A list of nonfiction titles that are every bit as page-turning as novels, chosen by Madison Public Library staff.
Looking for more great nonfiction titles? Sign up to have lists in your inbox every month with our Beyond Bestsellers Nonfiction Insider Newsletter.
In this memoir, Carpenter describes how she became an urban farmer after moving to an inner-city neighborhood in Oakland, California. Starting with a garden in an abandoned lot, she expands into animal husbandry with frustrating, comical and delicious results. Available to download: Audio
In 1920s Oklahoma enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were some of the wealthiest people per capita in the world due the oil fields beneath their land. A ‘Reign of Terror’ by whites intent on getting some of this wealth included shooting, poisoning, bombing in order to decimate the tribe. Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judiciary were the norm until a young J. Edgar Hoover saw a chance to make his reputation with the FBI in pursuit of justice. Available to download: eBook Audio
What is it about Mt. Everest that leads people to spend thousands, risk their lives, ignore the concerns of family in order to attempt to summit? Krakauer went on assignment for Outside magazine to find out- and we climb alongside. Available to download: ebook
Two genius brothers -- both with only high school educations - combine their talents to teach the world how to make an airplane that flies. Using the Wrights' personal papers - including diaries, notebooks and photographs - we see how their singular focus and bravery led to a global transformation. Available to download: eBook Audio
A magical blend of funny and serious, Trevor (as his mother shouts over and over in many scenes here) brings his childhood vividly to life, immersing us in the dynamics of his youthful years with family, friends, and culture. A second book will be needed, as his journey stops abruptly- long before he 'makes it' with The Daily Show. Available to download: eBooke
The first half of Becoming takes a warm tone as Obama details her beautiful upbringing (though not without challenges.) Halfway, as Obama is drawn deeper into politics and then the suffocating life of the White House- literally with no windows that open- her tone shifts, as the ugliness of politics becomes part of her daily life. Try listening to the audiobook, as it is wonderfully read by the author. Available to download: eBook Audio
Smith’s memoir of her romance and friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe won the 2010 National Book Award for nonfiction. Not just a portrait of their relationship, Just Kids showcases NYC in the late sixties and seventies from the perspective of young artists on the way up. Available to download: eBook Audio
This mix of history, personal narrative and interview excerpts reads like a long-form magazine article with statistical nuggets sprinkled in. Not a political book- rather a 'where are we' and 'how did we get here' and 'how does it feel to be here' book. Available to download: eBook
One doctor's own experience grappling with race and bias in medicine reveals broader truths across our medical system and society. For readers, this might be the next read after Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy. Available to download: eBook
It isn't just the details of Westover's life- which was quite harrowing as one of many children in an off-the-grid homeschooling family with a scrap yard, a very difficult father, an a pseudo (or real?) healing mother. It's the way the reader is a partner in the dissection of what happened and what it meant. A standout book- in high demand for years, for good reason. Available to download: eBook Audio