Keeping it Real with Non-Fiction

We’re in week six of the Stay at Home order, and some days it still doesn’t quite seem real. Maybe that is why non-fiction is so appealing to me right now.

As I mentioned last week, “Educated,” by Tara Westover, helped break me out of the little reading slump I was in. After I finished that, I picked up a mystery/thriller, but it didn’t quite work for me. I finished the book, but then decided to turn back to non-fiction. I’m now reading “When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II,” by Molly Guptill Manning.

Non-fiction teaches us and inspires us. In times of great uncertainty, it can be comforting to read about people who persevered in difficult times.

If you’re looking for a good non-fiction book, here are a few of my favorites:

The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson

“The Devil in the White City” is about two men, both of them intelligent, talented, and possessing great promise. One uses his talents as an architect to direct the building of the Chicago World’s Fair. The other builds a house of horrors, where he lures unsuspecting victims. Larson has a great talent for writing narrative non-fiction, and you really can’t go wrong in reading any of his books. “The Devil in the White City,” however, is my favorite.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune

Huguette Clark was the daughter of copper industrialist W. A. Clark. She was raised in a 121-room mansion in New York City, and inherited millions. Yet when Clark died at age 104, she had lived in a simple hospital room for 20 years, despite being in good health and owning homes in New York, Connecticut, and California. “Empty Mansions” tells the story of this enigmatic woman, from her Gilded Age upbringing to the fight over her fortune following her death.

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

Books can bring us together, even at the worst of times. “The End of Your Life Book Club” is a beautiful book about how the author and his mother bonded over the books they read together as she underwent treatment for terminal cancer.

Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer

“Into Thin Air” was the book that made me fall in love with non-fiction. Jon Krakauer, both a journalist and a mountaineer, went to Mount Everest in the spring of 1996 to write a story for “Outside” magazine. What should have been a story of triumph turned to one of tragedy when a deadly storm struck, resulting in the deaths of several climbers – including Krakauer’s guide for the expedition.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

If you’ve ever wondered what it would have been like to live in Paris during the 1920s alongside Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Exra Pound, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein, this book is your chance. In “A Moveable Feast,” Hemingway recounts what life was like for himself and other expatriate authors who lived in Europe at that time. It’s funny, moving, and deeply personal.

Non-fiction can be a great way to escape your own life for a while by seeing what it was like to live in someone else’s shoes. Whether you decide to pick up one of these books, or find something else that’s just right for you, I hope you have a good reading week.

~Val