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Must-read Nonfiction Books for the Fiction Fan

If you’re a book lover, trying to decide where to land after finishing a great book is a familiar feeling. You’ve plowed your way through your latest literary love affair, but as is the bookworm’s plight, the craving for more remains. While it can be tempting to return to the comfortable, solid ground of well-tread genres, there’s something to be said for stepping out of that comfort zone and exploring new terrain.

For the fiction-obsessed, the world of nonfiction can seem a daunting – and possibly uninteresting – one. After all, what could real life possibly offer over the goings-on in Westeros, a solitary astronaut’s struggle for survival on Mars, or the disturbing prescience of a handmaid’s life in Gilead? The answer, fortunately, is quite a lot. If you’re in search of a change of pace, nonfiction – narrative nonfiction in particular – offers a host of options no matter your taste in fiction. Here are a few recommendations to get you started.
  1. 1
    Policing the Black Man Book Cover Picture
    Policing the Black Man Book Cover Picture

    Policing the Black Man

    by Angela J. Davis, Bryan Stevenson, Marc Mauer, Bruce Western and Jeremy Travis

    If You’ve Read: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

    Try: Policing the Blackman: Arrest. Prosecution, and Imprisonment Edited by Angela Davis

    If Colson Whitehead’s powerful and surreal Pulitzer Prize winner piqued your curiosity, consider moving on to Policing the Black Man, edited by Angela Davis. This striking collection of essays is a comprehensive and immensely readable analysis of the key issues of the Black Lives Matter movement. The anthology is an exploration and critique of the criminal justice system and the way the system’s shortcomings inordinately fall on the African American community.
    Policing the Black Man Book Cover Picture
    Policing the Black Man Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    All Your Base Are Belong to Us Book Cover Picture
    All Your Base Are Belong to Us Book Cover Picture

    All Your Base Are Belong to Us

    by Harold Goldberg

    If You’ve Read: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

    Try: All Your Base Are Belong to Us by Harold Goldberg

    Ernest Cline’s nerdstravaganza, Ready Player One, is heading to the big screen. For those who couldn’t put down this near-future dystopia with its video game and pop-culture-obsessed trappings, All Your Base Are Belong to Us is just the ticket. With All Your Base, journalist Harold Goldberg takes a deep dive into the last fifty years of video game history and the way these games and the innovations within and around them have shaped pop culture in their meteoric rise to the top.
    All Your Base Are Belong to Us Book Cover Picture
    All Your Base Are Belong to Us Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    The Devil in the White City Book Cover Picture
    The Devil in the White City Book Cover Picture

    The Devil in the White City

    by Erik Larson

    If You’ve Read: Deeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag

    Try:
    The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

    Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? As good as the fictional ones often are, this is one particular instance where real life is far stranger and unbelievable than virtually anything you’ll find in a novel. Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City traces one of America’s most notorious serial killers, Dr. H. H. Holmes. Holmes crafted a multi-room torture chamber in his sprawling home set along the grounds of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, which unsurprisingly came to be known as the murder castle. Holmes may have claimed as many as twenty-seven victims before being hanged in 1896.
    The Devil in the White City Book Cover Picture
    The Devil in the White City Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    Negroland Book Cover Picture
    Negroland Book Cover Picture

    Negroland

    by Margo Jefferson

    If You’ve Read: Swing Time by Zadie Smith

    Try: Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

    With Swing Time, Zadie Smith turns her ambitious and focused prose skills to the issues of identity, class, and race. With Negroland, Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic Margo Jefferson gifts us with a true-to-life view into the themes that power Swing Time. Sitting firmly at the nexus of privilege, discrimination, and the fallacy of a post-racial America, Negroland is equal parts provocative and celebratory in its portrait of race in America.
    Negroland Book Cover Picture
    Negroland Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    Avenue of Spies Book Cover Picture
    Avenue of Spies Book Cover Picture

    Avenue of Spies

    by Alex Kershaw

    If You’ve Read: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

    Try:
    Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw

    All the Light We Cannot See is a poignant and devastating look into the very human toll of World War II and it earned Anthony Doerr a Pulitzer Prize. Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw is a perfect follow-up. Kershaw’s book tells the true life story of an American doctor in occupied France who soon found himself caught up in the liberation movement. This stunning tale of a doctor-turned-master of espionage would be a brilliant next step for readers.
    Avenue of Spies Book Cover Picture
    Avenue of Spies Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    The Secret History of Wonder Woman Book Cover Picture
    The Secret History of Wonder Woman Book Cover Picture

    The Secret History of Wonder Woman

    by Jill Lepore

    If You’ve Read: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

    Try: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

    Over-the-top characters? Check. Polyamorous relations? Indeed. Feminist sex cults? You betcha. If you enjoyed the rollicking narrative and comic-book history lesson of Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winner, then add The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore to your TBR pile. While the world of comic book publishing is full of real-life outsized characters and big personalities, Dr. William Moulton Marston is really in a league of his own. His creation of Wonder Woman is an oft-bizarre and hilarious and still somewhat unknown backstory of one of DC Comics’ most enduring heroes.
    The Secret History of Wonder Woman Book Cover Picture
    The Secret History of Wonder Woman Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture

    Between the World and Me

    by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    If You’ve Read: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

    Try: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Angie Thomas’s powerfully and topical novel, The Hate U Give, is a riveting and vital commentary on the complexities of race relations and the searing impact a police-involved shooting can have on a community. If Thomas’s brand of devastatingly insightful commentary caught your attention, add Between the World and Me to your must-reads. Ta-Nehisi Coates pivots between the larger tapestry of race relations and the more tightly focused portrait of a father’s concerns for his son. Within this framework, Coates creates a devastatingly powerful critique of the role of race in American society.
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    Lab Girl Book Cover Picture
    Lab Girl Book Cover Picture

    Lab Girl

    by Hope Jahren

    If You’ve Read: Chemistry by Weike Wang

    Try: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

    If you can’t quite manage to get Weike Wang’s Chemistry off your mind, Lab Girl might just do the trick. Hope Jahren’s memoir is both timely and brilliantly woven. While acclaimed scientist Jahren ostensibly puts the focus of her book on the trees and plants she’s dedicated her life to studying, what emerges from Lab Girl is a complex and remarkable portrait of a strong woman excelling in a profession in the face of professional hardship, harassment, and discrimination that is still unfortunately prevalent in the field of science.
    Lab Girl Book Cover Picture
    Lab Girl Book Cover Picture

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