Sometimes, we’ll admit, nonfiction can be intimidating. There are dates and details, people and places to remember, and the endings aren’t necessarily happy. But those details don’t mean that real life doesn’t make a good story. In case you need some recommendations for your nonfiction reading resolutions, here is a list of some of our favorite true tales, with characters, settings, and fast-paced action that makes us forget they aren’t novels.
This book has been mentioned on lists before, but that’s simply because it’s one of the best examples of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Jeffrey Toobin’s page-turning, addictive account of the O. J. Simpson trial—for which he was present as a legal reporter for The New Yorker—is shocking and stirring, just like any great courtroom thriller.
Though his son would become the famous author of great adventure stories like THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO and THE THREE MUSKETEERS, General Alex Dumas was a fascinating character in his own right, and this Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of him deserves a spot on the shelves right next to those classic novels. It is a swashbuckling story of a man with larger-than-life feats—and larger-than-life secrets—whose strength and courage prove that art imitates life.
Another case of “you know what’s going to happen” (it is history, after all), but somehow it comes as a total surprise. As the RMS Lusitania, a luxury ocean liner, crosses the Atlantic for Liverpool in May 1915 and approaches a disaster that will change the world, Erik Larson introduces an unforgettable cast of characters and brings new drama to a seminal moment in history.
For 34 years, Catherine the Great held the fate of Russia in her hands, guiding it through rebellion, wars, political change, and social upheaval. Robert K. Massie’s fascinating book brings her back to life through those twists and turns, and an expansive cast of characters including Catherine’s lovers, enemies, family, friends, and generals, restoring her to her rightful place as one of history’s greatest—and truest—leading ladies.
The extraordinary story of an obscure young German princess who traveled to Russia at fourteen and through sheer determination transformed herself into Empress of Russia and became one of the most remarkable, powerful, and captivating women in history.
When he was a young boy growing up in the middle of America, in the middle of the twentieth century, and in the middle of a generation soon to be called the Baby Boomers, Bill Bryson had a secret identity: the Thunderbolt Kid. Using this persona as a jumping off point, he tells the story of his childhood—his life, his family, his city—with his trademark wit and charm, in a coming-of-age tale that rivals many fiction favorites.
THE RIGHT STUFF is a rare nonfiction find: a story about American icons, written by an American icon. Expanding upon a 1972 piece he wrote for Rolling Stone, Tom Wolfe published this riveting tale of the men of NASA’s Mercury Seven team from training to their final mission. It’s much more than just a story about space; it’s about patriotism, family, bravery, and resilience.
From "America’s nerviest journalist" (Newsweek)--a breath-taking epic, a magnificent adventure story, and an investigation into the true heroism and courage of the first Americans to conquer space. "Tom Wolfe at his very best" (The New York Times Book Review)
One of the last, great, untold stories of World War II, LUCKY 666 follows a crew of US airmen in the Pacific, led by charming screwups Jay Zeamer and Joe Sarnoski who defy the odds to become heroes when they volunteer for a reconnaissance mission deep into the heart of the Japanese Empire. It’s the perfect book for fans of THE DIRTY DOZEN and UNBROKEN.
The riveting story of a slave named Ona Judge, who becomes the subject of a massive, multistate manhunt when she escapes the supervision of her owner, President George Washington. Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s critically acclaimed account of this forgotten moment is equal parts adventure, suspense, and hidden history.
Finalist for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
“A fascinating and moving account of a courageous and resourceful woman. Beautifully written and utilizing previously untapped sources it sheds new light both on the father of our country and on the intersections of slavery and freedom.” —Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fiery Trial and Gateway to Freedom
A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked everything to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom.
When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he took Tobias Lear, his celebrated secretary and eight slaves, including Ona Judge, about whom little has been written. As he grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t get his arms around: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire.
Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, the few pleasantries she was afforded were nothing compared to freedom, a glimpse of which she encountered first-hand in Philadelphia. So, when the opportunity presented itself, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs.
At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property.
With impeccable research, historian Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked it all to gain freedom from the famous founding father.
My Reading Goal This Year Is to Read 45 Books by People of Color. Here Are 6 Amazing Titles on My List.
In 1963, then unknown artist Andy Warhol took a cross-country road trip with a group of friends. As he moved from New York through the Midwest all the way to Hollywood, he encountered rednecks, beach bums, hippies, filmmakers, poets, and socialites who would prove to be major influences on his future work. This isn’t just an origin story; it’s an entertaining romp that sometimes seems too weird, too funny, and too fantastic to be true—but it is.