Who says beach reads can’t be based in reality? Each of these 11 true stories is so utterly compelling that it reads like fiction. Whether your favorite genre is political thrillers or mysteries, tales of friendship or dystopia, historical fiction or science fiction, horror or adventure, any of these compelling nonfiction titles in your beach bag will happily take you away to a truth that is stranger than fiction.
Best Beach Reads: 11 Perfect Nonfiction Books That Read Like Fiction
Tell me everything you know about President James Garfield. You’ve got nothing, right? I didn’t either, until OTS staff member Kerry Fiallo shared that this beautifully heartbreaking presidential biography made her cry (and not in the way I’d been crying about the recent state of political affairs). I bought it immediately and couldn’t put it down. Murder, fatal medical folly, and yes, politics. I cried, too. Make sure you have tissues in your beach bag.
One of the most beautifully written, heartbreaking, and haunting books about a president, DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC follows the senseless assassination of President Garfield, the unstable man who committed the crime, and the efforts of Alexander Graham Bell to save the dying president.
This glittering, salacious backstage pass into the scandalous and triumphant history of the Great White Way is full of juicy behind-the-scenes gossip, rogues, rubes, and Broadway royalty. A fun, glamorous read that goes great with a floppy beach hat and a fruity cocktail.
For the Broadway baby
RAZZLE DAZZLE tells the story of the rise, fall, and redemption of Broadway—its stars, its biggest shows, its producers, and all the drama, intrigue, and power plays that happened behind the scenes. The author, Michael Riedel, is one of Broadway’s most respected (and feared) commentators.
Great extinctions have wiped out the inhabitants of our planet numerous times . . . are humans next? Elizabeth Kolbert’s eye-opening, provocative, and well-researched exploration will make you think twice about climate change and how we might be able to save our species. You’re going to recycle that soda can, right?
Three OTS staff members, myself included, read Capote’s classic crime tome during the summer months. Nothing says summer read like chilling true crime . This brilliant chronicle of the tragic, senseless quadruple murders of the Clutter family will keep you riveted to your beach chair long enough that you’ll need to reapply your sunscreen.
Laconic and atmospheric, this intensively researched narrative of the Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas, and the two men who brutally murdered them on the night of November 15, 1959, generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.
THE JERSEY BROTHERS tells the remarkable saga of three American brothers amid the agony and triumph of WWII. From the home front to Roosevelt’s White House, Pearl Harbor to Midway and Bataan, this heroic portrait of brotherly love will stay with you long after the beach empties and the sun sets.
A dual biography of a seventeenth-century artist and a nineteenth-century art-obsessed bookseller, this historical mystery centers on the authenticity of a Diego Velázquez painting and will intrigue even those who’ve never set eyes on his renowned portraits. Sure to class up that beer and burger from the joint on the boardwalk.
In 1914, Ernest Shackleton (along with a small crew) set off on an expedition to be the first person to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. Things didn’t go according to plan, however; their ship was lost, and this epic tale of indomitable human spirit in the face of insurmountable odds will make you count your lucky stars that the only hardship you’re enduring at the moment is a little sand on your beach blanket.
Call me un-American, but I have no interest in baseball, which only goes to prove how far this heartwarming book about the enduring friendship of four teammates from the 1940s Boston Red Sox transcends the sport. Yes, yes, there’s baseball, and these men were among the best in the game, but it’s so much more than that. THE TEAMMATES will make you want to get up off your lounge chair and go hug your friends.
The unsolved case of London’s Jack the Ripper gets all the press, but Florence has its own still-unidentified serial killer whose grisly, murderous spree spanned more than a decade in the 1970s and ’80s. Penned by thriller writer Douglas Preston and Italian journalist Mario Spezi, THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE is filled with suspense, the corrupt Byzantine Italian judicial system, and bone-chilling twists and turns. It’s no wonder this true story reads like fiction. If you’re on the beach in Italy, try not to break any laws, OK?
Ever hear of prions? They’re nonliving proteins that sometimes run amuck and cause incurable brain diseases. They are the source of horrific illnesses around the world from England’s mad cow disease, to an Italian family’s fatal familial insomnia, to Papua New Guinea’s deadly uncontrollable laughter, which is nowhere near as funny as it sounds. This book reads like a terrifying medical thriller, so devour a few chapters, then go take a swim before you start misdiagnosing your friends.
The trees have secrets, and in the cathedral-like canopies of the enormous redwoods, huckleberry bushes and ferns grow, animals live and mate, and for their entire lives they do not touch the ground. Author and “skywalker” Richard Preston pulls us into an unbelievable world right above our heads that very few will ever see, unless you are brave enough to climb a 350-plus-foot tree. Kind of makes that big wave headed toward you look a little smaller, doesn’t it?