The best books of incredible real life stories

The Books I Picked & Why

What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

By Po Bronson

What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question

Why this book?

I love it when authors want to tackle an enormous question that we have all asked at some point. Po Bronson traveled to meet people who are both unique and common, impressive and ordinary, and ultimately just like everyone else. They share how they’ve tackled the question for themselves. There is no formula, no one way, and that comes with a certain sense of freedom. 

My favorite story features a man who is working to revolutionize the income model of America’s Native Peoples to elevate both their stature and power (literally). He is working on a 50-year plan, which impressed me and was an apt reminder that sometimes the fruits of our labors come many years later.


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It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer

By Bill Heavey

It's Only Slow Food Until You Try to Eat It: Misadventures of a Suburban Hunter-Gatherer

Why this book?

This book cracked me up. Bill Heavey met with people all over the United States and went on crazy foodie adventures with them in order to better understand pockets of unique eats and subsistence. This is not a restaurant visits book. This is a go fishing, backwoods, hunt-or-be-hunted book.

I have two favorite stories in this book. The first is of a woman who forages along the Potomac for Paw Paw fruit. Her attitude toward finding wild food is hilarious and matter-of-fact. The second is of a man who fishes the Bayous of the south and takes Heavey for a wild ride.


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30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

By Karl Pillemer

30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

Why this book?

I didn’t come across this book until my own had already been published. Pillemer worked hard to interview over a thousand elders about their lives. The stories are touching, and the advice time-tested. 

My favorite section was about raising children. How to allow our little humans to become full individuals while also nurturing them to the greatest extent. The stories weren’t always rosy — some elders shared deep regrets — which I appreciated even more.


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Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

By Svetlana Alexievich, Keith Gessen

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster

Why this book?

This book has gained in popularity, lately, with the publishing of the Chernobyl series on HBO. The stories are haunting, but incredibly important. They show how confusing, secretive, and awful the event was. I chose this book because its philosophy is the same as mine — that this was a major event in history and it must be recorded and preserved so future generations may learn from it. Alexievich has done wonderful work in this tome.


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The Power of Awareness: And Other Secrets from the World's Foremost Spies, Detectives, and Special Operators on How to Stay Safe and Save Your Life

By Dan Schilling

The Power of Awareness: And Other Secrets from the World's Foremost Spies, Detectives, and Special Operators on How to Stay Safe and Save Your Life

Why this book?

First of all, Dan Schilling is a powerhouse author. This book amazes me as he took the stories of many individuals and takes the reader deep into each. You feel like you’re really there. Not to mention the takeaways are applicable to everyday life. I love a book where I learn something practical while along for the ride.


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