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 Didion, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, The 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 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.