Fiction writers are praised for their abilities to create unbelievable stories, characters, and events. But sometimes the most outlandish, incredible, and unbelievable tales come from the very world we live in. Here are some of our favorite nonfiction reads that are as shocking, moving, amazing, and memorable as any novel we’ve read. From serial killers to medical malfeasance, deadly journeys to unknown histories, this list of books will keep you glued to the pages until the very last word.
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage built mansions, rode in chauffeured automobiles, and sent their children to study in Europe. Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed off. As the death toll rose, the newly created FBI took up the case, and the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery.
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
So much of the brain remains a mystery — especially when it’s not functioning in what are considered “normal” ways. So, when one mid-century American family had six of twelve children develop schizophrenia, they became a scientific beacon for hope to understand — and hopefully treat — the disease. An Oprah’s Book Club Pick.
Furious Hours by Casey Cep
A man accused of murdering five family members is shot. Despite hundreds of witnesses to the crime, his killer is set free. In the audience for the trial, Harper Lee begins working on a book that she would never publish. Furious Hours is at once a deeply moving portrait of a beloved author and a fascinating legal drama
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
She was seen as the next Steve Jobs — a fearless, brilliant young woman promising to change the world with remarkable technology. But Elizabeth Holmes’s magnetic personality hid an unbelievable scandal filled with lies, intimidation, and fraud — a multibillion dollar medical start-up based on technology that simply didn’t work.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was slated to be a marvel — a white city built on the shores of the Great Lakes, showcasing American architecture, engineering, and landscaping. But as disaster after disaster struck, evil lurked in the city, using the distractions of the fair to commit his nefarious crimes.
The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
A highly infectious, deadly virus appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. — an ocean away from the central African rain forest from whence it hails. Now it’s up to a secret team of soldiers and scientists to stop an outbreak before it’s too late to control. A story more chilling and prescient today than when it was first written.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Patrick Radden Keefe, bestselling author of Say Nothing, has written yet another exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling masterpiece of narrative reporting. This time, he takes on the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin.
The Body by Bill Bryson
From the bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body: a handbook that’s as addictive as it is comprehensive. The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding of the miracle that is life in general and you in particular.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Into the Wild is a provocative study of one young man’s journey away from society into the Alaskan wilderness. Detailing a missing-person mystery while unraveling the larger riddles it holds, Jon Krakauer also explores the profound pull of the American wilderness, the allure of high-risk activities, and the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.
Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow
In Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow examines the profound ways in which the unconscious mind shapes our lives. Fascinating and illuminating, Subliminal increases our understanding of how the human mind works, and changes our view of ourselves, of the world around us, and of how we interact with that world.