I recently read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. I’ve heard many people gush about it, namely Nancy right here at 5 Minutes for Books (linked to her review). It’s been on my list to read forever, so when my 15-year-old daughter selected it to read in a nonfiction unit, I decided to read it first. Wow did it live up to the hype. I’m not sure if it earned a place on my “best of the best” but it hit all the marks that have kept the books above in my memory for many many years:
- Well-written and paced
- Educational and interesting
- Emotional as well as intellectual
When I was a library rat (in those pre-book reviewer days when books weren’t just showing up on my doorstep), I remember wandering around looking for something to catch my eye. In addition to browsing fiction shelves, I also browsed nonfiction and biography looking for something to catch my eye. I read a book about cookoff participants, an odd one about a low-level Soviet spy, and one of the books featured below.
I enjoy non-fiction books a lot. I’m not really an information junkie in general, so I don’t even really care what the topic is. I’ve read my fair share of parenting, weight-loss/health and marriage books. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m also not including straight memoir here, because I don’t consider that true nonfiction either, though many of those have stuck in my mind. No, I’m talking about books that delve into a certain subject or person or time in history that are so well-written that I read it just as I would a novel, learning along the way.
These are the books that stand out to me as memorable nonfiction that I’ve recommended time and time again:
Drama High by Michael Sokolove — I just read this book last month and published my review last week. Click through the link to read my full review to see exactly how this book fell into my best of the best list. It was the first book of this type that I had read in a long time, and it was just what the doctor ordered.
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer — Anyone I’ve ever spoken to about this book has agreed — the setting, the suspense, the unusual subject matter makes this an educational page-turning read.
My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story by Abraham Verghese is the book that I stumbled upon at my local library many years ago. His voice as a writer, an immigrant, a doctor treating patients on the forefront of AIDS, was captivating. I was sold on him as a writer, and waited patiently for anything else from him. My incredibly high expectations for his first novel made it hard for me to get into Cutting for Stone, but I ultimately ended up enjoying the saga.
Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff — The information about the tragedy of a crystal meth addiction, plus the helplessness of a parent to change his child, enhanced by unconditional love, makes a story that will resonate with any parent.
Have you read any of these books? I’d love to know what drew you in or even what didn’t. I’d also love your recommendations for your most-loved nonfiction. Please leave a comment and let me know!