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Hello Nonfiction! How Have You Been?


For the first time in the 18 month history of 101 Books, let’s talk nonfiction. Finding a nonfiction review on this blog is kind of like spotting Paula Deen in a vegan restaurant. But I guess there’s a first time for everything.

It seems like forever ago, but I used to read nonfiction—a lot of it. That, of course, was before this blog started and I realized that I need to stick to fiction if I wanted to keep up a daily blog about fiction. Interesting concept.

Though I’m obviously not up to date on any hot new nonfiction books, here are some of my personal favorites:

Into the Wild (Jon Krakauer): I first read this book in my early 20s, a few months after quitting law school early in my first semester, when I didn’t have much of a clue about what I wanted to do with my life. While I never considered moving to a bus in the Alaskan backcountry like Chris Mccandless, I definitely connected with Into The Wild on a different level.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (Dave Eggers): This is just a brilliant book. Dave Eggers was my first real experience with creative nonfiction and was one of my inspirations to take three creative writing classes while getting my English degree. Eggers’ account of choosing apartments based on their sock-sliding-on-hardwood-floor potential is hilarious. He writes a memoir that is truly heartbreaking and unbelievably funny.

Under the Banner of Heaven (Jon Krakauer): Apparently, I like Jon Krakauer books. As I write this, I just realized two of his books are on my favorites list. Under the Banner of Heaven digs into the history of fundamentalist Mormons, as Krakauer gets to know a cultish Mormon community in Colorado City, Arizona, a group once led—and supposedly still led from prison—by convicted pedophile and polygamist Warren Jeffs.

Blue Like Jazz (Donald Miller): Donald Miller is kind of like the modern day C.S. Lewis. Blue Like Jazz exploded onto the scene about 10 years ago. The tagline somewhat explains the book: “Nonreligious Thoughts On Christian Spirituality.” My favorite quote in the whole book, and one that really guides me in a way: “Sooner or later you just figure out there are some guys who don’t believe in God and they can prove He doesn’t exist, and some other guys who do believe in God and they can prove He does exist, and the argument stopped being about God a long time ago and now it’s about who is smarter, and honestly I don’t care.” In related news, just the other day Donald Miller announced on his blog the upcoming feature film based on the book.

Fast Food Nation (Eric Schlosser): I read this book a couple of years after watching the Supersize Me documentary. Largely because of this book, I’ve only had McDonalds food once in about 7 years. Fast Food Nation is an amazing look at how fast food is processed and made. It’s nasty stuff. For instance, did you know McDonalds fries are made at a perfume plant?

A Good Walk Spoiled (John Feinstein): I used to play golf, a lot of golf—and still do occasionally. Like, I was obsessed with golf. Back in the height of my golf-playing days, I read A Good Walk Spoiled by John Feinstein. It’s a fascinating book that’s a behind-the-scenes look at the PGA Tour in the early 90s—yeah, that’s pre-Tiger Woods. This is a reality show in book form that put Feinstein on the map as a sportswriter.

I would highly recommend any of those books if you’re at all interested in their particular genre of nonfiction.

What about you? Your thoughts on these books or any other nonfiction that you would recommend?

(Affiliate links included in this post.)

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. Matt #

    I love Into The Wild and Into Thin Air. Haven’t read Under the banner of Heaven, so I’ll have to look into it. Krakaeur’s books are great.

    February 17, 2012
  2. I really liked The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubenstein or Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt. I haven’t read any Krakauer, but I know I should. Everybody is always raving about his work.

    February 17, 2012
    • The Ingrid Betancourt books sound great.

      Krakaeur is always good. I love Under The Banner because it’s a lot different than his usual stuff.

      February 17, 2012
  3. Into the Wild was heart stopping…..right now I’m reading Differential Diagnosis- great non-fiction and fiction compilation(based on the doctor’s take) edited by Leah Kaminsky. Great read…..

    February 17, 2012
    • The movie was great. But, still, the book was so much better.

      February 17, 2012
  4. Obviously you don’t have time to read these, but I love:

    Wild by Jay Griffiths (it’s fantastic).

    Michael Pollan In Defence of Food (esp if you liked Fast Food Nation, sorry using UK spelling)

    I also like books about raising kids within a difficult environmental context, particularly Sandra Steingraber’s thoughts, try Having Faith or even better if you’ve got a child Raising Elijah (follows on from Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring).

    My partner Pete May’s Rent Boy is just being turned into an ebook for the US audience – it’s about renting places around London (title a little tease!).

    February 17, 2012
  5. Dominick Sabalos #

    A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, a collection of seven of David Foster Wallace’s essays, is pretty good. The ‘title’ essay in particular is excellent.

    February 17, 2012
  6. The cruise essay is awesome. I wrote a post about it last year and link to the article. I definitely want to read is other essays, especially the tennis one, when I’m done with 101 Books.

    February 17, 2012
  7. teresa #

    Off topic: I just read the Paris Review interview with Anthony Powell in and enjoyed it. Not sure when it was written.

    I am absolutely addicted to The Music of Time books. 2 and 1/2 books to go!

    February 18, 2012
    • I’m guessing Dance gets better then? I’m closing up the second book and I’ve found the first two books horribly tedious.

      February 20, 2012
  8. The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got to be That Way, by Bill Bryson. It is an excellent book for anyone who is interested in language but doesn’t want a weighty treatise on the subject. It gave me a new perspective on English.

    February 20, 2012
  9. I adore non-fiction, particularly biographies and memoirs. Over the summer I read Michael Korda’s “Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia”, which sparked me to read T. E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”
    I also loved Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” about Paul Farmer, a Boston doctor who was one of the founders of Partners in Health.

    February 21, 2012
    • Great suggestions.

      February 23, 2012
  10. Virginia #

    One of my favorite nonfiction books is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – it’s fascinating!

    February 21, 2012
  11. I found “Into the Wild” very inspiring: – It made me remember my youth when I slept in forests or under the stars, when I was not afraid but happy. It made me do more outdoor stuff and become more adventurous again.
    I will always be happy about having picked this book at the library. (And I initially had gotten it for my wife.)

    February 22, 2012
    • Yeah, I borrowed it on a whim and it turned out to be one of my favorite books ever.

      February 23, 2012
  12. pinoyleonardo #

    Non-fiction- ok, I like that. It seems to me I’ve stopped reading fiction for a while now. BTW, is this blog supposed to be self-hosted and yet keep your wordpress dot com connection? How did you do that?

    February 22, 2012
    • Not self-hosted. I bought the domain mapping upgrade. I think it’s like $20 a year or something like that. Just allows you to have your URL without the .wordpress.

      February 23, 2012
  13. Of the books I’ve read for my blog, I’d say that either “Dorothy Osborne: Letters to Sir William Temple, 1652-54: Observations on Love, Literature, Politics and Religion” (the letters were written in the 1650 but this collected edition is from 2002) or “Undertones of War” by Edmund Blunden would be worth reading.

    If you did I’d be very interested to know your opinions on them.

    February 26, 2012
  14. I’m halfway through Blue Like Jazz right now, in preparation for seeing it on the silver screen in a month or so. All my friends in college read it and loved it, and after finding bits of his writing across the web, I decided to give it a shot. Other friends tell me that “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” is even better than BLJ, but I love Miller’s writing regardless.

    February 29, 2012

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