Top Ten Tuesdays — 10 Non-fiction Books for the Novel Lover

17 Jul

The Top Ten Tuesday theme this week at The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books For People Who Like X Book (Pick a book and pick 10 readalikes)”. I’m having a tough time finding a book that lends itself to the challenge, so I decided to broaden it a bit.

Top Ten Non-Fiction Books for Novel Lovers

Until I went to college, I considered non-fiction to be insanely dull. Why would you read about history or sociology or ugh science when there are so many fantastic novels just waiting to be devoured? I never imagined that non-fiction could hold a candle to fiction when it came to characters or drama.

How wrong I was. The first non-fiction book I fell into was The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (which I wrote about in this Top Ten Tuesday post). Twists! Intrigue! Murder most foul! And a world’s fair! I was hooked by Larson’s gift of really exploring the drama behind historical events.

So here, for other doubters, is a list of ten non-fiction books that even the staunchest, most stubborn of novel readers will love.

(A quick note: There are some other books that I would’ve 100% included, but I’ve already written about them for other Top Ten Tuesdays, and I didn’t want to have too many repeats. In this category, I would include Columbine by Dave Cullen, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan DidionNothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara DemickThe Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs, Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote, and I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson. Also, I decided to leave out straight up biographies or memoirs, although some of these choices do have elements of those genres. Those seem to belong to their own category completely.)

  • Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History by Erik Larson

As I have mentioned at least 635 times by now, Erik Larson is a non-fiction god. This recounting of the horrifically devastating 1900 Galveston Hurricane focuses on Isaac Cline, the meteorologist for the US Weather Bureau, who finds himself completely outdone by the monster storm, which ended up killing 6,000 people. Science, disaster, pride…perfection.

  •  In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

If you’ve seen the movie Capote, you know the basics of this classic book. A horrific, random-seeming murder takes place in a small mid-western town, leaving the entire community, and Truman Capote, looking for answers. Capote spent a lot of time with the killers, interviewing them and really getting to know them. What came out of that experience is a gorgeous, poignant, and at times harrowing book. This is the top of true crime, in my opinion.

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun decides to ride Hurricane Katrina out instead of fleeing with his family. His eyewitness report of the horrors and massive government policy errors that came after the storm are shocking. This book stands as an important reminder of one of the darkest moments in American policy decisions in the past fifty years.

  • Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

So, pretty much anything  by Jon Krakauer could be on this list. Into the Wild and Into Thin Air are both spectacular nonfiction works as well. I chose to highlight Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith mostly because I”m fascinated by religions, especially new ones like Mormonism. Besides just going over the basic tenets of the faith, Krakauer tells the very sad but fascinating story of a woman and her daughter murdered by religious extremists. Highly recommended.

  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

There are many parts of the general population that are often ignored in mainstream media, and those that live right at or below the poverty level are often included in that. Barbara Ehrenreich decided to see for herself what it would be like to try to live on minimum wage, and she discovered just how hard it is to scrape by.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

One of the hit books of last year, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks investigates the ethics of the medical world. Henrietta Lacks was a young woman who died of cervical cancer in the early 1950’s. Cells from her tumor were found to be immortal, instead of dying after a few days. These cells were used to do all sorts of important biological and medical research, without her family knowing about it for years. Is this ethical or fair? Would her family have been treated differently if they were white or in a different socioeconomic bracket? What is the greater good?

  • The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn

Dodger baseball. Ah. Glorious. This classic sports book follows the Dodgers in their Brooklyn days, and then checks up with their star players to see what happened to them once they left the diamond. It’s eye-opening to see what happens to athlete heroes, once they become to old to play.

  • Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger

And another of my favorite sports: high school football. Before the tv show and movie, there was this fantastic recounting of one season of Odessa, Texas high school football, and what it means to the community. The pressure is intense, and the hopes are high. Brilliant and sad.

  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

I like to imagine that if I had lived in Paris in the 1920’s, I would’ve hung out with Hemingway and Fitzgerald all the time. We would’ve drank and danced and caroused. It would’ve been epic. Reading Hemingway’s recounting of that time period is the next best thing.

  • Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Eric Schlosser

Want to read a million reasons why you shouldn’t be eating fast food? Here you go. Your waistline will thank you.


166 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesdays — 10 Non-fiction Books for the Novel Lover”

  1. The Bookworm Belle July 17, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    In Cold Blood. Zeitoun. Henrietta Lacks. Fast Food Nation. *Sigh*….. There are SO many things to love about this list, but what I love the most is your assertion that non-fiction doesn’t equal boring. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and thanks for the outstanding recommendations!

  2. Rachel Writes Things July 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

    Thanks for this list. I really haven’t read many of these and I love that it is “non fiction for fiction lovers”. 🙂 I really want to read more non fiction and I think these are all great starts. I also wish I could hang out with Fitzgerald, Hemingway and the gang! Have you read THE PARIS WIFE?

    I also particiapted in this week’s Top Ten.

  3. kaye July 17, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    what a great topic you chose–very creative. And a great list of books to go with it. kaye—the road goes ever ever on

  4. Laura July 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Yessss In Cold Blood! I mean, I read it about a zillion years ago so I can’t properly remember it, but I do remember that it was amaaazing! Also I should probably read Fast Food Nation again, because dammit, I still like Mcdonalds strawberry milkshakes waaay too much…

  5. renee July 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Well this is like fate! 🙂 You commented on my TTT, so I thought I’d check out yours and even though it (like mine) isn’t the true subject of the week, it’s just what I was looking for! In fact, in my blog post yesterday (which you also commented on), I said I was looking for some nonfiction recommendations!

    I had a few of these on my list already (I’m a Stranger Here Myself, A Moveable Feast), but I added a bunch of others (Year of Magical Thinking, In Cold Blood, Fast Food Nation, Columbine). So glad you picked this topic! 🙂

  6. melissa blake July 17, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    Thanks for these recommendations!

  7. paidsocialmediajobs review July 17, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I love this book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. It was very sad but great for the rest of the world.

  8. everythingsundry July 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Great recommendations. I love non-fiction as well!

  9. backpackerina July 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

    Great list! I actually haven’t read any of the books above, but am excited to add them to my reading list. Nonfiction can be surprisingly fun!

  10. Deborah J. Brasket July 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Nickel and Dimed and a Moveable Feast–both loved. Current non-fiction favorite: The Spell of the Sensuous, by Abrams–absolutely suptuous!

  11. bottledworder July 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    It’s been a long time since I read non-fiction. You’ve convinced me.

  12. Fragile Prints July 17, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Nice list..!! And congrats on being FP…

  13. livingsanegerously July 17, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    I love this list! I totally prefer fiction, but when you find an amazing non-fiction book, it’s so gratifying. I’ll be adding a bunch of your choices to my Kindle!

    One thing I would add is the Shaara trilogy about the civil war – killer angels, gettysburg, and gods and generals. Long story short, I never learned about the civil war in high school, and these books totally brought it alive. Love, love, love. When you have nothing else to read – ha!

    • ohdizzle July 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm #

      Thanks for the rec! My grandma is a big Civil War buff, so I always heard about it, but I’ve never studied it in detail. Putting this one on the To Be Read list! 🙂

  14. kaypardue July 17, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    Great list. never had the chance to read these books but will definitely look for this in book stores.(handshake) for being FP.

  15. Jesselyn July 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Loved Under the Banner of Heaven! Great book!

  16. Daisy July 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    This looks like a fantastic list! I’ve read a few of the authors listed above, and will definitely have to check out the others! Another one you could totally try out is About a Mountain by John D’Agata. He tells the story of a mountain near Las Vegas that is being scouted out to become a site for nuclear waste, as well as the story of a boy’s suicide. He’s such an interesting writer and overall the book was a quick read.

  17. okousama July 17, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Thanks for the list! Awesome!

  18. welcometotheghostcoast July 17, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    Thanks for the tips! I’m starting to read again, but being a bit more mature, I’ve been trying to get into nonfiction (which I’ve always perceived as boring).
    I recently got In the Garden of the Beasts, also by Larson, but I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. Any thoughts?

    • mamacormier July 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

      I loved the book. I just finished it and wrote a review on my blog.

    • ohdizzle July 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      I have that one sitting next to my bed waiting to be read! I only hear good things, so hopefully it’s good!

  19. kingmidget July 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    Great list … and the reason all of these books are on the list is because they tell a great true story — as a story. If you like Nickel and Dimed, you should read Scratch Beginnings — it’s a response to Nickel and Dimed.

  20. harmnyhallrsts July 17, 2012 at 9:07 pm #

    This is a little lighter than your list but I think you”ll enjoy it. A collection of short stories that is as enlightening as it is funny. “A Fly On The Wall, A Bartender’s Perspective” is defiantly one to add to your list.

  21. Molly Katherine Fedick July 17, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on my life as molly and commented:
    I’ve enjoyed every book on this list I’ve read (still have to get to a few) but thought I’d reblog since engaging reads can be hard to come by if you’re browsing aimlessly like I usually am. Especially recommend “Under the Banner of Heaven”…but only if you’re as obsessed with the Duggars and “Sister Wives” as me. #religiousfanatics #cantgetenough!!!

  22. priss&vinegarPriss & Vinegar July 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    “Nickel and Dimed” is one of my all-time favorites and should be mandatory reading for everyone in this country who thinks that minimum wage is a living wage.

  23. inkpistol July 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

    I will definitely be checking out fast food nation!

  24. unfilteredeverything July 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    Loved Boys of Summer. I wonder though if perhaps some Hunter S. Thompson writing might be appropriate in the non fiction category as well?

  25. Muhammad Cohen July 17, 2012 at 10:21 pm #

    Even as a high school student and diehard baseball fan in New York, I found Boys of Summer unbearable sentiment and predictable. And please don’t pity the modern pro athlete. Far better book choices than Kahn’s baloney include Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic , Off the Wall by Calvin Tomkins, or just about anything by Calvin Trillin.

  26. Angela July 17, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    I clicked on your page from Freshly Pressed fingers crossed you’d tip your hat to Larson and was not disappointed! He kind of opened the world of narrative non-fiction for me as well. If you like Eggers you must read “What is the What?” (it might be listed as a novel but it’s very much a beautifully written memoir as more-or-less dictated by one of the Lost Boys of Sudan). And “Omnivore’s Dilemma” is another one that I love in what I imagine to be the same vein as “Fast Food Nation,” though I must admit I’ve not read the latter. Thanks for the list! Always on the hunt for more books.

  27. npari July 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Really cool List. I’m definitely checking out ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’. Thanks for the list!

  28. The Open Suitcase July 18, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Great list! I’d add “The Poet and the Murderer” – Emily Dickinson and Mormons.

  29. twinravens2000 July 18, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    Glad to see the Hemmingway on the list!

  30. emmalaw July 18, 2012 at 3:18 am #

    Thanks for the recommendations. Fast Food Nation is so good, interesting and thought provoking without being patronising. Now I have a couple more books for the list…

  31. Emma in Euroland July 18, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    I myself am an avid novel reader. i love losing myself in a good story and forgetting about the real world for a bit, however difficult or wonderful it may be at the time. But I must say, there is something enlightening, sometimes painful and truely revelatory about reading non-fiction. I too have read Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick after seeing it in Waterstones and knowing that I couldn’t leave the shop without it. It wasn’t the sort of book I would usually have read but I absolutely loved its honesty. I think it can be underestimated just how interesting REAL stories are. We don’t always need fiction and fantasy. I have recommended that book many times over and it certainly made me rethink the fiction/non-fiction debate.

    Great blog and you clearly have good taste too!

  32. Looks & Books July 18, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    Fantastic list! Nonfiction doesn’t get enough love, and a really great nonfiction read is so satisfying. I would recommend (if you’re looking for any new ones)–Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett and Autobiography of a face by Lucy Grealy, Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield, Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo, The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr, and Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.

    Happy reading!!

    • remudarace July 18, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      I read NONfiction only. just the facts ma’m!…. IN COLD BLOOD – excellent. 2 books I recommend. BLACK BANNERS FLYING,, EMPIRES OF THE SUMMER MOON> quanah parker nJOY

  33. cigarettesandmovies July 18, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    The Dave Eggers books is fantastic, and thanks for reminding me that I need to get around to reading In Cold Blood. I quite want to read Boys of Summer too, being English and a Mets fan I’ve always had a curiosity about the old Brooklyn Dodgers…Cool post.

  34. herschelian July 18, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    Wow – I find I’ve read 5 of your list which has surprised me (Capote; Krackauer; Eggers; Hemingway; Schlosser) and I absolutely agree that they are great books for people who normally read novels. I’m going to get hold of the others – but not being American (and not being very interested in sport) I may put the baseball and high-school football books on the back burner! Other commentators have also made terrific suggestions….sigh, so many books, so little time!

  35. M.C. James July 18, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Nickel and Dimed and Friday Night Lights are great books. I had read both while an undergrad for a couple sociology courses I took.

    I haven’t read the others, but I’ll check them out, especially Fast Food Nation.

  36. e.v. de cleyre July 18, 2012 at 5:47 am #

    Really great list! I’ve been looking for a good summer read so I’ll definitely check some of these out. Oh, and “A Moveable Feast” is one of my favorite books!

  37. mkultra76 July 18, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    Oooh, I loved Devil in The White City. Fantastic read! Another fantastic non-fiction find was Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston.

    • ohdizzle July 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

      That sounds like a fascinating book! Added to the TBR list.

  38. almost the right words July 18, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    This list hits the spot. Well done. It’s a great time to be reading non-fiction. But, for me, no non-fiction list can truly be complete without some David Foster Wallace. Check out “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” or “Consider the Lobster. Given your tastes, I think you’d enjoy. Great blog, by the way! I blog about books and writing and music and other miscellany. You might dig. Stop by if you have a chance.


  39. The Hook July 18, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Great choices! Classics, even!

  40. thedecafdiva July 18, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    Thanks for the list! Nickel and Dimed is on of my favorites, and I will be giving some others a shot for sure.

  41. Seb July 18, 2012 at 7:12 am #

    Great list !

  42. Caitlin July 18, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    nickel and dimed is a great one! i still remember many of the stories (esp. the walmart job) years after reading the book!

  43. Melissa Barlow (@mcbarlow36) July 18, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    Great suggestions, and congrats on being freshly pressed!

  44. Cindie July 18, 2012 at 7:31 am #

    I’m loving all of these book posts in Freshly Pressed! This is a great list, I’ve read a few of them but I really do love non-fiction so I should add a few others to my to-read pile.

  45. Valerie {all mussed up} July 18, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Great picks! I’m reading Zeitoun right now, and it’s marvelous.

  46. Branden H. July 18, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Non-fiction finally gets some limelight! Great list. Congratulations on making Freshly Pressed!

  47. Mikalee Byerman July 18, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    TREMENDOUS titles and authors — great list! I am a non-fiction fiend…though my preferred sub-genre is memoir/essay writing. (This may or may not be why I’m working on my own series of essays that will be published soon…)

    Always nice to see someone affirm the idea that non-fiction does not = boring…


  48. artquench July 18, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    Thanks for sharing.

  49. trisha July 18, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    Thanks for the recommendations! I really need to read The Year of Magical Thinking and In Cold Blood.

  50. Arnav July 18, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Superb list! You’ve covered it all! 🙂

  51. trcapromo July 18, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    Nice mix of classics with newer works.

  52. coretium July 18, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    Thanks for a great TOP! Will definitely research more few of these 🙂

  53. Kate July 18, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I’ve just added almost all of these to my reading list! This genre is so fun. I just started Devil in the White City and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a non-fiction book, not a novel – makes it all the more thrilling to read. Thanks for a great list!

  54. keliza13 July 18, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    This is a GREAT list, and I have some additional ones (that were probably mentioned in the comments — it seems everyone here is pretty literate).

    “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson
    “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand
    “K Blows Top” by Peter Carlson (a rather humorous take on Nikita Khrushchev’s visit to the US in the 1950s)
    “The Soloist” by Steve Lopez (made into a movie)

    And countless others, most of which you already listed.

    • the usual bliss July 18, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      keliza13 included Devil in the White City- I concur. Captivating.

    • ohdizzle July 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      Thanks for the recs! I’m particularly interested in “K Blows Top”. I’m going to have to check it out!

  55. broadsideblog July 18, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    As the author of two non-fiction books, I’m glad this list made Freshly Pressed,

    NF, boring? Please! If you have any curiosity about the world, and want to learn a subject in detail, NF is the only way to go. Very few magazines and even fewer newspapers are devoting their resources to this sort of in-depth reporting and analysis.

    My latest book, Malled, is a story of working a low-wage retail job for 27 months (and has been compared to Nickeled and Dimed.) Writers of non-fiction are often ambitious and skilled, hungry to find new readers and fortunate to have 80,00 to 100,000 words+ to tell a compelling story, not crammed into the usual 1,200-3,000-word box of print journalism.

    Random Family is a masterpiece. A must-read for anyone who cares to understand poverty in the U.S.

  56. seanahnuk July 18, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Very interesting! Thank you will try and read some of them!

  57. Karen July 18, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Great list! I read Zeitoun w/ my bookclub last year & am reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks right now!!

  58. kellie@foodtoglow July 18, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    In Cold Blood was one of the first ‘proper’ books I read for *pleasure* (?!) as a child. The way it compelled me to defy my parents in not turning out the light at 9, and resorting to the tried and trusted flashlight under a sweaty, anaerobic blanket, was life-changing. Although I now read more literary fiction than non-fiction, I really appreciate a good rummage through history and, if well written, feeling like I am a fly on the wall of heroic, pivotal or terrible events. Great list, and I am pleased to say that I have read 5/10. Living in the UK I find I now choose more Euro-centric reads, but American ones do make me feel connected to my homeland. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed

  59. LauraK July 18, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is one of my all-time favorite non-fiction books. And ‘One Man’s Humble Journey…’ has been on my ‘to read’ list for quite some time. Guess it’s time to check that one out 🙂 Great post with lost of new / interesting recommendations!

  60. barefoot_med_student July 18, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    TTT made it to FP – how cool!
    I really want to read Henrietta Slacks, but I haven’t been able to find the book locally. In Cold Blood sounds pretty awesome too.
    As for non-fiction – as long as it is well written, I love it!
    My dad, who recently discovered the joy of audiobooks (he is blind), read “The Innocent Man” by Grisham this week. He says it is a great non-fiction read.

  61. Larissa Lee July 18, 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Interesting list, most of which I recognize from working at Hastings. My Environmental Science teacher in high school used “Fast Food Nation” as a teaching tool. A few chapters later (unfortunately that’s all we covered) and I was a vegetarian for about four years. Today, I focus on natural foods more than vegetarianism, but it still all started with reading something nonfiction once upon a time.

  62. becomingcliche July 18, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    Excellent selections! I agree that pretty much anything by Krakauer is solid gold. I’m reading the Immortal Life currently.

    A biography that does, indeed, fit the genre is The First American. I’ve read it a couple of times. Benjamin Franklin is fascinating.

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      Thank you for the recommendation! I keep meaning to read more books about American history, so this one’s definitely going on the list. 🙂

  63. the usual bliss July 18, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    I have a book challenge on my “Life List” and was just wondering where I should go next. I just wrote down multiple books that interest me from your list (non-fiction is my favorite). Thanks for the list and congrats on FP! Once the madness has died down, stop by

  64. office of surrealist investigations July 18, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    The Boys of Summer is great. For more baseball writing check out David Halberstam’s Summer of 49 and October 1964. Also his look into America, Bill Walton and the NBA in the late 70s Breaks of the Game.

  65. rossmurray1 July 18, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Outstanding. If you liked Isaac’s Storm and Krakauer, then I don’t think I can go wrong with the ones here I haven’t read. Thanks.

  66. tediumunlimited July 18, 2012 at 11:15 am #

    Excellent choices, and so glad you name-checked Columbine, which remains the best case-study work of non-fiction I have ever read.

  67. The Smile Scavenger July 18, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Wow, perfect timing! I am making a list of 100 books to read in my life and I needed some suggestions. 🙂 Thanks.

  68. rachelmeeks July 18, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I am a very-uniterested-in-non-fiction college student, but I was surprised by how many books on this list truly intrigued me! Thanks for sharing. Now to add to my “must-read” list….

  69. DOAKonsult_Raunak July 18, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    that’s a great list!and to think that just this morning I was looking at my book shelf saying to myself that it is time I start reading Fiction…that thoughts gone right outta the window now 🙂

  70. Etol Bagam July 18, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Thanks for the recommendations. Will add them to my list. Starting probably with Under the Banner of Heaven, Moveable Feast and The Mortal Life of Henriquetta Lacks.

  71. molokainews July 18, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Excellent book choices! I especially enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven (raises many philosophical and epistemological questions about the nature of religion), but many others on this list are great reads. I would also add to this list Hells Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson; The Right Stuff, by Tom Wolfe; and River Town, by Peter Hessler. (Although this last one is kind of a memoir, the tale of an accomplished American writer teaching English in rural China for two years.) You don’t need to read fiction to enjoy a great literary experience. Skillfully crafted non-fiction can be as powerful as any novel and it also helps connect people to “real life” social issues.

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      One of my biggest literary shames is that I’ve never read anything by Thompson. Yikes. I’ll have to pick up a copy of Hell’s Angels and give it a shot!

      • molokainews July 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

        If you really want to get a feel for Thompson’s style and his appeal, check out Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail. These two best represent his Gonzo journalism.

  72. zookyshirts July 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Fantastic list — I’m with you that non-fiction books can be riveting and not boring. If it’s in the hands of a good author, it’ll be interesting.

  73. TooYoungToTeach July 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    I only read non-fiction (do I sound snobbish?) Great list! Hope you don’t mind me adding a few…
    Malcolm Gladwell’s works are fascinating, his style is very engaging and material mind boggling.

    Eli Pariser’s “The Filter Bubble” will make you reevaluate the way you use the internet…

    “Birth” by Tina Cassidy makes you appreciate living in modern time, with modern medicine, even if c-section rates are rising unnecessarily…

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:04 am #

      Thank you for both of those recs! They both seem right up my alley. 🙂

  74. Oranges and Avocados July 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    Excellent list. “Devil in the White City” is indeed a great book. I can see why it won your appreciation of non-fiction. I also love “The Professor and the Madman” and getting lost in Mark Kurlansky’s fact-filled nonfiction books, though they are not as linear.

  75. Jorie July 18, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    You simply HAVE to read Erik Larson’s latest non-fiction piece called “In the Garden of Beasts.” I feel the same way as you do about him…he is a non-fiction god! Here is a glowing review I wrote about the book a while back:

  76. inked2ways July 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Great list! Some are on my “favs” list, others have been on my “TBR list” for a while. And you’ve helped them move up a couple spots. Great blog!

  77. Mona Lisa July 18, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Enjoyed your blogs, they were really informative and enjoyable to read. I will keep up-to-date with the information you provide, and catch up on my reading by referring to your recommendations!

  78. ChangeTheWorld July 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Great list! I need to read some more of those! I would also add Friendship at the Margins by Christopher Hueurtz and Christine Pole to this list 😉

  79. seekingmisadventure July 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Reblogged this on Adventures In Austin and commented:
    Just what I need! New books to add to my To Read list. I rarely read non-fiction but I wish I did read. Maybe this will get me started!

  80. foldedcranes July 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    It’s quite nerdy, but “The Rule of Law” by Tom Bingham is great non-fiction – and since so much popular fiction revolves around the law, perhaps it could pique some interest? Really great to read a post like this – unexpected and compulsive…(that’s me, rather than the post; okay, I’ll stop now).

  81. Ambro Wright July 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Under the Banner of Heaven…scared the H-E-double hockey stick out of me, but great look into fundamentalist Mormonism. I live in AZ now, where Mormons are everywhere, and I can’t get those thoughts out of my head! I really need to read a book that shows them in a better light..if there is such a thing. Great list!! Oh, and we just watched the movie “Hemingway and Gellhorn”…fantastic movie about that relationship! I am definitely interested in reading the Hemingway book you mentioned.

  82. L. Palmer July 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Great list! I’ve read both Fast Food Nation and Nickel and Dimed. Both great books, but I prefer Nickel and Dimed. Both are great think-pieces. Barbara Ehrenreich’s whole journey through the lower-end jobs is enlightening and worrying. I saw more of that while teaching SNAP recipients job-seeking skills. In my mind, I’d come back to Nickel and Dimed,and wonder what I could do to help my clients lift themselves out of the barrios of minimum-wage employment.

    Based on the quality of those two recommendations, I’ll have to check out the rest.

  83. C.L. Keblish July 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Good times.

  84. mandyf July 18, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Reblogged this on Views From The Bullpen.

  85. Steel Magnolia July 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    I would add “Seabiscuit” to the list.

    • Melanie July 18, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

      Yes, yes, it’s my all time favorite. And Hillenbrand’s Unbroken is just as good, but much harder to read because of the subject matter.

  86. Cheri-Beri July 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    I heart non-fiction. Thanks for this great list!

  87. Valorie Grace Hallinan July 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    This is a great list – I see some I will have to add to my to-read list. Great blog!

  88. Joe Labriola July 18, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Good choice with fast-food nation. I like how very good non-fiction books are often like very good documentaries. They’re very planned, organized, and creatively thought through.

  89. iviedawn July 18, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    Nice list. I’m not huge on non-fiction books, but Zietoun and Nickel and Dimed seem like great reads, and I’ll have to check em out.

  90. mamacormier July 18, 2012 at 6:31 pm #

    Our book book club discussed Henrietta Lacks, A Moveable Feast and Erik Larson’s, Devil in the White City. After reading A Paris Wife (historic fiction), most of the members disliked A Moveable Feast. Two of us, however, loved the newest version of A Moveable Feast, republished a few years ago. I’ve written a review on my blog and another one for Erik Larson’s newest book, In the Garden of Beasts. Loved both of them. Can’t wait to read Isaac’s Storm.

  91. Val July 18, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    The only one of these I’ve read, so far, is the one on Henrietta Lacks. An astonishing story. Made all the more astonishing in that it’s true.

    I prefer non-fiction to fiction. To your list (if you’re interested) I’d add The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer, and nearly any book by Oliver Sacks. I generally prefer autobiographies and anecdotal types of non-fiction. A genre that I particularly like is creative non-fiction’.

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Thanks for the Ian Mortimer rec. I’m a pretty big Anglophile, so I’m always interested in history about England. Thanks for stopping by!

  92. Aileen Torres July 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    All excellent choices. Can’t go wrong with Erik Larson or Hemingway.

  93. David A Olson July 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    Ironically, I rarely used to read fiction believing it cotton candy for the mind and, typically, a waste of time that could better be spent learning something via the non fiction channel. Recently, I learned that one can develop one’s ability to empathize by reading fiction so have added it to my repertoire and find it a nice balance to my reading of non fiction.

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      I definitely agree. I believe everyone should read widely and across genres. Different types of books develop different parts of your brain and psyche. It’s all important. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  94. myliteraryleanings July 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I also loved “Manhunt” by James L. Swanson. It is an entertaining retelling of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth in the aftermath of the Lincoln murder.

  95. Troy Ballard July 18, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    I can attest to Under the Banner of Heaven.

    I lived I’m Utah for a large portion of my young adulthood, and this book hit home. It’s a fantastic breakdown and critical analysis of the Mormon faith. However, don’t write it off as religious fluff, because Krakauer does an amazing job of keeping the reader engaged.

    If you have any curiosity of the Mormon religion — this is the book to read.

  96. wild colonial girl July 18, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    I’m a fiction writer and reader (passionate!) but more and more I’m getting excited by nonfiction. Your Creative Nonfiction magazine in the States (I’m in Australia) is amazing every issue. Thanks for this great list to glean from.

  97. wild colonial girl July 18, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Oh, and a wonderful Australian addition to the list is Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man. Not to be missed.

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      Sounds fascinating! Thanks for the rec!

  98. joshbakerwriter July 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    Great list. I also love any nonfiction by Malcolm Gladwell,although it doesn’t always read like fiction. I’ve been meaning to read Erik Larson…

  99. NupurJ July 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    A very interesting list indeed! Thanks da! 😀
    This pretty much fills up my ‘To Be Read’ Shelf! 🙂

  100. dinasbookshelf July 18, 2012 at 10:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on Keep Calm and Read a Book Blog.

  101. Elizabeth Rai July 18, 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    I like your blogs on books. i love to read im always ready for a book to shout out at me so i can read it. but you listed some really appealing books cover wise, but the description mostly enclosed your thoughts and opinions and not the novels summary description

  102. wildacademicwoman July 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    I first started reading great nonfiction in college, too. I took a course in nonfiction writing and we read In Cold Blood. It was absolutely thrilling.

  103. neelimanair July 19, 2012 at 12:52 am #

    thx for the list! 😀

  104. Alyssa July 19, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Had read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot; I needed to get a copy of those other books on your list. 😀

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  105. Pedro Alvarez Fotografía July 19, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    Gran lista!!!

  106. janemoh86 July 19, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    Great list. I love non-fiction books. I haven’t read any of the books above though. Thinking of getting some of them. Thanks for sharing.

  107. Red Toenails July 19, 2012 at 4:43 am #

    Great read whenever…Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice!

  108. Bluebird Cottage July 19, 2012 at 4:54 am #

    I would add “Places In Between” by Rory Stewart, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, Wolf Hall, Lost Horizons by Jason Goodwin. Love your list and now it is seems time to expand a bit into more time and more space.

  109. funnyphuppo July 19, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. I am one of the fiction-lovers, and have not spent too much time reading non-fiction. So the recommendations are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  110. sarajanelle July 19, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    Amazing list!!! I have a bunch of these books already on my list of books I need to read, thank you for inspiring me 🙂

  111. Michele McGovern July 19, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    Wonderful. I’m so glad you posted this. Thank you!

  112. Darcy La Geekerd July 19, 2012 at 6:37 am #

    I’m happy to see two my “to-be-read” books over here! HaHa. thanks for the list!

  113. youwillbewhatiam July 19, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    I just finished The Devil in the White City last week and thought it was incredibly well written. I am going to read all of Erik Larson’s work, just picked up Lethal Passage. A non fiction read to add to this list (although not reading nearly as much like a novel as these) is the New York Times bestseller Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. Check out my post about it’s classical references.

  114. littletash July 19, 2012 at 6:56 am #

    Awesome list! You’ve reminded me of the ones I’ve read like long lost friends and left me intrigued by the ones I haven’t. I love novels, but truly creative nonfiction is perhaps my favourite genre.

  115. ravingreader July 19, 2012 at 7:14 am #

    Good list with some titles that I had forgotten I wanted to read..! Thanks for the reminder.

    I have had fun poking around on your blog, btw. Nice job. Good sense of humor. 🙂

  116. ashleylgm July 19, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Reblogged this on a few thoughts and commented:
    I enjoy reading others’ reviews so I can improve upon my own 🙂

  117. MegansBeadedDesigns July 19, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Thanks for the recommendations, definitely adding “Nickle and Dimed” to my list!

  118. bodybuildingforlife July 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Nice read a few issac’s storm is my best pick from this list

  119. July 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    I’ve only read 3 of the books on the list. I’ll have to check out the others. My sister swears by The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks! Thanks for sharing!

  120. littlewonder2 July 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    First thing; it’s interesting that you should bring up I’m A Stranger Here Too by Bill Bryson (before the actual list) because I saw that at a shop once and wondered about it (it seemed interesting), but I didn’t buy it. It actually reminded of a book I already have, Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw by Will Ferguson. I’ve also read another book by him called Hokkaido Highway Blues which was equally good. Both of these books were true stories.

    Right, onto the actual list. Right away, Erik Larson is another good author to look out for. While I consider Ferguson to be the best travel writer I could read, Larson seems to be the best non-fiction in general.

    Zeitoun also looks very interesting. I shall have to check that one out eventually. Also, I don’t know why, but the author’s name looks very familiar…

    That fast food book looks interesting, though it does seem very Super Size Me. And I didn’t know Friday Night Lights was a book. Or a movie. Or about sport. I’m not really too interested in Friday Night Lights, to be honest.

    And finally, Under the Banner of Heaven didn’t seem interesting to me until I read the second-last sentence. Will consider.

  121. July 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Largest Democracy and commented:
    This is one of the most informative blogs I have read in a long time. Keep it up & all the very best in your endeavors. ~ Author

  122. wsupteamrocket July 19, 2012 at 10:09 pm #

    I loved Fast Food Nation! It was a light yet extremely informative read. I definitely second your opinion. 🙂

  123. quanzamme July 20, 2012 at 12:26 am #

    I’ll definitely add this list on my books-to-read. Thank you so much! Awesome post 😀

  124. jessicaembarlow July 20, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Excellent list! You know what else is a great non-fiction book? ‘Boy’ by Roald Dahl. It’s the brilliant account of his childhood, and all I can tell you is that it’s… brilliant.
    Unfortunately it doesn’t quite reach the length of a novel though. So, maybe I’ll have to compile a list of Top Ten Non Fiction Books for the Novella Lover?

    • ohdizzle July 20, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      Aw, I loved Boy when I was a kid. The part about him getting his tonsils out may have scarred me for life though. Yuck!

  125. michaeldgastjr July 20, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    I actually have “After Friday Night Lights” on my iPad. I got it for free download. I haven’t read the first book yet so I’m going to have to do that. I would never have known the book I have is not the first if I hadn’t read this blog.

  126. wendy July 20, 2012 at 4:19 am #

    Hi! Great post!

  127. Harold Boniol July 20, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    I liked David Halberstam’s “The Reckoning.” For a 700+ paged nonfic book, I’m surprised I read it within just 3 weeks, it’s really addicting. Also, Tracy Kidder’s “The Soul of a New Machine.” Sadly, I wasn’t familiar with any of the books on your list. 😦 But thanks, I just got the inspiration to include “Freakonomics” in my reading list.

  128. ycat33 July 20, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I have read three of the books on this list already and loved them. I enjoy reading the remaining books on this list. Esspacially Knickle and Dimed that book really looked interesting to me.

  129. shadowoperator July 21, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Thanks for the reminder (not just the reminder, the imperative reminder) about the importance of non-fiction. While I know that good non-fiction requires a nearly like degree of imagination to fiction, and I also know that the best fiction shares some Venn diagram space with non-fiction in its supporting background, it’s very easy to feel that the most persuasive truths of humankind are communicated by fiction, because that has always been the supposition of a lot of other people, some of whom have been influential in fiction writing and teaching (and shame on all of us for that!). Though I gather from what you said above that you didn’t necessarily go for the memoir/biography/autobiography category solely, I would like to call attention to one (very long) read in that category which I thoroughly enjoyed without wanting to put it down for long between segments. That book was Richard Ellmann’s biography of James Joyce the Irish author. Part of my fascination was almost certainly with Joyce himself, because he was such an unusual character that even anecdotal telling would’ve been gripping. Still, from my relative position of inexperience with a lot of non-fiction (other than topics regularly taught in university, that is), Richard Ellmann is a fine story-teller whose efforts I would like to commend. Thanks for inviting comment.

  130. Kristen Hicks July 21, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Nice list! I’ve read three and own two with the intention of reading them soon.

    Some other suggestions:

    The Monster of Florence – a fascinating history of the most notorious serial killer in Italy and the multi-decade search to figure out who he is. It reads like a novel throughout, but even more so once the author gets caught up in the investigation far more personally than he ever hoped to.

    Anything by Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything, in particular, is great and Bryson’s so good at writing about complex topics in a language that’s easy to read and constantly entertaining

  131. iamkaturah July 22, 2012 at 6:12 am #

    Going to sound very silly but I had no idea Friday night lights was a book! Good post! I’d appreciate it if you could check out my new post!

  132. marykmhui July 22, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

    I have it the other way round: I’m addicted to non-fiction and can never find the time to start a novel. Would greatly appreciate it if you could for your next post recommend 10 novels for the non-fiction lover like me!

    • Melanie July 30, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Historical fiction might work for you–you can learn so much about a subject or an era. Try Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant, and anything by Tracy Chevalier.

  133. cjmarzan July 23, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Reblogged this on Keeping Times.

  134. laulosmithaf July 23, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Personally I have a yen for well-researched historical novels. The best of all (IMHO) is Les Rois Maudits by Maurice Druon – sheer bliss in 7 volumes!

  135. tycobeans July 24, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Great list. I’ve read several, & one (Fast Food Nation) is on my Required Reading List. So I’ll have to take your suggestions!

  136. rewilliams85 July 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Thanks for bringing my attention to these books – particularly keen to read Zeitoun.

    As a History graduate, you’d think I’d have read a significant amount of non-fiction, but since leaving College I’ve been spending more and more of my time in the realms of fiction. Time to get a dose of reality I think!

  137. Jasmine T. Cruz July 30, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    Thanks for this post! Great recommendations!

  138. Tom August 26, 2012 at 7:54 am #

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  139. Maria @ Cheeky Pink Tulip April 20, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Hello! Just popped over from Yes and Yes and I’m so glad I did! I’ve recently gone off fiction and am looking for the next non-fiction book to grab my interest. This right here is an awesome selection (my Amazon wishlist just tripled in size). I love anything and everything by Bill Bryson so I’m glad to see that he would’ve made the list had you not already mentioned him.

    I’ll be coming back for sure!

    Maria xx

  140. Whitney W April 20, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Thanks for this list! My brother {a huge non-fiction reader} is always hassling me {novel reader} about reading “real” books. 🙂 These sound interesting! I LOVED Under the Banner of Heaven. As a former Mormon, it was instrumental in shaping my life.

  141. Jennifer Avis June 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Yep, I’d like to reiterate “Nickel & Dimed”, too. For dog lovers/admirers there’s “Dogs Sniff Cancer (& Other Groundbreaking Cancer News)” by yours truly, Jennifer Avis. A very user-friendly, memorable (try to forget it) read. You’ll never look at a dog’s schnoz the same way again.


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