5 Nonfiction Books That Read So Well, You’ll Think They’re Fiction

These books prove that nonfiction has the power to read like a novel.

5 nonfiction books that read like fiction paperback paris

These days, I feel nonfiction is wrongfully labeled as boring; and casual and serious readers alike have been advised to steer clear of them. As an avid reader myself, I have read many nonfiction books, and most of which have stood out because they touched on interesting topics I feel are not discussed enough.

Furthermore, a lot of nonfiction is written so skillfully that the reader is hardly even aware they’re reading nonfiction and not another (good) novel. So to put down this silly stereotype against nonfiction books, I’ve created a brief list of books based on real-life events that everyone should read:

1. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, John Berendt

5 Nonfictions Books that Read Like Fiction
Vintage Books

This book is well-known for reading more like a novel than a piece of nonfiction, and I would fully agree with that. Vividly set in Savannah, Georgia, this book follows author John Berendt as he falls in love with this picturesque Southern city and all the colorful characters he meets there. If that doesn’t sound engaging enough, the heart of the book focuses on a very real and publicized murder committed by one of Savannah’s wealthiest and most notable citizens, who goes through a remarkable four murder trials.

2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot

5 Nonfictions Books that Read Like Fiction
Broadway Books

Rebecca Skloot’s passion for wanting to know more about Henrietta Lacks, a figure previously hidden in history, and her family seeps through every page in this intriguing book. This book goes into detail about how Lacks—an African-American woman living in poverty who tragically dies of cancer at age 31—goes on to become a significant benefactor to scientific research.Henrietta’s cells, known in the scientific and medical communities as HeLa, helps create the polio vaccine and has been used for research concerning cancer, AIDS, radiation, and more. This book also asks important questions regarding patient consent (Henrietta did not agree to have her cells swabbed and grown, and her family remained in the dark for over twenty years), race, economic status, and much more.

Lacks’ cells, known in the scientific and medical communities as HeLa, helps create the polio vaccine and has been used for research concerning cancer, AIDS, radiation, and more. This book also asks important questions regarding patient consent (Henrietta did not agree to have her cells swabbed and grown, and her family remained in the dark for over 20 years), race, economic status, and much more.

3. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

5 Nonfictions Books that Read Like Fiction
Scribner

Without a doubt, The Glass Castle is one book that sticks with you once you’ve read it. Growing up in a wildly unique family that is always short on cash, travels in the way of nomads, and rejects even the most basic of human needs, Jeannette Walls looks back on her childhood and reveals a world that is unknown to most. This book contains shocking and upsetting things that would go against everything a traditional person would associate with family and a normal life. A favorite book of all-time for me, this story definitely deserves a read.

4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed

5 Nonfictions Books that Read Like Fiction
Vintage Books

In her memoir, Cheryl Strayed tells the compelling, raw, and emotional story of how she found herself while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Readers get an intimate look at not only the journey that she took during her hike—which was both a physical and mental feat—but the journey that she that she is on in life in general. This book doesn’t hide away from the difficult aspects of life, creating a moving story that is hard to put down or forget about.

5. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia, Elizabeth Gilbert

Riverhead Books

Eat, Pray, Love has been immensely popularity since its debut in 2006; it even has a movie attached to it starring Julia Roberts. I think the hype surrounding the book is well-deserved. As Elizabeth Gilbert leaves conventional forms of success behind, she eats her way through the indulgent landscape of Italy, learns about spirituality against the sparse yet breathtaking backdrop of India, and practices of these lessons in the tropical Bali. Personally, I enjoyed following her journey and reading about her travels. This is perfect for anyone with a case of wanderlust.

These books serve as evidence of why nonfiction can be equally as enjoyable as fiction. The next time you need a break from reading novels, pick up one of these books and see just what adventures the real world has to offer.

Which nonfiction books have you been reading lately?

Leave us with some book suggestions of your own in the comments below!
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Written by Alicia LeBoeuf

I'm a college student pursuing an English major and Communication minor. I love everything book-related and I'm a passionate writer.

  • I love this list! I actually prefer nonfiction to fiction as I find it really interesting. I’m currently reading ‘Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman?’ (By Richard Feynman) and it’s basically a collection of little stories from his life. It’s a fantastic read for somebody studying science, especially physics. I know you’re majoring in English but if you have any interest in science, it’s definitely worth a read.
    Great post!