Nonfiction Book Club

Get Your Group Talking! Nonfiction Book Club Suggestions

Nonfiction Book Club

I’ve mentioned it here before, but I strongly believe that nonfiction titles can be great for book club discussions. Sadly, they tend to get overlooked when clubs are picking out their reads. I get it. Nonfiction can be a tough sell, especially for those who rarely pick it up, but these books are sure to get your group talking!


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This teeny, tiny little essay is a great place to start. It’s small but mighty and you’ll have plenty to talk about when you’re done reading.

Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger

A bit of memoir, a dash of investigation and dozens of questions are tossed together in Alice Dreger’s book about the intersection of social justice and research.

The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig

Your book club will be spouting facts for months. This book is just filled to the brim with great bits of information that will make almost anyone thankful for modern medicine.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink

Sheri Fink’s book on the state of a hospital in post-Katrina New Orleans isn’t a light or easy read, but it’s an important one that will raise a ton of moral questions for your group.

Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear

It’s great to be grossed out with a group of friends, isn’t it? Everyone will be desperate to share the (numerous) moments that made them cringe while reading Anything That Moves.

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon

It might sound dry and boring, but the history of Monopoly is actually quite fascinating. Be sure to have a board on hand because you’ll definitely get the itch to play!

Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

The ins and outs of our social media lives, told through our data. It’s absolutely fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Written after the deaths of five men in her life, Ward’s memoir is heartbreaking, but also an incredibly honest and important look at racism and poverty.

Master of the Mountain by Henry Wiencek

This one is a little more academic, so I wouldn’t recommended it for a first rodeo, but it would be totally eye-opening for a group that has some experience with nonfiction and loves a good controversy.

Going Clear by Lawrence Wright

If you saw the HBO documentary based on this book, you’ve only seen about half of the crazybananapants you’ll uncover while reading.

Does your book club read nonfiction? Do you have a title that would be perfect for groups to read?


Need more recommendations?
  • Kay

    I used to be part of a book group that read non-fiction occasionally. I’m trying to think what we read as it’s been a while. We did Devil in the White City and that was popular. We also did Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts and Mockingbird, which was about Harper Lee. The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr and Into Thin Air by Krakauer. Can’t think of any more right now. I’d love to discuss the Scientology book with a group and also Five Days at Memorial. And thanks for the suggestions.

    • I think Going Clear was the most in depth, fun discussion my group has had…and we STILL talk about it all the time.

  • Ha, you must have known what my post would be today. ;)

    I keep forgetting about the Galileo ARC you sent! I bet that would be a good one for busting my nonfiction slumpage.

    • Haha perfect! I actually had a few search hits for “nonfiction book club” and I was like, “Well, jeez guys…let me help you out.”

  • Some of my favorite book club meetings have been about nonfiction books! Going Clear might be my very favorite…combine “crazybananapants” and celebrities and how can you not win?! My book club also enjoyed Brain on Fire…good medical mystery. And, I’ve been wanting to read 5 Days at Memorial and Dataclysm…both are on my possibilities list for Nonfiction November.

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    I’ll be taking this list to my next book club meeting – we’re overdue for a nonfiction read. Thanks!

  • Good non-fiction is soooo good. I know i have to read The Men We Reap, but I think it’s going to be heart breaking. And it’s occurred to me that I’ve not read much non fiction lately. Better get busy.

  • These all sound great, but, for some reason, Anything That Moves sounds the most fun to me right now. Our club is pretty new – I’m not sure how receptive they’d be to non-fiction. Maybe the next time my turn rolls around, I could give it a try and see what happens. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • I guess I’ll have to make my own little book club to read these. I’m not easily grossed out by weird food, so maybe I’ll start with Master of the Mountain. Although Men We Reaped might be a good follow-up to Ghettoside…

  • I remember reading your review of Galileo’s Middle Finger and thinking that it would make for a great group discussion; I’ve yet to read it, but I’d still like to! I’d not heard of The Birth of the Pill; I bet that one WOULD make for some good discussion! I’m going to have to check it out!

    • They’re both pretty great for getting people to talk, especially all the moral issues in Galileo’s Middle Finger.

  • Ti Reed

    My club read Five Days and it was quite a conversation! Two retired nurses in the room with very, VERY different views on what went on in that hospital.

    • I would liked to have been at that book club, what a fascinating conversation that must have been. I read quite a bit of non-fiction and much of it fairly dark, but this one was a tough read in spots. Having different perspectives would be so interesting.

      • Ti Reed

        It got heated many times during the conversation but it was a fascinating conversation. And yes, some parts were so difficult to read. It was hard to believe that everything went to hell in such a short amount of time but when I went through the Northridge quake, it didn’t take long for things to degrade once water and power was unavailable.

        • I totally would have loved to peek in on that discussion, too. You reminded me just how far back and forth my own moral compass went while reading it!

          • Indeed. I can only imagine how different my interpretation might have been if I were a health care provider. So many sides and issues and facts to those stories. Gut-wrenching all around.

  • These are some great picks, Shannon. I’ve only read a couple (Five Days and Men We Reaped), but others are on my list. I agree non-fiction titles can often get overlooked. Written well, they often trump any fiction I’m reading. Great idea for a post, now I just have to start a book club! :)

    • I’m a sucker for good nonfiction, too, and usually need it to break up my reading. Thankfully, my reading group loves it, but it can be hard to find a bunch of readers who do!

  • *drool*

  • My book club is reading our second nonfiction read in the last year and I’m very excited that everyone’s been on board with that! I’ll definitely keep your recommendations in mind next time it’s my turn to suggest some books for the group :)

    • That’s so great that they’ve been receptive! I think once people realize that there’s just as much (and sometimes more!) to talk about, it gets pretty easy to suggest new nonfiction.

  • we haven’t really but I love the idea of it

  • I don’t have a book club but loving this list!

  • Julie @ Smiling Shelves

    Our book club read Unbroken last year, but I think that’s the only nonfiction book we’ve tried. These are some good suggestions, especially Going Clear. That book was fascinating and freaky, all in one!

    • I read Unbroken a few years ago. I like nonfiction about WWII. One favorite is Ben MacIntyre’s Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory. How’s that for a title?

  • Darlene O.

    My book club has read several non-fiction books and I think they generate the most conversation for us. We’ve got one in our group who just tolerates all the fiction until it’s her turn to pick and she always goes for the non.

  • I have all but 3 of these on my TBR. I wish I had a local book club to discuss them with when I do read them! I have not had much luck with book clubs. They never want to read books about tough issues or nonfiction besides memoirs, while those are the types of books I adore.

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  • Amanda

    Great ideas. I missed the only non-fiction my book club has done. I get another pick later this year so I might have to try. I really want to read 5 days at memorial, but I’m also kind of afraid to pick it up.

  • Janice

    Our best nonfiction read was The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. We had more discussion from that book than any other, including our fiction choices. And planning the book club menu after reading the book was just a bonus.

    • The foodie books work surprisingly well! My group had a great discussion over Anything That Moves, though we weren’t quite brave enough to make a menu of it.

    • I’ve had The Omnivore’s Dilemma on my TBR for years now, I’m ashamed to say. Pollan’s work is wonderful fodder for discussion! Must’ve been a fun one for your book club!

  • Aww, this is making me want to convince my boss to continue the two-person book club over email. I want to read Men We Reaped, Birth of the Pill, and Going Clear with him! (or by myself. probably by myself)

  • Oh man, Going Clear would be the greatest book club book. There are enough crazypants things in that book to talk about for pretty much ever.

  • So many of these I want to read!

  • Your list looks great. Yes my book club reads nonfiction as well. In fact, a couple of our nonfiction books have had way more discussion than the novels we’ve read. We’ve had good discussions about Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “Infidel,” Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” and Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” All three have big ideas, eh?!!

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  • *adds all to TBR list*

    I’ve been reading so much more non-fiction than I would expect myself to. A good writer can make anything fascinating!

  • Miles Away

    I learnt a new word today. Crazybananapants ! Whoop. And I’m not even a Scientologist !