Books & Art

10 Books That Prove Non-Fiction Is Just as Entertaining as Fiction

Who would’ve thought that non-fiction could be just as exciting and action-packed as fiction?
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It’s definitely not uncommon for readers to shy away from picking up non-fiction books because they find them too boring. But while fiction is the genre we usually turn to for a quick escape from reality, who says non-fiction can’t offer you the same kind of refuge? 

If you think non-fiction isn’t as unputdownable as fiction, it’s highly likely that you just haven’t found the right books. Because, like all good things, great reads take some time and effort to come across.

From riveting memoirs to hilarious autobiographies and chilling accounts of true crime, here is a curated list of non-fiction books to break you into the genre.

1| On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong 

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In this debut epistolary novel, queer Vietnamese-American author Ocean Vuong lyrically communicates to his illiterate mother his own journey to healing, self-discovery, and acceptance of past memories. Vuong walks readers through the nuances of exploring one’s sexuality and surviving the early beginnings of immigrant life.    

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2| Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Immigrant by Jose Antonio Vargas

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas writes about being an undocumented Filipino-American immigrant in the so-called land of the free in this 2018 memoir. This novel narrates the complexity of Vargas’ navigation of American life while simultaneously avoiding deportation, and criticizes the gravely unjust immigration policies America has come to develop in the time of Donald Trump’s presidency. 

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3| Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman

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As a privileged white man, comedian-actor John Hodgman reminisces his favorite, most impactful memories through little anecdotes about his formative years, college life, and even his trips across the beaches of Maine. But above all, Hodgman cleverly weaves into these essays his reflections on the melancholy of nearing middle age. 

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4| Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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Born a Crime humorously recounts comedian-host Trevor Noah’s experiences growing up as a young man against the backdrop of South Africa’s racially oppressive apartheid system. Contrary to Hodgman’s novel, this autobiography explores how it feels to suffer marginalization in the homeland that had always been yours to begin with.

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5| Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

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While Irish comedian Jim Gaffigan had always thought that he would spend the rest of his life as the weird uncle who lives alone in a New York apartment, years later, his wife and five kids erased this prediction. In classic comedian fashion, Gaffigan hilariously tells readers about the not-so-funny and not-so-glamorous aspects of fatherhood along with the small victories he has achieved as a dad of five. 

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6| When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi 

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Published after his death, Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air introspectively walks readers through the former neurosurgeon’s time as a medical student, a practicing doctor determined to help all of his patients, to being a patient himself struck with terminal cancer. If you work in the medical field, you might want to pick up this book. 

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7| Concepcion: An Immigrant Family’s Fortunes by Albert Samaha

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Tracing the roots of the Philippines’ colonial history in the Spanish, American, and Japanese occupations, Samaha embarks on a quest to understand the layers behind his family’s decision to immigrate to the U.S. in pursuit of a more comfortable life, along with the choices they have made and the beliefs they formed living in the U.S. 

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8| At Home with Muhammad Ali: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Forgiveness by Hana Ali 

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Written by one of the youngest daughters of Muhammad Ali, this memoir serves as an intimate reflection of the late boxing icon’s life, as told through the personal audio diaries he recorded throughout the 1970s.  Despite being regarded as one of the most famous men in history, several aspects of Ali’s life have still gone unnoticed by the public. But At Home with Muhammad Ali is here to change that. 

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9| A Child Called ‘It’ by Dave Pelzer

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This soul-crushing autobiography follows the story of a young boy from California who is subjected to countless instances of abuse by his mother and lives to recount his horrifying experiences. Pelzer vividly describes the disheartening measures he had to take to power through his alcoholic mother’s maltreatment, and how he survived the trauma that has haunted him until adulthood.  

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10| The Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London by Kate Summerscale

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In Victorian London in 1985, then 13-year-old Robert Coombes confessed to stabbing his mother to death and was later arrested for matricide. This factual crime novel dives deep into the layered circumstances surrounding the reality of Robert’s crime, his trial, and his time at a mental asylum after being deemed insane.

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