72 Great Nonfiction Titles for Book Clubs

The heart of a great book club is great discussion books, but a great book isn’t necessarily the same thing as a great book club book. Not sure about including nonfiction in your book club selections? Give it a try – narrative nonfiction and memoirs make great choice to promote conversation, because of their emphasis on a story.

If you’re looking for a nonfiction title for your book club that will provide plenty of material for discussion, here are 72 possibilities. And if you need still more ideas, many of the authors mentioned below have additional titles that would make fantastic discussion books. Don’t forget to see what else they’ve written!

A heads-up! I haven’t read all of these, but I’ve compiled the list based on my own reading, and recommendations from trusted friends and resources. Titles I’ve read are marked with an (*)

People are Fascinating

Booked {Reading Together} |72 Great Nonfiction Titles for Book Clubs

  1. * A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
  2. * A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel
  3. * Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life by Eugene O’Kelly and Corinne O’Kelly
  4. * A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master’ by Rachel Held Evans
  5. * The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan
  6. *A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
  7. * Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist
  8. * Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
  9. Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg
  10. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls
  11. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  12. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

People are Fascinating, part 2 (non-United States settings)

  1. * The Flamboya Tree: Memories of a Mother’s Wartime Courage by Clara Kelly
  2. * The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway
  3. * Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller
  4. * Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
  5. * Casting with a Fragile Thread: A Story of Sisters and Africa by Wendy Kann
  6. * An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography by Paul Rusesabagina with Tom Zoellner
  7. Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang
  8. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C. S. Lewis
  9. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
  10. A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story by Qais Akbar Omar
  11. Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China by Jian Ping
  12. A Backpack, A Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka by Lev Golinkin

Bringing History to Life

  1. * The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
  2. * In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irene Gut Opdyke
  3. * The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
  4. * The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
  5. * Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen by Bob Greene
  6. * Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson
  7. * The Assassin’s Accomplice: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln by Kate Clifford Larson
  8. Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
  9. Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie Dillon, Marquise de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution by Caroline Moorehead
  10. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
  11. Speed Kings: The 1932 Winter Olympics and the Fastest Men in the World by Andy Bull
  12. The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz

Adventure/Survival

  1. * Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  2. * Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
  3. * The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury
  4. * The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk by Jennifer Niven
  5. * In Harm’s Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton
  6. * The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander
  7. * Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’s Deadliest Day by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan
  8. Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
  9. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  10. Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson
  11. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides
  12. Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Other Nonfiction

These titles that weren’t easily grouped elsewhere, but are so worth discussing I couldn’t leave them out.

  1. * Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  2. * Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  3. * The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs
  4. Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  5. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  6. Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  8. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
  9. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
  10. Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
  11. How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  12. The Republic of Imagination: A Life in Books by Azar Nafisi

For the Right Kind of Book Club…

These titles won’t fit all book clubs, whether due to language, subject matter, or length, but if your book club is a good match for them they’d provide a wealth of discussion material…

  1. * Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  2. * Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
  3. * 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
  4. * The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin
  5. * Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  6. * Nickel and Dimed: On (not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich
  7. * Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer
  8. * 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker
  9. * The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible by Scot McKnight
  10. * Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
  11. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  12. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

Looking for more discussion books for your book club?

Try 72 Great Novels for Book Clubs

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

This is part of the Booked: Reading Together series. Throughout October, I’m writing all about book clubs.

Check out the archives in case you missed a post.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: The Mislaid Magician
Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Devil in the White City
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads: Team of Rivals

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Comments

  1. My book club read Unbroken last year, and it was one of our favorite reads of the year. I’ll definitely be sharing the rest of this list with them. So many good suggestions! 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great list! We don’t always read nonfiction but maybe I can convince them…

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