Wicked Wednesday – Unforgettable Nonfiction

Hey everyone. Liz here with a new batch of Wicked Wednesdays.

Last year, I participated in a program at work where I had to do something “brave.” Brave for corporate America, at least. I’ll spare you the details, but I did it and I got a prize – a copy of the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Well, I finally got around to reading it and I have to say, wow. What an inspiring book, right? I’d heard Cheryl’s Ted Talk and really enjoyed it, but reading the book was a totally different experience. I don’t think I could last a day out on that trail – what would I do without my coffee? – but reading about her journey and how she brought herself back from the edge will stay with me for a long time.

It got me thinking. We talk a lot about nonfiction books here but they’re usually writing related. So Wickeds, what’s your favorite, or most inspiring, nonfiction book that’s got nothing to do with our usual subject matter?

Sherry: I don’t read a lot of nonfiction that isn’t writing related. But years ago I read Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon. It’s about a journey on the back roads of America and to small towns. The book and his stories have always stuck with me.

Julie: Right now I am rereading The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer. His work always resonates with me, as does Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love. Barb told me about a James Gleick’s Time Travel, and I’m loving it so far.

Barb: Julie, so glad you’re enjoying Time Travel. In discussions about the election, and the current partisan divide, I am always recommending American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard. Very interesting and intuitively true.

Jessie: I really enjoyed The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown. As a writer so much of my life revolves around text. Using images to communicate coaxes another part of my brain out to play and I have delighted in the experience!





Readers, leave yours in the comments!

25 Thoughts

  1. Julie, I love anything by Wayne Dyer and Marianne Williamson. But the nonfiction book I’m pining for right now is Charles Kuralt’s America on audio. I have a long, solo driving trip coming up, and I recall how that book on tape got me through such a trip years ago. Unfortunately, my copy was indeed ON TAPE. If anyone has a copy on CD, I’d pay big bucks for it right about now.

    Anyhow, Kuralt has long been one of my favorite storytellers. I wept when he passed as if he’d been a good friend or family member.

    1. I loved him too but haven’t ever listened to the book or read it for that matter. He had a wonderful voice and a great way of looking at things.

  2. My favorite non-fiction book of recent years is Saving South Beach by M. Barron Stofik. Dan and I lived on the East Coast of Florida at the time when Barbara Baer Capitman (one of my personal heroes) was pleading with the powers to save the wonderful Art Deco buildings of South Beach from developers. Stofik gives the story the human faces of the retirees and exiles who lived in the decaying buildings, the intense struggle by dedicated members of the Miami Design Preservation League who succeeded in saving so many of the area’s iconic structures. (I was writing travel at the time, and though its hard to believe now, New York agencies were begging writers to come, stay free in great old Deco hotels, to promote the place. I went twice!) A well written, entertaining piece of non-fiction.

  3. Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower. We all could give a three-line summary about the Mayflower story, based on what we learned in grade school, but what came after (and how the settlers mistreated the natives who had saved them) was horrifying. Philbrick presented the story vividly, and it left a lasting impression on me. (The rest of his books are worth reading too.)

  4. I’m big into history, so anything by David McCullough is a good read. My favorite is The Path Between the Seas, his fascinating description of the creation of the Panama Canal. I read that while stationed in Panama, and the juxtaposition of reading his prose and seeing the end result right there in front of me gave it even deeper meaning.

  5. This isn’t writing related, but it’s still crime related: Beverly Lowry’s CROSSED OVER: A MURDER, A MEMOIR. It’s about a death row inmate, Karla Faye Tucker, but also about the author’s son who was killed in a hit-and-run—an unrelated crime, but Lowry weaves together the two stories in ways that look at parenthood, at social standing and class issues, at the justice system, at…. well, it covers a lot of ground, and is ultimately both fascinating and emotional.

  6. I’m a sucker for a good biography – I think my favorite is one of Queen Victoria by Robert Massie. But the one that left the most emotional impact might have been TRAIL OF TEARS. Just an awful, awful event in American history.

  7. Oops, looks like I forgot to include my bit on this post! I read almost no non-fiction books, but I do lose myself in New Yorker articles that I think at first glance I have no interest in. They are all so well-written and well-researched, though, that I often end up learning about a new field, a new discovery, or a person I’d never heard about.

  8. This was a long time ago, but the writing (and of course true story) of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air was captivating and yet ethereal at the same time. It really mirrored the subject matter. I also loved Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty.

  9. I have been reading Andrew Wyeth: A Secret Life, which goes into detail about his painting regime and process as well as his personal life. SO helpful to read how he approached individual paintings. And then there is the family saga….I recommend.

    1. I saw Andrew Wyeth’s show in New York when I was 16 or 17, and promptly write a fan letter. He answered it.

      One of the more recent times I visited the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford (about an hour from where I lived then, and one of my all-time favorite museums), where both some of his and of his son Jamie’s work hang, his granddaughter was the docent. He did indeed lead a complicated life, but his paintings speak for themselves.

    2. I’m reading The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents 1610 to 1791 (online). I’m on Volume 4: Québec 1633 to 1634. I’ve been studying “The Relations” for 25 years since I was a theology student, however off and on. It grabs me, and then it lets go.

  10. Sherry, I read Blue Highways in high school. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more if I didn’t have to do some projects on it. 🙂

    It’s been a couple of years since I read a non-fiction book. Too many fictional books to read. However, one that sticks out to me is Joni and Ken, a book about the marriage of Joni Eareckson Tada and her husband Ken. Joni is a quadriplegic, and the book is very honest about the struggles they have had as a result. But ultimately, it was very uplifting and inspiring. Since I’ve followed her life and ministry for years, it was especially interesting for me.

  11. Though I tend toward fiction, there is a special place in my heart for non-fiction because those were the only books I was allowed to take out of the library with my adult card as a child. I had run through all the children’s books so I was allowed to have a restricted adult card. I ran through mostly biographies and historical events.

    The more recent non-fiction books I’ve been predominantly writing instruction; Les Edgerton’s Hooked and Finding Your Voice are excellent; Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I’ve recently picked up Option B by Sheryl Sandberg.

    The book that I could not put down though was The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.

  12. I read non-fiction when I’m curious about a historical or current event. I love anything by Erik Larsen — just finished Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. He also wrote The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair the Changed America. I also enjoy Nathaniel Philbrick’s books. A heartbreaking one is Gone at 3:17 The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History by David M. Brown and Michael Wereschagin.

  13. I loved a series called (overall title) Hinges of History by Thomas Cahill about turning points in human history. Fascinating whether the topic is new to me ( Ireland in the Dark Ages) or familiar ( ancient Greeks, Judaism). Honest and beautifully written memoirs from Richard Russo, Mary Karr, Kati Marton. Adam Gopnik on chilldren in Through the Children’s Gate. Almost anything by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Those were all some standouts apart from what I read for my writing.

  14. Right now my favorite non-fiction book is Daring Greatly be Brene Brown. But there are so many great non-fiction options! The Omnivore’s Dilemna and Garbology are two all time favorites.

  15. I’m reading The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents 1610 to 1791 (online). I’m on Volume 4: Québec 1633 to 1634. I’ve been studying “The Relations” for 25 years since I was a theology student, however off and on. It grabs me, and then it lets go.

Comments are closed.