Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t think I liked reading non-fiction. I always thought of reading as a chance to escape and to me, escaping meant diving into an imagined story and a world I could immerse myself in. However, that changed once I graduated from law school. After spending three years intensely studying and reading almost nothing but casebooks and contracts, I couldn’t wait to get back to reading for fun. To my surprise, I quickly found that my brain really missed learning and I started craving books that would teach me something. Now of course, that doesn’t mean that I want to spend my post-school life reading dry, boring textbooks. Over the last few years, I’ve found some great non-fiction books that are anything but boring. And please tell me, what should I add to my non-fiction TBR?
Non-Boring Non-Fiction Books
The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
This book is terrifying! My dad read it when it first came out and he was so captivated by it that he took himself on a trip to Chicago without the rest of the family. I didn’t read it until several years later, but I’m glad I eventually took Dad up on his recommendation. The story weaves together the creation of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and the tale of America’s first serial killer, H.H. Holmes. The details are fascinating and the writing is suspenseful and compelling.
If you’re going to read this, I absolutely must insist that you listen to it on audio. No exceptions. Cary Elwes himself reads it, with guest appearances from some of the other cast and crew. It’s so fun to learn about what life was like on the set of this movie and you’ll feel compelled to have a movie night as soon as it’s over.
I loved this book so much! I listened to it on audio, but I’m sure it would be just as good on paper. Before reading, I knew a little bit about Nellie Bly, but nothing about Elizabeth Bisland. While both women have more to their stories, this book just focuses on their race around the world. They were both journalists at a time when women rarely worked as journalists, and if they did, were relegated to writing only gossip columns and homemaking tips. After Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days came out, the two women set out to try to beat the record for the fastest trip around the world, each working for a different newspaper. They set off from New York City headed in different directions and their adventures enthralled the nation, with people clamoring for news of the women’s progress around the world. I’m not sure my description is doing it justice, but this book is a fast-paced, page-turning adventure and I highly recommend it!
Being the big fan of musical theatre that I am, I was initially drawn to this book because its subtitle says it’s the story of the inspiration for the musical Chicago (which actually was a straight play first, then a Broadway musical, and then a movie musical). While the book contained significantly fewer musical numbers than I would have liked, it was an interesting look at a time in history that I didn’t know much about. I seem to have a thing for stories about female reporters, because this one is about Maurine Watkins and her investigation into Chicago’s Murderesses’ Row, during a time when it seemed that women could quite literally get away with murder.
This book is one I tried to listen to originally, but could not get into the audio version. I then picked up the physical book because I was sure that I was meant to like this book. I’m glad I gave it another go because I did really enjoy it! The chapters alternate between the stories of four different women, which I think made it hard to follow on audio, but keeps things interesting when you’re reading on paper.
As I mentioned when I was reading it, the only disappointment came when I was reading this book on a train to Emeryville, the home of Pixar, and there were no Pixar employees in sight who wanted to sit with me and discuss the ins and outs of working at Pixar. It reads mostly like a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of Pixar and, later, Disney Animation. There are some parts in the book that get a little business-y how-to, but even those were an interesting glimpse into a world I knew nothing about. Seeing how the tactics and strategies Pixar uses with their employees come together to make some truly delightful movies made this a really fun read.
The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, by Kate Andersen Bower
As my sisters and I were growing up, our mom often reinforced lessons in manners by reminding us that if we behaved inappropriately we’d never be invited to the White House. This book kind of is your invitation to the White House – the part of the White House that the public never gets to see. Filled with stories and anecdotes from the Residence staff, the book takes you into the private lives of the presidents and their families for an insider’s look at what it’s like to actually live in the White House.
Wishing every day were Book Club Sunday,