Nonfiction November: Favorites

Friday, November 8, 2013



Regular Rumination is hosting a month-long celebration of nonfiction and for the first week she asked "What is your favorite piece of nonfiction?" I just had to jump in with my two cents. I love nonfiction, which was a big surprise to me as a reader.

If you’re firmly in the “I hate nonfiction” camp I’d encourage you to try one nonfiction book that sounds interesting and see if you still feel that way when you finish it. Nonfiction really does deserve a better reputation that the dry and boring one it currently has.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was the first book that taught me nonfiction could be just as creative and enthralling as fiction. Since reading that in high school I have fallen in love with dozens of travel memoirs, biographies, history books, etc. I couldn’t pick just one favorite (though if I had to it would probably be Midnight) so I made a list of a few favorites depending on your taste.

Favorite Book on War: 
Brave Men by Ernie Pyle 
In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton 
April 1865 by Jay Winik

Favorite Auto/Biography:
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Thomas Jefferson by Jon Meacham
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Favorite Travel Memoir:
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (funny)
Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman (serious)
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Favorite Childhood Memoir:
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (sad)
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (hilarious)  

Favorite Book about a Random Topic:
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin

Favorite Historical Event:
Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Favorite Book about Writing/Reading:
On Writing by Stephen King
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Favorite Love Letter to a City:
Here is New York by E.B. White
Imagined London by Anna Quindlen

Favorite Book of Grief:
The Longest Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke

Favorite Social Commentary:
A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

Also, here’s a link to my complete list and ratings of nonfiction books I’ve read if you want more options.


16 comments:

Ellie said...

I used to dislike non-fiction but I had a bit of a change of heart after reading The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz. This is a great selection, thanks for the recommendations!

annieb said...

I love nonfiction! For years it was about all I read. I didn't see any Tracy Kidder on your list. He is great and I have yet to read a book he has written that I didn't like. Thanks for a really good post.

Andi said...

This is a great list! And I see Kitchen Confidential! Squee!

Carol Ford said...

Yes, I do love a great non-fiction read as well.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Ellie - I haven't read that one yet! It's going on the list.

Annie - I was just talking to bkclubcare about Kidder. I read my first book by him last month(Among Schoolchildren). I think I'm going to try House next.

Andi - I loved that one!

Carol - Sometimes fact really can be stranger than fiction.

Bybee said...

I can't believe I used to be cold to nonfiction, except for biographies and Tracy My Hero Kidder. Now it's like 'gotta have, gotta have'.

Lu @ Regular Rumination said...

I was getting a little bit bogged down with my first nonfiction read of the month (Five Days at Memorial), so I picked up Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil as the antidote. So far, I'm really enjoying it! Thank you for such a comprehensive list! So many good books in here that I need to add to my TBR!!

52booksorbust said...

Wow, what an impressive list. So many to added to my TBR list. Thanks so much for putting this together.

Stacyverb said...

Very cool list! I had a similar reaction to Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil. I love books that really immerse me in a place that way. In my Nonfiction November post, I listed Dan Baum's Nine Lives: Mystery, Magic, Death, and Life in New Orleans for that reason.

Joy said...

Great list! I love the topical divisions. I sometimes want to dive deep into topic and read several books back to back.

paperbreathers said...

Wow, I'm loving the variety of non-fiction reads on your list, Melissa! I've stuck to reading one type of non-fiction for a long time, so I'm looking forward to exploring some of the other non-fic categories that you have here. This is the second time that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil has come up in the Nonfic November posts I've read, so that's definitely going on my list... and Anthony Bourdain, Bill Bryson, David Sedaris, and Mary Roach's books are all on my TBR list, so hopefully I'll get to them at some point!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is a great book -- so creepy and atmospheric and totally insane. I loved that one. I loved Stiff, and I have The Nine on my shelves now, I just haven't read it yet.

Nupur said...

Great list! I see some favorites here and others that I can't wait to read.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bybee - It's such an amazing genre. People who ignore it are really missing out.

Lu - Enjoy! I really love that one. I read his second book on a train ride to Venice (it's about Venice) and so that one has a special place in my heart too.

52booksorbust - No problem, I hope you find some you enjoy!

Stacyverb - I'm going to add both of those to my TBR list!

Joy - I get on kicks like that too.

paperbreathers - You have so many great books ahead of you!

Kim - I've never read something that so wonderfully captures the spirit of a city as well as Midnight does with Savannah.

Nupur - Enjoy!

bkclubcare said...

Hmmm. I've only read 5 of these.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

bkclubcare - That just means you have lots of great books out there to enjoy!