be skewed by socio-economic constraints. Rather than simply highlighting the issues, Scott shines a light on women’s essential and often invisible contributions to our global economy and more importantly, outlines an actionable plan of how we can work towards their empowerment.
This Woman’s Work edited by Kim Gordon and Sinéad Gleeson
This Woman’s Work is a colourful collection of essays on music by the likes of Anne Enright, Maggie Nelson, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Yiyun Li. Featuring writing on jazz, genre-breakers, music, and activism, propaganda, and mixtapes, the book seeks to challenge the sexism that has long defined canons of music, literature, and film.
Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo
In 2019, Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize since its inception fifty years earlier with her brilliantly original novel Girl, Woman, Other and now, she’s written a memoir about her journey to success. Manifesto charts the author’s life with frank insight and humour – from a childhood steeped in racism to setting up Britain’s first theatre company for black women and her experiences of the publishing world.
Abolition. Feminism. Now. by Angela Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners, and Beth Richie
In the wake of worldwide protests following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 and Sarah Everard in 2021 at the hands of police officers, Abolition. Feminism. Now. brings together the writing of four leading scholar-activists to illustrate how abolitionism and feminism stand shoulder-to-shoulder in fighting a common cause: the end of the carceral state, with its key role in perpetuating violence, both public and private, in prisons, in police forces, and in people’s homes. It makes for a powerful, thought-provoking read.
Please Miss: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Penis by Grace Lavery
Grace Lavery’s memoir of gender transition and recovery from addiction is refreshingly original, smart, and funny. In a story filled with twists and turns, Grace performs in a David Lynch remake of Sunset Boulevard, finds herself the recipient of anonymous letters from a mysterious cabal of clowns and writes a ‘socialist manifesto disguised as a porn parody of QI.’
A Line Above the Sky by Helen Mort
Prize-winning poet Helen Mort’s beautiful memoir A Line Above the Sky explores her love of climbing and experiences of early motherhood as she finds herself re-examining her relationship to the natural world. A vibrant celebration of womanhood and physicality, the book questions why humans are drawn to danger and how we can find a sense of freedom by pushing ourselves to our limits.