This post may include Amazon links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Like many other readers, I used to actively avoid nonfiction, but every once in a while, I’d slip one in. As a devoted fiction fan, I began to realize that I could enjoy nonfiction, especially when it read like fiction. So, today I’m excited to share six books in Nonfiction November’s challenge for the week, “Reads Like Fiction.” For this challenge, I turned to both older and newer nonfiction reads that I think make prefect choices for reluctant and/or budding nonfiction readers.
Nonfiction November is a fabulous month dedicated to all things nonfiction. We’re all lucky to have a different blogger hosting each week’s topic: Katie at Doing Dewey, Sarah at Sarah’s Bookshelves, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and this week, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?. Head on over to her blog to link up your own “Reads Like Fiction” selections!
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – A bunch of college boys rowing crew in the 1930’s? Every single time I looked at this book, I thought “dullsville,” but I kept hearing about it. Finally, in a moment weakness I picked it up. When I’m wrong, I’m REALLY wrong. It was as good as any novel I’d read in a very long time. Over the years, I’ve recommended The Boys in the Boat probably more than any other book. I think its story has mass appeal and it definitely reads like fiction.
Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff – This was another sort of desperate read for me. My Kindle died, and while I was waiting for another one, I downloaded this book free from iTunes. I read a 400 page book on my phone! That’s how good this true story of survival and rescue was. Near the end of WWII a small U.S. plane went down in the mountains of New Guinea. Three military members (including one woman) survived and managed to stay alive for nearly two months, as others tried desperately to find a way to rescue them. Excellent!
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett – Can you imagine being held captive for 460 days? That’s what happened to Lindhout in 2008 when she was trying to work in Somalia as a photographer/journalist. She was held for a ransom that her family couldn’t pay and time after time negotiations broke down. As her captors grew more frustrated, they often took it out on Lindhout, who suffered terrible abuses, and crippling loneliness. Her writing was only so-so, but her journey compelling.
Daring to Drive by Manal al-Sharif – An inspiring memoir to be sure, Daring to Drive won the title of my favorite nonfiction book for 2017. In the spring of 2011, Manal al-Sharif was arrested for driving in Saudi Arabia, but her courageous story began long before that day. Raised and radicalized in a devote Saudi family, her path to becoming a woman willing to take a stand for all women was full of twists and turns. I often found myself on the edge of my seat, eager to see what would happen next in Manal’s life. (my review)
American Radical by Tamer Elnoury – I just DO NOT read spy novels or cop stories, but somehow I loved this memoir that was both. Beginning his career as an undercover cop, after 9/11 the FBI eventually recruited Elnoury. Besides his brains and wiles, Elnoury just happened to have two traits that made him uniquely qualified to help in the war on terrorism: he spoke Arabic, and was Muslim. You see, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. His was a breathless real life thriller to be sure. (my review)
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein – Being down to your last dime and then getting an amazing, life changing job at the White House off of Craigslist? Could ANYTHING sound more fiction than that? Well, sometimes life truly is stranger than fiction. Getting hired was only the beginning of Dorey-Stein’s nearly five year journey working as a White House stenographer during the Obama years. Whether it was her work life OR her personal life, everything about it read just like fiction! (my review)
What are your favorite nonfiction books that read like fiction?
Disclaimer: There Are Amazon Associate links contained in this post.
Kathleen Bailey says
Daring to drive sounds interesting to me. I’ve read books in the past on life in Arab countries and I think I’d like this one. I can see what you mean about the boat one, it does look dull but how nice of a surprise for you that it was awesome. I shared memoirs on my post. I love nonfiction (and only read nonfiction) so it doesn’t have to read like fiction.
Wow! I’m impressed that you only read nonfiction. I’ve learned to really enjoy it over the last few years, but could never give up fiction.
I know what you mean about starting to enjoy and read more nonfiction when you realized that it could read like fiction, it was the same for me. It seems so strange now to think of actively avoiding nonfiction before!
I just recently read Daring to Drive and absolutely loved it. What an incredible story and I thought her writing was extraordinary too, so compelling. I’m in awe of what she did.
I’m really glad to see you mention A House in the Sky as I’ve had that one on my list for awhile and just never seem to be in the mood for it. I’m motivated since it ranks so highly for you! And I had to laugh that Boys in the Boat made you think “dullsville” because ha, I’ve thought that every time I see it too! Now I think I need to reconsider if you thought the same and it ended up being such a remarkable one for you. Also curious about American Radical because I’m not crazy about spy stories either so passed that one by. You’re making me reconsider so much here!!
Glad that I can give such a nonfiction lover a few more to think about. I think you’d be surprised by how exciting The Boys in the Boat turns out to be.
Allison | Mind Joggle says
I can’t believe I haven’t read Boys in the Boat yet. I hear so many raves (and most didn’t expect to like it). I used to row in college, so I expect I WILL be interested! 🙂
I also would like to read Daring to Drive. It sounds like what I was hoping Reading Lolita in Tehran might be (though obviously not in Iran), but I’ve been disappointed by that one.
Allison, I know you would like both Daring to Drive and The Boys in the Boat. They were both so well written and told such rich true stories.
Sarah's Book Shelves says
Haha – I almost put Boys in the Boat on mine! Solid list – especially for not starting to really read nonfiction until what…last year??
I read a little nonfiction in the past, but only a couple books a year and they HAD to read like fiction. Thanks to your encouragement, I now read much more and am open to different types of nonfiction thatn I was in the past.
Between your list and Sarah’s you have a lot of my favorites as well.
One that hasn’t been on many radars is “The Feather Thief” about a young American music student enrolled at the Royal Academy in London who is also nuts for tying flies (as in fishing). So much so that he breaks into the Tring museum and steals hundreds of rare old birds. Chalk it up to my museum docent knowledge of birds being stalked to extinction in the name of beauty (Teotihuacan; Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery).
Another I think was missing from both lists was “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
I’m at 14 non fiction books this year and have a few currently on hold. (Gellhorn, Little, Boom Town, Bad Blood)
There are times when non-fiction is dryer than cardboard. And often it’s due to the author being a bit too scholarly. Perhaps we have David McCullough to thank. He reinvented history books for me.
I’ve looked at Killers of the Flower Moon so many times and always turn a way from it. Another friend was also recently encouraging me to give it a try. I guess it’s time to seriously consider it.
I have not read any in this list. I read very few non fic books over a year. A house in the sky looks nice. It is a scary experience to be held captive
Yeah I’m listening to the Beck Dorey Stein book now and seem to be flying through it. So easy and conversationally written. I liked Daring to Drive too.
I almost wish I’d listened to that one!
Eva @ The Paperback Princess says
That is for sure exactly how I have felt every time I’ve seen The Boys in the Boat. I’m adding it to my list because of you! Hopefully I love it like you do!
Let me know. For me it’s often been books that I rejected over and over that I end up loving the most. (ie. Cutting for Stone and The Time Traveller’s Wife)
Julie @ JulzReads says
Lost in Shangri-La made my list too. If you like that, I recommend Lost in Tibet.
Thanks Julie, I’m adding it to my TBR list now.
Deb Nance at Readerbuzz says
I love a good memoir. I have been meaning to read Boys in the Boat—I have my own copy of it—this month and I just haven’t yet.
Re: #NonFicNov TBR dd 27 Nov 2018
Forty Autumns (by Nina Willner)…will I need a box of kleenex while reading this book?
I’m an Obama fan….so ‘From the Corner of the Oval Office (by Beck Dorey-Stein) is a #MustRead. I limited my self to 2 books per blog….but I’m putting your suggestion “American Radical (by Tamer Elnoury) on my ‘reserve list’! Thanks for you comments on my blog and I’ll be following your posts!
Catherine Gilmore says
I can’t add anything to your list because it is perfect and I’ve read most of the books on it!
I’m almost halfway through Daring to Drive and feel pretty comfortable saying the Saudis hate women more than almost any other group I’ve ever learned about. Her childhood has me shaking my head in disbelief.