Books·Books of the Year

The best international nonfiction of 2017

Here are 10 of the best international nonfiction of 2017.

What were the best books published this year? Here are CBC Books' picks for the best international nonfiction books of 2017.

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us is a collection of essays from Ohio poet Hanif Abdurraqib. (Andrew Cenci, Two Dollar Radio)

Hanif Abdurraqib's first collection of essays, They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us, pays tribute to the power of music to inspire empowerment and strengthen community. The title is a phrase Abdurraqib saw written down at the memorial of 18-year-old Michael Brown, and stuck with him as he finished this book. With a voice that rings clear off the page, Abdurraqib is an accomplished wordsmith, whose reflections on pop culture are intensely personal, political and utterly compelling.

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie began writing his memoir after the death of his mother in 2015. (Lee Towndrow)

Sherman Alexie's memoir You Don't Have to Say You Love Me focuses on his complicated relationship to his mother Lillian, who died in 2015. Alexie moves between grief and anger throughout the book; anger over her abusive behaviour and coldness as a mother, and grief over her death and the violence she experienced early in life. Anchored by Alexie's beautiful writing, this memoir is a masterful exploration of a family's many emotional layers.

We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates finds a resemblance between the history of the Southern United States and 21st-century politics. (Nina Subin/Penguin Random House)

Ta-Nehisi Coates' latest book We Were Eight Years in Power reflects on what it means to be Black in America — with a focus on the election that led to the U.S.'s first Black president, and on the campaign of his successor, who he describes as America's "first white president." In eight incisive and sobering essays, Coates explores America's explosive political landscape, which has fixated people around the world.

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Reni Eddo-Lodge is the author of Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race. (Bloomsbury Circus Publishing)

In Why I'm Not Talking to White People About RaceLondon-based journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge takes aim at the systemic structures that reinforce racism in Britain. From the stereotypes that have hindered her career to the politicians who refer to the working class as white, Eddo-Lodge deftly calls out all that has allowed racism to thrive in the 21st century and offers a way forward.

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

Michael Finkel is the author of The Stranger in the Woods and was once portrayed by Jonah Hill in a film based on his book True Story. (Twitter/Knopf)

Michael Finkel tells the true story of Christopher Knight, a man who lived alone in the woods and didn't speak to another human for 27 years. Knight departed society at the age of 20, and survived by stealing food, clothes and books from nearby cottages. He became a legend among locals, referred to as the "North Pond hermit," and was eventually caught stealing food at the age of 47. Though hundreds of journalists reached out to Knight, he only responded to Finkel's handwritten letter and granted him extensive interviews for this fascinating book. 

Hunger by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is the author of Hunger. (Jay Grabiec/HarperCollins)

American essayist Roxane Gay is renown for her intelligent, sensitive and pointed writing and Hunger is no exception. In this devastating "Memoir of My Body," Gay examines how her current challenges with food and obesity stem from a horrific act of violence from her childhood. It is "not a story of triumph," Gay writes in the opening pages, but a story that "demands to be told and deserves to be heard."

Age of Anger by Pankaj Mishra

In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra reflects on 18th century promises of freedom and prosperity to explain modern-day violence and division. (

Pankaj Mishra returns to the 18th century to explain the rise of global anger and violence in the 21st century. In Age of AngerMishra points out that early promises of freedom and prosperity have failed in the face of industrialism and capitalism. Age of Anger is an academic and well-argued book on the origins of modern day rage.

Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

Poet Patricia Lockwood describes her unconventional upbringing as the daughter of a Catholic priest in the U.S. (Riverhead Books/Grep Hoax)

Poet Patricia Lockwood had long left behind the faith her father, a Catholic priest, preached when a sudden crisis brought her and her husband to her parents' rectory. Priestdaddy, a memoir about going home again, chronicles Lockwood's childhood and adolescent memories — like her father's arrest and her time in Catholic youth group — and travels forth to her eight-month stay with her eccentric parents. With layers of charm, humour and sadness, Lockwood makes a memorable debut with Priestdaddy.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

The Rules Do Not Apply is a memoir by Ariel Levy. (David Klagsbrun/Penguin Random House)

In The Rules Do Not ApplyAriel Levy describes how she gained everything she wanted — a staff position at The New Yorker, a wife she loved and a baby on the way — and then lost it all in one what felt like one fell swoop. In this candid and moving memoir, Levy investigates what it means to start your life over at 38 and shares the devastation of what it means to be a mother, but not have the world see you that way.

An Odyssey by Daniel Mendelsohn

Among the students in Daniel Mendelsohn's class on Homer's Odyssey is his father, 81-year-old mathematician Jay Mendelsohn. ( Press)

Daniel Mendelsohn's father, a mathematician, is someone who believed "if it's not hard, it's not worth doing." He decided to take his son's university seminar on Homer's epic poem, and ultimately took a cruise with Daniel to trace the Greek hero's journey. An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic is a moving and illuminating account of a relationship between a father and son.