Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Nonfiction Books That Should Be Reshelved as Fiction

Jennifer Paull

Staff Writer

Jennifer Paull walks quickly.

Turns out that the library sign in Manly, Australia, directing readers to the fiction section to find any Lance Armstrong books, was a prank. Even without an official sanction, though, it’s a satisfying, straight-shooting solution. (Does anyone else remember Alice pulling a similar move in the film Last Days of Disco?) Here are some other we’d like to see reshelved as “stranger than nonfiction.”

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

The bestselling memoir got a new level of scrutiny when the Smoking Gun website debunked many of Frey’s claims in an article starting “Oprah Winfrey’s been had.” The publisher extended refunds to readers who felt duped. Frey later went down a po-mo path, saying that there is no truth anyway.


Naked by David Sedaris

Not content with the disclaimer of exaggeration in Sedaris’s story collection, Alex Heard fact-checked material and wrote an exposé in The New Republic. Sedaris deflects these accusations by reminding readers that he’s a humorist, not a journalist. Could we put a token Sedaris in fiction and then leave the rest on a special table decorated with taxidermied mice?


Most diet books.


Geronimo’s Bones by Nasdijj

In 1999, Esquire magazine published an article by an unknown Navajo writer named Nasdijj, which described the death of the author’s son by fetal alcohol syndrome. The piece was nominated for a National Magazine Award, and Nasdijj went on to publish three memoirs about his turbulent, often terrible life. Turns out, though, that Nasdijj was a fabrication spun by Tim Barrus, a white man from Michigan who also wrote erotic novels. Points for creativity?


Going Rogue by Sarah Palin

In 2009, Palin’s memoir even outstripped Dan Brown on the Amazon pre-sales list. But her version of the McCain/Palin campaign came under fire by McCain’s staffers, who rebutted many of her assertions. As Rioter Peter Damien notes, “Really, any book written by a politician. Particularly one trying to get elected. Off to fiction!”


Love and Consequences by Margaret Seltzer

Do you still have a copy of this? It could be a collector’s item. This supposed memoir traced a girl’s life as a half–Native American member of the Bloods gang in inner-city Los Angeles. Oprah loved it, the New York Times loved it, but it turned out to be completely made up by an all-white girl from the ’burbs. Seltzer’s sister outed her and the book was recalled by the publisher.