Many people prefer fiction to nonfiction, however after reading these 5 creative nonfiction pieces, you may begin to think differently!

Stack of nonfiction books, ready to be read!
Creative nonfiction has quickly become my favorite genre.
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

I’ve read a lot of nonfiction between working as an editor for a journal and reading for fun. Through this, I realized that nonfiction doesn’t fit into one category. The best nonfiction flawlessly blends fiction with the truth. It’s interesting enough to pull you in, while still being grounded in reality. Keep reading to find out 5 of my favorite nonfiction books that you should try.

Citizen 13660, Miné Okubo

Cover of Citizen 13660, showing some of Okubo's art.
Citizen 13660 cover

To be honest, I read this book for a class in college. The class focused on Asian-American literature, and Citizen 13660 was on the reading list. Since it was a class, I wasn’t looking forward to the assigned reading, but this book blew me away.

Citizen 13660 follows Okubo, a Japanese-American who’s taken into ‘protective custody’ after the events at Pearl Harbor. The book follows her life at camps in California and Utah. Each page of this book includes a drawing from Okubo, followed by a few paragraphs.

This forerunner to the modern graphic memoir is a must read, both for the important — and shameful — period of American history it documents and its poignant beauty.

Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo

Okubo drew every picture in the book while living in these camps. Rather than seeing a reflection of her life, readers get to experience it at the same time it happened. Because Okubo included a vast amount of pictures, it’s very easy to picture everything that is happening in Citizen 13660. Her artwork and the very personal story drew me in, making for a memorable story.

Such, Such Were They Joys, George Orwell

Such, Such Were the Joys was published as an extended essay, and was later released in book format.
Such, Such Were The Joys cover

Such, Such Were The Joys is a biographical essay from George Orwell. In the essay, Orwell reflects on his childhood, when he was a student at Crossroads Prep School (now called St Cyprian’s). This piece gives readers a first-hand experience of religious views and teachings in the early 1900s. Since this is an essay, it’s short and sweet. You can find it on many websites as well.

Although the title seems cheerful, this piece is far from joyful. At the prep school, Orwell is constantly beaten for his ‘sins’, such as wetting the bed. Orwell focuses on wealth, status, social class, and growing up as well. Like Fun Home, which appears later on this list, the writing is obviously from an older version of Orwell. Instead of assuming the voice of a young boy, he writes as himself and how he views his life.

…I did not wet my bed again–at least, I did wet it once again, and received another beating, after which the trouble stopped. So perhaps this barbarous remedy does work, though at a heavy price, I have no doubt. 

George Orwell

If you want to read more from George Orwell, try Shooting an Elephant. This is a short story about Orwell’s time in Burma, where he’s tasked with shooting an elephant. Unlike Such, Such Were The Joys, it’s unknown if this is fiction or non-fiction. Some parts of the story seem real, while others seem improbable. I think all good creative nonfiction has some fiction sprinkled in, though.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel

Cover of Fun Home, showing Alison Bechdel and her father.
Fun Home cover

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is another graphic memoir. The book is filled with smaller sections, piecing together Bechdel’s childhood. All of her writing is retrospective, so she reflects on the events of her life in great detail.

Most of the stories throughout the book deal with Bechdel’s father. It’s very interesting to see how the events that happened in Bechdel’s childhood made her who she is today. Her comics pack in a lot of information, so readers can really understand everything that she’s feeling. Below, you can see a simple panel of Bechdel playing with her father, but the text helps us understand how she processes this memory.

In early 2020, musical version of Fun Home was announced. Jake Gyllenhaal will play Bechdel’s father, but there is no official release date yet. I’m excited to see how the themes in this book will be tackled on the big screen, and how Bechdel’s inner monologue will be shown.

Scene from Fun Home of Bechdel with her father.
An image from Fun Home of Bechdel and her father.
Photo from Rorschach Book Club

Citizen, Claudia Rankine

Cover of Citizen, showing a torn hoodie as a symbol for many of the secctions of this book.
Citizen cover

Citizen is a prose poetry book that deals with racial issues in the United States. Rankine doesn’t stick to a typical poetry book format though. Instead, she includes artwork, images, and even stills from a video. Many of the sections include real people like Serena Williams, Barack Obama, and Trayvon Martin.

Rankine split Citizen into sections that cover micro-aggressions, examples of racism, and her reflections on the matter. She wrote the book in 2014, but it’s still very relevant today. There has been a lot of racial tension in 2020, making this book an important read.

…what is wonderful about Rankine’s writing is that it works like an out-of-body experience: she encounters her subject full-on and rises above it. And she never loses her wide-angle reach. Above all, she shows how racism itself gets relegated.

The Guardian

I found this book compelling because every subject is very real; Rankine talks about racism in a way easy to put in context, using actual situations and examples. Most of us know the people she writes about, so we can develop our own emotions on the subject, rather than living through her emotions.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

Cover of Hyperbole and a half, showing Allie Brosh and her dog.
Hyperbole and a Half cover

I saw Hyperbole and a Half at the clearance section of a bookstore, and decided to buy it. I am so glad I did, because this book is my favorite on the list. It started as a series of posts on Allie Brosh’s blog, which were finally compiled and turned into a book.

The art style in Hyperbole and a Half seems very simple and unappealing, but Brosh is amazing at conveying emotion through these little stick figures. She tackles topics including owning pets, her childhood, family, and her severe depression. In many book sections, readers can see Brosh live with depression and how she deals with it. 

This book became one of my favorites because of its simplicity. Serious topics are often dealt with in a serious manner. However, Brosh takes a serious topic and creates a fun environment. She left me laughing and crying at the same time. Hyperbole and a Half helps the reader understand depression. This book will leave you reflecting upon yourself and how you deal with the depressive situations discussed in the book.

Reading about her struggles left me wanting to know where she’s now. Unfortunately, she’s incredibly private about her life and not much is known about her now. Wherever she is though, I hope she’s okay.

Do you have any favorite nonfiction books not mentioned above? I’m always searching for new books to read, so comment below some of your favorite pieces! Be sure to check out the above books, maybe one of them will even become your favorite.