I love nonfiction books that read like novels, especially when the story surprises me—or better yet—blows my mind by revealing a slice of history I never learned about in school.
These stories make for a page-turning reading experience because I’m eager to know what happened—or how it happened—and fit it into my previous knowledge of the event or time period.
Today I’m sharing 25 books that explore untold, overlooked, or erstwhile top-secret stories in a compelling narrative. The authors on this list have scoured declassified files for secrets that are now safe to bring to light. Or they’ve found the unsung heroes behind big historical events and placed their contributions front and center.
These books would make great holiday gifts for the history buff in your life (or for your nonfiction-loving self). With a mix of subjects including art, film, history, true crime, and more, there’s a title to satisfy nearly every curious reader on this list. I hope you find several new-to-you nonfiction favorites to read or to gift.
25 overlooked and untold true stories
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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race
The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History
Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art
Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires
What titles look good to you? What would you add to the list?
P.S. Elevate your reading experience with 8 terrific novels paired with 8 illuminating nonfiction picks or enjoy 10 nonfiction books that read like novels.
P.P.S. Nonfiction readers, you might also enjoy listening to WSIRN Episode 204: Nonfiction that reads like a thrilling novel or 254: A plethora of political(ish) book recs.