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10 Nonfiction Books That Read Just Like Fiction!

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Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of these Very Special Links, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Just a head's up!

In a world of nonfiction, I am, at heart, a fiction loving girl. I know, I know! But as much as I love fiction, sometimes there are some nonfiction books that are so interesting and absorbing, they read just like fiction. And the crazy part is, nonfiction books are true. No need for a made up plot twist because all of the things in these books actually happened. (Though you have to take into account the bias of the authors, etc. but still. The things in the books happened in real life, the authors just may portray it or explain it a different way, all depending on who’s telling the story) So it’s true what they say that truth is stranger than fiction. Or sometimes more fun! I’ve compiled a list of ten more of my favorite nonfiction reads, from the scary and serious, to the quirky and fun! If you’ve been waiting to dip your toe into the nonfiction pool, then I’m sure there will be something on this list for you. Give it a try, you never know what story from one of these books might affect you and interest you in a certain topic!

(Also, I am adding some trigger warnings before a couple of books that deal with difficult subject matters. While I highly recommend all of these books, if you are sensitive to any of the subject material mentioned, I would advise you to skip that book and read another one of my suggestions instead!)

If you haven’t read my first post about some of my other favorite nonfiction books that you should totally add to your reading list, you can read it here!

Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women by Kate Moore

This book tells the untold stories of a group of girls from the 1910's and 20's, who worked at various watch dial painting factories, where they had to paint the dials with a glow in the dark paint made with- radium. At the time, radium was thought to be safe and a miracle cure for everything, but by constant exposure (and ingestion through the licking of their paintbrushes to keep the tips pointed for accuracy), the dial painters, who were all mostly young women in the prime and start of their lives, suddenly became stricken with horrible, unknown illnesses and painful death- all due to the deadly nature of radium. This book tells their story, the girls who are just spoken about as a collective of the casualties of the danger of radium, and breaths life and individuality into each and every woman. It also records the fights and lawsuits (that spanned years) that the girls, their families, and lawyers raised against numerous watch dial companies, who did everything in their power to deny these claims (and lie) and let woman after woman suffer and die, just to keep making money. A true story of science, injustice, history, and greedy business, mixed with courtroom drama, this book will engross you from start to finish.

Very Special Link: Buy Radium Girls on Amazon

*Trigger Warning for Mindhunter: Very violent and disturbing topics discussed throughout the book*

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Gallery Books
Don’t read this when you’re house-sitting by yourself. Trust me. I know from experience. A true story by one of the FBI’s first psychological profilers of serial killers, this books the story of John Douglas, from his childhood, his interest in psychology, his career in the FBI, and how his and other's efforts to profile murderers who killed again and again (finally dubbed “serial killers”) and how they helped profile and help track down other serial killers (and hopefully help in the effort to prevent killers from killing. Nature vs. nurture, right?). With portions of the book dedicated to interviews and meetings with well known serial killers like Charles Manson and Ed Kemper, Mindhunter offers a disturbing but intriguing look at serial killers, their minds, and the hard work people at the FBI and law enforcement get into to protect the public and catch some seriously disturbed individuals. (Again, don’t read this when you’re house/dog-sitting and all alone. I learned that the hard way!)

Very Special Link: Buy Mindhunter on Amazon

*Trigger Warning for Boys and Sex: Topics of r*pe and s*xual assault discussed throughout the book*

Boys and Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, P*rn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity by Peggy Orenstein

If you haven’t read Peggy Orenstein’s fantastic book Girls and Sex, all about girls and the new lifestyle of sex and dating in the digital age, it’s a must read for every parent, and frankly, any person living in this modern technological world (aka right now). Ms. Orenstein is back with the male version of Girls and Sex, where she interviews boys this time, about their feelings about dating, sex, and more, but offers incredible insight into what it’s like for teenage and college age guys in today’s hookup culture. At times incredibly hard to read, but also incredibly important in this day and age, Boys and Sex is one of those books that has some very hard truths and stories to read but is so relevant and essential in this technological world where literally everything is constantly changing every part of our lives and the lives of the new generation too.

Very Special Link: Buy Boys and Sex on Amazon

Check out my review of Girls and Sex by Peggy Orenstein here!

Killer Fashion: Poisonous Petticoats, Strangulating Scarves, and Other Deadly Garment Throughout History by Jennifer Wright

Andrews McMeel Publishing
Want to read a fun book about the deadly ways fashion could kill you back in the day, complete with illustrations and fun limericks? Then do I have the book for you! Killer Fashion is the perfect book for the fashionista/history buff who also has a morbid fascination with...well, things that could kill you. It’s a win-win-win! (For us fans of the strange, anyway!) Plus, it’ll give you a good jumping off point to any of these deadly fashions in history that you may want to learn about further! (I always knew scarves were suspicious and should not be trusted.)

Very Special Link: Buy Killer Fashion on Amazon

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come: One Introvert's Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan

Andrews McMeel Publishing
Are you an introvert, like I am? Or are you an extrovert who just doesn’t understand what being an introvert is about? Well, I have the perfect book for all of you! In Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want To Come, Jessica Pan decides to take her introverted ways and see if she can come out of her shell and live like an extroverted person (meaning saying “yes” for a year. Literally my worst nightmare). In a brand new city, she takes improv classes (so awkward), hosts a dinner party with new friends (terror), and even does stand-up comedy (the horror!!). In her book, Jessica writes about the triumphs and the failures of her adventures, and how they brought out new sides of her she didn’t even know she possessed. A truly inspiring tale, says me, an introvert who doesn’t have the courage to do most of the things Jessica did! (Stand-up comedy?? She is literally an introverted superhero! I could never!)

Very Special Link: Buy Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come on Amazon

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen

Workman Publishing Company
Everyone hates taking medicine. But you know who had it way worse than you? Literally everyone before the 20th century! (And some may argue with that claim!) This book gives the history of some very strange, disgusting, odd, and just plain ol’ dangerous “cures” and medicines that doctors and physicians (and just random folks) throughout history have used to try to treat everything from colds to venereal disease. Both terrifying and fascinating, you’ll feel so grateful you live in the modern age and don’t have to be poked with lancets and have leeches stuck to your skin. Taking a pill doesn’t seem so bad compared to iron hot pokers and leeches, am I right?

Very Special Link: Buy Quackery on Amazon

*Trigger Warning: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes deals with subjects around death and trauma*

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

W.W. Norton & Company
Have you ever thought it would be like to work in a crematorium? Me either- until I read this book! You may know Caitlin Doughty from her YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician (which you should totally check out!). In her book/memoir, she talks about her job working at a crematorium, her thoughts and feelings about death (because you experience a lot when you’re incinerating dead bodies for a living), and how it led her to be the mortician she is today (with her own company that specializes in eco-friendly burial options, and personal and honest information for her clients in her own mortuary business). Not only is Caitlin an advocate for destigmatizing death and how we view it in its current funeral practices in Western culture, but she also is so personable and knowledgeable and frankly, funny, you’ll also want her to be your best friend. Read her book and you’ll know why! (Plus, you’ll probably start thinking about death in a more accepting, and less scared way. Which is a good thing overall, I think)

Very Special Link: Buy Smoke Gets In Your Eyes on Amazon

Bonus Caitlin Doughty books that I also highly recommend (also Very Special Links):

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions From Tiny Mortals About Death

Check out Caitlin’s YouTube channel Ask a Mortician, too!

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

Back Bay Books
Have you ever wanted to time travel and live in another time? Time travel isn’t really a thing (at least not yet, according to some people), but if it was an option and you wanted to live in the Victorian ages and you are a woman, Unmentionable is the perfect (and historically hilarious) guide book for you! From how to be a proper lady, to the garments (under and over) you must wear, and how you must conduct yourself as a wife (most important), mother (next important), and woman (least important), this book will have you ready to time travel and be the oppressed, Victorian woman you know you always were deep down. (I mean, aren’t we all?)

Very Special Link: Buy Unmentionable on Amazon

This Is Gonna Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Medical Resident by Adam Kay 

Little, Brown Spark
Despite being incredibly squeamish about blood and gore, sometimes I just love reading about all things medical. And This Is Gonna Hurt, about a former physician in the U.K., is both fascinating, medically, but also incredibly hilarious and heart-felt. If you want to know what it’s really like to be a doctor, from school to officially saving lives in a hospital, and the toil and the heartbreak it brings upon you (but also the very funny stories. Human beings are incredibly stupid/hilarious), then this is the book for you. One of the best and funniest and deepest memoirs I’ve read and can’t recommend enough! (I even forced my dad to read it and I heard him belly laugh multiple times)

Very Special Link: Buy This Is Gonna Hurt on Amazon

Alphamaniacs: Builders of 26 Wonders of the World by Paul Fleischman and Art by Melissa Sweet

Candlewick Studio
Are you a lover of language? Do words, literature, and books amuse you and fill you with wonder? Then you need to read Alphamaniacs! It highlights 26 (as in how many letters there are in the English alphabet) people who have made their mark on language in all sorts of ways. From coming up with a less complicated alphabet to an even easier universal language (plural! People have come up with multiple universal languages that they thought could replace the complicated English language), history is full of industrious and witty people who love the written word and celebrate it by making it into complicated codes, the world’s smallest books, and more. Who knew that a mere 26 letters could create so much creativity, communication, and community? I didn’t! But I’m all the better now for knowing it!

Very Special Link: Buy Alphamaniacs on Amazon

And these were just some more of my favorite nonfiction books! I know they ranged from the very serious to the very frivolous, but I learned so much from all of them, and I hope you do too! (And that they entertain you, like they did for me, of course!) So if you’re a fiction lover who wants to get into nonfiction, maybe give one of these books a try! You could find your new favorite book right here on this list! (And if so, you’re very welcome!)

What are some of your favorite nonfiction books? Do you lean towards the serious and scary, or more of the fun and quirky? Let me know in the comments, and also what you thought of my suggestions! I’d love to hear from you!

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2 comments on "10 Nonfiction Books That Read Just Like Fiction!"
  1. Thanks for sharing - I usually read nonfiction over fiction (because with fiction I'll never put the book down haha). I haven't read some of these, so I'll definitely check them out!
    Jenna ♥
    Stay in touch? Life of an Earth Muffin

  2. I am so tired of political nonfiction (don't read it) but if I get one more suggestion for it I'm going to implode. So this looks like a fun list. I'm a writer so I like the quirky stuff. Making my book list now. from a fellow blogger


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