My Top 6 Nonfiction Books

Since it’s Nonfiction November, here are my top six works of nonfiction! We’ll start with my sixth favorite and end with my absolute favorite.

6. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

I’ve read On Writing three times, I think: in middle school, high school, and college. I’ve enjoyed it and gotten something new out of it each time. King is probably my favorite modern author. He always has such a great voice in his novels, and that carries into this memoir. I had fun learning about his life, and he has some great writing advice. I actually use his section on dialogue in the class I teach.

5. Graduate Study for the 21st Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities by Gregory Colón Semenza

This is probably one of the most helpful and informative books I’ve ever read. Everything about humanities graduate programs is so mysterious. No one ever really tells you about the stuff you have to do. You’re just expected to figure it out somehow. Semenza demystifies it all and provides a step-by-step guide through graduate studies. I’m glad I read it early on in my PhD, and I honestly wish I had read it in my last year of undergrad. It’s one I’ll be rereading often, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking into a graduate degree.

4. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This graphic novel is truly phenomenal. Both Bechdel’s art and writing are stunning (seriously, look at this quote!), and the story is so moving. It’s a story about Bechdel’s relationship with her father as she deals with his suicide and discovering her sexuality. It was my favorite book from my memoir class last year, and I wrote a paper on it and Bechdel’s other memoir, Are You My Mother?

3. The Brontë Myth by Lucasta Miller

And now we get into the Brontë nonfiction. I don’t think the amount of these will surprise anyone. The Brontë Myth is fascinating because it examines all the previous biographies of the family. There has been a lot of misinformation about the Brontës perpetuated by by some of the early biographies, and Miller explores how this occurred alongside the true story. I thought it was a unique take on a biography, and I had fun reading it.

2. Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman

This is such a fantastic biography. By the time I read this, I already knew most of the information in it. But Harman is a beautiful writer and brings Charlotte to life. It’s easily the best biography of her alone that I have ever read, and it’s one I’ll certainly revisit. I’ll also be checking out Harman’s other works, particularly her biography of Fanny Burney, which will hopefully be just as enjoyable.

1. The Brontës by Juliet Barker

And now for my favorite: the definitive biography of the Brontës. I admire Barker so much; the amount of time, effort, research, and dedication put into this book is amazing. It is a full biography of the whole family, starting with Patrick Brontë coming to England and ending after his death in 1861. There is so much information in here, so many intricate details about their lives. I felt like I truly knew the family after finishing this. It’s one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

What are your favorite nonfiction books? Do we share any?

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