Nonfiction November 2018: Be the Expert…Investigative Journalism

Nonfiction November 2018


Today’s Nonfiction November (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and me) topic is Be / Become / Ask the Expert:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

This post contains affiliate links (plus: here’s your Amazon Smile-specific affiliate link), through which I make a small commission when you make a purchase (at no cost to you!).

Investigative Journalism

Investigative Journalism

I actually came to my Be the Expert topic by request! I mentioned in my My Year of Nonfiction post that I hadn’t read enough investigative journalism this year and that I was looking forward to reading more during Nonfiction November. Multiple people mentioned in that post’s comments that they were interested in seeing what investigative journalism books I end up reading this month (so far, I’ve read and really liked The Fifth Risk, Big Game, and Bad Blood…all of which I’ll review at the end of the month!). Today, I thought I’d also share some of my past investigative journalism favorites!

But first, I want to share a couple new, investigative journalism podcasts I’ve been loving lately…all from Wondery, who seems to be cornering the market on investigative journalism podcasts these days:

  • Dr. Death
    The story of Dr. Christopher Duntsch, a neurosurgeon who catastrophically hurt a number of patients he operated on…and the flawed medical system that failed his patients.
  • Gladiator
    A deep dive into deceased New England Patriots football star and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez.
  • American Scandal
    Behind the scenes of America’s biggest scandals. Season 1 focused on BALCO and performance enhancing drugs and Season 2 is about New York Governor Elliot Spitzer and his corrupt NY State government.

True Crime

A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
True crime (the story of a woman who was charged with lying about being raped and the detectives that worked to uncover the truth) mixed in with a bit of history of rape investigation and would make a great companion read to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (my review).

American Fire by Monica Hesse (my review)
The story behind the hunt for this arsonist (actually, arsonists), who they were, and why they couldn’t stop burning down abandoned buildings is ultimately about a unique community and a love affair gone very wrong.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (my review)
McNamara, previously a true crime writer and blogger at, investigated the unsolved crimes of a 1970’s-80’s serial rapist and murderer that she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known as the EAR for East Area Rapist). Before her book could be published, she passed away…and soon after it was published, the Golden State Killer was caught via DNA evidence.

Missoula by Jon Krakauer (my review/discussion)
Krakauer explores rape and the justice system on college campuses through a look at several acquaintance rape cases at the University of Montana in Missoula.

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (my review)
The true story about Christopher Knight, the man who lived alone in the Maine forest for 27 years before finally being arrested for stealing food and essentials from nearby vacation homes. Also, one of my all-time favorite audiobooks!


Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas (my review)
The story of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a native of Nigeria, who immigrated to the U.S. and used his neuropathological research into brain injuries to football players (i.e. CTE) to take on the National Football League (NFL). It’s so much more than a “football book”; it’s a medical mystery, a David & Goliath story, an immigrant’s story, and a story of a big-business cover-up…and, it was one of my favorite books of 2015!

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink (my review)
An investigative report into what happened during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center…including allegations that doctors intentionally sped up death for some of the hospital’s sickest patients that they thought wouldn’t survive an evacuation. Plus, it reads like a thriller.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (my review)
The true story of the woman whose tissue became one of science’s most important discoveries, the “immortal” HeLa cells that enabled countless medical breakthroughs (including the Polio Vaccine). And, the first book I ever read for a book club!


DisneyWar by James B. Stewart
“The dramatic inside story of the downfall of Michael Eisner—Disney Chairman and CEO—and the scandals that drove America’s best-known entertainment company to civil war.” – Amazon

The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonette
An in depth look at Ty Warner and the story of the mid-1990’s speculative bubble surrounding his Beanie Babies…and its subsequent crash.

The Middle East

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright
A historical account of how Al Qaeda (and, really, Islamic terrorism in general) grew into what it is now, what motivates the terrorists, and the U.S.’s response to the terrorist threat (and how we could have prevented 9/11).

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (my review)
Investigative journalist Jenny Nordberg exposes the “unofficial” custom of girls pretending to be boys (called bacha posh) in present day Afghanistan.


Going Clear by Lawrence Wright (my review)
The story behind L. Ron Hubbard’s (LRH) founding of Scientology, its links to the entertainment industry, and the current state of the “religion”…and, a big dose of cray-cray. This book sparked the best book club discussion I’ve ever been a part of…including lots of googling to see which celebrities are Scientologists!

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
An expose-type account of life in extreme Mormon communities that still practice polygamy. Also – one of my all-time favorite nonfiction books!

What are some of your favorite investigative journalism books?

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  1. Those are just the kind of nonfiction books I love. I’ve read 6 of them and thought they were all excellent. I’m making note of several of the others.

    Posted 11.13.18 Reply
  2. This is a great compilation of books, Sarah. I was surprised to note that I’ve read five of them. I see several others that I’d like to try eventually. I read the sample of The Underground Girls last week and it wasn’t grabbing me, but I think that says more about my frame of mind than the book. I’ll have to try again sometime. A False Report seems like it would make a good follow up to Missoula.

    Posted 11.13.18 Reply
  3. Jan wrote:

    Not surprisingly, I’ve read 7 of the ones you’ve listed. And I now have a great list of other books to look into! Thanks!

    Posted 11.13.18 Reply
  4. So many great books on this list! I agree that Stranger in the Woods was fantastic on audio. I still need to read some of these, especially Going Clear.

    Posted 11.13.18 Reply
  5. Argh! I just typed a long comment and it failed to post… So I’ll keep it short.

    Some podcasts that you might like to check out: Teacher’s Pet (it’s Australian and as good as Serial. Seriously. The case has now been reopened as a result of the podcast).

    Also Australian – Unravel. Lastly, Slow Burn by Slate which looks at the Clinton/ Lewinsky case. Fascinating.

    Posted 11.13.18 Reply
  6. kelly wrote:

    I LOVE investigative journalism in my nonfiction, and while I’ve read a number of these, you’ve also just plopped a bunch more on my to-read list.

    Posted 11.14.18 Reply
  7. Angela wrote:

    Great list! I have a couple of these on my TBR – The Looming Tower and Five Days at Memorial.

    Posted 11.14.18 Reply
  8. What a great compilation of books; such variety! I’m actually currently reading an investigative journalism book myself for #NonficNov – Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain by James Bloodworth. Really enjoying it. I find you can get through these kinds of books quite quickly too, as they hook you easily. Great topic!

    Posted 11.15.18 Reply
  9. Sarah! Stop it!!! I have too many books to read as it is. Knowing how our reading often aligns, I know that there are easily 7 books on this list I should be reading.

    Except the one about the false rape reporting…

    Five Days at Memorial, Concussion, Beanie Babies…Going Clear has been on my list as long as it’s been out…

    Posted 11.15.18 Reply
  10. Beth F wrote:

    I’ve read some of these, and most of the others are on my list. I really like nonfiction, and add true stories to my mix all year round. Five Days at Memorial has been on my radar since it first came out … sad to say I haven’t gotten to it yet.

    Posted 11.16.18 Reply
  11. I haven’t read any. Not too sure how this genre is defined. I assume you could consider these 2 books I recently reviewed as such:
    My post is here:

    Posted 11.16.18 Reply
  12. Rory wrote:

    I’m heading to Maine for Thanksgiving and I’m now fascinated by the idea of Stranger in the Woods. I’m dedicating an entire suitcase just to our cold weather gear, I can imagine living in a tent through the winter.

    Posted 11.17.18 Reply
  13. Great list, having read a few of them, I’m noting some of the others. The only other one I can think of is Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.

    Posted 11.17.18 Reply
  14. Fantastic topic! Investigative journalism is one of my favorite types of nonfiction. I’m also really interested in the podcasts you mentioned!

    Posted 11.18.18 Reply
  15. This is such a GREAT list, so many excellent titles. Hooray for seeing the Great Beanie Baby Bubble on your list, that book is one of my favorites of all time 🙂

    Posted 11.18.18 Reply

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