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The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020

In a year when the headlines were dominated by conflict around the things that make us different—race, class, gender, politics and all the other markers of identity—the best nonfiction books tore into those tensions and explored the humanity beneath. Some authors revisited historical figures to ask how their perspectives on race and religion shaped the world, for better or worse. Others shared personal stories to underscore the impact of a society that endangers people due to realities outside of their control. But all these titles call for greater awareness and empathy.

Here, the best nonfiction books of 2020. Also read TIME’s lists of the 10 best fiction books of 2020, the 100 must-read books of the year and the 10 best video games of the year.

10. Just Us, Claudia Rankine

Author and poet Claudia Rankine knows how difficult conversations about race can be: she knows they can lead to resentment, rage and even deeper misunderstandings between people. But she tries just the same to have them again and again in Just Us: An American Conversation, which blends essay, history and poetry and recounts a series of dialogues between herself and white people on a slew of thorny topics, from affirmative action to the whitewashing of history to the link between blondeness and white supremacy. Rankine sometimes finishes these talks trembling with fury, trying to hold in her emotions lest she be labeled an “angry Black woman”; other times, her counterparts reveal perspectives she hadn’t considered. Through these exhaustive (and exhausting) conversations, Rankine demonstrates how Americans of all races might begin to engage with each other with

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