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Book List: Nonfiction Books That Will Make You Think

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I'm a big fan of fiction. I absolutely love it. There are so many different places it could go. Fantasy, historical, science fiction... It's not real, but it can be based on actual events or people. Nonfiction on the other hand, is much more narrow; it can't go in as many directions. But that doesn't make it any less compelling. Some of the best stories that can ever be told are real life stories, and it takes a special kind of author to do the research and write a whole book about an actual event or person and make it just as readable as a fiction book. I may not read nonfiction as much as I read fiction, but a large number of nonfiction books have completely blown my mind and have opened me up to a variety of situations and events that I otherwise would have never known about if they have not been written into very entertaining and illuminating books. Here are a few of my favorite nonfiction books! Enjoy and get ready to learn (in a very fun way)!*

*Even though I am so incredibly squeamish, I read a lot of books involving medical procedures, medical discoveries, murder, etc. I guess as long as I don't see blood, then I won't faint. Well, I still kind of get light-headed reading about surgery, but it's still super interesting. Even if I have to lie down while reading about it....

Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

W.W. Norton & Company
Everyone's heard of Charles Manson, right? That really crazy old guy who dances around prison and gives really strange interviews? Well, that old guy and his cult "family" orchestrated and committed multiple gruesome murders in 1960's Los Angeles, including the killing of Roman Polanski's pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate. The murders of Tate, her friends, a wealthy couple, and several other victims who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, shocked and fascinated the nation as it was later revealed that Manson and his family viewed him as a prophet and thought by committing the murders, they were bringing about an end of the world race war. Oh, and did I mention that Manson got all of this from a Beatles' song, "Helter Skelter?" Vincent Bugliosi was the lead prosecutor on one of the biggest murder trials in American history and his insight into Manson's world (and mind) and the zealous people who followed him is completely horrifying and beyond interesting, in a terrifying and morbid way. You won't be able to put it down, or look at those crazy videos of Charles Manson the same way ever again.

Very Special Link: Buy Helter Skelter on Amazon

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer (or anything else by Jon Krakauer)

Has this summer been unseasonably hot for you? Read Into Thin Air, about a hiking expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest that goes very, very wrong, and you'll instantly be chilled to the bone. And possibly be put off the idea of hiking dangerous mountains forever. Jon Krakauer, master writer of such great other nonfiction books (such as Into the Wild, Under the Banner of Heaven, and most recently Missoula), was actually on the expedition to climb the famous mountain and was going to report on it in a sports/adventures magazine, when tragedy on the mountain struck. Kraukauer's excellent writing skills and his journalistic instinct to figure out what really happened that fateful day makes this a compelling read. You learn to love (and sometimes dislike) these real life characters, thanks to his descriptive details and followup interviews with everyone involved in the expedition, and that makes the tragedy on the mountain even more poignant. 

Very Special Link: Buy Into Thin Air on Amazon

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

Penguin Press
Poison and murder just goes hand in hand, don't they? For thousands and thousands of years, it was practically the weapon of choice when you wanted to off a person without all that bloody mess that a knife or a sword might make. Plus it was basically fool proof, because how could you really prove anyone had actually been poisoned? But in the early 20's, the medicine and chemistry were united and a team of two, a chief medical examiner and a toxicologist, paved the way for modern crime scene investigations and discovered how to identify poison in a human body- and therefore condemn the perpetrators who would before that be able to walk free. Each chapter is dedicated to a different poison and the crime (or just the story of mysterious and sad deaths) that accompanied it. The Poisoner's Handbook highlights a monumental and important time in modern science and is thrilling to read about. Plus it has murder and poison in it, so how can you go wrong??

Very Special Link: Buy The Poisoner's Handbook on Amazon

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

W.W. Norton & Company
Have you ever wondered what happens to dead bodies after they... well, die? Mary Roach, one of my very favorite nonfiction/science authors answers just that question in the book Stiff. With a great mix of humor and informative commentary, she takes us into the world of what happens after we die- at least, for our bodies anyway, and what medical advances and uses humankind has for corpses. Parts gross and hilarious, lighthearted and serious, it's a great read for people who are interested in the science of the morbid and the human body. Also, check out Mary Roach's other science related books, as they are incredibly entertaining and educating! (She has books on the subjects of space, sex, and so many more, all with her trademark commentary and thoughts. Love her!)

Very Special Link: Buy Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers on Amazon

Girls Like Us: Fighting For a World Where Girls Are Not For Sale, An Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Lloyd

Rachel Lloyd is an activist in the truest sense of the word. She started an organization (GEMS) to help, educate, and create a safe environment for girls who have been in the sex trade industry and want to escape that life. But not only has she done this, but she has also escaped that life herself. This engrossing and harrowing book is not only an informative read, but it also acts as a memoir for Lloyd, as she comes to terms with her former life, tells her story, and about why she identifies so much with the girls she tries to help. Lloyd also explains the very complicated and manipulative relationship that pimps offer their girls, the psychology behind it, and just how hard it is to escape from that hold. The book is eye-opening and will make you angry at the injustices of the world that many had no idea about, but also leave you feeling hopeful that there are people like Lloyd who are out there dedicating their lives to helping others. Go Rachel go!

Very Special Link: Buy Girls Like Us on Amazon

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
A neurosurgeon tells his story experiences about operating on the human brain, and the lives he's saved and lost and how it has all impacted him. It's a big dose of reality, since most of us forget that doctors or surgeons are people too, and make mistakes. And unlike our mistakes in our everyday lives, when medical mistakes happen, they have very serious or deadly consequences. Dr. Henry Marsh writes about his life in a humble and honest way as he tries to explain his triumphs and his failures as he deals with the pride of saving a life, and the guilt that can come with one fatal error. It's engrossing and sobering memoir about a surgeon's work and life that you won't be able to put down.

Very Special Link: Buy Do No Harm on Amazon

Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Free Press
Have you ever had a mysterious ache or pain and found it so annoying but eventually it went away? Susannah Cahalan wasn't so lucky. As a young twenty-four year old, she was the picture of health until she wasn't. Violent episodes, mood swings, memory loss, sensitivity to light and temperature, paranoia. Everything (and everyone) pointed to mental illness, but her family wasn't convinced. After Susannah is hospitalized, doctors came and went and couldn't diagnosis her, until one doctor believed he knew exactly what was wrong with her; and he believed it was medical. Cahalan's book is a memoir, her view of her life before her illness and what she's pieced together from when she was in the throes affliction, and a medical investigating piece of what happened during and after, from what she's learned from her family and doctor about what transpired when she was not...herself. It's such a well written book and although it's incredibly gripping, it's very scary because it's very real, like it could happen to anyone. Even you.

Very Special Link: Buy Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness on Amazon

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and Was Shot By the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Little, Brown and Company
If you don't know who Malala Yousafzai, please read this book. She's a champion for education and girls' rights. She literally stood up to the Taliban for her right to education and despite what they did to her, she survived. After you read this INCREDIBLE book, please go watch her documentary He Named Me Malala. She is a remarkable young woman and I admire her so much for believing in something so universal and important. She's also the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner to date. If that doesn't inspire you (as if standing up to the Taliban and other organizations who don't think it's right for girls to have an education doesn't impress you. Are you even human?), then I don't know what else will!

Very Special Link: Buy I Am Malala on Amazon

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

One girl's journey living with her dysfunctional and sometimes destructive family reads just like fiction, but every single thing in it is true. It's a flawed yet perfect example of finding yourself and coming to terms with your past, the people who shaped you, and finally putting yourself first and your future first- for better or worse.

Very Special Link: Buy The Glass Castle on Amazon

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

Alfred A. Knopf
Religious freedom is very important, I'm sure we can all agree on that, but another thing we also agree on is that SCIENTOLOGY IS CRAZY, RIGHT??? If you needed it confirmed, this book will do it for you.

Very Special Link: Buy Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief on Amazon

What did you think of my list of nonfiction books? Have you read any of them? Did any of my suggestions peak your interest? Let me know!

Stay Weird,
4 comments on "Book List: Nonfiction Books That Will Make You Think "
  1. I've never read any of these, but every one of them sounds interesting! I've read Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer though, so I know he can definitely tell a compelling story. When I get an easy access to a library again, I'll love to check these books out!

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    1. Hi Julie! I still have yet to read Into the Wild but it is on my ever growing to be read list, haha. My dad really liked the book and is always recommending I read it. Ooh great! Let me know if you end up reading any of the books on my list, because I'd love to know what you think of them :)

      Thank you for reading and your lovely comment! I always look forward to hearing what you have to say! <3

  2. Such a good list! I read Helter Skelter a few years ago and really enjoyed it. Lots of other titles on this list I'd love to check out. Thanks!

    1. Aw thank you so much! I had so much fun putting the list together! Oh, Helter Skelter is SUCH a good read! Very scary but thought-provoking at the same time. And yay! I hope you find a book on this list that you'll like! :)

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! It means a lot to me! <3


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