I once had a professor come up to me at a coffee shop, tap me on the shoulder, and ask when I was going to finally, finally give up reading novels – a classic literary theorist for you. I wish I’d said something clever, but I didn’t. Instead, I smiled a bit, shrugged, and when he left, continued to chew through my contemporary lit like the fiction h*e I am.
For readers also asked, imploringly, when they’re ever going to settle down with a nice, thick-necked, good ol’ nonfiction book, I have the remedy for your woes. Five nonfiction reads complete with literary style, narrative form, and pseudo-character development. No stop-start reading with these books.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
A wickedly smart, “pull back the curtain” memoir about Wiener’s time in the tech industry, Uncanny Valley has rich, stream-of-consciousness passages begging for highlights and tabs. She not only interrogates the young, white maleness propping up the industry but also the deeper consequences of tech we’re only beginning to unveil. Prompted by the fiction-inspired absurdity of Silicon Valley, I kept waiting for the hookah-smoking caterpillars to appear or the all-mighty tech cult leader to reveal his dastardly plans. Neither happened, but I blew through this book as though they did.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
A genre-bending memoir describing a romantic relationship gone awry, Machado’s In The Dream House pulls no punches. It’s a visceral retelling that is simultaneously gripping and horrifying; with each chapter, I wanted to throw the book across the room, only to pick it up seconds later, mystified by Machado’s prose. The memoir uses the dream house metaphor and a slew of narrative styles to break down and rebuild the author’s experience with abuse, trauma, and eventual healing.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
A collection of essays and short stories published posthumously after young Yale grad Marina Keegan unexpectedly passed away, The Opposite of Loneliness is a vibrant, feeling thing. It’s difficult to describe what her work includes – first love, first not-totally-love-but-not-not love, climate change anxieties, liminality, Celiac’s disease. While it’s not wholly nonfiction, Keegan’s collection is well worth the read. There is so much life underpinning each of her pieces; to read her work is to remind yourself of the often unrecognized wisdom of naivete and youth.
The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Every bookshelf should boast Baldwin’s classic epistolary work. Originally published during the Civil Rights Movement’s height, The Fire Next Time contains two letters – the first addressed to Baldwin’s nephew, James, and the other addressed to all Americans – on the duplicity of freedom, citizenship, and dignity in the United States. Baldwin’s narrative on racial inequality is both provocative yet sobering, and unexpectedly beautiful. His words will ring through your ears long after you finish this book.
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life by Samantha Irby
The tomfoolery Irby describes in this book (read: ultra-long-form blog post) will inevitably cause you to chuckle, then laugh out loud, and then as a grand finale, snort unabashedly. Her essays do not straddle the obscene or the gauche; they fully embrace them. From bathroom horror stories to false-alarm heart attacks to a Bachelorette-inspired thought experiment, Irby says it like it is. The audiobook, narrated by Irby herself, makes the experience that much better.