Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

14 of Summer’s Top Nonfiction Books

Discover fascinating memoirs, histories and true crime reads coming this season

spinner image from left to right top anne boleyn and elizabeth the first by tracy borman then never give up by tom brokaw then the country of the blind by andrew leland then the many lives of mama love by lara love harden bottom left to right the in between by hadley vlahos then ice by amy brady then president garfield by c w goodyear then august wilson by patti hartigan
Atlantic Monthly Press / Random House / Penguin Press / Simon & Schuster / Ballantine Books / G.P. Putnam's Sons / Simon & Schuster (2) / Getty

What’s a summer read? Why not an in-depth biography of President James A. Garfield or playwright August Wilson? If those sound too heavy for this sunny season, dive into the cool history of ice or the story behind Bogie and Bacall’s great romance — or one of the 10 other notable new nonfiction books described below.

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight by Andrew Leland (May 25)

spinner image book cover the country of the blind by andrew leland
Penguin Press

"Blindness is a radically distinct way of being in the world,” writes Leland, a Massachusetts-based writer, in this thoughtful story about his own transition to blindness. His loss of vision began in high school, due to what was eventually diagnosed as retinitis pigmentosa, an incurable condition marked by a slow reduction of sight. The author explains it as a narrowing of his vision, where he eventually felt like he was looking at the world through a narrow tube. Publishers Weekly raves that the book, “enriched by its sparkling prose,” is “an extraordinary and intellectually rigorous account of adapting to change.”

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks: A Cool History of a Hot Commodity by Amy Brady (June 6)

And just in time for the summer heat, there’s this microhistory, which uses ice as a means to reveal unique bits of cultural history — like women’s role in whetting America’s appetite for ice. “They became early adopters of the stuff and among ice companies’ first salespeople," according to Brady, who explores what she calls “the nation’s ice obsession,” which began some 200 years ago, allowing for far easier food preservation, not to mention wonderfully chilled cocktails. She contrasts this with how miserable and unrelentingly sweaty life was before ice became commonplace.

Never Give Up: A Prairie Family’s Story by Tom Brokaw (June 13)

spinner image book cover never give up by tom brokaw
Random House

The ever-nostalgic broadcast journalist expounded on the resilience and hard work of the Greatest Generation in his 2004 bestseller of the same name. Now he looks to the great folks within his own family for inspiration, exploring their humble beginnings in South Dakota. He highlights, among others, his father Red, who dropped out of school in second grade to work at the family’s hotel, the Brokaw House, and lived by the motto “Never give up.” Brokaw also gets personal about his own life growing up in the aftermath of the Depression and building his career in broadcasting.  

The In-Between: Unforgettable Encounters During Life’s Final Moments by Hadley Vlahos (June 13)

spinner image book cover the in between by hadley vlahos
Ballantine Books

Vlahos offers her unique perspective on end-of-life care through moving personal stories from her work as a hospice nurse. Because she grew up with a family in the funeral business, she asserts, she never particularly feared death and had no qualms making it a central part of her life. A vocal advocate for quality hospice care, she founded a nonprofit whose aim was to set up a hospice house where families could spend relaxing and joyful weekends together during their loved one’s final days. Young and photogenic, Vlahos is also something of a star on TikTok and YouTube, posting videos that portray what good care looks like (@nursehadley). 

Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Forever Changed British History by Tracy Borman (June 20)

spinner image book cover anne boleyn and elizabeth the first by tracy borman
Atlantic Monthly Press

Yes, Boleyn was one of King Henry VIII’s famously doomed wives, but she was also a mom — for less than three years before her violent death — to the future Queen Elizabeth I. Respected Tudor scholar Borman makes a case for both women’s political and cultural influence, while detailing how they were shaped by the traditions of their day (Anne was frowned upon for wanting to breastfeed her daughter, for example). And, despite their short time together, the author writes, Elizabeth spent her life trying to rehabilitate her mother’s reputation “as the great queen that she was.”

President Garfield: From Radical to Unifier by C.W. Goodyear (July 4)

spinner image book cover president garfield by c w goodyear
Simon & Schuster

How much do you know about James A. Garfield? If you’re like me, probably not much more than the fact that he was the second American president to be assassinated: He was shot in 1881, just 120 days into his presidency, by a disappointed job applicant, then took “80 agonizing days to die,” as Goodyear puts it. But there was more to Garfield than his death, the author argues: He was a teacher, abolitionist and Civil War general, as well as one of the youngest congressmen to serve in Washington (he’d serve nine terms). He was also responsible for a range of progressive policies, including the establishment of a program to help educate ex-slaves — he called slavery a “monstrous injustice” — before his famous passing.

Shopping & Groceries


$20 off a Walmart+ annual membership

See more Shopping & Groceries offers >
spinner image book cover august wilson by patti hartigan
Simon & Schuster

August Wilson: A Life by Patti Hartigan (Aug. 15)

As theater critic for The Boston Globe, Hartigan actually met and interviewed the renowned playwright August Wilson several times before his death from cancer in 2005 at age 59. She writes about his beginnings in Pittsburgh, where he faced racism as a biracial boy (his father was a White man from Germany, his mother African American), and his rise to become one of the most significant 20th-century playwrights in the U.S. He received Pulitzer Prizes for his plays The Piano Lesson and Fences, which was the basis for a 2016 film adaptation starring Denzel Washington (a movie version of another Wilson play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, hit screens in 2020). 

Other notable nonfiction summer releases, in brief:

The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel (June 27)

Stephane Breitwieser was responsible for more than 200 art heists, recounted by Finkel, author of the excellent 2017 bestseller The Stranger in the Woods.

Bogie & Bacall: The Surprising True Story of Hollywood’s Greatest Love Affair  by William J. Mann (July 11)

Mann describes the relationship between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who was just 19 when she met the 45-year-old Bogart.

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134


Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Lexington: The Extraordinary Life and Turbulent Times of America’s Legendary Racehorse  by Kim Wickens (July 11) 

Wickens tells the story of the stallion who captivated 19th-century America and was considered the fastest racehorse in the world.

Easy Money: Cryptocurrency, Casino Capitalism, and the Golden Age of Fraud by Ben McKenzie and Jacob Silverman (July 18)

Actor McKenzie (The O.C.) and journalist Silverman explain the wild, inscrutable, scam-friendly world of crypto.  

The Many Lives of Mama Love  by Lara Love Hardin (Aug. 1)

Hardin has received positive early reviews for this colorful memoir that includes her heroin addiction and experience in prison.

The Measure of Our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money & Meaning Later in Life by M.T. Connolly (July 18)

The founder and former head of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative discusses the current caregiving crisis and how we might improve life for older adults.  

Valiant Women: The Extraordinary American Servicewomen Who Helped Win World War II by Lena S. Andrews (Aug. 1)

CIA military analyst Andrews highlights the remarkable accomplishments of and challenges faced by the 350,000 women who served in uniform during the war.

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?