Learn Something New Over the Holidays with These Nonfiction Reads

Why wait for the New Year to learn something new? The holidays are the perfect time to read an informative nonfiction book that will expand your mind and teach you something new about history, math, science, and/or the world around you. During this time of year, we’ve all got plenty of down-time to relax and enjoy these educational and entertaining nonfiction reads. So pick up one or all of them and spend the last few days of 2022 learning something new!


History buffs will want to pick this one up. Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici were two of the most powerful women in Renaissance Europe, and they were mutually influential on one another. In Blood, Fire, & Gold, historian Estelle Paranque explores the relationship between these two queens and how their influence on one another helped shape the course of history in England, France, and beyond.


Whether you know it or not, so much of what we understand of the world is through mathematical models. Whether we’re trying to understand the spread of COVID-19 or making a budget, mathematical models play a huge role. And yet, in Escape from Model Land, Erica Thompson argues that these models do not mirror reality. In fact, mathematical models imagine a world where everything works out perfectly every time. We all know that this is not how things go in real life, and so there’s a lot we miss out on when we rely on mathematical models. This book shows readers how, by understanding the limitations of mathematical models, we can use them more effectively.


Beaverland is a fascinating read for anyone who loves animals. In this book, award-winning writer Leila Phillip takes a deep dive into the world of beavers, an animal that has had a lasting effect on American history and our ecological future. Beaverland is told through a narrative writing style that mixes science writing with history and personal narrative to tell the exciting story of the world’s most wonderfully weird rodent.


Speaking of books that mix science with memoir, The Last Winter by Porter Fox is another great one, especially if you also love travel writing. This book is a deeply-researched memoir filled with adventure as journalist Porter Fox travels along the edge of the Northern Hemisphere’s snow line to look at how climate change is visibly affecting that area of the world. This book gives readers a look at real evidence of climate change and what that can mean for the rest of the world. Fox includes direct reflections from his own experiences and travel alongside interviews with experts.


The Milky Way is an excellent way to learn more about our galaxy in a way that’s educational and wildly entertaining. This is a science book you won’t want to put down. In The Milky Way, astrophysicist and folklorist Dr. Moiya McTier shares the history of our galaxy, starting some thirteen billion years ago when the Milky Way was born and going all the way to present day discoveries and what we have yet to learn.


You may have read plenty of books about the history of racism in America, but how much have you read about the country’s recent history of racial justice? In The Third Reconstruction, Peniel E. Joseph argues that the racial reckoning that unfolded in 2020 marked the climax of the Third Reconstruction in the United States. This book looks at the history of the 21st Century’s Third Reconstruction, starting with the election of Barack Obama, tracing the history of the Black Lives Matter movement, examining the failed attempt to take over the Capital, and more.

Emily Martin has a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi. She’s a contributing editor at Book Riot and blogs/podcasts at Book Squad Goals.