My All-Time Favorite Nonfiction Books

Nonfiction November

This post is part of Nonfiction November hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Becca at I’m Lost in Books, and Leslie at Regular Rumination. Since this is my first time participating, I figured what better time to share my all-time favorite nonfiction books. 

All Over but the Shoutin', Rick Bragg, memoir, alcoholism, alcoholic fathers, Southern memoir, Southern, Alabama, povertyAll Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
Memoir (Released December, 1991)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
Bragg recounts his childhood growing up destitute, with an alcoholic and mostly absentee father, in rural Alabama.
My Thoughts: In his heart-breaking, but hilarious memoir, Bragg mixes stories of “young-boy-in-the-country” hi-jinks (i.e. the hilarious) with the impact of an irresponsible, alcoholic father on his family (i.e. the heart-breaking). Continue Reading…

Boomerang, michael lewis, finance, business, european debt crisisBoomerang by Michael Lewis
Business (Released October, 2011)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
Lewis explains the European debt crisis by focusing on the culture and social norms of Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Germany, and, because it has striking similarities to these European countries, the state of California.
My Thoughts: 
Who would have thought a book about the European debt crisis could be funny? Lewis’ social commentary on how each country’s culture brought about its downfall is hilarious and makes Boomerang appealing even to those who aren’t remotely interested in finance. Continue Reading…

Thank You for Your Service, David Finkel, Iraq war, Afghanistan war, PTSD in soldiers, Traumatic brain injury in soldiersThank You for Your Service by David Finkel
War (Released October, 2013)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
An exploration of mental and emotional trauma facing soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and the military’s efforts to curb this group’s high suicide rate.
My Thoughts: Thank You for Your Service was named one of the Best Nonfiction Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly and one of the Top 10 Books of the Year by the Washington Post…and I wholeheartedly agree. This is a heartbreaking and moving series of stories about various members of the 2-16 Infantry Battalion and their families dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) following war zone deployments. Continue Reading…

The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown, rowing, 1936 olympicsThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Sports (Released June, 2013)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
The true story of Joe Rantz and his University of Washington teammates’ quest to win gold in the men’s eight rowing event at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
My Thoughts: The Boys in the Boat was the best nonfiction book I read in 2013 (by far) and the best sports book I’ve read in the past few years! It reminded me a lot of Seabiscuit, not only because it’s set in the same time period, but also because Brown, like Seabiscuit‘s Laura Hillenbrand, managed to keep me fascinated by a sport that I have little interest in. Continue Reading…

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson, World's Fair, ChicagoThe Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
History/Crime (Released 2003)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
The true story of the creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the serial killer masquerading as a doctor who cast a shadow over the proceedings.
My Thoughts: 
The suspense and drama of the search for H.H. Holmes (the serial killer) made The Devil in the White City seem like a thrilling fiction novel. Continue Reading…

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls, memoirThe Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Memoir (Released 2005)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: The true story of Walls’ childhood growing up with eccentric, nomadic, irresponsible parents.
My Thoughts: This was the first memoir I ever read that truly stuck with me. Walls writes about her bizarre childhood with humor, a sense of normalcy (not sure where she got this from!), and, amazingly enough, a bit of appreciation. And, the stories are just outrageous.

The Miracle of St. AnthonyThe Miracle of St. Anthony by Adrian Wojnarowski
Sports (Released January, 2006)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
The Miracle of St. Anthony chronicles Coach Bob Hurley (father of Duke basketball legend Bobby Hurley) and his nationally ranked high school basketball team.
My Thoughts: The Miracle of St. Anthony is far more than just a sports book. It’s about overcoming obstacles, shaping lives, supporting teammates and the community, and creating a dynasty in the process. Continue Reading…

The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe, navy pilots, space raceThe Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
History (Released January, 1979)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
A portrait of the personality type that enthusiastically chooses a career with 1 in 4 odds of death: the Navy test pilot and the earliest participants in the U.S. manned space program.
My Thoughts: 
I figured a 350 page book about Navy pilots and the space race would bore me to tears. But, true to Tom Wolfe form, The Right Stuff is mostly (very funny, incidentally) social commentary on the personalities in these professions and the general public as a whole during that time period. Needless to say, I was far from bored to tears.

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand, World War II, Louis ZamperiniUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
History/War (Released November, 2010)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary: 
Louis Zamperini, an ex-Olympic track star and WWII Air Force Lieutenant, is shot down over the Pacific and ends up in a Japanese concentration camp.
My Thoughts: Astounding is the only word I can use to describe Unbroken – there is a reason for the hype. This story is so amazing that my husband stopped reading it because he determined there was no way some parts were true. I didn’t agree with him, kept reading, and was so glad I did. Continue Reading…

Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer, mormonismUnder the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Religion (Released July, 2003)
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Summary:
An expose type account of life in extreme Mormon communities that still practice polygamy.
My Thoughts: I’ve never been particularly interested in Mormanism or religions in general, yet was still awestruck by this book. Krakauer takes you inside the history of the religion, as well as into numerous extreme modern-day situations (including a family murder where the killers said their religion directed them to do it). Under the Banner of Heaven is definitely a case of truth is stranger than fiction and Krakauer’s writing made it an even more exciting read.


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14 Comments

  1. Cleo wrote:

    I’m not so good at choosing NF books but I like the look of both The Glass Castle and The Devil in the White City.

    http://cleopatralovesbooks.wordpress.com

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      A lot of the books on this list read like fiction (one of the things that makes me like a nonfiction book!)! The Glass Castle would be a great place to start!

      Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  2. I’ve read 3 of those books – All Over But the Shoutin’, The Glass Castle, and The Boys in the Boat – and they’re all favorites of mine as well, so I’m making note of the other titles on your list.

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Great! I feel like All Over But the Shoutin’ was the male, Southern version of The Glass Castle…loved them both! Have you read Ava’s Man (Rick Bragg’s follow-up)? I didn’t love it as much as Shoutin’…

      Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  3. What a great list — have read and enjoyed them all (except Boomerang, which I think is the only Michael Lewis book I haven’t read yet.) I tried to compile a similar list (which would have included almost all those books), but it was TOO HARD! I’ve been reading a lot of fiction recently, but I’m a nonfiction reader at heart.

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  4. I will most definitely bookmark this list! Thanks for sharing your favorites. I don’t read many non-fiction, so having a list of good ones to start with is great!

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  5. I just finished Unbroken and I’m listening to one of Erik Larson’s other books, In the Garden of the Beasts by audio book. I hope to get Devil in the White City next.

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I loved In the Garden of Beasts also! And Larson has a new one coming out this spring…Dead Wake.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  6. Great list–I’ve read a few of them. One I’d like to read is All Over But The Shoutin’. Sounds really interesting, and I’m not sure how I missed that one. And The Boys in the Boat; I’m trying to convince my book club to read it as our next pick!

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  7. Loved The Glass Castle. Haven’t read Half-Broken Horses by her yet, though.

    Thank You for Your Service needs to be next on my list. I’m loving reading That Others May Live.

    Posted 11.13.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I didn’t love Half Broke Horses as much as The Glass Castle, sadly 🙁

      Posted 11.13.14 Reply
  8. Wow! What a great list, Sarah! I love, love, love, Erik Larson; did you read In the Garden of Beasts? That one was great, too! I also love Unbroken, of course…curious about this one in movie form, so we’ll see. I also really enjoyed Thank You For Your Service…wow. I’ll have the check out the rest of these! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Posted 11.14.14 Reply

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