2013 Armchair BEA: Non Fiction


May 31, 2013 – Non Fiction

Today’s topic for The Armchair BEA is Ethics and/or non fiction. I’ve decided to focus my post on non fiction. My usual “go to” book is fiction…I read very little non fiction (something I vow every year to change, but do not!). There are so many sub-categories in non fiction: how-to, memoir, history, biography, social justice, philosophy…the list goes on and on.

Today I want to talk about four different sub-categories and give you recommendations of books in those categories.


handling_the_truthFINALI have read a lot of memoir over the years and some of it has really stood out for me. My friend Beth Kephart has just written a book about memoir, which will be published soon, titled Handling the Truth (Gotham, August 2013). I can’t wait to read it because I know Beth’s writing is insanely gorgeous, and I am so interested in what she has to say about writing memoir. The reason I mention Beth’s book is that I think there truly is an art to writing memoir. The books below are books I’ve read which I think nailed the art – they are richly written, profound, and deliver a message beyond simply telling the story of someone’s life. For me, that is the essence of memoir – the message that is ultimately delivered.

Have you read any great memoirs? Or is this a new area of reading for you? Follow the links to my reviews to learn more about the books I recommend:

LetsTaketheLongWayHome.BEST ScentOfTheMissing Translator.Darfur exactreplica HiroshimaInTheMorning

Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (read my review)
Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson (read my review)
The Translator by Daoud Hari (read my review)
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (read my review)
Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (read my review)

Social Justice

On of my favorite sub-categories of non fiction is that of Social Justice. A while back I joined the Social Justice Challenge which was created to “encourage participants to learn about social issues through reading and other media and take action steps towards making a difference.” For me, this was just the catalyst to get me to pick up books I had been wanting to read but just never seemed to find the time. Since then, I’ve tried to read more from this group of non fiction titles – I think it is important that we learn about the issues that impact us as a society because education is one of the most important things to facilitate change.

Have you read many books which address social justice? If not, you might want to start with any of these:

behindthebeautifulforevers thereIsNoMe OtherSideOfRiver

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (read my review)
There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene (read my review)
The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz (read my review)


If you are like me, there is nothing more boring than to read a history text. So I am always looking for interesting non fiction that tells a story about history which captivates me. The best books in this category, for me, are those that feel like fiction but are not.

Have you read any wonderful books which give a glimpse into the past or help you better understand an historical event or events? If you are new to this area of reading, you might want to try any of the following books:

Unbroken EverythingIsBroken maus-i maus-ii

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (read my review)
Everything is Broken by Emma Larkin (read my review)
Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman (read my review)


The last area of non fiction I want to talk about is that of meditation or reflection. Normally, I don’t read these kinds of books, but every once in a while, I find one that really resonates with me. Back in 2010, I was struggling – I had just said good-bye to my Search and Rescue dog, Caribou, and I was grieving. Typical of me, I was keeping a lot of that grief inside, pushing through my days and trying to keep my mind busy with work and daily tasks. And then I picked up an amazing book titled Wild Comfort, and I found something between the covers which spoke to my heart. It is that kind of revelation that is hard to find, but when you do, you feel so grateful for the magic of language and the written word.

Have you ever discovered a book which simply spoke to you at a time when you really needed it? What books that reflect on life, or grief, or happiness have touched your heart? Do you want to read a book that is meditative or reflective? Try one of these:

WildComfort giftfromthesea

Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (read my review)
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (read my review)

Do you enjoy Non Fiction? If so, what sub-categories are YOU drawn to?


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  1. I enjoyed Scent of the Missing also.

  2. I’ve read a decent chunk of the books you’ve listed. Nonfiction is probably my favorite of all genres. I’ve recently read some fantastic ones.

    I’m so glad you mentioned Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Oh my word, what a book! Stunning.

  3. Some great book titles!!

    • Dan on May 31, 2013 at 15:33

    I love non-fiction because it helps me learn and I love to learn. My favorites are Christian living and anything entrepreneurship. But I am open to anything that sounds good. I tend to shy away from memoirs but so many people have mentioned them today!

  4. I read quite a bit of non-fiction, but haven’t tried any of the ones your list. Thanks for the recommendations! Personally, I read any genre of non-fiction, but I think my favorites are probably science and history. Lately I’ve been particularly enjoying pairing non-fiction with fiction that connects somehow, especially historical fiction of course 🙂

  5. Maus has been on my TBR list for the longest time!! I’m going to chekc ot the social justice challenge too! Thanks for the tip!

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