RANKED! The 12 Best Non-Fiction Books of All Time
There’s a time and a place for fiction reading, for novels that help you escape and take you into faraway lands with imaginary characters. Then there are times for non-fiction books that break open your worldview, take you into real-life scenarios that others have survived, and let you experience someone else’s struggle through their eyes. Non-fiction books give us big doses of hard truths and reveal the resilience of the human spirit. If you’re in the mood for a true story, we’ve hand-selected a dozen of the best non-fiction books of all time. Turn off your screen and treat yourself to a reading binge.
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12. 'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote
This "non-fiction novel" is a true crime masterpiece that chronicles the brutal murders of the Clutter family and the trial of two ex-cons accused of killing them.
11. 'All You Can Ever Know' by Nicole Chung
This elegant and award-winning memoir tells the story of a transracial adoptee who seeks out her birth family and grapples with what they mean to her, and vice-versa.
10. 'Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption' by Laura Hillenbrand
This harrowing tale centers on Louie Zamperini, an Olympic-level track star who, while in the Army, survived being stranded for 47 days at sea only to be taken captive by the Japanese and tortured in a POW camp for years.
9. 'Wild' by Cheryl Strayed
After a divorce, abortion, heroin use, and her mother's death, Cheryl Strayed took to the Pacific Crest Trail and hiked 1,100 miles alone. This bestselling memoir documents her challenges on the trail as well as the inner turmoil that led her there.
8. 'Calypso' by David Sedaris
Humorist David Sedaris opens up as never before in this dark but funny book about family, mortality, and the impossibility of escaping oneself.
7. 'Consider the Lobster' by David Foster Wallace
The late, great David Foster Wallace was at his best in essay form. This collection finds him analyzing everything from the morality of eating crustaceans to the oxymoron of the "adult entertainment" industry.
6. 'Between the World and Me' by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a letter from the author to his teenage son, this book unpacks what it means to be Black in a racist society.
5. 'The Voyeur's Motel' by Gay Talese
Gay Talese took 30 years of reportage and distilled it down into this tawdry, irresistible book about a motel owner who spied on his guests during their most intimate moments. The subject's credibility was later called into question, sparking a Netflix documentary Voyeur.
4. 'Three Women' by Lisa Taddeo
An affair. An open marriage. Statutory rape. Real women going through these three sexual experiences are at the center of this addictive and evocative book.
3. 'Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly' by Anthony Bourdain
This is the book that put Anthony Bourdain on the map, and for good reason. Written in the late chef's no-holds-barred style, this memoir takes readers into the dark recesses of the restaurant industry.
2. 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark' by Michelle McNamara
True crime writer Michelle McNamara (and late wife of comedian Patton Oswalt) was obsessed with the serial rapist and murderer otherwise known as the "Golden State Killer." With in-depth research and a team of layman investigators, she came close to uncovering his identity, but died of drug-related causes before she could solve the case. This book, published posthumously, details her frantic search for the killer (who was ultimately brought to justice), and was recently adapted into an HBO documentary.
1. 'Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction' by David Sheff
David Sheff tenderly describes his son's descent into meth addiction and his attempts to save him in this heartbreaking memoir that has since been made into a (mediocre) movie starring Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet.
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