Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mo Reads: Top Ten Nonfiction Books

Welcome to the newest addition of the Grown Adult family, Mo Reads
It’s hard to get good book recs. Best seller lists only go so far and usually fail to pique my interest. Personal recommendations are really where it’s at. If we could all do our part to share our picks, the world would be a better-read place. So, I’d like to do you all a solid and share my favorite reads, genre by genre. Hopefully you’ll find something in here that speaks to you. 

I am an extreme bookworm to the umpteenth degree, always with multiple books on deck to quench my every mood. My kindle, necessary for my vagabond lifestyle, is chock-full of books allowing me an escape, a laugh, and some oh-so-necessary enlightenment.

In everything I’ve come across, I’ve always felt more of a connection to a story if it actually happened. Our world is full of incredible events that it sometimes feels unnecessary to make stuff up. True stories can be unbelievable, heartbreaking, life-affirming and most importantly, a real glimpse into the human condition across the globe. As the saying goes, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” 

In keeping with those feelings, it’s only natural that my bookworm tendencies lean towards the non-fiction genre. So here’s a list of my top 10 nonfiction reads. Enjoy!

10. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania - Erik Larson, 2015

Dead Wake is historical non-fiction at its best. Larson tells the tale of the sinking of the Lusitania through multiple perspectives on both sides of World War I, including those of passengers, a secret outpost in England collecting enemy communications, and the German U-boat responsible for sinking the large passenger ship.

I’m usually very wary of historical reads, afraid of being bogged down by text-book snoozers but this book was anything but. Larson perfectly weaves all of the tangled details into a wonderfully full story, drawing you into the era with all of the variables that brought about this tragic occurrence. 

9. Zeitoun - Dave Eggers, 2009
Favorite Author Alert

In Zeitoun, Eggers tells the story of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American small business owner in New Orleans wrongly detained on charges of looting and terrorism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A lot went wrong in the aftermath of Katrina. Eggers nails it on the head with this poignant retelling that gives way to the larger issues that faced the city of New Orleans during and after the hurricane.

8. The Girl With No Name - Marina Chapman & Lynne Barrett-Lee, 2013

Of all the books on this list, this story is the most extraordinary, almost to the point of being
Goodreads Photo cred
unbelievable. Marina Chapman was kidnapped from her home in rural South America when she was just a toddler. She was then abandoned in the Columbian jungle and spent the next five or so years surviving and then thriving as part of a tribe of capuchin monkeys.

Now in her early 60s, living in England, Chapman and her daughter (along with a ghostwriter) extracted the scarce memories of her capture through her life in the jungle to her trying return to society. Chapman’s life in the jungle is only the start of her incredible story of survival as her reintroduction into the real world was no cake-walk. 

Once you pick this book up, you won’t want to put it down until you see Chapman’s whole life through.

7. Behind The Beautiful Forevers - Katherine Boo, 2012

Winner of the National Book Award, this story focuses on life in one particular slum in Mumbai illegally located on land owned by the Mumbai airport. It tells of the intertwined lives of the residents desperately trying to make it in their poverty-stricken, shanty town.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the intricacies of life in a slum, with it’s corruption and the subsequent fall-out that affects all of the inhabitants, Boo does an incredible job of sharing the hardships and hopes and dreams of its residents with Behind The Beautiful Forevers.

6. The Wave - Susan Casey, 2010

Goodreads Photo Cred
Warning: Will cause a simultaneous yearning for and extreme fear of the ocean. 

With The Wave, Susan Casey delves into the mythically-portrayed, yet very real rogue wave phenomenon through the eyes of both scientists and the big-wave surf tribe of Laird Hamilton. 

It is her ability to mix fact and real world crisis with adrenaline-chasing adventures that really makes this book a page-turner. In my next life, I would like to come back as Susan Casey.

5. Born To Run - Christopher McDougall, 2009

The furthest I’ve ever run is ten miles, twice; something that I believe deserves an extreme congratulations or I dunno, some kind of national medal or something. But alas, that’s baby stuff compared to what the Tarahumara Indians of the Mexican Copper Canyons accomplish in their regular 100+ mile runs through impenetrable and undeveloped terrain. How is that possible, you say. Well, in Born To Run, Christopher McDougall sets out on a quest to discover just that. 

I swear you don’t need to be a runner to fall deeply entranced with this wild story.

4. Wild - Cheryl Strayed, 2012
I hold an extreme affinity for ‘journey’ books. Of the bunch, Wild, is my absolute favorite. It is an autobiographical story of Cheryl Strayed’s trek along the Pacific Coast Trail and through the pain and tragedies of her life. 

Wild sits atop an imaginary pedestal in my brain because of Strayed’s extreme honesty and ability to bare her soul in such an authentic way while telling a damn good, intriguing story along the way.

3. Mutant Message Down Under - Marlo Morgan, 1991

Google Books Photo Cred
Imagine, as a modern-day Westerner, going into the Australian bush to interview a group of Aborigines and then never leaving. Sounds like fiction, right? Well, it’s actually just the beginning of Marlo Morgan’s unplanned journey through the outback with a group of highly evolved individuals on the brink of extinction who desperately want to spread the message that humans are destroying our planet.

For anyone questioning our consumer- and profit-driven society, this is a read for you. The history of the Aboriginal people has been complicated and overwrought with racism and tragedy. Morgan does an excellent job at painting the real picture of the Aboriginal spirit and vision.

2. Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand, 2010

In Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand tells the utterly unbelievable life story of Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympic long-distance runner who later was taken as a prisoner of war in the Pacific during World War II. (Spoilers have been painstakingly removed from this one-sentence synopsis. You’re welcome.)

I have to admit that I am slightly shocked when I hear people say they have not read this book yet. Mostly, it’s jealousy, as I wish I knew nothing of this story and could re-experience it anew. Hillenbrand brings impeccable pacing to an intimidatingly large scope of information with in-depth and intimate details that immediately draw you into Louis’ inner and outer existence.

Angelina Jolie recently turned Zamperini’s life story into a movie. Although decent, it pales in comparison to Hillenbrand’s book and does not give nearly enough justice to a man whose journey was larger than life. She tried to squeeze too much into one film and therefore glazed over the real guts of his story. So, if you really want to know who Louis Zamperini was, read the book. It will not disappoint. 

1. What Is the What - Dave Eggers, 2006

This incredible story focuses on the life of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. The name stands as a label for the group of young males, totaling 20,000+, who were displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War, which spanned from 1983 - 2005. Many of the boys, now grown men, were relocated to the US and still live here today. 

It’s an eye-opening read of the perilous struggle of life in a war-torn African country told through a young male’s coming of age perspective. Eggers never fails to breathe compassion and honesty into his retellings. Of his many incredible books, What Is the What may be the best.

If you need a read that will at once enlighten, enrage, and impassion you, look no further than What is the What.

No comments:

Post a Comment