Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Nonfiction November Reading List

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It's November, and bookworms all over the world are participating in the Nonfiction November reading challenge. We're devoting the month to reading nonfiction and learning new things. Here are the books I'll be reading in the next few weeks.

🖉  Nonfiction Reading List  🌍

Crossing The Sea: With Syrians On The Exodus To Europe by Wolfgang Bauer & Stanislav Krupar

Politics / War / Journalism

Award-winning journalist Wolfgang Bauer and photographer Stanislav Krupař were the first undercover reporters to document the journey of Syrian refugees from Egypt to Europe. Posing as English teachers in 2014, they were direct witnesses to the brutality of smuggler gangs, the processes of detainment and deportation, the dangers of sea-crossing on rickety boats, and the final furtive journey through Europe. Combining their own travels with other eyewitness accounts in the first book of reportage of its kind, Crossing the Sea brings to life both the systemic problems and the individual faces behind the crisis, and is a passionate appeal for more humanitarian refugee policies.

Why I want to read it: I'm interested in the stories of refugees because becoming a refugee is one of my worst nightmares. It would be completely terrifying to lose your home, your family, your country, everything. I want to understand the conflict in Syria and what the people who live there are going through.

Buy it on Amazon

Banished: Surviving My Years In The Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain & Lisa Pulitzer

Memoir / Religion

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news, the members holding signs with messages that are too offensive to copy here, protesting at events such as the funerals of soldiers, the 9-year old victim of a Tucson shooting, and Elizabeth Edwards, all in front of their grieving families. The WBC is fervently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti- practically everything and everyone. And they aren't going anywhere: in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WBC's right to picket funerals.

Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it's perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later.

Lauren spent her early years enjoying a normal life with her family in Florida. But when her formerly liberal and secular father set out to produce a documentary about the WBC, his detached interest gradually evolved into fascination, and he moved the entire family to Kansas to join the church and live on their compound. Over the next seven years, Lauren fully assimilated their extreme beliefs, and became a member of the church and an active and vocal picketer. But as she matured and began to challenge some of the church's tenets, she was unceremoniously cast out from the church and permanently cut off from her family and from everyone else she knew and loved.

Banished is the story of Lauren's fight to find herself amidst dramatic changes in a world of extremists and a life in exile.

Why I want to read it: I'm interested in this book for the exact reason the synopsis says. I've seen Westboro Baptist Church on TV and thought, Who are these people? Why does this exist? Maybe the author knows the answer to those questions.

Buy it on Amazon

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story Of The Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar


In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident—unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes—have led to decades of speculation over what really happened. This gripping work of literary nonfiction delves into the mystery through unprecedented access to the hikers' own journals and photographs, rarely seen government records, dozens of interviews, and the author's retracing of the hikers' fateful journey in the Russian winter.

Why I want to read it: I'm pretty sure I've seen every TV show about the Dyatlov Pass incident. It's a weird and fascinating historical mystery that may never be solved because there are too many things in the wilderness that can kill a person. I'm interested to see if this book has any new insights.

Buy it on Amazon

Hey Ranger! True Tales Of Humor & Misadventure From America's National Parks by Jim Burnett

Memoir / Humor / Nature

In his thirty years with the National Park Service, Jim Burnett has seen it all: boat ramp mishaps that have sent cars into the water; skunks in the outhouse and bears at the dumpster; visitors looking for the bridge over the Grand Canyon.

Why I want to read it: A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about weird questions I've been asked while working at a state park. People in the post's comments were like, "You should make this a book!" Then I was like, "I bet somebody already has." So, I went Googling and, yep, somebody already has. I laughed when I saw the book's title because look at the graphic I created for my blog post. I didn't know about the book when I created it. Apparently, the author and I have both experienced random strangers screeching," HEY RANGER!" at us.

Raising The Dead: The Men Who Created Frankenstein by Andy Dougan

Science / History

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein, introduced readers around the world to the concept of raising the dead through scientific procedures. Those who read the book were thrilled by this incredible Gothic adventure. Few, however, realized that Shelley’s story had a basis in fact. What she imagined as her modern Prometheus was a serious pursuit for some of the greatest minds of the early 19th century. It was a time when scientists genuinely believed, as Frankenstein did, that they could know what it feels like to be God. Raising the Dead is the story of the science of galvanism.

Why I want to read it: I considered not buying this book because I object to the title. It's about the "men" who created Frankenstein, but Mary Shelley was a woman! She's the one who literally created Frankenstein! Anyway, I bought the book because it sounds too weird to pass up. I've read many books about the history of medicine. They're almost always bizarre and fascinating. Humans are brilliant. And very, very strange.

Buy it on Amazon

Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, And Dying In The National Parks by Andrea Lankford

Memoir / Nature

For twelve years, Andrea Lankford lived in the biggest, most impressive national parks in the world, working a job she loved. She chaperoned baby sea turtles on their journey to sea. She pursued bad guys on her galloping patrol horse. She jumped into rescue helicopters bound for the heart of the Grand Canyon. She won arguments with bears. She slept with a few too many rattlesnakes.

Hell yeah, it was the best job in the world! Fortunately, Andrea survived it.

In this graphic and yet surprisingly funny account of her and others’ extraordinary careers, Lankford unveils a world in which park rangers struggle to maintain their idealism in the face of death, disillusionment, and the loss of a comrade killed while holding that thin green line between protecting the park from the people, the people from the park, and the people from each other. Ranger Confidential is the story behind the scenery of the nation’s crown jewels—Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smokies, Denali. In these iconic landscapes, where nature and humanity constantly collide, scenery can be as cruel as it is redemptive.

Why I want to read it: Um . . . I guess I'm reevaluating my life choices? Do I want to continue working as a park ranger? Nature is cool, but OMG humans are exhausting. I just need everyone to remain calm and alive while I'm multitasking as fast as I can. I need several naps.

Buy it on Amazon

Which nonfiction book do you want to read next?


  1. Dead Mountain was a very unsettling read!

  2. Hope you'll enjoy all of these! Hey Ranger does sound fun, and how hilarious that the title matches your blog graphic! :D

  3. I'm reading Dead Mountain right now and it's awesome! So well researched and written. :D

  4. The cover for Hey Ranger is fantastic. I hop you enjoy all these books!

  5. Nonfiction books are my favorites so I'm so happy to see your list here. I'm adding Banished to my to-read list.

  6. Raising the Dead has been on my radar, too. Good luck getting your reading of nonfictions done!

    1. How are you doing on your reading list? I am reading nonfiction, just not the ones I listed. Ha!

      My discussion post on rereading

  7. I am always reading non-fiction books... finally getting around to reading Braiding Sweetgrass and enjoying it.

  8. Looks like a good list. I had to laugh about people looking for a bridge over the Grand Canyon. Are people just morons or what? Your line of work is tough ... though I'm glad you try to save our natural environs & wildlife. Otherwise it seems people would trash it ... how bleak a thought. Enjoy your reads.

  9. Most of these sound really interesting. I'm behind on my reading, but I'd like to get at least one nonfiction book read this month. I have many on my shelves!

    Lauren @ www.shootingstarsmag.net