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Reading Great Books That Make You a Better Writer: 7 Best Nonfiction Books by Journalists

Updated on March 8, 2011

Best Nonfiction Books That Read Like Novels

Journalists are natural storytellers, so it's no surprise that when they get around to writing a book, the result is more gripping that anything Steven King or Michael Connelly could send your way. Literary nonfiction is the high water mark of writing.

These are amazing stories, all the more amazing for being true. Truth may be stranger than fiction. These books show it's also more entertaining.

Learn from the masters. Just reading these books will make you a better writer. You will have fun along the way.

As for reading technique, why not try underlining lines that catch your eye or your fancy. Or if you prefer not to mark up and annotate your books, copy passages that you admire into a notebook. Maybe the writer has a clever way with words, or maybe the writer is able to distill a very complicated idea into a short, uncomplicated sentence. Read and re-read these passages and try to understand why the writer chose those words and that order to tell them. Just by being a close, careful reader, you will learn a lot.

Seven gems of creative nonfiction

In Cold Blood: The original. And still the measure of how it's done.

Born To Run: This book taught me about a mysterious, little-known ethnic group in the wilds of Mexico, and got me considering a 50-mile race. One of the most exciting, breathless, intricate books I've ver read.

Liar's Poker: Before there was Moneyball, there were the bond markets. This story of high finance reads like a movie, and is made all the more eerie by the recent financial meltdown.

Into Thin Air: A front seat, wind-protected and warm, to an Everest climb that had more drama, and more of a story, than anyone anticipated.

As Nature Made Him: Ever wonder wonder if gender identity is nature or nurture? Read this to find out. This chilling story will stick with you.

We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Here we take a turn to the serious, with a reporter's view of the genocide in Rwanda. The story made me cry, and it took me places that I didn't want to go, but it was done with such a sensitivity I am glad I went.

In A Sunburned Country: Bill Bryson is one funny man. Any book by him is a winner, but I am partial to this one because he had many of the same observations and thoughts I did when I visited Australia, but he wrote them so much better.


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    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes, those are all great writers and big thinkers, but there's nothing wrong with being an accessible writer - especially if you can tell a story well.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Sigh. Try reading with a little more ambition. Joan Didion? Michael Heller? Susan Sontag? David Foster Wallace?