It’s never been easier to enrich your understanding of the world. From podcasts to short-form video journalism, there are a ton of ways to continue learning on a busy schedule. While many podcasts and videos do a commendable job condensing big-picture issues into bite-sized packages, sometimes you want to go deep on a particular subject. The best non-fiction books let you do just that.
To state the obvious, there are a lot of different kinds of non-fiction books, ranging from self-help to history to memoirs to current affairs. We’ve picked three popular books that take a little bit from each of those categories. There’s everyday life advice from a four-star Navy Admiral, an in-depth Pulitizer-prize-winning book on of one of the most consequential wars in history, and an account of North Korean life that part personal memoir, part journalistic document.
All of these options are available on Kindle, as an audiobook, or in good old-fashioned print, and they all just might change your life.
1. Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven
In 2014, at the University of Texas, the now-retired Admiral William H. McRaven gave one of the most acclaimed and talked-about commencement speeches ever. In the “make your bed” speech, McRaven extols the virtues of accomplishing small tasks, such as making your bed, and explains how they help with the big ones. That speech was adapted into this non-fiction book. Fittingly, reading it is also a small task, as it’s less than 150 pages.
Ideal for: All ages, those looking for practical and applicable life advice.
Length: 144 pages, 1 hr and 53 minutes on Audible.
2. The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Historian Barbara Tuchman has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including for this account of WWI. While some historical accounts take an impossibly broad angle, Tuchman illustrates how globally consequential a single moment in history can be. “The Guns of August” focuses on the first month of WWI with comprehensive detail and a literary touch.
Ideal for: History buffs, those looking to understand an often-misunderstood historical period.
Length: 608 pages, 19 hrs and 9 minutes on Audible.
3. Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim
The title of Suki Kim’s, short, gripping account of North Korean life is a reference to a patriotic song that North Korean students were required to sing about Kim Jong-il. It covers her stint as an English teacher in Pyongyang in 2011, the relationships she forged with her students, and what she witnessed of the brutal regime. The book blends personal narratives with investigative journalism for a unique look at a mysterious place.
Ideal for: Curious minds, those looking to learn more about current events.
Length: 306 pages, 8 hrs and 34 minutes on Audible.