5 Nonfiction Books for People Who Only Read Fiction
Into the Raging Sea by Rachel Slade
On October 1, 2015, the cargo ship El Faro was lost at sea. This is significant not just because it happened in recent years, but also El Faro was an American ship, which is more and more uncommon because of shipping regulations. El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder was recovered from the wreckage, and Slade draws heavily from that recorder to recreate the events and conversations that led up to the sinking of the ship in Hurricane Joaquin. While Slade does offer the backstories of the crew, along with the history of the ship, the most exciting and devastating moments in the book come when she transcribes what is happening on the bridge. You will be on the edge of your seat reading the discussions between crew members, knowing the decisions they are making are leading them right into the storm, much like watching a horror movie and yelling “don’t open the door!” at the screen.
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
This memoir is unlike any other memoir you’ll read. Written partially as a letter to Mailhot’s husband, it is a uncomfortably honest look inside Mailhot’s psyche. Because the language and format she uses is so beautiful and unique, it would be very easy to read this as experimental literary fiction.
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Fuller’s account of her childhood growing up in what was then known as Rhodesia with her hard-partying parents is surprisingly beautifully written, considering the subject matter. Unlike many memoirs, Fuller doesn’t look back on her unconventional childhood with the benefit of hindsight, she merely writes what happened and how she felt. This can be frustrating, because her white parents supported the majority white rule in Rhodesia, and taught their children to do the same. Reading this, you won’t know how Fuller feels today about the political atmosphere of that time. This does contribute to the memoir feeling like a novel, as you get rich descriptions of the African landscape and a child’s perspective on her parents’ extreme alcoholism and violence.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
Yes, another tragic adventure story, I can’t help that this type of story tends to be just as thrilling, or more so, than an adventure novel. This book chronicles one of the most deadly Everest seasons, and while the outcome is no surprise for anyone familiar with the events, it’s still hard not to wish and hope that people will make different decisions and worry about their fates. Because Krakauer was a member of one of the Everest expeditions, it affords the reader a closer look at what happened as it happened, instead of solely relying on interviews done after the fact.
The Last Love Song by Tracy Daugherty
At over 750 pages, this isn’t exactly a beach read, and you’re not going to forget you’re reading about Joan Didion. However, Daugherty set out to write a literary biography of Didion, and he accomplished it. In lieu of actual participation from Didion, Daugherty collects anecdotes from people tangentially connected to her, her family, or anyone in the general vicinity. If you’re looking for a biography that reveals previously unknown information, you won’t get that here. You will get vast descriptions of the landscape and general culture of Sacramento when Didion was growing up, with Daugherty openly guessing at what Didion may have done, the people she may have interacted with, and how she may have felt about her family life.