Top Ten Non-Fiction Books I’ve Read and Loved


Hello and welcome to yet another Top Ten Tuesday post! This week’s theme had to do with books that are outside my usual genre (i.e. Young Adult), and I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing it down to include just non-fiction titles.

I actually don’t read a lot of non-fiction books, but the ones I’ve read I normally really enjoyed. Maybe it’s a sign that I should be reading more of these things? I just love reading about people’s lives, especially those ‘unconventional’ ones I’ve never experienced before. 🙂

1) Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed

Life can be hard: your lover cheats on you; you lose a family member; you can’t pay the bills—and it can be great: you’ve had the hottest sex of your life; you get that plum job; you muster the courage to write your novel. Sugar—the once-anonymous online columnist at The Rumpus, now revealed as Cheryl Strayed, author of the bestselling memoir Wild—is the person thousands turn to for advice.

GENRE: Psychology, Self-Help

READ IT FOR: Advice and insight on the everyday things and life issues. I know I mention this book way too often and I know that anything that can be categorised as self-help usually turns people off, but oh my god, go read this book. Tiny Beautiful Things is so powerful, so sad, so freeing, and overall just wonderful.

2) Nothing to Envy – Barbara Demick

Award-winning journalist Barbara Demick follows the lives of six North Korean citizens over fifteen years–a chaotic period that saw the death of Kim Il-sung, the rise to power of his son Kim Jong-il, and a devastating famine that killed one-fifth of the population. Demick brings to life what it means to be living under the most repressive totalitarian regime today–an Orwellian world that is by choice not connected to the Internet, where displays of affection are punished, informants are rewarded, and an offhand remark can send a person to the gulag for life.

GENRE: Asian History, Asian Culture

READ IT FOR: A snapshot of how people really live in this private communist country. I’ve been interested in North Korea ever since I found out about it, and Nothing to Envy was one of those books that were not only easy to read but also incredibly informative and engaging.

3) Somewhere Inside – Laura Ling & Lisa Ling

On March 17, 2009, Laura Ling and her colleague Euna Lee were working on a documentary about North Korean defectors who were fleeing the desperate conditions in their homeland. While filming on the Chinese–North Korean border, they were chased down by North Korean soldiers who violently apprehended them. Laura and Euna were charged with trespassing and “hostile acts,” and imprisoned by Kim Jong Il’s notoriously secretive Communist state. Kept totally apart, they endured months of interrogations and eventually a trial before North Korea’s highest court. They were the first Americans ever to be sentenced to twelve years of hard labor in a prison camp in North Korea.

GENRE: Memoir

READ IT FOR: Yet another snapshot of how North Koreans live, but told from the eyes of an American journalist in captivity. Somewhere Inside can feel a little bit political at times, but it’s also pretty hopeful.

4) Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—now with all-new, never-before-published material.

New York Chef Tony Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny, inspiring memoir/expose. Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine”.

GENRE: Memoir, Cooking

READ IT FOR: The juicy secrets of the restaurant industry. For the record, I am OBSESSED with food/cooking shows and really, really love anything to do with it. Kitchen Confidential is funny and incredibly honest.

5) A Child Called It – Dave Pelzer

This book chronicles the unforgettable account of one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history. It is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable, alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous, unpredictable games–games that left him nearly dead. He had to learn how to play his mother’s games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an “it.”

GENRE: Memoir, Child Abuse

READ IT FOR: A horrifying account of child abuse. I read A Child Called It as a teenager and was incredibly sickened by what happened in this book. It was also the first ever memoir I ever really read, I think.

6) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Amy Chua

All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence.

GENRE: Memoir, Family & Relationships, Asian Culture

READ IT FOR: A funny account of a Chinese ‘Tiger’ mother and how strict she can be with her kids. Perhaps to feel good about your own parenting, if you’re a parent. I can personally relate to some of the things Chua has forced her kids to do, so this was just hysterical (though occasionally frustrating) to me.

7) Becoming Sister Wives – Kody, Meri, Christine Brown, Robyn Brown

In many ways, the Browns are like any other middle-American family. They eat, play, and pray together, squabble and hug, striving to raise happy, well-adjusted children while keeping their relationship loving and strong. The difference is, there are five adults in the openly polygamous Brown marriage—Kody and his four wives—who among them have seventeen children.

GENRE: Memoir, Family & Relationships

READ IT FOR: A quick view into the world of LDS polygamists living in Utah. Becoming Sister Wives is probably a really weird one to include on this list, but it was incredibly interesting to me. Just go in without any prior judgment, if you can. 😛

8) Women of the Pleasure Quarters – Lesley Downer

Ever since Westerners arrived in Japan, they have been intrigued by Japanese womanhood and, above all, by geisha. This fascination has spawned a wealth of extraordinary fictional creations, from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly to Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha. But as denizens of a world defined by silence and mystery, real geisha are notoriously difficult to meet and even to find. As a result, their history has long been cloaked in secrecy.

GENRE: Asian History, Asian Culture

READ IT FOR: A better understanding of geisha, Japan’s female entertainers and hostesses. Admittedly I didn’t actually finish this book, but what I did read (the first half) was pretty enlightening, although it was much too expository and long-winded for me at the time of reading.

9) Seductive Poison – Deborah Layton

From Waco to Heaven’s Gate, the past decade has seen its share of cult tragedies. But none has been quite so dramatic or compelling as the Jonestown massacre of 1978, in which the Reverend Jim Jones and 913 of his disciples perished. Deborah Layton had been a member of the Peoples Temple for seven years when she departed for Jonestown, Guyana, the promised land nestled deep in the South American jungle.

GENRE: Memoir

READ IT FOR: An account of one of the most devastating mass suicides ever known, the Jonestown ‘massacre’ (1978), which took the lives of 900+ people, told from the eyes of a survivor. Seductive Poison is haunting and left me with that sick feeling in my stomach every time I think back to this incident.

10) Chinese Cinderella – Adeline Yen Mah

Adeline Yen Mah returns to her roots to tell the story of her painful childhood and her ultimate triumph and courage in the face of despair. Adeline’s affluent, powerful family considers her bad luck after her mother dies giving birth to her. Life does not get any easier when her father remarries. She and her siblings are subjected to the disdain of her stepmother, while her stepbrother and stepsister are spoiled. Although Adeline wins prizes at school, they are not enough to compensate for what she really yearns for — the love and understanding of her family.

GENRE: Memoir, Asian Culture

READ IT FOR: What it’s like growing up in a traditional — and I mean traditional — Chinese family. I read Chinese Cinderella as a kid and it has stayed with me ever since.

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your TTT list this week? Let me know in the comments or leave me a link! 


53 thoughts on “Top Ten Non-Fiction Books I’ve Read and Loved

  1. Dang girl, when you say non fiction you’re not joking haha. I’m not really a fan of this genre, the only memoir I’ve read was A Work in Progress by Connor Franta and it definitely did not have the deep emotional issues the ones you’ve read have


  2. Chinese Cinderella is a book I keep seeing popping up here and now. I’m glad you mentioned it because I think it’ll be a good one to read 🙂 There are so many books out there on geishas (and other aspects of Chinese history) and I’m soooo keen to tackling that subject but for some reason haven’t yet! Great list 🙂


    • I actually haven’t read a book on Chinese geishas (I think courtesans are what they’re called), but I would really love to! That aspect of culture (selling sex for pleasure, essentially) fascinates me quite a bit no matter what country it is, haha. I’m on the lookout for books on Japanese host clubs. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Out of this list I’ve read and enjoyed #4, #5, #6 & #10…most of them a long time ago…since I do enjoy non-fiction from time to time 🙂 This was a good list. I did mot participate this week since I couldn’t come up with a list of books which I enjoyed and were outside my comfort zone…lol


  4. This list was so incredibly interesting to me! I almost never read non-fiction books, but all of these sounded so interesting. Somewhere Inside and Seductive Poison sound so good, in particular. I love history, and I feel like those memoirs would be really insightful to specific moments in time.


    • I’m glad! I love history as well and some memoirs really get into the nitty-gritty of particular events you probably wouldn’t ever get from history textbooks. Out of the two you mentioned, I prefer Somewhere Inside — I think it was a better-written story, if that makes sense. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have never really been drawn to non-fiction books. I don’t know why but I just can’t seem to get sucked in to those books. However, Tiny Beautiful Things seems like a book I might be able to get into. I’ll have to look in to that one. 😀


  6. I am not familiar with any book on this list, but I have to admit that Tiny beautiful Things sounds fantastic. It is right that self-help books never make it to my tbr but this one is going to change that 🙂


    • Self-help books never make it to my TBR as well, but I have read quite a few. I wouldn’t say they changed my life or anything but some of them are really quite insightful, haha. Hopefully you like Tiny Beautiful Things — it’s one of those books that have really stayed with me long after I read it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh wow, great picks for this week. I’ve never really picked up non-fiction books before, I suppose I should as I do want to try and branch out a little from my comfort genre, but either way you’ve given me a good starting point if I ever pick up a non fiction book 😀 they all sound really interesting!


    • Thanks! It was quite a tough list to assemble.:P

      Personally with non-fiction, it really depends on what you’re looking for — if you want stories and histories, go for the memoirs; if you want to learn something in particular, there are guide books on pretty much all subjects, etc. Hope you find something you like! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean, some TTT topics are easier than others but I found this one hard, I don’t tend to deviate from my comfort genre a lot.
        I’m definitely feeling a trip to the library coming on now, I do love history and obviously in the past I’ve picked up time travel books, and the occasional historical fiction, but maybe I’ll try some memoirs next!


          • See for me it’s been a little of the opposite. I’ve branched out into different genres since starting my blog, and I’ve discovered a lot of new books I never would have picked up if I hadn’t been on WordPress.
            No that makes perfect sense, I kind of feel that way about reading historical fiction. Obviously it hasn’t all happened the way memoirs have but parts of it are true.


  8. I love this list! I have been looking for more non-fiction to read, since that is absolutely outside of my comfort zone. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


    • Thank you! I do think people tend to sway one way or another — either they read a lot fiction and not a lot of non-fiction or vice versa, but I found that with the right books, you can very easily go out of your comfort zone. Hope you enjoy! 🙂


  9. I’ve read A Child Called It. That book haunts me to this day, in fact I probably will never ever forget it. The horrors take my breath away. I won’t say everyone has to read it, but we must open our eyes to the realities of the world.


  10. The only book I’ve read from this list is “A Child Called It,” and it tore my heart into pieces. I’m kind of interested in the “Kitchen Confidential” since I’ve been getting more and more into following chefs/the restaurant biz (despite not knowing how to cook to save my life). Awesome topic! I usually don’t see many people talking about non-fiction books.


    • I read A Child Called It as a teenage and was just super sad about it! I haven’t read it as an adult, and I wonder if it’ll still have the same effect on me.

      I actually follow chefs and restaurant biz a bit more too nowadays — I think it’s the foodie culture taking over the world, haha — and I looove cooking shows. Kitchen Confidential is pretty funny. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Same. I always wonder if the books I read so long ago would still have the same impact on me. Then again… am I REALLY ready for that tear fest again?
        That has to be it. Cooking shows and competitions are my life. I’m seriously obsessed… which is starting to give everyone I know and love the wrong idea concerning my prowess in the kitchen.


        • I’m definitely not ready! I think the thought that these horrible, horrible things have actually happened just makes my reading experience even sadder. 😦

          Hey, I watch this cooking show pretty much every night (I even schedule my dinners around it) and I’m not a kitchen whiz either. Maybe one day… 😛

          Liked by 1 person

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