“There is nothing more luxurious than eating while you read—unless it be reading while you eat.” – E. Nesbit
This week’s list is an oddity in that it’s exclusively comprised of non fiction works. But don’t let that deter you, these are are all page-turners! I’ve also included some of your suggestions at the end as a bonus. Please keep them coming. This is week 5 of our 6-week reading list, so next week’s list will be the last. Stay tuned for one more list and, as always, Happy Reading.
1. Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter (memoir, published in 2009)
This is the gripping tale of a young girl’s journey through Florida’s foster care system. Ashley was removed from her parents at age three and lived in 14 different foster homes before being adopted. Not for the faint of heart, this book shines light in all the dark corners of Florida’s foster care system. This should be required reading for every case worker and every educator. I had a chance to speak to Ashley (now a foster parent herself) to get her thoughts on reforming the foster care system. She is truly an inspiration. Read this one, it was an international best-seller.
2. The Innocent Man by John Grisham (true crime, published in 2006)
Did you know that John Grisham serves on the Board of Directors for the Innocence Project? Did you know that he has only written ONE work of nonfiction? This is it, and proves that truth certainly is stranger (and more disturbing) than fiction. This is the story of Ron Williamson, a promising minor league baseball player who was wrongly convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death. After serving 11 years on death row, he was exonerated by DNA evidence introduced by the Innocence Project and was released from prison only 5 days before his scheduled execution. Netflix released a six-part documentary series based on the book in December 2018. But don’t watch it – read the book instead!
3. Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder (nonfiction, published in 1998)
This is an epic American adventure story that chronicles the opening of Earth’s last frontier. In September of 1857 the ‘SS Central America,’ a side-wheel steamer carrying nearly six hundred passengers returning from the California Gold Rush, sank two hundred miles off the Carolina coast. Over four hundred lives and twenty-one tons of California gold were lost. It was the worst peacetime disaster at sea in American history, a tragedy that remained lost in legend for over a century. But in the 1980s, a young engineer set out to do what no one, not even the U.S. Navy, had been able to do: find the treasure. And after years of intensive searching, he sailed into Norfolk with an incredible fortune in gold coins, bars, nuggets, and dust, plus steamer trunks filled with period clothes, newspapers, books, journals, and even an intact cigar sealed under water for 130 years. Life magazine called it “the greatest treasure ever found.” This will tap your inner explorer. Go for it.
4. A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr (nonfiction legal thriller, published in 1995)
The summer before I started law school, the school sent out a required reading list prior to starting classes. This was on it. John Grisham called it “the most compelling chronicle of litigation” that he has ever read. It is the true story of an epic courtroom showdown pitting a giant corporation against a young and flamboyant lawyer, who ultimately risks (and loses) everything to try and get justice for the death of children. You do not need to be a lawyer to appreciate this book, but it will leave you with a appreciation for the power of a courageous lawyer to make a difference. The movie version was released in 1998 and starred John Travolta and Robert Duvall.
5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (nonfiction, published in 2010)
This is a biography of World War II hero Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash in the Pacific theater, spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years as a POW in three brutal Japanese camps. Unbroken spent more than four years on The New York Times best seller list, including 14 weeks at number one. It is the 5th longest-running nonfiction best seller of all time.
I’ve received dozens of emails with suggestions, and here are a few that stand out. I haven’t read these, but I certainly intend to.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (fiction, published in 2019)
This recommendation was submitted by Joyce Easton. I looked it up and last Sunday this book is still on the New York Times best-seller list at number 7. Reviews consistently describe this as a page-turner and psychological thriller. I’m on hold for a copy at my local library.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (fiction, published in 2007)
This recommendation was submitted by Liliana Guerra. No, it’s not a story about Elizabeth Warren (ok, ok, I couldn’t resist). It tells the story of life on an Indian Reservation from the perspective of a 14-year-old who elects to attend an all-white school outside of the reservation. This book is intriguing for two reasons: it is described as a “graphic” novel and contains 65 comic illustrations that help further the plot, and it has also been banned from some school libraries across the country. I don’t know about you, but a banned book is one I absolutely want to read, especially when recommended by a high school teacher.
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (nonfiction, published in 2012)
This book came highly recommend by both Sara Clements and Tami Holliday. It is a history of attorney (and future Supreme Court Justice) Thurgood Marshall’s defense of four young black men in Lake County, Florida, who were accused in 1949 of raping a white woman. They become know as the Groveland Four and they were posthumously pardoned by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2019. I honestly don’t know how this book never made it onto my radar, but I’m grateful for my friends who sent me this recommendation.
Thank you again for all the feedback, and please keep it coming. Next week will be the last installment of my reading list, so let’s make it count. I do see every email that is sent to this account, but for a faster response you can email me directly at [email protected]