November used to be one of those months that draaaaaaaaaaagged for me. But in the three years that I’ve been participating in Nonfiction November, it just flies by!
This week Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction? is asking readers to think about nonfiction books that read like fiction!
I’ve been reading nonfiction for a long time – I have clear memories of biography reading as young as 11 – and I’m not super fussed if my nonfiction reads like fiction. Sometimes it makes the reading easier, sometimes it’s more engaging, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker for me if nonfiction doesn’t have a narrative spin to it.
I think if you’re only reading fiction-like nonfiction, you’re closing yourself off to incredible possibilities. That said, it can be a great way for folks to get interested in nonfiction when they thought it was stuffy, boring and lame.
So if you’re looking for some nonfiction that reads like your favourite novel, here are some of my favourites:
If you’re talking about narrative nonfiction, Erik Larson is part of the conversation. The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts are probably his most well-known books (and they are both excellent) but Isaac’s Storm, and Dead Wake (read that one in a day) are also fantastic. I was less interested in Thunderstruck if I’m being totally honest but I’ll still read anything Larson writes.
The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
This infamous tale of the hunt for Ted Bundy from the woman who worked right beside him at a call centre is insanely horrific and strangely personal. Everything I’ve read from Ann Rule feels personal – she has a knack for inserting herself in her books that doesn’t feel intrusive (no small feat given what she writes about). Because of this, her books have a fiction-like feel to them. Unfortunately, they are all too true.
How To Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell
This memoir of a troubled youth and stumbling into a dream job in magazine publishing felt like watching a glittery but ultimately doomed romcom. Marnell puts it all out there but the way she writes makes it all seem like bubblegum and sunshine. A portrait of a deeply troubled human just trying to make it in the world.
If you’re looking to have your heart ripped out for your next read, may I suggest A Train in Winter? Caroline Moorehead expertly tells the tale of 230 women who were a part of the French Resistance and the price they paid for their involvement. It is devastating, emotional, horrific and more people really should have read it by now!
Honestly, the more I think about it, the more titles I could add to the list. There are lots of nonfiction books that fall into the storytelling bucket for me. In fact, here’s some more (bullet form for all our sanity)
- The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport
- Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams
- Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler by Bruce Henderson
- Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
- The Hiltons: A Family Dynasty by J. Randy Taraborrelli (worth it for Zsa Zsa alone)
There you have it, some of my favourite narrative nonfiction. Make sure to check in with Rennie at What’s Nonfiction? for links to other blogs participating this week!