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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

25 PAWsome Non-Fiction Books That Read Like Fiction

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It’s been forever since we did a Fine Wine Friday post. So here ya go. No extra charge:


“Alright Kimber. Step away from the Narrative Non-Fiction (NNF) book stash and I’ll forget all about the incident with that double cheeseburger.”

“Drat! I was kinda hoping Mom already forgot about that. But anyway, you’re probably asking, What’s ‘narrative non-fiction’ and why should I care?”

Bet this tastes great if I can ever get it off the fence!

Glad you asked. Basically, narrative non-fiction is non-fiction that reads like a novel instead of a dry-as-burnt-toast textbook. Or War and Peace. ( Mom said I oughtta throw in that last one.)

What’s “Narrative Non-Fiction”?

Mostly, NNF tells a true story about actual events and real peeps in a fun and engaging way! You know. Like me!


Well. Mom and I? We’ve combed through millions of “Best Narrative Nonfiction” lists. (Well, okay. Maybe only 999,999. But who’s counting?) Some we agree with. Some we’re like, Gag me with Meow Mix.

The Best

So we decided to come up with our own “Best” list of narrative nonfiction. Based on books we’ve actually read. Not titles someone else told us about. Arguably, some titles may fall more into the Memoir/Autobiog genre. But, hey! We’re flexible, okay? Besides. All are great reads, worthy of your valuable time and attention. And kibble. With bacon.

25 Top NNF Titles

Here, in no particular order, is our totally subjective, 100% unscientific list of top 25 narrative non-fiction titles. How many do you recognize?

1.A Night to Remember: The Sinking of the Titanic

By Walter Lord, 1955

A riveting account of the Titanic‘s fatal collision and the behavior of the passengers and crew, both noble and ignominious. 

2. Marley and Me: Life & Love With the World’s Worst Dog (You knew that was coming, right?)

By John Grogan, 2005

Here’s our full review.

The heartwarming and unforgettable story of a family and the wondrously neurotic dog who taught them what really matters in life.

3. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America Along the Appalachian Trail

By Bill Bryson, 2006

The author’s hilarious and insightful first-hand account of his trek along the Appalachian Trail, and the people he meets along the way.

4. Through Gates of Splendor

By Elisabeth Elliot, 1957

In 1956, five young men, including Elliot’s husband, traveled into the jungles of Ecuador to establish communication with the fierce Waodani Tribe. In a nearby village, their wives waited to hear from them. The news they received—all five missionaries had been murdered—changed lives forever. A lasting story of God’s grace and great courage. Gripping. Compelling. Amazing. A perennial favorite.

5. Peace Child (1975) and 6. Lords of the Earth (2008)

By Don Richardson

Peace Child: Headhunting cannibals who used their victims’ skulls as pillows, the Sawi people of New Guinea seemed to still be living in the Stone Age. It was to these people that Don and Carol Richardson went in 1962, risking their lives to share the gospel and tell of the true Peace Child.

Lords of the Earth: This unforgettable true story of faithful determination and zeal against overwhelming odds brings unlikely characters together in a dramatic, unexpected ending. Readers will find their perceptions of how God moves enlarged and inspired by this classic.


7. A Year in Paradise

By Floyd Schmoe, 1959  

An eloquently written story laced with observations of the region’s natural history, flora and fauna. If you love Mount Rainier as much as we do, A Year in Paradise is a must-read!

8. Joni: An Unforgettable Story

By Joni Eareckson Tada, 1981

The award-winning story of a young woman who triumphed over devastating odds to touch countless lives the world over with the healing message of Christ.

9. Out of Africa

By Isak Dinesen, 1937

In 1914 the author left her native Denmark to start a coffee plantation in the hills of Nairobi. Her account of her African adventures, written after she had lost her beloved farm and returned to Denmark, is that of a master storyteller, a woman whom John Updike called “one of the most picturesque and flamboyant literary personalities of the century.”

10. The Hiding Place

By Corrie ten Boom, 1971

The riveting true story of how Corrie and her family saved many of God’s chosen people during WWII, and how there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. An international best-seller.

11. Night

By Elie Wiesel, 1956

Elie Wiesel was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home to Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel’s memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man.

12. Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way 

 By Jon Krakauer, 2011

I read Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea several years ago. It was spellbinding. Inspirational. Mammoth. It was also a lie. In this meticulously researched book about good intentions gone awry, investigative journalist Jon Krakauer discovers that Mortenson isn’t what he appeared to be

13. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

By Anne Frank, 1947

14. The Giver of Stars

By Jojo Moyes, 2019

Okay, okay. So it’s actually “historical fiction.” But it’s based on actual events. And besides. We loved it!

Read our full review here.

15. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

By Jon Krakauer, 1999

Investigative journalist Jon Krakauer offers a gritty true story about the tragic consequences of overcrowding on Mt. Everest. Compelling. Heart-pounding. Gut-wrenching. A modern day outdoor classic.

16. Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds

By Joy Adamson, 1960 Read our full review here.

At its core, Born Free is a love story. With great sensitivity and precision, Adamson chronicles the mutual affection and bond between a magnificent lioness and the humans who loved her enough to set her free. Another classic!

17. The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Survivors and Spies Captured The World’s Most Notorious Nazi

By Neal Bascomb, 2013

Read our full review here.

The fascinating, thrilling story of what happened between the end of WWII and the arrest of Adolf Eichmann. It’s riveting, with powerful, non-stop action that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting.

18. The Valley of The Shadow of Death: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption

By Kermit Alexander, 2016 With Alex Gerould and Jeff Snipes

Check out our full review here.

A gripping true crime memoir about how the author and former San Francisco 49er lost several members to a murder-for-hire gone wrong. And its aftermath.  An incredible true story from an incredible man.

19. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

By Anne Dillard, 2013

The author’s story of a dramatic year in Virginia’s Roanoke Valley where Dillard sets out to chronicle incidents of “beauty tangled in a rapture with violence.” Exquisite writing.

20. Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

By Laura Hillenbrand, 2010

See our review here.

May 1943. An Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappears. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appears. It’s that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who’s struggling to a life raft. So begins one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The survivor’s name is Louis Zamperini. This is his story.

21. Let’s Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage

By Lisa Beamer, 2002

Lisa Beamer, wife of September 11 hero Todd Beamer, reveals what really happened on the ill-fated United Flight 93, and shares poignant glimpses of a genuine American hero. 2003 ECPA Gold Medallion Award winner!  

22. A Walk Across America

By Peter Jenkins, 1979

Several decades ago a disillusioned young man set out on a walk across America. This is the book he wrote about that journey — a classic account of the reawakening of his faith in himself and his country. Find out more here.

23. The Man Who Listens to Horses

By Monty Roberts, 2008

Before there was Robert Redford and The Horse Whisperer, there was Monty Roberts.  He’s an American original whose gentle “Join-Up” training method reveals the depth of communication possible between man and animal. Fascinating.

24. Sunrise to Paradise: The Story of Mount Rainier National Park

Ruth Kirk, 1999

Beautifully written and lavishly illustrated with photos of the world’s most magnificent mountain (not that we’re biased or anything). The story behind the story of our favorite national park, Sunrise to Paradise should be in every Rainieraholic’s library.

25. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

By Candace Fleming, 2014

The riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand as WWI raged outside their door and political unrest grew. The consequences for the entire family were tragic.

Read more about Fine Wine Fridays here.

What’s your favorite NNF title? Why?

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