Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

When Katy asked in her excellent post on Monday what non-fiction books had moved us, I began to think about those which fool us into forgetting they are non-fiction at all. So I made a short-list, hoping you would add to it. I have not read all books on the list - and they aren't all in my TBR pile - but I have relied on reviews and recommendations also. Among them are award winners, required reading for school students, or have been made into movies, so the story elements are strong .

  • Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. I found it to be a seamlessly woven tale with properly fleshed out characters which had me cheering for the underdog at the end. I would read more non-fiction books if they were guaranteed to convince like this one.
  • The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
  • Calico Captive by Elizabeth Speare (while technically historical fiction, it is based on an actual narrative diary written in 1807)
  • Farewell to Manzanar by Jeane Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. This one was listed as an 'autobiographical novel'.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Diary of Anne Frank
  • Catch Me if You Can by Frank Abagnale
  • Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  • Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, John/Elizabeth Sherrill
Again, we see the impact that can be made combining important issues with well developed characters, whether true or fictionalized. Can you add to the list? Or what issues do you think deserve to be set in story? We'd love to hear!


Patti Hill said...

Oh boy, Debbie, my TBR pile grows and grows. I've read Seabiscuit, The Hiding Place, and a couple others. I definitely forgot I was reading nonfiction. A controversial biography by Edmund Morris, Dutch, about Ronald Reagan is an interesting study in form. He adds a fictional character to narrate the story. I was a little miffed at first but realized the power of a strong narrator after a few indignant days.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Two memoirs off the top of my list:
Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner
Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck

~ Wendy

Lori Benton said...

My favorite reads-like-fiction nonfiction that I read in 2010 is Harry Bernstein's The Invisible Wall. He started writing it when he was 93, and it was published when he was 96 (in 2007). He's since written two "sequels" and I plan to read them as soon as I can.

Jan Cline said...

I think that much of Max Lucado's books read like a story. He is such a good storyteller and weaves them into the insights he shares.

Jenny Mertes said...

I highly recommend Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. It's the story of the Galveston hurricane of 1900, "the deadliest hurricane in American history." I picked it up after my first trip to Galveston and couldn't put it down.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

You're right, Patti - my TBR pile grows, too! Thanks to all of you ladies for the great suggestions.
Wendy, I enjoyed Girl Meets God, also. Lori, what an incredible, inspiring feat to be multi-published in his 90s! Jan, I agree with you about Max Lucado, and Jenny, thanks for the heads-up about 'Isaac's Storm.'

Latayne C Scott said...

Love your list. I got to meet Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place) before she passed on to glory, and have corresponded with Frank Abagnale (Catch me if You Can) in the course of writing secular articles about identity theft. OF COURSE he is charming, even on the phone.

I have read Paul Johnson and Stephen Ambrose whose nonfiction often reads like fiction. Love them both.

The only Christian equivalents I read much is Philip Yancey. His nonfiction is always gripping and narrative.

l said...

I remember having to read The Hiding Place in tenth grade for literature. Before reading it, I whined and complained because I hated non-fiction and biographies. Once I got into the book, however, I devoured it just like all the fiction I read.

Megan Sayer said...

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby was simply amazing. For anyone who's not familiar it is the memoir of the editor of French Elle magazine, who, after a massive stroke, was paralysed except for some slight head movement and being able to blink his left eyelid. He "dictated" this book using his eyelid, giving us an insight about what life is like for him trapped in his own body.

Even more astonishing is that the book sold out of its 25,000 print-run on the first day of publication, and Bauby died in hospital three days later. Truth IS often harder to comprehend than fiction.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott.
Walking from East to West by Ravi Zacharias
Galina by Galina whatever her name was who was a famous Russian opera diva. She grippingly details the siege of Stalingrad.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

Galina Pavlovna Vishnevskaya According to Google

Kathleen Popa said...

I'm a Christian because of The Hiding Place. And I would have loved to have met Corrie Ten Boom.

Let me add to this list, The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo, by Paula Huntly. I read it perhaps five years ago, and I still think of it often.

Megan Sayer said...

All this talk about The Hiding Place made me go to the back of the deep dark cupboards and hunt out an old copy of another biography of her. You'll never guess what was sitting just underneath it...Ex Mormons: Why We Left by Latyane C Scott. Wow. I'd learned a lot from that last time I read it...15 years ago...I'd never heard of that author back then though: )

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

We first read Latayne's book, The Mormom Mirage, about twenty years ago when my husband was a youth pastor. It's crazy to me that I know her now. I never would have believed it. :-)

Latayne C Scott said...

Awww... Megan and Debbie. You are too kind.

Debbie, you've seen me first thing in the morning, so some of that stardust certainly disappeared at that moment.

I wanted to add another book -- Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. He is a master of writing nonfiction that is almost too descriptive to seem true.

Unknown said...

Where I'm From, Where Poems Come From, a book by George Ella Lyon, is a combination memoir/poetry workshop from this Appalachian writer. A friend introduced me to Lyon and I started reading her poetry. I am spellbound! She writes of everyday events like birth, death, laundry, with a poetic voice that echoes of our ancient past.

Anonymous said...

"In the footsteps of Jesus" by Bruce Marchiano, who played the part of Jesus in the 'Matthew' DVDs ... I found his story fascinating.

And I have to agree with Jenny. "The perfect storm" was an incredible story ... and sad, because the people were actually encouraged to go to the beach when that storm was moving in!

Anonymous said...

I posted this in response to Kathleen's post yesterday...but I will again...
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou touched my heart deeply and opened my eyes to a culture very different and yet similar to my own. She was so vulnerable and because it was her story...she told it detailed and well and I felt like I was walking right in her shoes sometimes.
And I agree with Latanya about Phillip Yancey...the man is a literary genious...his books are super moving!

Anonymous said...

The Hiding Place is an amazing story, and I had the incredible privilege of going to the Ten Boom home in Haarlem and standing in the hiding place. My husband, daughter and I went to South Africa via Amsterdam, and spent two amazing days there. We went to the Anne Frank museum, which is the actual building where they hid. We left there with such sadness. Then we took a train to Haarlem, and walked around until we found the Ten Boom house museum. Fortunately, we were there on one of the days it's opened, and took the tour. We left there with such faith and optimism. Complete contrast to Anne Frank's. I bought a tiny little dutch clock in the clock shop beneath the Ten Boom home (which is over 500 years old!), and have it sitting by my bed. Overall, what an experience.

I'll add to the non-fiction list: "Lindbergh, The Crime" and the story of Nicolaus and Alexandra (can't recall the actual title). Both were riveting!

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

I really don't know whether to class Ralph Moody's books as memoir or not - they are stories from his early life but they read exactly like first-person fiction. My mom read the whole series (beginning with Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers) aloud and we were all riveted.

Some of David McCullough's books are so fascinating they feel like a novel rather than nonfiction. Probably my favorite was The Path Between the Seas, the story of the Panama Canal.

Christa Allan said...

Reading Lolita in Tehran