Whether you’re busy with an internship or have the summer to yourself, something about warm nights and the utter lack of tests to study for has always put me in the mood to get lost in a good book.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a great work of fiction. But there’s something about reading a great non-fiction that leaves me feeling smarter, more worldly, and eager to work an interesting piece of trivia I learned from it into conversation.
Here are 10 of my favorite non-fiction books that I thought you girls would enjoy. Be sure to leave a comment at the end and tell me about your favorite non-fiction books! I’d love to hear your suggestions – I’m always looking for something great to read.
1. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
You probably remember seeing this book in every airport terminal, on the front display of every book store, and on the coffee table of many-a living room almost ten years ago. Well, there’s a reason why this book was a best seller – it’s insanely interesting! In fact, this book helped me decide to be an economics major in college.
Freakonomics is a crazy mergence of statistics, pop culture, psychology, and social problems and policies. It uses inconspicuous factors to answer questions or make predictions, and traces back phenomenons to very simplistic factors that (for some reason) no one thought to consider before. The book teaches you to analyze from a different angle, discussing everything from political policies and education reform to using drugs and alcohol and how the name your parents gave you has shaped your life.
This is the perfect book to read if you’re interested in psychology, social problems, and pop culture. You’ll finish the book feeling like a smarter person and a sharper problem-solver!
2. Miss O’Dell by Chris O’Dell
Miss O’Dell tells the story of a regular American girl who befriended and toured with some of music’s biggest names, such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Queen, and Eric Clapton. Don’t be tricked into thinking Miss O’Dell is just another self-indulgent groupie brag journal disguised as a memoir. Rather, Chris O’Dell was effectively the Forrest Gump of rock and roll!
Chris tells the story of her time living with George Harrison, becoming best friends with George’s Pattie Boyd and Ringo’s wife Maureen, dating Leon Russell (among other celebs), her involvement in a love triangle with Joni Mitchell that inspired the song “Coyote,” attending legendary marriages and parties that would certainly be covered on TMZ if it were around back then, George Harrison writing the song “Miss O’Dell,” and so much more.
I don’t want to give away too many of the surprises, but since this story is shared within the first chapter or two, I’ll retell it here:
When Chris first moved to London and worked at the Beatles’ record company, her boss asked her to entertain an American guy they were working with for the night. She describes the evening as being awkward, saying that he was distracted and mopey during their dinner, then wandered back to her flat with her at the end of the night. To make it clear that she wasn’t up for any funny business, Chris rolled her hair in Coke cans and went to bed, while the American boy sat on the floor of her room and played guitar, showing no signs of excusing himself.
When she woke up the next morning, the boy asked if he could play her a song he stayed up writing. They went to her bathroom (for the good acoustics) and for the first time, none other than a young James Taylor played “Carolina On My Mind.” Turns out, James was going through heroin withdrawal (which explains for the odd behavior) and his career took off a few months after that incident.
3. #GirlBoss by Sophie Amoruso
Unless you’ve been sequestered from the internet (which I doubt, considering you’re reading this now), you’ve surely heard of Nasty Gal, the uber-chic online clothing store. Nasty Gal is the first place I go when I’m looking for something rocker chic, sexy, and just a little bit badass. Their online shopping cart has been a CF favorite for years now.
#GirlBoss tells the rags to riches story of Nasty Gal founder Sophie Amoruso, and how she went from having almost zero business knowledge and being totally directionless to becoming the CEO of a 100+ million dollar clothing company. The book has a fun tone, frank business advice, fashion and style ideas, and tons of wise life tips that are applicable to almost any walk of life.
I finished this book with feeling empowered, confident, and ready to take on the world – not to mention, with a MAJOR crush on Sophie!
4. I Wear the Black Hat by Chuck Klosterman
Chuck Klosterman boggled minds everywhere with his witty, observant, and hilarious pop-culture analysis Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. It’s probably one of my favorite books of all time, and Klosterman’s narrative style is one of the reasons why I wanted to start writing.
However, if you were pretty young during the nineties and early aughts, much of his subject matter (including MTV’s The Real World, The Sims, Saved By The Bell, Left Behind, and the Lakers/Celtics rivalry of the ’80s) might seem a little dated to you. I loved reading each of Klosterman’s non-fiction books, but Fargo Rock City might be too specific for a general audience, and you have to be familiar with the “character” of Chuck Klosterman to fully embrace the narrative in Killing Yourself To Live.
In I Wear the Black Hat, Klosterman (in the cerebral, neurotic way that makes us all love him) discusses perceived “villains” our culture has come to know, analyzes why we all hate that said person or situation, and debates whether or not our overall judgement is fair. Additionally, he juxtaposes some of America’s favorite “heroes” with these “villains” and shows us that the two really aren’t that far apart.
From Batman and Fred Durst to Monica Lewinsky and Ted Bundy, Klosterman’s unique way of viewing the world makes this an easy and insanely interesting read – perfect for a long flight or a good binge read on a rainy Sunday.
5. Lean In for Graduates by Sherl Sandberg
Not many people can claim that the title of their book inspired an entire hot-button catchphrase!
Sherl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, took her best-selling book Lean In and updated it to apply to college girls. Her wise words and kind yet commanding tone throughout the book is beneficial to any twenty-something who is new to (or preparing to enter) the work force.
Sandberg’s message is important, and one that will help shape the leadership and legacy of our generation. You won’t want to miss out on what she has to say!
I’ll be real: while this book is interesting and very educational, it’s not exactly one you’ll want to completely devour in one sitting. I recommend reading this book in chunks over a period of time -maybe one chapter every few nights before you go to bed, or something like that!
6. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
If pop culture, marketing, and psychology had a baby, the offspring would perfectly resemble a Malcolm Gladwell book! Gladwell uses case studies and success stories to analyze a concept, then turns these findings into best selling books. He’s written many books, but Outliers is my favorite.
Have you heard of the 10,000 hour rule? Supposedly, it takes a person 10,000 hours worth of practice and experience to become and expert at anything. Gladwell goes into detail about this, and applies it to countless success stories we’ve all heard of – from the Beatles to Bill Gates! This book is chocked full of mind-blowing stories and psychological theories that will leave you feeling like you learned more from the book than that whole semester in Marketing 101.
Like Lean In for Graduates, I wouldn’t exactly recommend reading this book while you paint your nails and watch America’s Got Talent. It requires some brain capacity, and might be tough to binge read. That doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting, though! This book is so jam-packed with anecdotes, analyses, and theories that you should pace yourself when reading it so your brain can fully grasp and retain everything it introduces.
7. Think Like a Guy by Giuliana (DePandi) Rancic
Who isn’t just obsessed with Giuliana Rancic? Before she was the wife of über hunk Bill Ranci, Giuliana DePandi wrote a book that frames dating for girls in the mind of a typical guy. Based on how she’s done, I think we can all agree that our girl G knows a think or two about this!
So, although this book isn’t exactly full of well… say, revolutionary concepts, it’s concise, honest, and gives just enough tough love to kick your butt and get you back on track with your dating life. It’s a very easy and fast read, and I actually find myself re-reading it once year or so. You know, just to stay sharp!
8. You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried by Susannah Gora
Are you a fan of ’80s teen movies? If so, put this on your Amazon wish list ASAP!
You Couldn’t Ignore Me If You Tried details the making of and lasting pop culture influences of many classic 80’s teen films, including Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, St. Elmo’s Fire, The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It also includes chapters on John Hughes, members of the Brat Pack, and how the films from that era shaped the teen movies of today.
This book is a must-read if you consider yourself an ’80s pop culture buff. It’s almost like a reading the trivia from an IMDB page, then learning about the long-term cultural significance of each film. If you haven’t seen a movie, feel free to skip the chapter on it – you’ll enjoy it much more after you’ve seen the flick!
9. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Hands down, Mindy Kaling is my all-time favorite “It” girl. As if I couldn’t love her more (while simultaneously hating her for getting to kiss every adorable guy in Hollywood on her TV show), she goes on to write the funniest, most down-to-earth book that I can relate to on every level.
In this book, Mindy talks about her life growing up and how she broke into show business (by writing a play about Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and playing the part of Matt Damon, by the way). She tells funny stories about life on the set of The Office and spills details about her (maybe) relationship with BJ Novak. She also writes plenty of lists, which (clearly) is my favorite way to present prose as well.
My favorite part of this book? Her many rants and stories about normal, everyday girl problems. One in particular that stands out to me is the chapter where she talks about how she hates leaving parties early and having to say goodbye, and getting crap for it. Mindy says sometimes she just bolts out without saying anything to anyone, like a ghost – something she calls an “Irish Exit.” So relatable!
10. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
If self-deprecation with a healthy dose of snark is your cup of tea when it comes to comedy, David Sedaris is your guy!
Sedaris’s books are (for the most part) autobiographical, talking about his middle class upbringing with six children and his antics living his early adult life in New York City. He is great at poking fun at himself, and he’s fantastic at framing seemingly normal activities into gripping and hilarious narratives. I love all of Sedaris’s books, but Dress Your Family has always been my favorite one… probably because it was the first one I read.
Since his stories are mostly essays, don’t feel like you have to start this book and finish it within a short period of time. In fact, it’s the perfect book to leave in your bag for the bus ride or the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Just brace yourself for more than a few audible giggles – his SantaLand Diaries story in Holidays on Ice left me in tears!
What Do You Think?
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What other non-fiction books would you recommend? What are you planning to read this summer? Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? Leave and comment and tell us what you think!