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The Best Non-Fiction Book

Last updated on July 2, 2019

We looked at the top 10 Non-Fiction Books and dug through the reviews from 78 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, Research Teacher, The Deliberate Reader, History Net, World War II Database, Kirkus Reviews and more. The result is a ranking of the best Non-Fiction Books.

Best Non-Fiction Book

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Our Picks For The Top Non-Fiction Books

Show Contents
Our Take
Experts Included
Pros
Cons
  The Best Overall

Tara Westover

Educated: A Memoir

Overall Take

"Educated: A Memoir," written by Tara Westover, is an awe-inspiring story that leaves readers talking about it for months afterwards. The talented Westover has received critical praise for her incredible perceptiveness on her own childhood and family. Her incredibly compelling story has also won over readers who don't typically gravitate... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Gates Notes, The Atlantic, Book Browse and 4 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Her background says something important about the US: that even in a place of great opportunity, you can grow up without any idea of how to touch its white-hot centre. This memoir tracks all the ways that traditional American life..."

David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon

Overall Take

Excellent research and unparalleled descriptions of a truly mysterious crime story leaves readers racing through the "Killers of the Flower Moon" by David Grann. Elaborate details  will keep you gripped on this chronicling of the historical murders. Some have said they found it hard to keep track of the many... Read More

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, The Guardian, Medium, The Berkshire Edge, The New York Times and 4 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil."
Cons
"Plot-wise, about a third of the way through the story, the mastermind of the murders is revealed without fanfare, in the middle of a paragraph. This made me wish that Grann would have signaled to us, with chapter separations, or..."

Dalai Lama / Desmond Tutu / Douglas Carlton Abrams

Dalai Lama The Book of Joy

Overall Take

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, New York Journal of Books, Hippocampus Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Spirituality and Practice, The Gilmore Guide to Books and 2 more. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" This book is a one-of-a-kind teaching, a rare delight for those who want to live their lives more fully, with the ability to look adversity in the eye and find their first reaction is to breathe deeply and smile."
  The Best Value

Regina Calcaterra

Etched in Sand

Overall Take

In "Etched in Sand," Regina Calcaterra recounts her brutal and often abusive childhood and how its impacted her in adulthood. Readers won't be able to help but be moved by Calcaterra's emotional story. Her novel also contains some invaluable empowerment messages about children in the foster system.

Experts Included
DWYM Entertainment Experts plus Good Reads, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, In Search Of The End Of The Sidewalk. Along with user reviews from Amazon.
Pros
" Calcaterra narrates her story in the present tense, which adds a painful immediacy and urgency to an already gut-wrenching account."
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We identified the majority of the non-fiction books available to purchase.
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Expert Reviews Included

Reviews from our DWYM category experts and analysis of some of the most respected sources including: Good Reads, Research Teacher, The Deliberate Reader, History Net, World War II Database.

60,375

User Opinions Analyzed

We also incorporate user reviews from the leading retailers including Amazon.

Our experts reviewed the top 10 Non-Fiction Books and also dug through the reviews from 78 of the most popular review sites including Good Reads, Research Teacher, The Deliberate Reader, History Net, World War II Database, Kirkus Reviews and more. The result is a ranking of the best of the best Non-Fiction Books.

DWYM is your trusted roduct review source. Our team reviews thousands of product reviews from the trusted top experts and combines them into one easy-to-understand score. Learn more.

Look for the DWYM seal for products that are the best in their category.

The Best Overall

Tara Westover Educated: A Memoir

Expert Summarized Score
9.9
10 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.4
7,027 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

"Educated: A Memoir," written by Tara Westover, is an awe-inspiring story that leaves readers talking about it for months afterwards. The talented Westover has received critical praise for her incredible perceptiveness on her own childhood and family. Her incredibly compelling story has also won over readers who don't typically gravitate to non-fiction.

What other experts liked
Her background says something important about the US: that even in a place of great opportunity, you can grow up without any idea of how to touch its white-hot centre. This memoir tracks all the ways that traditional American life...
- The Guardian
February 14, 2018 | Full review
This story, remarkable as it is, might be merely another entry in the subgenre of extreme American life, were it not for the uncommon perceptiveness of the person telling it. Westover examines her childhood with unsparing clarity, and, more startlingly,...
- The New Yorker
June 18, 2018 | Full review
Educated is an amazing story, and I get why it’s spent so much time on the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It reminded me in some ways of the Netflix documentary Wild, Wild Country, which I recently...
- Gates Notes
December 3, 2018 | Full review
Tara westover’s one-of-a-kind memoir is about the shaping of a mind, yet page after page describes the maiming of bodies—not just hers, but the heads, limbs, and torsos of her parents and six siblings, too. The youngest child in a...
- The Atlantic
March 1, 2018 | Full review
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing ties with those closest to you. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers,...
- Book Browse
Tara Westover is living proof that some people are flat-out, boots-always-laced-up indomitable. Her new book, Educated (Random House, 334 pp., ★★★★ out of four), is a heartbreaking, heartwarming, best-in-years memoir about striding beyond the limitations of birth and environment into...
- USA Today
February 19, 2018 | Full review
Tara Westover, raised by Mormons in rural Idaho, cautions that her memoir, “Educated,” is “not about Mormonism.” But, unquestionably, it is about what happens when religious fanatics split the world into true believers and followers of Satan.
- Newsday
February 23, 2018 | Full review
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing one’s closest ties.
- Lit Lovers
The extremity of Westover’s upbringing emerges gradually through her telling, which only makes the telling more alluring and harrowing.
- The New York Times
March 1, 2018 | Full review
What other experts didn't like

The Best Bang For Your Buck

Regina Calcaterra Etched in Sand

Expert Summarized Score
9.6
4 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
9.4
3,277 user reviews
The DWYM Expert Take

In "Etched in Sand," Regina Calcaterra recounts her brutal and often abusive childhood and how its impacted her in adulthood. Readers won't be able to help but be moved by Calcaterra's emotional story. Her novel also contains some invaluable empowerment messages about children in the foster system.

What other experts liked
Calcaterra narrates her story in the present tense, which adds a painful immediacy and urgency to an already gut-wrenching account.
- Kirkus Reviews
June 8, 2013 | Full review
This true story of a woman surviving domestic abuse as a child, emancipating herself as a teenager, and then becoming a successful attorney is courageous and fascinating, written with a descriptive restraint that recalls moments of tragedy and perseverance with simplicity and subtlety.
- Publishers Weekly
June 24, 2013 | Full review
It’s heartbreaking and unimaginable that an human being could treat another in such a vile way, but Regina and her siblings are an amazing story of a family who does its best to look out for each other, individuals who pursue their own paths to a happier life and one...
- In Search Of The End Of The Sidewalk
September 5, 2014 | Full review
What other experts didn't like

Overall Product Rankings

1. Tara Westover Educated: A Memoir

Overall Score: 9.9
Reviews Included: 12

2. David Grann Killers of the Flower Moon

Overall Score: 9.8
Reviews Included: 12

3. Dalai Lama The Book of Joy

Overall Score: 9.7
Reviews Included: 11

4. Candice Millard Destiny of the Republic

Overall Score: 9.7
Reviews Included: 11

5. Timothy Egan The Worst Hard Time

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 12

6. Regina Calcaterra Etched in Sand

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 7

7. Jimmy Wayne / Ken Abraham: Walk to Beautiful

Overall Score: 9.5
Reviews Included: 7

8. Elizabeth Kolbert The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Overall Score: 9.4
Reviews Included: 12

10. Douglas Preston The Lost City of the Monkey God

Overall Score: 9.0
Reviews Included: 11

Our Non-Fiction Book Buying Guide

  • Before breaking into the world of non-fiction novels, decide what sub-genre you are most interested in reading about. This will help narrow down your search in this broad genre.
  • Talk to a librarian about any new authors that are getting great reviews. They will have first-hand feedback from readers of those novels.
  • Use the resources at your fingertips, such as the internet, to research. There are plenty of websites that offer book reviews. So utilize them and find a great non-fiction novel to get started reading today.
  • If you are taking a college course and want supporting documentation on a topic you are learning about, the non-fiction novels will definitely add some dimension to your education.

DWYM Fun Fact

  • The psychology niche offers non-fiction readers outrageous and factual stories, such as “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Trials” by Oliver Sacks.
  • “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote was supposedly the very first non-fiction novel ever written.
  • Among the top 100 most popular non-fiction books are “The History of the World” by Walter Raleigh, “Common Sense” by Tom Paine, “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” by Benjamin Franklin and “Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb.
  • Another term for non-fiction novels is literary non-fiction.
  • Non-fiction does not discriminate by age or ethnicity. Every age can read and enjoy a book from the non-fiction genre. These days, non-fiction novels are becoming increasingly incorporated into education and the lives of young adults.
  • Good Sense Reading offers a list of age-classified, non-fiction books for parents to utilize on their website.

The Non-Fiction Book Tips and Advice

There’s nothing better than a great book. Some prefer an imaginative story or fiction book while others thrive on non-fiction, factual storylines that tell us of real events. The non-fiction genres offer readers an incredible glimpse into the lifestyles and characters of actual people but often written with a dramatic flair. Truman Capote, the author of “In Cold Blood,” was said to have started this genre in 1965 when the novel was published (although, this is often not believed since there are several other non-fiction novels published previous to this date). There are countless sub-genres within the non-fiction novel genre, so be sure to check them all out before making your purchase.

There are quite a few ways that authors have approached non-fiction novels. Although the characters are real people and most of the facts are actual, there can be some imaginative writing in between, especially in conversations and such. The other approach is packed with all facts and strictly to the point, so the reader doesn’t have to guess what is factual versus imaginative. Both are interesting reads; however, you’ll have to decide for yourself which is most captivating.

Perhaps one of the most well-known sub-genres of non-fiction novels is a memoir or autobiography. Most have read a memoir in part, if not in entirety, during their school years. Memoirs are perhaps the most accurate works you will find in the genre since they are narrated by the individual themselves. In the autobiography, “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover, readers will get an entire picture of a woman overcoming her lack of primary education and isolation when she enters the intimidating realm of college. Another incredible memoir is “Etched in Sand” by Regina Calcaterra. She relives her abusive childhood in this autobiography to show readers that you can not only survive but overcome trials and tribulations that befall you at a young age. The autobiography sub-genre offers people the chance to walk in someone else’s shoes and relive the experiences that shaped them. If you are a fact seeker, autobiographies will give you the most accurate account of a person’s life.

Within the sub-genre of autobiography, readers will find many narratives of famous people. If you are interested in pop culture and would like to learn more about how people rise to fame, this category is right up your alley. The book, “Walk to Beautiful” by musician Jimmy Wayne is one of the best non-fiction novels out there. He discusses the difficulties of being poor and the disorganization of the broken foster care system, based on his personal life experiences. A perfect combination of reality and fame come together in this category.

For a thriller-type read, the true crime sub-genre is where you’ll want to look for a book. This category is typically packed with mystery, violence, law and forensics — all based on actual events. The novels are usually embellished with creative writing here and there, but the main storyline is factual and true to the real events. In the book, “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann, you will find the retelling of the murders of several people in the wealthy community of Osage Nation in Oklahoma. You will find all the thrills in this non-fiction novel along with an accurate depiction of events around the murders. True crime non-fiction books are just the thing if you want to learn more about a specific historical crime.

There are countless other categories in the non-fiction novel genre. They have so much to offer from education to insight and instructions. Non-fiction educational options typically involve history books, science stories, psychology novels and literary novels. Whenever you want to travel, you will surely pick up a travel novel, and same with self-help. If you want to learn about sports, you’ll find facts stick with you when you read a non-fiction novel based on that sport. Technology, house and garden and social science are even more categories you’ll discover when you delve into non-fiction novels, and you won’t find a better way to learn and get inspired than through the books within this genre.

No matter what your walk of life is, non-fiction novels will give you the tools you need to constantly be improving yourself, increasing your knowledge and learning with a multi-faceted approach. Non-fiction novels of all categories should be a staple in every home.