20 Works of Creative Nonfiction Worth Reading

I don't get why creative nonfiction has such a bad name. Maybe it's because the name itself is confusing and contradictory, but in a genre which encompasses so much, why the hate? While working on my mfa, I wrote both fiction and creative nonfiction. Many of my colleagues and mentors asked, why write memoirs or essays rather than novels and short stories? In a fiction workshop, the leader asked about my favorite books and when all my top picks were fiction he asked, "So, why are you studying creative nonfiction?" All I know is that cnf works for many of the stories I have to tell. Looking back at a previous post, 10 Books That Influenced Me... I mention several few works of creative nonfiction, but there are many others so, if you've turned your back on memoirs, or have been burned by a few bad essay collections, here are 20 works of creative nonfiction I recommend.
  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  2. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  3. In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences by Truman Capote
  4. A Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers 
  5. Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
  6. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison
  7. The Boys of Summer by Roger Kahn
  8. On Writing by Stephen King
  9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  10. American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langewiesche
  11. Blackbird: A Childhood Lost and Found by Jennifer Lauck
  12. Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt 
  13. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson
  14. Dreams of My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barrack Obama
  15. Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
  16. True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman
  17. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  18. Lucky by Alice Sebold
  19. The Complete Maus by Art Speigleman 
  20. Night by Elie Wiesel
What great nonfiction have I missed?


  1. You might find "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival" by Laura Hillenbrand as interesting as I did.

  2. Thanks. You're the second to recommend this.

  3. "Fast Food Nation" was pretty influential for me. Interesting list. I've only read 4,9,14 - guess i'd better get crackin.

  4. Thanks, Chris. After seeing Super Size me I kind of forgot about Fast Food Nation. I should give it a look.