I used to staunchly avoid the non-fiction section of any given bookstore or library. This is because the genre carried a bad connotation stemming from my high school experience. For most of my life, I associated non-fiction with dense, boring textbooks and painstaking homework assignments. However, I’m now a firm believer that one stellar non-fiction read can change your entire opinion of the genre.
For a smooth transition into the world of non-fiction, essay collections or memoirs are a great starting point because they utilize a subjective POV. Therefore, I made sure to hone in on more fiction-imitating subgenres to create an approachable list for testing the nonfiction waters.
by Ruth Goodman
History is far from boring in this charming “dawn-to-dusk” guide to life during the Victorian era. Crafted from Goodman’s experience immersing herself in re-created Victorian living conditions, this unique book of living history will provide you with intimate knowledge about this chapter of British history without having to do battle with a behemoth textbook. Victorian era, not your style? Check out Goodman’s other “how-to” guide on Tudor England.
by Truman Capote
Next up is In Cold Blood, a non-fiction (and true crime) classic that recounts the real-life story of the Clutter family murders in Holcomb, Kansas, circa 1959. Written in the style of crime fiction, Capote’s suspenseful detailing of the investigation, capture, and trial of two murderers is sure to enthrall readers from start to finish.
by James Baldwin
Baldwin’s groundbreaking 1963 work is composed of two remarkable essays. Mirroring the same mesmerizing prose of his fiction works, Baldwin weaves between personal testimony and social commentary with stunning clarity and impact. It’s not often that I cry over an essay, but Baldwin truly moved me to tears in this book with his deeply personal analysis of religion, racial equity, and humanity.
by Amanda Montell
In the same vein as true crime, this recent release puts forth an engrossing analysis of cult influence and cult following throughout history and modern society. At times unnerving, yet oddly funny, Montell’s exposition takes a deep dive into cult mentality and fanaticism – from Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate to QAnon and SoulCycle. It is well-researched, engaging, and elevates one of today’s most timely topics of social discourse.
by Erik Larson
Like In Cold Blood, this bestseller is another prime example of novelistic non-fiction. Larson’s narrative vividly brings to life the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago by interweaving two character narratives. One follows the prominent architect Daniel H. Burnham and the other focuses on serial killer H.H.Holmes. For nail-biting non-fiction masquerading as a novel, this is a must to check out. Plus, a Hulu adaptation is on the way, starring Keanu Reaves!
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This short but gripping National Book Award winner from Ta-Nehisi Coates is written in the form of a letter to his teenage son. Packed with wisdom for the ages, Between the World and Me is a book of essential reflection on the American Dream which condenses the root of our sprawling, cultural turmoil into beautiful, introspective prose.
by Jill Lepore
This 2015 cultural history read examines the origin of one iconic superhero as it overlaps with the 20th-century feminist movement. After uncovering a string of groundbreaking documents, Lepore, a Harvard historian, dove into Wonder Woman’s creator and his family to reveal a remarkable historical tale. Her revelatory research shapes this fascinating pop culture book that is sure to turn readers into overnight history buffs.
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