Goodreads Blog

Readers Recommend Their Favorite Nonfiction

Posted by Cybil on May 18, 2017
From a fascinating memoir, to a thrilling history, to a scientific look at ourselves, we love curling up with a great nonfiction book. Always looking to add more books to our Want to Read shelf, we recently asked fellow readers on our Facebook and Twitter pages to tell us about their favorite nonfiction book they like to recommend, and why. More than 1,300 of you weighed in with great reads. Here are some of the most popular responses.

Let us know some of your favorite nonfiction titles in the comments!


Rate this book
Clear rating
The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls

"It was just so interesting. I never knew people lived like that or would want to. She was so honest, really made me feel the story," wrote Helen Crawford Klatt.


Rate this book
Clear rating
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand

"It reads like an improbable action thriller, but the hero is a real and remarkable example of the resilience of the human spirit," wrote Steve Doyal.


Rate this book
Clear rating
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

"Because the blatant injustice of her receiving no compensation for the harvesting of her cancer cells and the subsequent billions of dollars that flowed from those cells highlighted the greed of the research institutions and the pharmaceutical companies," wrote Christine Vojt.


Rate this book
Clear rating
The Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank

"The fact that she saw so much ugliness and managed to still believe that people, as a whole, are still good is truly inspiring," wrote Barb Cavallaro.


Rate this book
Clear rating
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
by Susan Cain

"This is a powerful book to help people understand introversion as a positive trait rather than something to be 'fixed' and why we need both extroverts and introverts for the world to function," wrote Julie Jordan Merkel.



Rate this book
Clear rating
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
by Trevor Noah

"A bitter sweet tale of life from the perspective of a young boy navigating the complex world of post-Apartheid South Africa. It delivers on so many levels and is refreshing to see how another culture and people view the world," wrote IronFlower Zee.



Rate this book
Clear rating
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson

"It's about the sinking of the Lusitania. It works back and forth between the ship and the U-boat that sank it. I swear it felt suspenseful even though I knew exactly how it would end," wrote Kristin Powell Strong.


Rate this book
Clear rating
No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"If you have any interest at all in American history or WWII, you'll love it. It takes the topic of the American homefront during the war and makes it tangible to modern Americans. Every single person I've ever recommended it to has loved it," wrote Dani Massaro.


Rate this book
Clear rating
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle

"I've bought this for so many people going through a personal crisis. It grounds me when I'm stressed by circumstances. I keep it close," wrote Jan Bruce .


Rate this book
Clear rating
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
by Isabel Wilkerson

"Brilliantly researched, well written, touching, provocative, stays with you long after you've read the last chapter. I think it should be required reading for juniors or seniors in high school," wrote Anjie Taylor.


Rate this book
Clear rating
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers
by Mary Roach

"It is the reason I became a nurse. So interesting!!!! It is all about what happens to the body after death," wrote Christy Petersen Holloway.




Check out more recent blogs:
Goodreads Hack: Scan a Book Cover!
7 Great Books Hitting Shelves Today
6 Fascinating Friendships Between Famous Authors

Comments (showing 1-50 of 59) (59 new)


message 3: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale A Short History of Biology
by Isaac Asimov ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3... )


message 4: by Marion (last edited May 18, 2017 12:08PM) (new)

Marion I love this book, The Boys in the Boat! And, have recommended it to many people! Great that you picked this book to share!


message 5: by Pam (new)

Pam Any of Eric Larson's books are very good. I also like Barbara Tuchman's and Studs Terkel's books.


message 6: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Tammy wrote: "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics"

I actually bought this in a sale and did wonder whether I would like it or not!!


message 7: by Shaily (new)

Shaily Tammy wrote: "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics"

I was going to write this in as well. One of my favorite books ever.

Also: Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong - I hope more people read this book as soon as possible


message 8: by Robert (new)

Robert Rees I am reading "The Invention of Science" by David Wootton. It covers the Scientific Revolution, basically the period from Galileo to Newton. Not only is he a walking encyclopedia when it comes to historic fact, and the book stylishly written, I love his analysis of how language interrelated with the change in man's viewpoint of his place in the universe. Fascinating stuff.


message 9: by Cyoung (new)

Cyoung I am currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. It is excellent so far!


message 10: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale It's about the murders on the Osage reservation that Jimmy Stewart talked about in his 1959 movie The FBI Story , Cyoung. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMl1f...


message 12: by Amy (new)

Amy Secretan I'll add another vote for The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and also another of Hillenbrand's books Seabiscuit: An American Legend. I have returned to both of these books multiple times, they are fascinating!


message 13: by Christy (new)

Christy Petersen holloway For those who like Mary Roach's Stiff, there is another I just finished called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes about a gal who works in a crematorium. So good!! Especially if you like the darker aspects of life....


message 15: by Penny (new)

Penny The Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides. Great WWII book


message 16: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas The Boys in the Boat, Killers of the Flower Moon, Shadow Divers, Travels with Charley, Frozen in Time, Blood at the Root, IN the Heart of the Sea, The Soul of a Lion The Fire Next Time, I Am Not Your Negro (all but one read in 2017)


message 17: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Cyoung wrote: "I am currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. It is excellent so far!" My online book group just finished discussing this. Excellent, but horrific, book.


message 18: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p.


message 19: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Amber wrote: "At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p."What scientology crap are you referring to? I don't believe I have ever read any so not understanding your comment. I thought Grann's book was excellent and so did my group.


message 20: by Amber (new)

Amber Martingale Donna wrote: "Amber wrote: "At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p."What scientology crap are you referring to? I don't believe I have ever read any so not understanding your comment. ..."

The ones listed by MRNJ a couple entries ago.


message 21: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Amber wrote: "Donna wrote: "Amber wrote: "At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p."What scientology crap are you referring to? I don't believe I have ever read any so not understanding ..."

Amber wrote: "Donna wrote: "Amber wrote: "At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p."What scientology crap are you referring to? I don't believe I have ever read any so not understanding ..."

Oh ok - I went right by them as I have no interest in that subject so don't need to comment. I just find that since Killers is a new book, many of us all over are reading it and I love that.


message 22: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Monica wrote: "I'm limiting my list of favorites read in the last 2 years. Lots of good nonfiction out there:

[book:Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen|6289..."


I loved Born to Run. Fabulous book.


message 24: by Kathi (new)

Kathi Roberts Devil in the White City
Into Thin Air


message 25: by Donna (new)

Donna Bijas Kathi wrote: "Devil in the White City
Into Thin Air"


Both are excellent. I read them quite some time ago.


message 26: by Juliet (new)

Juliet Smith The Warmth of Other Suns was really good.


message 27: by MRNJ (new)

MRNJ Amber wrote: "At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p."

And have you read any of them? Just wondering.


message 31: by Yaaresse (new)

Yaaresse Thanks to GR for finally giving some love to non-fiction. Now, at risk of sounding ungrateful, it would be even better if GR would sometimes sort that deck a little further since short lists of non-fiction tend to get skewed heavily toward memoir. I could fill a list of suggestions with nothing BUT bios and memoir, but, sadly, that leaves on room for science, tech, anthropology, art, cultural geography....

Some suggestions from recent reading:
Truevine and Factory Man - both by Beth Macy
Truevine is about two Virginia brothers who were allegedly kidnapped (or were they?) as children and forced to work in freak shows. Factory Man looks at the outsourcing of furniture manufacturing through the eyes of one factory owner who refused to be coerced into taking his company overseas. The guy is no paragon of virtue, but he's quite a character.

Landmarks - Robert MacFarlane
Beautiful writing about nature and the author's favorite books about nature.

The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Cojoined Twins - Dean Jensen
The highest paid vaudeville act most of us have never heard of. Rejected by their birth mother, treated as property by their adoptive family, then in the public eye almost their entire lives through lovers, bogus marriages, an illegitimate child and so much more.

Salt, Sugar, Fat - Michael Moss
An in-depth look at methods used by food companies create and market products to "hook" consumers. Surprisingly objective and inclusive of a wide variety of industry professionals. Lots of information about the internal dilemmas of food companies who recognize the nutritional deficiencies of their products, but can't figure out how to make changes given the financial obligations to shareholders and the public's response to attempts at healthier products.


message 32: by Yaaresse (new)

Yaaresse Christy wrote: "For those who like Mary Roach's Stiff, there is another I just finished called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes about a gal who works in a crematorium. So good!! Especially if you like the darker aspects of..."

Christy, if you liked Smoke, you might like Elizabeth Meyer's Good Mourning.


message 33: by Michelle (new)

Michelle The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum is fascinating!!


message 34: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer I have so many favorites that it is hard to pick just a few. I was an adjunct English professor for 10 years and we had to assign a non-fiction book for our students, so I was always on the lookout for something interesting (I hate teachers who assign stuff that students can't possibly relate to). Here are my 5-star favorites. (I realize they are not new, but they are all great).

Under and Alone: The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang - William Queen
Memoir of an ATF agent who went undercover with the Mongols, a California bicycle gang. It is fascinating to hear what it is like to go deep undercover: the agent grows to love and respect his bike brothers and goes through quite a bit of inner turmoil about his job. It's an exciting story.

Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids - Ken Jennings
All of us have heard the "old wives tales" from our parents: "Don't swim until an hour after eating", "Starve a fever, feed a cold", "Check your Halloween candy for poison". Ken Jennings takes those old sayings and checks each one for scientific accuracy. It is fascinating to see which crazy warnings are actually based in fact - the answers will surprise you!

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing up Iranian in America and American in Iran - Azadeh Moaveni
Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil - Deborah Rodriguez
If you are like me (and like most Americans), you don't know much about the Middle East, and neither of these books are going to tell you much about the Middle East today, because they are a bit dated (I have been on "stay-at-home mom sabbatical" from teaching for 6 years now). But when I read them, I felt they gave me a good introduction to life in the Middle East for women, and they also made me realize that some of the things I assumed about Iran and Afghanistan were not correct. Moaveni, the first author, has written other memoirs that are also good, so if you like this one, you may decide to continue reading her work.

Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping - Paco Underhill
Underhill has written several books about shopping and they are all equally fascinating. They are old, but still relevant today. If you think you understand exactly how you are being manipulated by manufacturers, stores, and advertisers, think again. This book will surprise you.

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets - Sudhir Venkatesh
What this guy does is just so amazing that if you haven't read it, you must. He is a sociology student who somehow convinces a street gang to allow him access to... well everything. And he does this amazing study about the economics of drug dealing. I could not put this one down.

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting - Pamela Druckerman
Every expecting parent should read this. My husband and I read it when our son was on the way, and we followed her advice to the letter. Our son slept through the night at 2.5 months, he is 3 now and eats EVERYTHING without complaint, and while we have the same discipline problems at home as most parents, he is "the perfect child" in public - he sits through long restaurant dinners without a problem (and has since 6 months of age) and is always well-behaved in public. We have never had a public tantrum. This book is a must-read (plus it is interesting).

The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician's First Year - Matt McCarthy
This will give you immense respect for every doctor you see. I had no idea their jobs were so hard.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory - Caitlin Doughty
It's important to really think about death - what you want done with your remains, how you want your funeral to be - and after reading this book, which is actually quite cheery and an interesting read, you will have a deeper understanding of that.

The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear - Seth Mnookin
For those on the fence about vaccination, or those not on the fence but wanting to understand how anyone got on the fence in the first place.

There are more but I don't want to go on all day. This seems like a good starting list.


message 35: by Keith (new)

Keith https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...

Amazing book about structure, how things change over time and that many award winning buildings are mainly judged by photographs.


message 36: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Nice try, but I doubt anyone here cares about $cientology.


Amy "the book-bat" The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean Interesting look at the phenomenon of the rogue wave, the science behind it, and the surfers who search for them. I like the mix of viewpoints.

Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside I read this one a few years ago and it stays with me. The author talks about some of the more interesting cases she worked on as a brain surgeon.


message 38: by MRNJ (new)

MRNJ Dawn wrote: "Nice try, but I doubt anyone here cares about $cientology."

No problem - if it's not for you, it's not for you. I was simply asking if she had read any of the books herself since she was calling them "c**p". I think majority of the Goodreads Community would agree that people shouldn't rag on ANY book on any subject, if they haven't read it and don't actually know for themselves. An honest negative review once you have read the book is another story. I'm pretty sure no one would disagree with me on this. If anyone thinks otherwise - okay.


message 39: by Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder (last edited May 18, 2017 08:47PM) (new)

Andrea (Catsos Person) is a Compulsive eBook Hoarder The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Really a great book.

Written in an engaging a readable style.

A Pulitzer Prize winner for Biography and autobiography.


message 40: by Lynn (last edited May 18, 2017 09:26PM) (new)

Lynn I also really enjoyed 'The Wave: In Pursuit of Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean'.

Other recent favourites:
'The Sugar Barons: Family, Corruption, Empire and War in the West Indies' (Matthew Parker)
'Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home' (Robert Wright)
'Flight from the Reich: Refugee Jews, 1933-1946' (Deborah Dwork)
'Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America' (Michael McDonnell)
'The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland' (Jim DeFede)
'Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home & Other Unexplained Powers of Animals' (Rupert Sheldrake)
'This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate' (Naomi Klein)


message 41: by Bob (new)

Bob Nelson Alone in the Wilderness


message 42: by Contomlon (last edited May 19, 2017 12:21AM) (new)

Contomlon Amber wrote: "Donna wrote: "Amber wrote: "At least it's real nonfiction, Donna, unlike the Scientology c**p."What scientology crap are you referring to? I don't believe I have ever read any so not understanding ..."

* super mario world
* madalin stunt cars 2
* slope


message 44: by Dung_ThienHa (last edited May 19, 2017 12:45AM) (new)


message 45: by Margitte (last edited May 19, 2017 01:02AM) (new)

Margitte Brina wrote: "The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics,..."

Non-fiction is one of my favorite genres. What a great list of recommendations!

Many of the non-fiction authors have the ability to turn their books into non-fictional thrillers :-))

Brina, thanks for these two book recommendations. I'm going to look for them.

Here are some of my favorite non-fiction reads:

Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry by Jeffrey A. Lieberman & Ogi Ogas;

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang;

Life Is So Good: One Man's Extraordinary Journey through the 20th Century and How he Learned to Read at Age 98 by George Dawson, Richard Glaubman;

The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen;

In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen;

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg;

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan;

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar J. Mazzeo;

The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
.


message 46: by Tiffany (new)

Tiffany Jowers Tammy wrote: "The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics"
This is still one of my favorite non-fiction books. I can't believe this didn't make the list!


message 47: by Raiann (new)

Raiann The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan! Changed my life


message 48: by Amy (new)

Amy Varner Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King


message 49: by Shirleynature (new)

Shirleynature The Last Wild Places of Kansas: Journeys Into Hidden Landscapes

An inspiring book to celebrate Kansas wilderness using contextual history and ironic wit.

This book has won 4 awards, so far...
Ferguson Book Award for Kansas History
Hamlin Garland Prize for Midwest Popular History
Midwest Book Award for Nature
Kansas Notable Book Award


« previous 1
back to top