Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and often, as in these seven books, it is also compelling, unpredictable and has the ability to churn our insides out and bring the outside world, in. If you’re a reader who moves easily between genres (or if one of your 2019 reading resolutions is to try something different), these books all revolve around a central ethos—a story based on true events—yet are rendered in both fiction and nonfiction.
The truth is, they should be added to your reading list immediately.
The Honey Bus by Meredith May
Memoirist Meredith May recounts a tumultuous childhood, marked by dysfunction, divorce and depression, where she finds refuge in an unlikely source: a beehive. With her beekeeping grandfather one of the only sources of support in her life, May and her brother help care for the bees as they navigate the strange and disappointing world of adults. As one vulnerable population helps another, both manage to thrive.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
Based on the true story of the Pendle Hill Witch Trials, a midwife in 1612 stands accused of witchcraft putting her life, and that of her patient, noblewoman Fleetwood Shuttleworth, in jeopardy. Fleetwood has received a letter that predicts she will not live through another birth, and with midwife Alice Grey the only woman that can help, they must both work to reduce the charge against Alice before it is too late for both of them.
Dear George, Dear Mary by Mary Calvi
Interwoven with actual words spoken by both George Washington and Mary Philipse, this novel of untold love, greatness and betrayal reveals a portrait of a man who would become one of the world’s greatest leaders and his relationship with the woman who had the potential to be his undoing.
Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
This compact but complex memoir of growing up on the Seabird Island Indian Reservation offers us a raw look at the legacy of racism, shame, mental illness and reconciliation that marked Mailhot’s upbringing, leading to her own reckoning with her parents, her past and her heritage. Mailhot writes knowing that memory is a fluid and sometimes-unreliable narrator but that never detracts from the poetic beauty of her missive.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
In 1929, Vogue model Lee Miller arrived in Paris where she immediately became immersed in the rich, radical art scene. She soon met the enigmatic Surrealist painter, Man Ray and convinced him to teach her how to take photos. What unfolds is a bohemian dream based on actual events but delving deep into the character of both artist and muse as they evolve, together and separately, over two intense decades.
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
Inspired by true events, Grace Healy, a war widow, discovers an abandoned suitcase filled with photographs of different women. She soon learns that the suitcase belonged to Eleanor Trigg, the leader of a ring of World War II female secret agents who never returned home. Grace becomes determined to find out the fates of the women and uncovers a story of sisterhood, courage and betrayal.
A Good Wife by Samra Zafar
This inspiring story introduces us to Samra Zafar, who at 15 was married off to a stranger and taken from her home in Pakistan to live with her husband and his family in Canada. Her dreams destroyed, Samra’s life became a nightmare played out under the oppressive eye of her husband until her escape many years later. Refusing to allow humiliation and cultural isolation to continue to define her, she reignited her dreams, becoming a speaker, mentor and advocate for other girls forced into childhood marriage.