Short nonfiction books are easy to read and snappy but packed full of lessons, teachings, and experiences that are vital to the human experience. The difference between nonfiction and fiction is that we’re reminded of how human we are. Here are a few of our top short nonfiction books. Some are from the New York Times Best Sellers for Nonfiction, the National Nonfiction Book Awards, or the Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction while others are hidden gems.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
“Our humanity is contingent on the humanity of our fellows. No person or group can be human alone. We rise above the animal together, or not at all. If we learned that lesson even this late in the day, we would have taken a truly millennial step forward.”
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli
“And perhaps the only way to grant any justice—were that even possible—is by hearing and recording those stories over and over again so that they come back, always, to haunt and shame us. Because being aware of what is happening in our era and choosing to do nothing about it has become unacceptable. Because we cannot allow ourselves to go on normalizing horror and violence. Because we can all be held accountable if something happens under our noses and we don’t dare even look.”
Why I Write by George Orwell
“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone De Beauvoir
“Some men, instead of building their existence upon the indefinite unfolding of time, propose to assert it in its eternal aspect & to achieve it as an absolute. They hope, thereby, to surmount the ambiguity of their condition. Thus, many intellectuals seek their salvation in either in critical thought or creative activity.”
Teaching a Stone To Talk by Annie Dillard
“I am sorry I ran from you. I am still running, running from that knowledge, that eye, that love from which there is no refuge. For you meant only love and love, and I felt only fear and pain. So once in Israel love came to us incarnate, stood in the doorway between two worlds, and we were all afraid.”
The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry
“Men’s rights. The right to be vulnerable. The right to be weak. The right to be wrong. The right to be intuitive. The right not to know. The right to be uncertain. The right to be flexible. The right not to be ashamed by any of these.”
Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing Creative Genius Within You by Ray Bradbury
“This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today-explode-fly-apart-disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, by reading your story, will catch fire, too?”
Can Your Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young
“Was there any story I could tell that was truly certain? Write your way toward an understanding, a tutor had told me in a creative writing class during my third year of university. But what if you went backward and wrote yourself away from the understanding? Was it better than never to have started at all?”
Ain’t I a Woman by Bell Hooks
“The idealized woman becomes property, symbol, and ornament; she is stripped of her essential human qualities. The devalued woman becomes a different kind of object; she is the spittoon in which men release their negative anti-woman feelings.”
Is there a piece of creative nonfiction you’ve spotted here? Whether it’s men’s rights, female empowerment, the human body, or human survival against all odds – there’s a nonfiction story here for everyone. And it’ll only take you an hour to read!
By Shelby Jones
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