Fair Warning – If you click on any of the links/books in this post you will be headed to Amazon.com . If you buy anything there, I’ll be getting a percentage of the moo-la. So there.
Last week I was asked by the Wasilla Public Library to put together a reader’s advisory for Narrative Non-fiction books. I took to the task like a fish to water. I researched lists from a number of sources on the web and come up with about fifteen that kept showing up on lists. Some I’ve read, others I’ve heard of and are on my to-read list. Here’s ten of what I consider to be the best:
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
“Not long after Jack the Ripper haunted the ill-lit streets of 1888 London, H.H. Holmes (born Herman Webster Mudgett) dispatched somewhere between 27 and 200 people, mostly single young women, in the churning new metropolis of Chicago; many of the murders occurred during (and exploited) the city’s finest moment, the World’s Fair of 1893. Larson’s breathtaking new history is a novelistic yet wholly factual account of the fair and the mass murderer who lurked within it”
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir by Bill Bryson
The Thunderbolt Kid was born in the 1950s when six-year-old Bryson found a mysterious, scratchy green sweater with a satiny thunderbolt across the chest. The jersey bestowed magic powers on the wearer–X-ray vision and the power to zap teachers and babysitters and deflect unwanted kisses from old people .
Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
In the late 1980s and 1990s, rogue sociologist Venkatesh infiltrated the world of tenant and gang life in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Home projects. He found a complex system of compromises and subsistence that makes life (barely) manageable
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
A lyrical work of nonfiction. The book’s extremely graceful prose depictions of some of Savannah, Georgia’s most colorful eccentrics–remarkable characters who could have once prospered in a William Faulkner novel or Eudora Welty short story–were certainly a critical factor in its tremendous success.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Two two-time losers living in a lonely house in western Kansas are out to make the heist of their life, but when things don’t go as planned, the robbery turns ugly. From there, the book is a real-life look into murder, prison, and the criminal mind.
Rescue Ink by Denise Flaim
Using their combined 1700 pounds of muscle, Joe, Johnny O, Batso, Big Ant, G, Angel, Eric, Des, Bruce and Robert stop at nothing within the bounds of the law to save animals, be they furred, feathered, or scaled, from life-or-death situations throughout the New York City metropolitan area
A Child Called It by David Pelzer
This autobiographical account charts the abuse of a young boy as his alcoholic mother first isolates him from the rest of the family; then torments him; and finally nearly kills him through starvation, poisoning, and one dramatic stabbing
Cooking dirty : a story of life, sex, love and death in the kitchen by Jason Sheehan
As Sheehan puts it, I was being paid to play with knives and fire. The war stories are as profane and outrageous as you’d expect, and Sheehan finds just the right balance between bravado and humility
My Life in France by Julia Child
Famed chef Child, who died in 2004, recounts her life in France, beginning with her early days at the Cordon Bleu after WWII. Greenberg, an actress for radio and commercials, does a fine job capturing Child’s joie de vivre and unmatched skill as a culinary animateur
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Despite impoverishing his family because of his alcoholism, McCourt’s father passed on to his son a gift for superb storytelling. He told him about the great Irish heroes, the old days in Ireland, the people in their Limerick neighborhood, and the world beyond their shores.
All descriptions are from Amazon and/or Publishers Weekly
There you have it. What would you add? Any must-reads?