Our Favorite Nonfiction Books of 2022

Wednesday, December 14, 2022
nonfiction 2022 picks

What books from the past year really resonated with our staff? From pop culture page-turners to mind-melting history reads, we’ve highlighted some favorites that gave us a bit of bookish delight.

Here are our NONFICTION picks from 2022 - be sure to check out our other lists! Or view our FICTION picks »

Use the buttons below to limit the results by reading level.

Ripple: A Long, Strange Search for a Killer Jim Cosgrove

Adults (18+)

This true-crime mystery is told by local author Jim Cosgrove, who takes it upon himself to investigate the disappearance of a family friend. Over the course of years, Jim finds himself called back to the missing persons case over and over, documenting his findings as he goes through the perspective of a journalist. This is nothing like anything Jim Cosgrove has written before, but it is a mystery that will keep you intrigued well beyond the final page.
Chinesa R, YFE

What My Bones Know: Healing From Complex Trauma Stephanie Foo

Adults (18+)

I have been pushing myself to read more non-fiction and I am fascinated by anything to do with the brain so when I heard former This American Life producer Stephanie Foo talking about her new book on NPR, I decided to place a hold. Relational and complex trauma are new concepts to me (and to psychology in general) so I had more learning moments than I could count while reading this book. The author's storytelling style is immensely entertaining, compelling, and relatable and read like an episode of an NPR podcast. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in other humans and how trauma has impacted them.
Jessie C, Central Information & Reference Services | JessieC_KCMO

American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America's Jack the Ripper Daniel Stashower

Adults (18+)

The true story of a serial killer in Cleveland in the 1930s. Former Al Capone nemesis turned Cleveland Public Safety Director, pursues this true life murder mystery.
Joel J, Library Services | JjinWaldo

Woman Without Shame: Poems Sandra Cisneros

Adults (18+)

Cisneros is back after over 28 years since her last poetry was published. She offers such a rich, unique, and heart wrenching perspective to daily life. This collection of poetry is hard to put down and so easily consumable in its formatting and curation.
Elaine B, AmeriCorps VISTA Program

Life Lessons from Hip-Hop: 50 Reflections on Creativity, Motivation and Wellbeing Grant Brydon

Adults (18+) | Teens (13-18)

This book's cover was amazing and the art inside is just as appealing. Each artists’ journey and advice are so unique I started taking notes for motivation in my own life. Def recommend as a self-help book, but the reading is also full of vibes and culture to encourage the reader to go chase their dreams
Karla M, One North Computer Lab | KarlaM_KCMO

Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives On Civilization Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Adults (18+)

Let's face it. The past few years have been a bit of a dumpster fire, but Neil's narration of his cosmic perspectives was the perfect balm. It helped to calm me down and remember our place in the universe, as a pale blue dot.
Kim G, Outreach / Community Specialists

Stalking the Atomic City Markiian Kamysh

Adults (18+)

Funny, gritty, nostalgic, harrowing and oddly heartwarming tales from the culture of locals who still find themselves drawn to the ghost town of Pripyat decades after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Kamysh's humor and insights are especially relatable to me as someone who was brought up in a rural mountain town with little modern commercial infrastructure, finding fun and making memories in the bones of abandoned houses and empty buildings slowly being reclaimed by nature in the wake of mass economic decline.
Devon M, Customer Service | DevonM_KCMO

Another Day in the Death of America Gary Yonge

Adults (18+)

Yonge, a reporter for the Guardian in the UK, has been a student of the US situation for quite some time. In this book he looked at a random day and considered the ten young men who died that day from gun violence. It's an amazing effort and well worth the read, difficult though the subject be.
Bernard N, Bluford | BernardN_KCMO

River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile Candice Millard

Adults (18+)

Before reading River of the Gods, I had no idea who Richard Burton (the explorer) or John Speke were. I’m ashamed to say I barely knew who Stanley and Livingstone were. Candice Millard has taken something I had never given a thought--the expedition to discover the source of the Nile--and turned it into a book I couldn't put down. In her research and her ability to write about big things in accessible ways, she is incomparable.
Judy E, Readers Services | JudyE_KCMO

What If? 2 Randall Munroe

Adults (18+) | Teens (13-18)

People constantly ask wacky questions of the author, and he diligently uses research and science knowledge to find the answers while having fun with it. The Weird and Worrying sections are the best. I enjoyed the first book as well, and was anticipating this one for some time.
Kenneth H, One North Computer Lab

Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution Elie Mystal

Adults (18+)

Mystal, the legal correspondent and opinion writer for the Nation magazine, brings his brilliant mind, insightful analysis, and acerbic wit to bear as he looks at how the US Constitution looks to a black man in America.
Bernard N, Bluford | BernardN_KCMO

The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson Jeff Pearlman

Adults (18+) | Teens (13-18)

The biography of former Royals outfielder and NFL player considered to be the greatest athlete of all time. From his time as child in rural Alabama to his time as both a professional football and professional baseball player.
Joel J, Library Services | JjinWaldo

How to Keep House While Drowning K.C. Davis

Adults (18+)

I love to listen to cleaning and decluttering books while working on large task at home or even weekly chores. This one had me loving it from the beginning! Anything worth doing is worth doing Half Assed! She reminds us that it is okay to do what you can and ask for help or pay for the things you can't. There are things that some of us just can't do whether it is from physical limitations or from mental road block that may be there from abuse or other things life throws at us.
Angie H, Trails West | AngelaH_KCMO

Smitten Kitchen Keepers Deb Perelman

Adults (18+)

I've been referring to the first Smitten Kitchen cookbook for about fifteen years, and this recent release is just as full of accessible, delicious meals.
Andera G, Collection Development

Ten Steps to Nanette: A Memoir Situation Hannah Gadsby

Adults (18+)

Gadsby's Netflix comedy special "Nanette" really hit me where it hurt when I watched it during the pandemic. I laughed, cried, and couldn't stop thinking about the innovative show. So I was THRILLED to see this memoir come out, and it didn't disappoint. Gadsby talks candidly about her childhood, her mental health, how she developed her personal brand of comedy, and how she came to write her special - Exactly the kind of info that fans of Nanette (and its follow up, Douglas) will want to hear. The audiobook is read by the author, a not-to-be-missed experience.
Diana P, Collection Development | DianaP_KCMO

Victory. Stand! Tommie Smith

Teens (13-18)

Tommie Smith tells his story in this powerful graphic novel memoir. Tommie Smith won the gold in the 200 meters at the 1968 Olympics and raised his fist on the podium to protest racial injustice. I knew that one sentence before I read the book but I learned so very much about this important civil rights leader.

Side note: Derrick Barnes previously worked for the Kansas City Public Library and has gone on to be named a Newbery Honor author and a Coretta Scott King Honor author. This book was a finalist for the National Book Award this year.
Crystal F, Youth & Family Engagement

Boys and Oil Taylor Brorby

Adults (18+) | Teens (13-18)

If you put only one memoir on your TBR pile this year, make it this LGBTQ enviro-memoir. Our environments create, sustain, & shape us & our life choices. Forgiveness needs to come from both sides. A beautifully ruinous book.
Kaite S, Readers' Services | KaiteS_KCMO

Bonus Reads

We admit: We can’t just keep our recommendations confined to a calendar year. Here are more books read by Library staffers in the past 12 months that may not have been published during 2022, but still gave us a literary charge.

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men James Agee and Walker Evans 1941

Adults (18+)

This book has been on my "to read" shelf for a very long time (decades). I finally got around to reading it, and it was a wild experience -- Agee and Evans went to Alabama to study the tenant farmer situation there for Fortune Magazine in the 1930s. What they produced were a series of remarkable B & W photos (Evans) and a description of the living situation of 3 tenant families that is more meditative poetry than it is investigative reporting. And for Agee the big question was -- what right did he (a man with privileges) have to impose on the dirt poor farmers of the Deep South in the Depression?
Bernard N, Bluford

Crazy Brave: A Memoir Joy Harjo 2012

Adults (18+)

It was written in 2012. I chose this one, because Joy visited the library recently and spoke about her experiences as a Native American woman. The story is so relevant and thought provoking. She moved my heart and mind. I enjoyed the read greatly, and recommend it to all.
Tristan K, Customer Service/SUB

The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food: Step-by-Step Vegetable Gardening for Everyone Joseph Tychonievich and Liz Anna Kozik 2021

Adults (18+) | Teens (13-18)

A fantastic intro to gardening guide. The graphics are a great aid in breaking down complex and intimidating material. The authors also provide a list of excellent resources for those who wish to expand on what they have learned. Highly recommended for anyone looking to dip their toes into gardening, especially for visual learners.
Abigail C, Westport |