Cayla's Top 10 Nonfiction Books by Women

Cayla's Top 10 Nonfiction Books by Women

While book blogger, Cayla (@bookitqueen), loves diving into fictional worlds (especially fantasy and magical realism worlds), non-fiction works are her first love because they directly connect to self-improvement and new perspectives. And reading someone else's thoughts and accounts can be just as engrossing as burying yourself in a fantasy novel!

That's why she wanted to take this opportunity to recommend some of her favorite non-fiction books. From memoirs to sociological works to anthologies, the women authors in this list have created masterpieces that she often thinks about through the lens of her experiences or books that she has read. We hope that you enjoy these book recommendations in the same way that she has!

Creator Image
Cayla Turner
Bookstagrammer or Book Blogger
  • Mira Jacob
    Good Talk

    Cayla Turner

    One minute I was laughing loudly, the next I was on the verge of tears (or just ugly crying) while reading Good Talk by Mira Jacob. This mixed media autobiographical memoir is a canvas of heartbreak, conversation, parenting advice, and everything in between. 

    Most of the book is framed around conversations with her son, Z, and the many questions he has about race, hate, skin color, and current events. Immediately after laughing uncontrollably at something, I would then feel as though I was punched in the gut by an occurrence that I wasn't expecting in the book. 

    Jacob found a beautiful and heart-wrenching way to write about memories that make you feel like you're right there with her.
  • Deirdre Mask, Janina Edwards
    The Address Book

    Cayla Turner

    The Address Book by Dierdre Mask is a sociological masterpiece! Mask documents her travels worldwide, exploring the history and context behind street names, directions, and addresses of each. Now, I can't stop looking at street names and questioning their origin. 

    We often take addresses for granted, utilizing them to receive mail or packages, write down on applications, or punch into GPS devices. This book causes readers to look deeper into how streets got their names; some have notable histories while others have dark pasts. 

    Even if you're not interested in sociology or history, this book is for anyone who wants to learn about how addresses are utilized worldwide and what a privilege they are to have!
  • Austin Channing Brown
    I'm Still Here

    Cayla Turner

    Have you ever read a book that you felt was written just for you? For me, this was that book! Austin Channing Brown starts her story with her background and why her parents named her Austin (I won’t spoil it), and then she branches into her life as a Black woman in the church. 

    I found Austin’s experiences and sentiments very relatable. She spoke directly to what I’ve been thinking and feeling for quite some time in this book. With a religious overtone, she questions the relationship between Whiteness and Christianity. And, without a doubt, if any institution is to be anti-racist, it should be the church. 

    Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many churches, and Austin speaks directly to the hypocrisy and racism in the church. She provides a guide to surviving racism in an organization that claims to be anti-racist as an interlude.
  • Tressie McMillan Cottom
    Thick: And Other Essays

    Cayla Turner

    Dr. McMillan-Cottom has a spectacular way of breaking down complex notions into things you begin to recognize and experience every day. Black womanhood is a complicated, yet unlimitedly beautiful thing. Unfortunately, the complex pieces get the most attention and can be overwhelming. 

    And what people don’t understand about others, they reject. Black women can gravitate towards self-hatred because the external narrative feels like it says that they’re too complicated to be loved and understood. 

    Dr. McMillan-Cottom wrote the essays from a sociological perspective which I lived for the entire time! This book isn’t long at all, but if you’re going to read it, don’t rush it. I could have quickly finished this book in two days, but I don’t think I would have taken the proper time to let the words soak deep into my soul and permeate my thoughts and actions.
  • Maria Hinojosa
    Once I Was You

    Cayla Turner

    When I was younger, I wanted to be a journalist. I thought it would be cool to investigate stories and reveal them to the public through creative, literary works. That is only part of the reason why I loved this book. In my eyes, Maria Hinojosa is an icon and trailblazer. No matter what I say, I cannot do this beautifully crafted memoir justice. 

    She tells the story of her family's immigration from Mexico to the United States, which is powerful on its own. As Hinojosa grows older, she begins to feel the differences between her life in the United States and Mexico. She shines a light on the history, policies, and rhetoric around immigration. 

    Don't be fooled; this is more than a memoir, it's a call-to-action for Americans to wake up and take action regarding immigration policy.
  • Cathy Park Hong
    Minor Feelings

    Cayla Turner

    I had seen many posts about Minor Feelings, especially after an increase in hate crimes against Asian-American people in the United States. From the first page, I was drawn into the inner conflict, feelings, and observations of Cathy Park Hong. 

    I grappled with points brought up on the way minoritized people are pitted against each other in the United States to uphold white supremacy. I was faced with the fact of how Asian women were intentionally lost in U.S. history. 

    I appreciated Hong's successful efforts to emphasize forgotten history and demonstrate respect to Korean writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. This book is raw and should be required reading.
  • Toni Cade Bambara
    The Black Woman

    Cayla Turner

    This anthology was originally published in 1970 and then republished again in 2005. Focused on the Black woman, as suggested by the title, this book is a collection of poetry, plays, and essays. It is incredible that even though this was published 50 years ago, the content and topics are still relevant. 

    As I was reading, I had to continually remind myself that this was written decades ago and not just in the last decade. Unfortunately, that’s how some things have remained or gone unchanged in the United States. This book introduced me to several Black women writers who deserved the same acknowledgment as Langston Hughes and Nora Zeale Hurston. 

    Lastly, this book challenged my preconceived notions about older books and having nothing to gain from them. I gained several new perspectives, nuggets of knowledge, and ideas from these enthralling writers.
  • Malaka Gharib
    I Was Their American Dream

    Cayla Turner

    This was the first graphic autobiography that I ever read, and it did not disappoint! Gharib brilliantly writes her coming-of-age memoir about growing up in the United States as a Filipino and Egyptian girl. The illustrations enhance the entire reading experience with fun and colorful depictions. 

    Identity and culture are brought into question as she explores what it means to be a millennial child of immigrant parents. She writes about her experiences in school and having to code-switch between her family's cultures. This book kicked off my love of graphic novels and memoirs, and I haven't looked back ever since!
  • Kenya Hunt
    Girl Gurl Grrrl

    Cayla Turner

    Literary critics have compared Hunt's book to Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist and Issa Ray's Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Hunt's essay collection explores what it means to be a Black woman, mother, and citizen in today's world. It sounds simple, but it is anything but simple. 

    She uses the term of endearment "girl" in its varied spellings to tell her stories and look deeper into its meaning between Black women. Hunt, an American journalist, has been working in London for more than 10 years. She has compared and contrasted her experiences in the United Kingdom and the United States in unforgettable ways. 

    Through personal observation, Hunt documents her experiences in incredible and provocative stories that will tug at your heart.
  • Susan Orlean
    The Library Book

    Cayla Turner

    I had attempted to read this book last year, and I ended up placing it on my "did not finish" list. Then later in the year, I picked up the book again to finally finish it. And in short, I fell in love. I'm a fan of true crime and some history - this book offers a healthy helping of both! 

    Susan Orleans digs deep into the fire at the Los Angeles Library, where there are multiple suspects and no suspects at the same time. She provides readers a background of the library and fire that destroyed more than one million books. 

    She also provides a historical look into libraries as community institutions. If you're a fan of true crime and historical landscapes, then this is the book for you!