Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Fabulous Non-Fiction Favorites

Top 10 Tuesday new

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week is a Freebie — we each pick our own topic. After much debate and a few false starts, I thought I’d write about my favorite non-fiction books. I really don’t read much non-fiction, but I’ve read enough over the years to be able to choose some real stand-outs.

My top 10 non-fiction favorites are:

Ice Bound

1) Ice Bound by Dr. Jerri Nielsen: The late Dr. Nielsen writes about her winter at the South Pole, her personal journey, and her battle with breast cancer with unflinching honesty and remarkable courage.

Poisoners Handbook

2) The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum: A fascinating look at the early days of forensics during Probition.

Don't Let's Go

3) Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller: A startling and disturbing memoir of a childhood in Africa.


4) If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name by Heather Lende: I go a bit overboard for anything connected to Alaska, and I really enjoyed this slice-of-life book about a woman raising a family in an Alaskan small town.


5) Life by Keith Richards: KEITH! What is there to say about this book? Amazing. My only complaint was that I’d wished it came with a soundtrack.

Packing for Mars

6) Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach: If you like your science packed with humor, then you really can’t go wrong with any of Mary Roach’s books. This is the one I’ve read most recently, but I also loved Stiff, which taught me that it’s possible to laugh hysterically while reading about cadavers.

Fear and Loathing Campaign

7) Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 by Hunter S. Thompson: Everyone should read Hunter S. Thompson at some point in his/her life, and this is the one I’d choose above all others. It just has to be experienced — no point in further explanation.

Blind Side

8) The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis: This is the book that made me run around my house shouting, “Look, I’m reading a football book!” I am not a sports fan, and have never read another football book in my life… but this one was just so gripping, I couldn’t stop myself.

Devil's Teeh

9) The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey: A brilliant account of the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco, the great white sharks that fill the waters there, and the scientists who study them.

Krakauer collage

10) It’s a toss-up between two very different books by Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air, his classic tale of a disastrous Everest expedition, or Under the Banner of Heaven, a history of the Mormon church and exposé of Mormon Fundamentalist communities.

As I started working on this list, I kept jotting down more and more non-fiction books that I’ve read and loved. I was reminded that I went through a Vietnam War obsession phase and a weird neurology phase, and then there’s my need to read off-beat personal stories and adventures. In other words, although my reading definitely skews heavily toward all fiction, all the time, I’ve actually read more non-fiction than I’d realized.

Do you have a favorite non-fiction book that you recommend?

I’d love to know what everyone else picked for a top 10 freebie topic! Share your link, and I’ll come check out your list.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

42 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Fabulous Non-Fiction Favorites

  1. I really need to read more non-fiction. I have “I am Malala” and the biography of Emmeline Pankhurst sitting on my shelves, hella excited for them

    • You’re not from the Bay Area, are you? I thought we were the only ones who say “hella”! I’m really not much of a non-fiction reader in general, but I do manage to sneak in a few every year. 🙂

  2. Just what I needed … my nonfiction TBR is actually **almost empty**, if you can believe it. Author memoirs are my favorite, but it’s such a big category.

    • I do enjoy author memoirs, and I like reading memoirs by more or less ordinary people who try something unusual or have a cool adventure. Some are hits, some are misses, but I have managed to read a bunch that I’ve really liked!

  3. Great list! I read non-fiction every now and then but they tend to be more history-, current events-, and religion- & philosophy-oriented xD Even a bit of economics at one point. But every now and then I’d come across a really interesting title that mixes subjects a bit, like Ted Bishop’s The Social Life of Ink 🙂

    My TTT

    • She’s written a couple of follow-ups to Don’t Let’s Go, but I haven’t read them. (I think there’s a brand new one that just came out and is getting great reviews). I really do enjoy reading memoirs about people with weird/unusual childhoods. 🙂

  4. I’ve only ever read Stiff by Mary Roach, but I LOVE her and I can’t wait to read her other books. She’s a gem! 🙂 Also, have you read Into the Wild?

    • I have read Into the Wild — but kind of hated it (*ducking while people throw things at me*). I still have Jon Krakauer’s more recent book, Where Men Win Glory, sitting on my shelf to read. Have you ever seen Mary Roach in an interview? She’s hilarious as a speaker too. I still want to read Spook and Gulp!

      • It’s the only one I’ve read by him so far, though I’ve started Into Thin Air once before. I should really pick it up again! I haven’t, but now I must certain will! I love the topics she picks, too 🙂

  5. I don’t read a ton of non-fic, but ALL of those sound interesting! I’ll have to check a few of them out. 😀 I recently read one called Midnight Dreary by John Evangelist Walsh. It was an investigation into the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe. I thought it was fascinating. 😀 My TTT

  6. Another non-fiction list. I need to read more non-fiction. I’ve adored all the ones I’ve read. I just never seem gravitated to that side of the library.

    Sigh…another unofficial book resolution for the year: read more non-fiction.

    • Ha, I rarely gravitate to that side of the library either… and that’s also been one of my resolutions! What can I say? I can’t seem to leave fiction long enough to give much else a try. 🙂

    • I have to keep reminding myself to branch out more and spend time with non-fiction as well. I often do find books that I love — but it’s just hard to leave my little fiction-reading world to try something new and different. 🙂

  7. Excellent list! The Poisoner’s Handbook has been on my TBR pile for years. Glad to hear that it’s good. And I loved Don’t Go to the Dogs tonight. Such an interesting bio! Conquest by Andrea Smith, Borderlands by Gloria E. Anzaldúa, and Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson are few non-fiction books I really loved.

    • Are there good hockey books? I’m still laughing over the fact that I read a sports book (and my family is still laughing at me as well). I suppose it’s good to branch out once in a while, and in this case, I was really pleasantly surprised!

  8. I haven’t read any of these, but I’m definitely going to check a few of them out now that I know they exist. I’m interested in The Poisoner’s Handbook, If You Lived Here, Packing for Mars, The Blind Side, and anything by Jon Krakauer is gonna be good! I’ve been on a non-fiction reading kick lately, so I can’t wait to pick these up! Great list!

    • Thank you! Any particular non-fiction books that you thought were especially good? I love non-fiction when the writing style almost tricks me into forgetting that I’m not reading a novel (if that makes any sense). 🙂

      • I’ve been into biographies and memoirs lately, so I’ve been reading Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, and I just picked up Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. I’m also re-reading Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer because Chris McCandless’s sister recently wrote a book about her experiences regarding her brother (the subject of Into the Wild). Finally, I’ve been into reading science non-fiction lately too. Like I just read a book called The Planets by Dava Sobel, and it was very interesting. She describes the history of the discovery of each planet as well as the characteristics of each planet. It was fascinating! 😀

        • Thanks! I actually just gave Yes Please as a gift, and I was tempted to borrow it back and read it myself. The Planets sounds really interesting — I’ll have to go look it up. 🙂

  9. I’m not much of a non-fiction reader, too, but there’s one that I really liked and learned a lot from. It’s entitled The Radical Leap by Steve Farber, it’s about extreme leadership and management. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your top ten!

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