A Non-Fiction Adventure

A Non-Fiction Adventure

Expanding on the idea of Jillian’s Classics Club, Michelle of the True Book Addict has decided to start a non-fiction reading club, aptly named A Non-Fiction Adventure. Similar to the Classics Club, the idea is to choose a number of non-fiction books and a date in the future by which to have the books read. I already have a ton of non-fiction on my TBR pile–and on my wish list–so it was pretty easy for me to come up with my list. I am going to commit to reading 130 non-fiction books over the next five years. You’ll find my initial list below, but I’m reserving the right to alter it just in case I find myself bored with a certain subject or interested in something new. I have also started a Non-Fiction Adventure bookshelf on Goodreads, for those who would like to follow my progress there. If you’re interested in taking on this challenge, Michelle has started a Non-Fiction Adventure blog where you can sign up and get more details.

Start date: April 1, 2012
Goal finish date: April 1, 2017
Struck-through titles = read (If I choose to review a book, a link to the review will be posted next to the title.)

(I’ve done my best to sort the books by subject, but many of them belong in more than one category.)

4/25/12 UPDATE: Because I’m always finding new nonfiction that I’d like to read, I will be adding to this list. I’m still officially committed to reading only 130 nonfiction books over the next five years, though.


  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man — James Weldon Johnson
  • Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 1 — Mark Twain
  • Assata — Assata Shakur


  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo — Tom Reiss
  • The Bolter: Edwardian Heartbreak and High Society Scandal in Kenya — Frances Osborne
  • Emerson: The Mind on Fire — Robert D. Richardson, Jr.
  • Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace — D.T. Max
  • Examined Lives: From Socrates to Nietzsche — James S. Miller
  • Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 — Paul Hendrickson
  • How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living — Karen Karbo
  • J.D. Salinger: A Life — Kenneth Slawenski
  • John Brown — W.E.B. DuBois
  • Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women — Harriet Reisen
  • Salinger: A Biography — Paul Alexander
  • The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin (A Literary Life Shattered by Scandal) — Barry Werth
  • Vladimir Nabokov — G.M. Hyde

Correspondence / Interviews / Journals

  • Door Wide Open — Joyce Johnson
  • Letters Home — Sylvia Plath
  • The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 1: 1907-1922 — Ernest Hemingway
  • The Letters of John Cheever — John Cheever
  • The Journals of John Cheever — John Cheever
  • Kurt Vonnegut: The Last Interview and Other Conversations — Kurt Vonnegut & Tom McCartan (editor)
  • Saul Bellow: Letters — Saul Bellow
  • Tiny Beautiful Things — Cheryl Strayed
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath — Sylvia Plath


  • Bullied — Carrie Goldman (Review)
  • Keepin’ It Real: School Success Beyond Black and White — Prudence L. Carter
  • Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation — Chris Emdin


  • Economics Unmasked: Creating a Value System for a Sustainable World — Manfred Max-Neef
  • The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy — Raj Patel

Essay Collections

  • Arguably: Essays — Christopher Hitchens
  • Bad Feminist — Roxane Gay
  • Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness — Rebecca Walker (editor)
  • Both Flesh and Not — David Foster Wallace
  • Consider the Lobster and Other Essays — David Foster Wallace
  • Danse Macabre — Stephen King
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim — David Sedaris
  • Emerson: Essays and Lectures — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Famous Drownings in Literary History — Kevin Haworth (Review)
  • Farther Away: Essays — Jonathan Franzen
  • A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney — Andy Rooney
  • How to Be Alone: Essays — Jonathan Franzen
  • In Rough Country: Essays and Reviews — Joyce Carol Oates
  • A Man Without a Country — Kurt Vonnegut
  • Palm Sunday — Kurt Vonnegut
  • A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again — David Foster Wallace
  • Telling Times: Writing and Living, 1954-2008 — Nadine Gordimer

Feminism / Gender Studies

  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism — bell hooks
  • Encompassing Gender: Integrating International Studies and Women’s Studies — Mary M. Lay (editor)
  • F’em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls — Jennifer Baumgardner
  • Feminist Theory from Margin to Center — bell hooks
  • The Gendered Society — Mark P.O. Morford
  • The Guy’s Guide to Feminism — Michael Kaufman & Michael S. Kimmel
  • In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose — Alice Walker
  • Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future — Jennifer Baumgardner
  • Reality Bites Back: How TV is Making Us Sexist, Shallow, and Socially Irresponsible — Jennifer L. Pozner
  • Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions — Gloria Steinem
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches — Audre Lorde
  • Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write about Real Sex — Erica Jong
  • True Confessions: Feminist Professors Tell Stories Out of School — Susan Gubar
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: With Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects — Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle — Thomas Sankara


  • Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet — Jennifer Homans
  • Black in Latin America — Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • The Black Muslims in America — C. Eric Lincoln
  • Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison — Michel Foucault
  • Frozen in Time — Mitchell Zuckoff (Review)
  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin — Erik Larson
  • The Invisible Line: A Secret History of Race in America — Daniel J. Sharfstein
  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present — Harriet A. Washington
  • A Train in Winter — Caroline Moorehead (Review)
  • When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America — Ira Katznelson
  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth — Reza Aslan

Literature / Writing Stuff

  • The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison — Justine Tally
  • The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time — Jeff Deck & Benjamin D. Herson
  • The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder — Erin Blakemore
  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor — Thomas C. Foster
  • How to Read Novels Like a Professor — Thomas C. Foster
  • The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life — Nava Atlas
  • Literary Theory: An Introduction — Terry Eagleton
  • On Writing — Stephen King
  • Remembered Rapture: A Writer at Work — bell hooks
  • A Room of One’s Own — Virginia Woolf
  • Why Read Moby-Dick? — Nathaniel Philbrick


  • African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe — Doris Lessing
  • All Rivers Run to the Sea — Elie Wiesel
  • The Alley of Love and Yellow Jasmines — Shohreh Aghdashloo
  • Before the Rain — Luisita López Torregrosa (Review)
  • Blue Nights — Joan Didion
  • Brother, I’m Dying — Edwidge Danticat
  • Down These Mean Streets — Piri Thomas
  • Dust Tracks on a Road — Zora Neale Hurston
  • The End of Your Life Book Club — Will Schwalbe (Review)
  • The Freedom Writers Diary — Erin Gruwell & The Freedom Writers
  • Here Comes Trouble — Michael Moore
  • Hitch-22 — Christopher Hitchens
  • How To Be a Woman — Caitlin Moran
  • I Love a Broad Margin to My Life — Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Immortal Bird — Doron Weber (Review)
  • Just Kids — Patti Smith
  • Lit — Mary Karr
  • The Little Red Guard — Wenguang Huang (Review)
  • Lizz Free or Die — Lizz Winstead (Review)
  • The Long Walk to Freedom — Nelson Mandela
  • Magical Thinking: True Stories — Augusten Burroughs
  • Memoir’s from the Women’s Prison — Nawal El Saadawi
  • The Memory Palace — Mira Bartok
  • My Father’s Name: A Black Virginia Family after the Civil War — Lawrence P. Jackson
  • Naked — David Sedaris
  • Nothing to Be Frightened Of — Julian Barnes
  • Off the Road — Carolyn Cassady
  • Orange is the New Black — Piper Kerman
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates — Wes Moore
  • Redefining Realness — Janet Mock
  • Sharp: A Memoir — David Fitzpatrick (Review)
  • Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter’s Memoir — Fatima Bhutto
  • Summer at Tiffany — Marjorie Hart
  • Sweet Tooth — Tim Anderson
  • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading — Nina Sankovitch
  • Townie — Andre Dubus III
  • Twelve Years a Slave — Solomon Northup
  • Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots — Deborah Feldman
  • Whip Smart: A Memoir — Melissa Febos
  • White Out — Michael W. Clune
  • A Widow’s Story — Joyce Carol Oates
  • Wounds of Passion: A Writing Life — bell hooks
  • The Year of Magical Thinking — Joan Didion

Politics / Social Justice

  • Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire — Angela Y. Davis
  • The Angela Y. Davis Reader — Angela Y. Davis
  • Barack Obama in His Own Words — Barack Obama & Lisa Rogak (editor)
  • Black Americans: The FBI Files — Kenneth O’Reilly
  • The Campaign of the Century — Greg Mitchell (Review)
  • Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise — Barack Obama
  • Dead Reckoning: Executions in America — Greg Mitchell
  • Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts — James C. Scott
  • Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle — Chris Hedges
  • The Fire Next Time — James Baldwin
  • Hopes and Prospects — Noam Chomsky
  • Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements — Malcolm X
  • Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City — Antero Pietila
  • Notes of a Native Son — James Baldwin
  • Revolutionary Suicide — Huey P. Newton
  • Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back — Amy Goodman & David Goodman
  • Street Wise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community — Elijah Anderson
  • Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice — Paul Kivel
  • Walking With The Comrades — Arundhati Roy
  • Who Owns Death?: Capital Punishment, the American Conscience, and the End of Executions — Robert Jay Lifton & Greg Mitchell

Religion / Atheism

  • Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious — Chris Stedman (Review)
  • God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything — Christopher Hitchens
  • The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever — Christopher Hitchens

Science / Environmentalism/ Ecology

  • Contact — Carl Sagan
  • Cosmos — Carl Sagan
  • The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark — Carl Sagan
  • Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives — Michael Specter
  • EcoKids: Raising Children Who Care for the Earth — Daniel D. Chiras
  • EcoVillage at Ithaca: Pioneering a Sustainable Culture — Liz Walker
  • The Emperor of All Maladies — Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos — Brian Greene
  • Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis — Al Gore
  • Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space — Carl Sagan
  • Power Down: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World — Richard Heinberg
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking — Susan Cain
  • The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn’t–and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger — Dan Gardner
  • Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier — Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human — V.S. Ramachandran
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate — Naomi Klein
  • The World According to Pimm: A Scientist Audits the Earth — Stuart Pimm

Travel / Travel Memoirs

  • História, História — Eleanor Stanford (Review)
  • The Innocents Abroad — Mark Twain
  • Naples Declared — Benjamin Taylor (Review)
  • A Sense of Direction — Gideon Lewis-Kraus (Review)
  • Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail — Cheryl Strayed


  • The Anthology of Rap — Adam Bradley
  • How to Get Things Really Flat: Enlightenment for Every Man on Ironing, Vacuuming and Other Household Arts — Andrew Martin
  • In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise — George Prochnik
  • The Lifespan of a Fact — John D’Agata & Jim Fingal
  • The Noble Hustle — Colson Whitehead
  • What It is Like to Go to War — Karl Marlantes

The Book I’m Not Sure I Have the Stomach to Read

  • Eating Animals — Jonathan Safran Foer
  • Great list! Wow, there are so many here I haven’t heard of! I’m planning to read The Vindication of the Rights of Women and A Room of One’s Own too. I’m planning on doing 50, but once I get going on my list, it might expand (might…yeah, right!). The kid in a candy store all over again. I’m going to start on April 1st too since I know I can’t tackle anything this month.

    • I can’t even remember where I heard about half of these books… mainly from blogs I read and NPR and places like that. I’m quite excited to be doing this with you.

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  • Heather, I’m impressed. So much energy in you. I can’t believe you plan to read all these in addition to the Classics Club. I haven’t finished compiling for the Classics and so I don’t think I will join this one. I don’t even know where I would get such books from, except A long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. Lol.

    I never knew Thomas Sankara authored a book on Gender studies. I find that redeeming, if he is the Sankara I know. He was one time the Head of State of Burkina Fasso in West Africa who came to power through a coup d’etat. As coups go in Africa, he was also ousted and killed by his close friend, Blaise Campoare who is still the incumbent.

    • Quite a few of these are short works, or I probably wouldn’t have made such a long list. I’m still not sure that I’ll get through all of them, but I’m going to do my best. 🙂

      I looked up Sankara’s history, and he is the same man you just taught me about. I had no idea. Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention. I forget where I heard about the book, but I wouldn’t have looked him up until I started reading it. Now I’m even MORE interested in him. It sounds like he had some great ideas, so it’s unfortunate that he became so authoritarian. I’m going to look into that whole situation further now. Thank you, again!

      • Please do. I remember that when he was killed lots of people in Ghana were sickened, not least being the then head of state John Jerry Rawlings who had sort of mentored Sankara when he came to power. In Ghana we had a roundabout named after him, ‘Thomas Sankara Circle’, though in later democratic dispensation, the name was later changed by a democratic government.

        That he was betrayed by his friend and at such a young age (below 30), well did not sit well with Africa. It was felt that he had good ideas to implement but was not given the chance. But then he had also seized power from a predecessor. Mind you, all these were going on at a time when Africa was trying to find its feet with the concept of democracy. But then I’m sure you’d find all these information on the net or elsewhere.

        Thanks, Heather, because I’d also look up his book and read it.

  • I see you have Mary Karr’s Lit on your list. Have you read The Liar’s Club?

    • I haven’t… should I read that first? Do you recommend it?

      • Yes! You should definitely read The Liars’ Club first. It’s an amazing book and you can see the journey that Karr went on and how she ends up where she is now. I have to tell you that it’s also really heratbreaking and it’s the book that started the whole memoir boom.

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