I used to spend most of my time reading fiction and would often have to force myself to pick up a nonfiction book, even if it was about a subject I'm truly interested in. There’s so much great nonfiction out there though that sometimes I felt like I’m missing out (and indeed I was)! If you’re interested in reading more nonfiction but still crave the sweeping storylines and character development of novels, the books on this list are a great place to start your delve into the nonfiction world.
Devil in the White City combines the story of the planning and execution of the Chicago World’s Fair with that of a serial killer who targeted his victims throughout the duration of the Fair. The two stories complement one another well, making for a gripping story that reads just like a fictional murder mystery—with the added chills of being real!
Wild is Cheryl’s Strayed’s now famous account of her physical and personal journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. After a tough childhood and young adulthood, Strayed makes the decision to hike the PCT as a way to heal her mind and her heart, and to challenge her body. Her account of her journey is riveting and brutal, making for a fast-paced, breathtaking read.
The Tipping Point: Malcom Gladwell is known for his popular books on sociology and psychology. This was his first, and revolves around the psychology of the magical moment when a trend becomes a trend. Also try Outliers and David and Goliath, both also by Gladwell.
The Warren Commission Report: a graphic investigation into the Kennedy assassination is a well-researched and wonderfully designed non-fiction graphic novel. It clearly and concisely presents the all-too-often muddled details of the JFK assassination and ensuing investigation and is a great book for both readers who are generally unfamiliar with the event, and for those who know a great deal about it but want to see the subject presented in a unique manner.
Set in the fascinating, beautiful, mysterious Savannah, Georgia, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has a cast of characters that are completely unforgettable. The book begins almost as a travel log, with author John Berendt describing unique details about Savannah and offering interesting historical facts about the city and surrounding area to readers. These chapters are so engrossing, that it’s easy to forget that the book actually becomes a true crime story. When that turning point does occur, it happens subtly and smoothly, and the book slides gracefully from a Southern narrative to a revealing look at a strange and unlikely murder mystery.
In I Wear the Black Hat, cultural critic Chuck Klosterman theorizes about how the modern world understands the concept of villainy. Why are some villains lauded as anti-heroes while others, who have often committed lesser crimes, destined to be hated by the masses until the end of time? Find out in this witty, culturally relevant analysis of mass media.
Since its publication in the late 1990s, The Boys of Summer has been a favorite of sports lovers everywhere. Roger Kahn, the “dean of American sports writers,” shares his stories of growing up down the street from Ebbets Field, and delves deeply into the history of the Brooklyn Dodgers leading up to their 1955 win of the World Series. Kahn then tracks the fascinating stories of the players as they age and move beyond their baseball-playing years. A great read for fans of baseball, history, Americana, or all of the above.
Women in Clothes is a unique, almost artistic piece. Compiled by four friends, the book includes advice and anecdotes from over six hundred women and dwells on not just what we wear but on all the elements of style. As the back cover reads, Women in Clothes is “an exploration into the questions we ask ourselves while getting dressed every day.”
Desert Solitaire is Edward Abbey’s classic recount of his time spent in the wilderness of the American southwest. The book is adventurous, passionate, poetic, and clever. Its ongoing popularity is a testament to its timelessness… and its ability to allow readers to experience a place that, for the most part, no longer exists.
A Short History of Nearly Everything is a scientific odyssey like no other by beloved author Bill Bryson. In this book, he attempts to understand everything—and impart his understanding to readers—from the Big Bang to the rise of civilizations. He takes challenging subjects: geology, physics, astronomy, paleontology… and does his best to make them understandable to people who, like himself, were rendered bored or terrified of science in school.
There are even more great books for the reluctant nonfiction reader on this more extensive list!