Friday, November 2, 2012

Non-Fiction Books that stay close to your heart

I want to talk a little bit about reading books that leave their footprint on you (so to speak). By this I mean books that have really have affected me in some way. The story has, in some way, made an impact to the point that I haven't easily been able to forget it.

This happens a lot with novels, which i'll talk about in the next few weeks, but there are a collection of other books I've read recently that have had a similar impact on me, but they're all non-fiction stories. That possibly makes them even more memorable.

The first that I read was several years ago. It's Torey Hayden's first book called One Child. Torey Hayden is a behaviour psychologist who has written a number of books about her experience helped traumatized and disturbed children. This book is about her experience with her first seriously mentally tortured child. Parts of the book - mostly those bits where you find out what has happened to the young girl, Sheila - are so horrible you'll be in tears and enraged at the same time. Other parts will turn you into the biggest preppiest cheerleader in the history of cheer as your root Sheila on. I've read a few more of Hayden's books, but this is definitely the most touching and incredible of all of her books.

One Child 
Silent Tears is one that I'm recommending to everyone at the moment. It's basically a diary a woman kept during the years she lived in China volunteering at a Chinese orphanage. I can't get my head around the fact that this not only happened in my lifetime but just in the last few years. The conditions in these orphanages broke my heart. I wanted to adopt all of these poor children, many of them girls who were abandoned so couples could have more babies until they got boys because of the one child rule. Shocking. The book also talks about women being left by their husbands when they fail to give birth to a boy. I just can't even get my head around it. It is so barbaric, but then again, I don't fully understand the ways of their culture and no matter how hard I try, I don't think I ever will unless I go and live in China.


The woman who wrote this book really advocated for these kids. She worked so hard to try and encourage more American families (and others from around the world) to adopt these kids if they were looking to adopt. She helped raise money to get surgeries for the many kids with deformities, and she grew particularly attached to a number of the kids. This is a hard read, but it's a must read and I will never forget the things I took from this book.

Another book set in China that made a profound impact on me was Mao's Last Dancer. I'm sure many of you will have read this or seen the movie. It's a fantastic book which sends you on a total emotional journey. I learned a lot about China in this book, much of which really shocked me, but the journey of Li is a really incredible one, and to see how far he's come and to where he is now is astounding.


The final book that's really wormed its way into my head is Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall.
I started reading this book in New Zealand and was reading it as I flew to the USA, so I had no knowledge of Elissa's story or of Warren Jeffs but after this book I had a great deal of knowledge about it. This is basically the story of Elissa, an incredibly strong and brave young woman who grew up in the FDLS. She knew nothing of the 'outside world', and even after being forced to marry her first cousin (among other things), she still was fearful of what was outside the church. It's a heartbreaking and very powerful story which actually made such an impact that I reached out to Elissa to tell her how incredibly brave she is.

This book really helped me understand the life of those in cult religions such as the FDLS and to really comprehend why it is so hard for those that want to get out, to actually get out. It's an amazing story though, and also another I really recommend.

What are some non-fiction books that have really stuck with you that you can't help but recommend to everyone?


  1. Oh my goodness! I read One Child when I was a teenager and the story stuck with me all these years. That was over twenty years ago (eek, I feel old) and I still remember specifics from the book. Such a sad story. It's heart breaking to realize that for some kids that kind of life is a reality. While reading for escapism is nice, I think it's important to read stories about hardship as well. They're inspiring and make you feel thankful.

    1. Yes! It's such a powerful story, so heartbreaking but also so inspiring! I agree, it is important to read books that are real and heartbreaking. I really think I should read One Child again actually...

  2. I've never read any of these, but I do remember my mom reading ONE CHILD at some point. It sounds like such a sad, sad story. Like Erin said, I tend to read for escapism and am not as quick to pick up books that are more issue-heavy, but I really need to make sure that I'm doing that.

    1. Yeah, I try and make sure I read a couple each year. I get really invested in them, look up the stories online, particularly for Stolen Innocence which had a lot of media coverage with the Warren Jeffs trial and everything, so i'm still reading about the book even after I finish the last page. It's just a way for me to really understand different cultures, different experiences and different parts of the world.