Sistah Girls, on any given day you can find me curled up with a fictional book–but recently I have been on a non-fiction kick, and I thought I was alone until some of you asked for non-fiction book recommendations.
Non-fiction to some might sound too serious but non-fiction is where I learn so much about a plethora of topics. You can read a memoir about the former CEO of BET or read a book to get yourself together in the new year. There is so much range in non-fiction that it can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to begin. And that’s why I put together this list of non-fiction books that has a little of everything. So if you want to add some dope non-fiction books to your TBR list, keep scrolling…
I Hope You Fail: Ten Hater Statements Holding You Back from Getting Everything You Want by Pinky Cole
Pinky Cole—founder of the wildly successful restaurant chain Slutty Vegan—takes you back to your moments that seemed hopeless to help you discover how filled with possibility they really were. We’ve all been told we can’t do it. That we’re not enough. That we grew up in the wrong neighborhood or had the wrong parents or made the wrong choices. That we can’t be anything but a failure. . . What they don’t tell you is that every obstacle and mess-up in your life has only prepared you for success. Pinky has spent her life dreaming of financial security. After a fire destroyed the New York City restaurant, she put everything into building, she was back to square one, working hard for someone else’s dream. Her life has been a series of lessons that have given her the tools to build a business that drew the attention of some of the world’s top investors.
Bet on Black: The Good News about Being Black in America Today by Eboni K. Williams
Bet on Black is a call to action for Black people all over the world to adopt a fresh, highly informed mindset that will change their lives. Blackness is a rich, expansive place that centers resilience, excellence, beauty, panache, and brilliance. But these notions of Blackness have long been distorted by American racism, where for generations Black folks have been expected to live a subordinate, second-class existence in the country they call home. Williams delves into some of the cornerstones of leading a first-class Black life.
Black Love Letters by Cole Brown and Natalie Johnson
In this exquisite anthology of letters and illustrations, Cole Brown and Natalie Johnson bring together a constellation of influential Black figures to write to the people, places, and moments that mean the most to them. With a foreword from John Legend and contributions from Brontez Purnell, Morgan Jerkins, Reverend Al Sharpton, and Dr. Imani Perry, among many others, Black Love Letters is an ode to a phenomenal community: a testament to the fact that where there has been pain and suffering, there has also always been immeasurable, irrepressible joy and love.
Black Friend: Essays by Ziwe Fumudoh
Ziwe made a name for herself by asking guests like Alyssa Milano, Fran Lebowitz, and Chet Hanks direct questions. In Black Friend, she turns her incisive perspective on both herself and the culture at large. Throughout the book, Ziwe combines pop-culture commentary and personal stories, which grapple with her own (mis)understanding of identity. From a hilarious case of mistaken identity via a jumbotron to a terrifying fight-or-flight encounter in the woods, Ziwe raises difficult questions for comedic relief.
Nicole Avant—diplomat, philanthropist, filmmaker—grew up surrounded by some of the most extraordinary artists of our time: Bill Withers, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier. Her parents—entertainment mogul, Clarence Avant, and legendary philanthropist, Jacqueline Avant—turned their home into a place of refuge and inspiration for a generation of geniuses. Nicole drew on that magical upbringing to create a stellar career in the music business, become the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas, and produce critically acclaimed award-winning films and documentaries. Then, an unthinkable tragedy struck: her mother was fatally shot in December 2021. In this searing and inspiring memoir, Nicole turns the pain of her family’s loss into the fuel that pushes her forward into an even more committed life of love and activism: “We can’t banish evil,” she writes. “We have to learn to swim through trauma and live for all of those who can’t.” Turning tragedy into inspiration, Think You’ll Be Happy—her mom’s last words to Nicole—provides a roadmap for anyone working to remain positive and anchored in hope.
We all try to influence others in our daily lives. Whether you are a manager motivating your team, an employee making a big presentation, an activist staging a protest, or an artist promoting your music, you are in the business of getting people to take action. In For the Culture, Marcus Collins argues true cultural engagement is the most powerful vehicle for influencing behavior. If you want to get people to move, you must first understand the underlying cultural forces that make them tick. Collins uses stories from his own work as an award-winning marketer—from spearheading digital strategy for Beyoncé, to working on Apple and Nike collaborations, to the successful launch of the Brooklyn Nets NBA team—to break down the ways in which culture influences behavior and how readers can do the same.
A Renaissance of Our Own: A Memoir & Manifesto on Reimagining by Rachel E. Cargle
In A Renaissance of Our Own, we witness the sometimes painful but always inspiring breaking points in Cargle’s life that fostered a truer identity. These defining moments offer a blueprint for how we must all use our imagination—the space that sees beyond limits—to live in alignment with our highest values and to craft a world independent of oppressive structures, both personal and societal. Cargle now invites you to acknowledge ways of being that stem from societal expectations instead of your personal truth, and to embark on a renaissance of your own. She provides the very tools and prompts that she used to unearth her own truth, tools that opened her up to being a more authentic feminist and purpose-driven matriarchal leader. A Renaissance of Our Own gives us the courage to look at the world and say “I want something different.” It serves as a reminder of the power and possibility of reimagining a life that feels right, all the way down to the marrow of your bones.
Walk Through Fire: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Triumph by Sheila Johnson
Filled with sharply drawn, emotionally powerful scenes, Walk Through Fire traces the hardships Sheila faced in her marriage and her professional life. Despite her skills as a violinist and music teacher, as well as her obvious entrepreneurial talent, she had to fight to overcome self-doubt and fears of failure. Sheila vividly details her struggles, including battling institutional racism, losing a child, suffering emotional abuse in her thirty-three-year marriage, and plunging into a deep depression with her divorce. And yet, out of that pain came renewed purpose and meaning. In the third act of her life, Sheila Johnson has not only made her mark as the founder of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and the only Black female co-owner of three professional sports teams, she has also, finally, found true love.
Worthy by Jada Pinkett Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith was living what many would view as a fairy-tale of Hollywood success. But appearances can be deceiving, and as she felt more and more separated from her sense of self, emotional turmoil took hold. Sparing no detail, Worthy chronicles her life—from a rebellious youth running the Baltimore streets as an observer and participant in the drug trade, to the deep bond she shared with Tupac Shakur from the moment they met, to her move to Los Angeles and the successful career she built on her own terms, to becoming the wife of superstar Will Smith and mother to Jaden, Willow and bonus-mom to Trey. A rollercoaster from the depths of suicidal depression to the heights of self-acceptance and spiritual healing, Worthy is a woman’s journey to finding herself again.
Get The F*ck Out Your Own Way: A Guide to Letting Go of the Sh*t that’s Holding You Back by Malcolm “Mj” Harris
MJ knows you need help—whether financial, spiritual, or in a relationship—but because you never learned how to properly handle the hurt and anger you’ve experienced in the past, it has become the emotional trash in the way of being your best self. Don’t nobody want that! Whether it’s fixing your family issues, relationships, situationships, money, or frenemies, MJ offers sage advice about how to stop blocking yourself from bigger and better. This isn’t your gentle guide on breathing or journaling. MJ serves up no holds barred principles on how to navigate your emotions that will help you disrupt cycles of trauma, create boundaries, and transform into a goddess of emotional wholeness. Sistah Girls, if you plan on reading any of these books, let me know in the comments.