It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction, but sometimes the two can be almost indistinguishable. In fiction, authors can let their imagination go wild, but there are some non-fiction books that are just as gripping and sometimes even terrifying. Here are just 10 non-fiction books that might leave you wondering whether they are not really fiction!
There are plenty of fiction books that deal with the destruction of Earth, but Death from the Skies highlights just how vulnerable our tiny, blue planet really is. From being swallowed up by a blackhole to getting hit by asteroids, this book contains enough doomsday scenarios to make anyone nervous. The author also explains the scientific principles behind these calamities along with the odds of them actually occurring. If you want to be entertained and freaked out, then this is the book to read.
Henrietta Lacks was a poor black tobacco farmer, but went on to change history. Scientists took her cells, without her knowledge, in 1951 and used them for everything medical research that spanned everything from cloning and gene mapping to developing the polio vaccine. To scientists she is known only as HeLA and her cells were the first ever that could be kept alive and grown. This had far reaching consequences for the medical and biological research fields, but this book also explores the personal life of the remarkable women behind these cells.
The Discovery of Insulin is every bit as riveting as a fictional novel, which makes it of more interest than just to doctors, nurses and diabetics. The book recounts the intense personal rivalries from the people involved in the discovery and uses real documents and letters to chronicle the amazing tale. For some patients it was a life or death discovery and the book manages to capture all the excitement, frustration and drama involved. The bitter fallout over who should actually be credited for the discovery of this amazing invention makes it even more compelling to read.
The World Without Us reads like a post-apocalyptic novel, but actually draws on real science to explore what would happen if all human life suddenly disappeared from the planet. From what would happen to our infrastructure to what creatures would appear in the void left behind, it is a gripping tale that paints a very vivid picture. For anyone who has ever wondered about the impact we have made on the planet and what life on earth would be like without us this is a must read.
Ebola is one of the most deadly and downright terrifying viruses encountered by humanity and this book chronicles its first emergence. Originating in the central African rain forest, the virus made its way to Washington with deadly consequences. Since there is no cure and the virus quickly claims the lives of those it infects the book reads like a fast paced thriller. It is not for the faint of heart as the way that the virus wreaks havoc on the human body is described in grisly detail, but for a tale that is just as chilling as any fictional horror this book should not be missed.
CSI fans will love this book by a former policeman that describes the search and eventual capture of a serial killer through the then very new use of DNA testing. The killer brutally raped and murdered two teenage girls three years apart while eluding the police. This prompts the police to take the very drastic measure of testing nearly 4000 men to gather their DNA in an effort to solve the crime. The fact that the book is based on a true story and goes into graphic detail about the crimes makes it hard to read at times, but the story remains captivating throughout.
In Alive, author Piers Paul Read writes about the chartered flight that crashed in the Andes with 45 people aboard. The crash itself claimed the lives of more than a quarter of the passengers while cold and injury caused the death of even more afterwards. However, sixteen survivors were rescued more than two months after the day of the crash and how they managed to stay alive that long is truly remarkable. The fact that the group had to resort to cannibalism due to the extreme conditions they were in is a chilling reminder of how strong the human will to live can be.
Beatrice Turner, the subject of this book by Sheldon Bart is a truly unique woman who lived a life that resembled fiction more than fact. She was a resident of Newport, Rhode Island and, along with her father, adhered to a Victorian style long after that particular era ended. She was also an artist who painted thousands of paintings, but only ever of one subject – herself. By looking at these self-portraits it is actually clear to see how Beatrice slowly aged over the years. Add to this the fact that she lived in a mansion painted entirely black on the outside and you have a character that sounds like she stepped right out of a fiction novel.
The success of the 1997 movie by James Cameron showed that the public remains as fascinated as ever by the Titanic disaster, but A Night to Remember offers a more personal glimpse of what really happened. The events of that fateful evening caused some passengers to behave nobly while others were only concerned with saving their own lives. Also, while the book is based entirely on facts, some of the tales that emerged will have you shaking your head in disbelief.
The desert of southern Arizona is home to one of the deadliest regions of the continent, known as the Devil’s Highway. Despite the perils it poses a group of men attempts to cross the border from Mexico into the United States through this area. The Devil’s Highway is the tale of what happened to these men, including the 14 who did not survive the crossing.