This week’s prompt asks about books that are “Stranger Than Fiction”, hosted by Christopher at Plucked from the Stacks.
The books in this post aren’t untruthful in any way, they just tell dramatic stories that, if they were fiction, you might find hard to believe. These stories have all the elements of fiction — character development, drama, and a compelling storyline. They tell a story that is larger than life.
One example of this is Into the Wild, one of my favorite nonfiction reads. The story of Chris McCandless’ journey across America and into the Alaskan wilderness is haunting. Another is Killers of the Flower Moon, which tells about a shocking series of murders taking place on the Osage Indian Nation over shares of oil profits.
From this year’s reading, Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers is a tragic telling of a series of drowning deaths of indigenous teens in Ontario. These deaths, though suspicious, were routinely ignored by police and blamed on alcohol. Devil in the Grove, by Gilbert King, combines elements of courtroom drama and police corruption. It’s an incredible source of history about racism in this country after World War I and II and how that related to lynching and oppression through the justice system. And while it’s a story full of twists and turns, it is sadly believable.
A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell is a perfect example of hard-to-believe nonfiction. It’s a story of the incredible courage of Virginia Hall and her colleagues during World War II. With a prison breakout, double agents, and prostitutes stealing secrets from their customers, you’ll wonder if it could possibly be true. It’s amazing (and a shame) that Hall isn’t more of a household name.
Finally, Get Well Soon by Jennifer Wright is a book about infectious diseases that combines history, humor, and hard-to-believe storytelling. If we weren’t living through a pandemic right now, these stories about infectious diseases would be hard to believe, like the eerie “dancing sickness” she describe. Each of Wright’s stories combines the best and worst of human behavior, from scientific and medical heroics to prejudice and ignorance that results in untold numbers of deaths.
I hope you enjoy these “stranger than fiction” tales. They aren’t light reading, but they are fantastic stories.