What do you section do you normally gravitate to when you are in the library or a bookstore? Do you head straight to the fiction section so you can find a book to escape the drudgeries life brings us or do you go to a the non fiction section in hopes of learning something new and interesting? Now I know some of you out there wouldn’t dare pick up a non-fiction book if you didn’t have to but you should be aware in case you want to that there are all sorts of great non fiction books and believe it or not those books can be as much fun to read as the fiction .Does the idea of traveling to distant places, revisiting the past, learning a new hobby, peeking into the lives of famous people, solving a crime interest you then check out my list of very readable non-fiction books.

Ana’s Story – Jenna Bush

I had read a small blurb about Ana’s Story in an advance book preview publication last month.  The blurb did pique my curiosity but what really got me was that Jenna Bush wrote the book.  To be honest, I was wondering if a member of the Bush family could write something that I’d want to read. However, I did read it and I am glad that I did because Jenna has an important story to share and she shares it nicely. With the being said, I don’t think the book will any Pulitzer Prize as the writing is a bit simplistic and choppy at times.  It will appeal to the reluctant reader with its large typeset and short chapters.  Sometimes having a name that everyone recognizes can be a very good thing.

I am telling you right now, Ana’s story is gut-wrenching.  Let’s tick off the things that happen to her:  Her mother infected with HIV/AIDS passes it to two of her daughters.  One sister dies as an infant from it and her mother dies soon afterwards. Eventually she will lose her father to the disease as well. This is where the cycle of abuse begins for both Ana and her sister Isabel. While living with their abuela, the boyfriend sexually abused both of them.  To add insult to injury, when Ana told her she wasn’t believed.  A change in living arrangements brought her to her aunt’s which turned out to be no better as the aunt physically abused her as well. The worst thing was that she was keeping this all a secret from everyone.  No one knew about her HIV status and no one knew about any of the abuse.  Ana wants to desperately break free from the cycle of abuse, silence, and illness. At this point you are thinking how much more can this girl endure? At age 17, she falls in love and becomes pregnant.  Yes this is a cause of concern but this puts her on a journey of showing herself and others that she is living with HIV not dying from it. 

At the end of the book, in the final section there is a part where you can move from knowledge to action.  You can read about ten myths about HIV /AIDS and abuse and then take the discussion questions to discuss the themes in the book with family friends, classmates. Anna is just one child that needs help.  There a millions more all over this world that shares similar experiences. It doesn’t matter if you have just an hour, a day a week to give – educate yourself and share the information.  One person can make a difference.

Seabiscuit – Lauren Hildenbrand
I can’t say enough about this book. I have no interest in horseracing, never been to the track but the story of Seabiscuit grabbed me from page one. If you pass this book by because you think it is just about horseracing, it’s your loss. The real story is about being the underdog and having the strength, the will to win against adversity. Seabiscuit, crooked legs and all, won the hearts of Americans.

In the Midnight Garden of Good and Evil – John Berendt
After reading this book I so wanted to move to Savannah. The book had it all: sex, lies and murder. Savannah it seems to have some pretty interesting residents. It reads like a good mystery novel but yet it’s work of nonfiction. It’s the story of a shooting that happened in the wee hours of the morning that the people of Savannah will talk about for years to come. The big question: was it murder or self defense?

Soul Surfer – Bethany Hamilton
Picture the headline: Great white shark biting off a girl’s arm while surfing. Ouch! I saw her first on Oprah and was quite impressed then with her bravery which she says is due all to her family and faith in God. If I didn’t see her on Oprah, I may have passed by the book in the library – I am glad I decided to read it. Bethany, in an easy to read narrative tone talks about her life before the accident and how her life has changed after the abccident. One thing that hasn’t changed – she is still surfing. You, go girl!

The Burn Journals – Brent Runyan
Brett is 30 years old. Big deal, right? Actually it is a big deal because 16 years ago his life almost came to an end because of a suicide attempt. When he was 14 Brent came home from school, poured gasoline all over his bathrobe, put it on and then lit a match. I bet you are thinking, “oh my god…” That was my first thought too. Written through the eyes of a 14 year old, we learn about the anguish, the depression he felt. He goes into vivid detail about the year after the attempt and the long and painful recovery afterwards. Good read for teens and adults alike.

Candy Freak – Steve Almond
The book was good so good that I wish I was eating the chocolate instead of just reading about it. I remember reading that he admitted to always having three to five pounds of candy in his house at all times. The dentist probably loves him. Writing a book about candy when you are obsessive about it is great for the reader as they will learn more about candy than ever thought possible. Almond, in a humorous tone, takes us on a candy journey that goes from one end of the country to the other. I leaned a lot about the candy business and the history of it in US. Don’t be surprised that when you done with the book, you have to fight the urge to rush down to your local candy store….

Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English dictionary – Simon Winchester
The title is what first grabbed my attention. I wanted to know what murder and insanity had to do with the making of a dictionary. It turns out that one of the most valuable contributors to the dictionary of living in an asylum for the criminally insane. What an incredible story. James Murray, the editor of the OED, put out an all call, asking the public to help with the publication by combing through thousands of newspapers, books, magazines and journals to come up with words and sentences they were used in. This all call is what brought him into contact with Dr. Charles Minor. Their relationship would last years. Murray actually thought Minor was on the staff of the asylum for years before finding out he was actually a patient. I guess they didn’t really do thorough background checks back then. The OED sits on the shelf in our library and every time I look at it I easily picture the history nestled between each page.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
The feet with toe tag on it was what made me pick up this book. I was slightly horrified at first wondering what I was about to read. Anything you ever wanted to know about a dead body you will learn in this book. Fortunately there were no pictures. Play the “what is the first word you think of” game and use the word cadaver. What is the first word you think of when you think? Dead, stiff, ghastly, unmovable – those are all appropriate. Would you think of the word funny? Probably not but when you read this book you may change your tune because Roach manages to put some wit and humor into this topic. You won’t believe some of the uses for a cadaver!

True Notebooks – Mark Salzman
Salzman had reservations about teaching a creative writing class in LA Central Juvenile Hall to as part of the Inside Out Writers program. What kind of writing would you will get from high risk offenders living in juvenile hall? If you think a lot of anger would come out in their writing, you would be correct. They also wrote about their families and the gangs they were in and the crimes they committed. Nothing was sugarcoated in this book. Most of the kids at this juvie hall committed murder or other serious crimes. This book was about more than just writing, as you delve into the book, the sad commentary about our justice system fails our youth and minority is apparent.