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The 75 Best Non-Fiction Books of 2021 | Non-Obvious Book Awards Announcement

It’s finally time! After nearly a year of reading, debating, and curating … we are ready to announce the best non-fiction books of the year that we have selected to include on the 2021 Non-Obvious Book Awards Longlist. Our picks this year span every category of non-fiction, from self-help to investigative journalism to memoirs. For these awards, we considered nearly 500 titles and took time to personally consider every book that was submitted to the awards program, regardless of author, subject matter or publisher. Read more about our judging criteria here >>

All 75 books included on our Longlist (see the full list below) are now eligible to be selected for our Shortlist of 15 titles, and to win one of our five top awards that we offer for books:

  • 2021 Most Important Book Of The Year – A big idea that can make a difference in the world and in your life.
  • 2021 Most Original Book Of The Year – A unique idea that you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.
  • 2021 Most Entertaining Book Of The Year – A readable and high impact idea + story that you won’t be able to put down.
  • 2021 Most Useful Book Of The Year – A practical idea with real down-to-earth advice on how to use it in your daily life.
  • 2021 Most Shareable Book Of The Year – A viral idea that people will (or should) be talking about in conversation.

Watch the LIVE Shortlist and Winner Announcement show here …

In this video, you can see the 15 Shortlist Selections, our ten favorite book titles of the year, and the winners for the 10 best cover designs of the year. I also share some behind the scenes insights about the six big trends in books that we spotlighted this year (read these trends now).

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The 2021 Non-Obvious Book Awards Longlist Selections

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Ok, without further ado, here are our official selections for the 2021 Non-Obvious Book Awards Longlist (see comments for larger versions of the images above).

Purchase these titles from the Non-Obvious Book Awards Store >>

  1. 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next – by Jeanette Winterson (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  2. An Illustrated Book of Loaded Language – by Ali Almossawi (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  3. Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door — Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy – by Christopher Mims (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  4. Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You – by Suneel Gupta, Carlye Adler (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  5. Bad News: How Woke Media Is Undermining Democracy – by Batya Ungar-Sargon (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  6. Battle for the Big Top: P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus – by Les Standiford (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  7. Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys – by Joe Coulombe, Patty Civalleri (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  8. Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning – by Tom Vanderbilt (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  9. Black Futures – by Kimberly Drew (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  10. Brand Hacks: How to Build Brands by Fulfilling the Consumer Quest for Meaning – by Dr. Emmanuel Probst (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  11. CAPS LOCK: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape from It – by Ruben Pater (Buy on Amazon)
  12. Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It – by Ethan Kross (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  13. Consumed: The Need for Collective Change: Colonialism, Climate Change, and Consumerism – by Aja Barber (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  14. Convergence: Technology, Business, and the Human-Centric Future – by Deb Westphal (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  15. Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How it Changes us – by Brian Klaas (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  16. Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism – by Amanda Montell (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  17. Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance – by Erica Dhawan (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  18. Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America – by Eyal Press (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  19. Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers – by Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Tobias, Josh Halstead, Leslie Xia, Kaleena Sales, Farah Kafei, Valentina Vergara (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  20. Fair Pay: How to Get a Raise, Close the Wage Gap, and Build Stronger Businesses – by David Buckmaster (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  21. Fast Company Innovation by Design: Creative Ideas That Transform the Way We Live and Work – by Stephanie Mehta, Editors of Fast Company (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  22. For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color – by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  23. Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age – by Annalee Newitz (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  24. Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation – by Kevin Roose (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  25. Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law – by Mary Roach (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  26. High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out – by Amanda Ripley (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  27. Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions – by Michael Moss (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  28. How Boards Work: And How They Can Work Better in a Chaotic World – by Dambisa Moyo (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  29. How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America – by Clint Smith (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  30. How To Resist Amazon and Why: The Fight For Local Economies, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores and a People Powered Future – by Danny Caine (Buy on
  31. Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (And how anyone can harness it. Even you.) – by Jennifer Aaker, Naomi Bagdonas (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  32. Laziness Does Not Exist – by Devon Price (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  33. Math Without Numbers – by Milo Beckman (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  34. Mine! How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives – by Michael A. Heller, James Salzman (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  35. Move: The Forces Uprooting Us – by Parag Khanna (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  36. Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever – by John McWhorter (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  37. Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day – by Amishi P. Jha (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  38. Per My Last Email: Witty, Wicked, and Wonderfully Weird Workplace Words and Phrases – by Stephanie K. Wright (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  39. Play Nice But Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader – by Michael Dell (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  40. Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year that Wouldn’t End – by Dave Pell (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  41. Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters – by Steven Pinker (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  42. Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation – by Paul Hawken (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  43. Reset: A Leader’s Guide to Work in an Age of Upheaval – by Johnny C. Taylor Jr. (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  44. Say Less, Get More: Unconventional Negotiation Techniques to Get What You Want – by Fotini Iconomopoulos (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  45. Soundbite: The Admissions Secret that Gets You Into College and Beyond – by Sara Harberson (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  46. Spite: The Upside of Your Dark Side – by Simon McCarthy-Jones (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  47. Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less – by Leidy Klotz (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  48. Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat – by Larissa Zimberoff (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  49. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story – by Nikole Hannah-Jones (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  50. The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture – by Grace Perry (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  51. The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times (Global Icons Series) – by Jane Goodall, Douglas Abrams (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  52. The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations – by Robert Livingston (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  53. The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics – by Tim Harford (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  54. The End of Bias: A Beginning: The Science and Practice of Overcoming Unconscious Bias – by Jessica Nordell (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  55. The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit – by Mel Robbins (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  56. The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart – by Noreena Hertz (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  57. The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World – by Dorie Clark (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  58. The Ministry of Common Sense: How to Eliminate Bureaucratic Red Tape, Bad Excuses, and Corporate BS – by Martin Lindstrom (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  59. The Pop-Up Pitch: The Two-Hour Creative Sprint to the Most Persuasive Presentation of Your Life – by Dan Roam (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  60. The Power of Nothing to Lose: The Hail Mary Effect in Politics, War, and Business – by William L. Silber (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  61. The Sea We Swim In: How Stories Work in a Data-Driven World – by Frank Rose (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  62. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together – by Heather McGhee (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  63. The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans–and How We Can Fix It – by Dorothy A. Brown (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  64. The Widest Net  – by Pamela Slim (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  65. The World In a Selfie: An Inquiry into the Tourist Age – by Marco D’Eramo (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  66. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know – by Adam Grant (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  67. This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race – by Nicole Perlroth (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  68. Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality – by Helen Joyce (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  69. True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee – by Abraham Riesman (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  70. Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future – by Elizabeth Kolbert (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  71. Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain – by Shankar Vedantam, Bill Mesler (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  72. When We Cease to Understand the World – by Benjamin Labatut (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  73. Will – by Will Smith (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  74. Work Won’t Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone – by Sarah Jadde (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)
  75. You Can’t Be Serious – by Kal Penn (Buy on | Buy on Amazon)

About the Non-Obvious Company & Non-Obvious Book Awards

We believe the world needs more non-obvious thinkers. Our mission is to help leaders, organizations and curious minds learn the habits that allow them to see what others miss and face the unknown. We do this through our published books, popular keynotes, custom workshops, and annual book awards hosted by our founder Rohit Bhargava.

A Short Note About Buying These Books …

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If you use the links in this post to buy any books, a small affiliate commission will come back to our team. Any funds received will help us cover the costs of distributing books to our charitable partners. While buying from Amazon may be easier, we would suggest considering making your purchase from – a retailer that often offers better pricing on new titles and donates a portion of your purchase to help keep independent bookstores alive.

All of us at the Non-Obvious Book Awards believe that a world where bookstores survive is a better world. You can be part of helping to make sure that happens!

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Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.


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