1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
A poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks gets a terrible case of cervical cancer and is treated at Johns Hopkins. Her cells uncharacteristically multiply, and end up serving as the source of some of the most significant medical advances in the last sixty years. The cells were taken without her knowledge or consent, and the story follows the author's research of the impact of the HeLa cells as well the woman behind them.
2. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
It is nearly impossible to have access to the stories of those who live in North Korea. But those who have escaped have unbelievable stories to tell -- stories of fear, hunger, brainwashing and obedience. It is terrifying to realize that there is a place such as North Korea in the world today. It opened my eyes to an entire world unto itself. Truly riveting.
3. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The White City is Chicago. The Devil is a mass murderer. Dreamers and architects spend years planning and building the World's Fair at the turn of the century. Meanwhile a man utilizes the site of the World's Fair as a place to lure women and eventually murder them. One story shows man's desire to build; the other, a desire to destroy.
4. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
A zoo in Warsaw becomes a place for refuge and hiding from the Nazis. People and animals share the spaces together, and the author explores the nature of both animals and humanity in the midst of inhumanity. Delightful coverage of a family's love of animals blended with their courage to house and care for as many people as possible. Fascinating to read about a zoo as a center for Polish resistance.
5. Bossypants by Tina Fey
An episodic autobiography of Tina Fey's awkward and hilarious "coming of age" and working on SNL. An honest female voice that says things about the world, especially as a career woman, that you wish you were brave enough to admit yourself. I bought this book on a whim at an airport on the west coast and caught myself laughing out loud by myself on the plane. Oh, and this is definitely at least a PG-13.
What are your favorite "non-fiction read like fiction" books?