The Best Narrative Nonfiction Books

Last year I wrote a post about having different criteria for fiction versus nonfiction books. The comment section became laden with fantastic narrative non-fiction recommendations and I also received many via twitter. I thought it would be a shame to keep my new found knowledge secret, so here are the books that people were most passionate about:

In Cold Blood : A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences (Penguin Modern Classics)

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

One of the first true crime books to introduce both the killers and their victims, this is commonly thought to the best piece of narrative nonfiction ever written.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (Vintage)

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

The story of a serial killer who targeted visitors to the 1893 Chicago World Fair; this book also contains details of the politics, architecture and science of the period.


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

During WWII an American bomber crashes into the Pacific Ocean and a young lieutenant manages to scramble onto a life-raft. This book tells his amazing story of survival as he battles against starvation, sharks and the enemy.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration (Vintage)

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Chronicles the decade-long migration of black Americans who fled the south in order to find better lives in the north and west of America.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

A collection of short stories that showcase a variety of different neurological conditions.

Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal

Little Princes by Conor Grennan

The story of the author’s year in Nepal and his efforts to reunite children sold into slavery with their parents.

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

The stories of six people living in North Korea which reveal the culture and lifestyle of those living within this secretive country.

The Emperor of All Maladies

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The history of cancer, from the Greek slave who cut of her own breast, through to modern radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

Mountain People

Mountain People by Colin Turnbull

The description of how one African tribe survived a famine by selfishly abandoning all family ties.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

This book is part travelogue, part true crime and its vivid descriptions have apparently increased tourism to Savannah.

What do you think of this list?

Have I missed out any masterpieces of narrative non-fiction?

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