Find Engaging Nonfiction in the SDHC Lending Library

Reading for Growth: Nonfiction Literature

By Ashley Kosters
SDHC Intern

Editor's Note: This is the first of a five-part series highlighting selections from the South Dakota Humanities Council Lending Library, which features books in a variety of genres for book clubs and other groups. 

Regardless of the type of narrative, reading nonfiction provides a means to better understand the world from a different perspective. Through SDHC's lending library, your book club will have the choice of over 40 selections to read. Nonfiction author and frequent Festival of Books presenter Ann Bausum reflects on what she hopes her writing accomplishes: "[Nonfiction] writing reminds people that they can make a difference... [w]hen these patterns in our current lives can be reflected in patterns from the past, there's comfort in that."

Nonfiction Title Spotlight: 'What Is the What' by Dave Eggers

"What Is the What" by Dave Eggers was featured as the 2010 One Book South Dakota.

The epic novel is based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who, along with other children – the so-called "Lost Boys" – was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot, pursued by militias, government bombers, and wild animals, crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom.

When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad new challenges. Moving, suspenseful, and unexpectedly funny, "What Is the What" is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through the story of one extraordinary man.

Additional Titles:

The SDHC Reading Group Toolkit offers many books in the nonfiction category. The options available for lending are:

  • "4 P.M. Count" edited by Jim Reese
  • "The Adams House Revealed" by Mary A. Kopco
  • "America's War" edited by Edward L. Ayers
  • "The Art of Hajj" by Venetia Porter
  • "Buffalo for the Broken Heart" by Dan O'Brien
  • "The Children of Abraham" by F.E. Peters
  • "Completing the Circle" by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
  • "Country Congregations: South Dakota Stories" edited by Charles L. Woodard
  • "Crazy Horse" by Mari Sandoz
  • "Crazy Woman Creek: Women Rewrite the American West" edited by Linda M. Hasselstrom, Gaydell Collier, Nancy Curtis
  • "Crossroads of Freedom – Antietam" by James M. McPherson
  • "Dakota" by Kathleen Norris
  • "Dammed Indians Revisited: The Continuing History of the Pick-Sloan Plan and the Missouri River Sioux" by Michael L. Lawson
  • "The Essential Lewis and Clark" edited by Landon Y. Jones
  • "Ethnic Oasis: The Chinese in the Black Hills" by Liping Zhu and Rose Estep Fosha
  • "Fearless and Free: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities" by Bruce Cole
  • "Feels like Far" by Linda Hasselstrom
  • "Finding Lewis and Clark: Old Trails, New Directions" edited by James P. Ronda & Nancy Tystad Koupal
  • "Finding the West: Explorations with Lewis and Clark" by James P. Ronda
  • "The Forever War" by Dexter Filkins
  • "The House of Wisdom" by Jumal-Khalili
  • "In an Antique Land" by Amitav Ghosh
  • "The Journals of Lewis and Clark" edited by John Bakeless
  • "The Journey of Crazy Horse" by Joseph Marshall III
  • "Life on the Farm & Ranch: South Dakota Stories" edited by John E. Miller
  • "Love My Rifle More Than You" by Kayla Williams
  • "Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction" by Jonathan A.C. Brown
  • "Old Friends" by Tracy Kidder
  • "On the Homefront: South Dakota Stories" edited by Charles L. Woodard
  • "One-Room Country School: South Dakota Stories" edited by Norma C. Wilson and Charles L. Woodard
  • "One Thousand Roads to Mecca" edited by Michael Wolfe
  • "The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain" by Maria Rose Menocal
  • The Prairie in Her Eyes: The Breaking and Making of a Dakota Rancher by Ann Daum
  • "Redeployment" by Phil Klay
  • "Standing in the Light: A Lakota Way of Seeing" by Severt Young Bear and R.D. Theisz
  • "The Story of the Qur'an: Its History and Place in the Muslim Life" by Ingrid Mattson
  • "We Band of Angels" by Elizabeth M. Norman
  • "The Wild Blue" by Stephen E. Ambrose
  • "What is the What" by Dave Eggers
  • "What Makes a South Dakotan" edited by John E. Miller and Lenora Hudson
  • "When Asia was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors and Monks Who Created the 'Riches of the East'" by Stewart Gordon

Check Out a Nonfiction Title from the SDHC Lending Library

With a diverse selection of literature, the South Dakota Humanities Council offers a packaged reading program for book clubs or other interested groups. Whether the events are organized by individuals or by organizations, the Reading Group Toolkit provides up to 30 copies of any title from the council's lending library and an SDHC scholar, if desired, to lead a book discussion. For a $50 application fee, the group gains access to any of the council's 70-plus titles.

To browse the SDHC Lending Library, click the link below.