7 Nonfiction Reads That Are (Almost) Too Crazy to Be True

You know that wide-eyed, jaw-drop feeling you get when you hear a story that’s so outrageous, so out-of-the-park bonkers you think there’s no way it can be true? Followed by that alarming (yet bizarrely satisfying) feeling you get when you Google or fact check said outrageous story and discover it is, in fact, facts? That’s exactly the sensation we had when we dove into these bizarre nonfiction reads. These books had us shaking our heads, gasping for air, exclaiming out loud–and then left us super eager to share with everyone we know. Here are seven nonfiction books that are (almost) too crazy to be true: 

I’ll admit, anything in the healthcare/technology fields confuse me, so I was surprised when I got sucked in by Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. For Elizabeth Holmes to finesse and fraud her way into a multibillion-dollar startup speaks to a lot of different privileges. If you’re hooked on true crime of the white collar variety, this one’s a must-read. (Jennifer Vance, Publicist)

Educated by Tara Westover is one of the craziest coming of age memoirs that I’ve ever read. The author was raised by a survivalist father, and her family went along with his whims — often endangering their own lives. Tara and her siblings didn’t receive a formal education, so she taught herself, and eventually went on to study at schools like Harvard and Cambridge. (Ellen Whitfield, Lead Publicist) 

Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson sounds like something straight out of the speculative fantasy and thriller books that I love. With a surprisingly gripping and engaging narrative, this historical nonfiction tells the story of two architects: Daniel H. Burnham, a young man tasked with designing the famous “White City” exhibition of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, and H. H. Holmes, widely regarded as America’s first serial killer and the mastermind behind the infamous “Murder Hotel,” where he lured unspecting fairgoers to their deaths in ingeniously macabre ways. The story of these two men — Holmes in particular — is so shocking and incredible that it’s hard to believe this really happened! (Chelsea Apple, Content Creator).

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell is a memoir of sorts in short stories, but each of those stories explores a near-death experience from the author. Each account is a reflection on life and what it means to live in this world. O’Farrell’s alarmingly frequent encounters with multiple types of danger gives her writing a sense of wisdom and melancholy, but also seems to prepare her to be the perfect mother to a child with a life-threatening immune disorder. I read this book as a love letter to her daughter — “See? Look what I survived. And you will too.” (Ellen Whitfield, Lead Publicist) 

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz tells the story of a game-changing surgeon. Before he stepped on the scene, there was no bedside manner, there were no sterile operating rooms, and there was no anesthesia. The picture the author paints of the medical world in the early 1800s is cringeworthy and ghastly, and will make you thankful Mütter was around. (Ellen Whitfield, Lead Publicist) 

I was upset most of the time reading Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan because I wanted more than anything for the people in her life to believe and support her. Suffering from an extremely rare disease, it was fascinating seeing how she not only found her way to a correct diagnosis and recovery but also how she leaned on the people around her to help research and reconstruct the narrative of her own life. (Jennifer Vance, Publicist)

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore is about the girls who worked to paint the illuminated numbers on watch faces around the same time as the first world war. The only problem is that they were using radium, and they soon began to get sick. The way the workers and the people in charge reacted and covered up what was going on still echoes today. (Ellen Whitfield, Lead Publicist)