(a variation on the original question which was more generic)
1. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen...The 1893 Chicago World's Fair and an incredible period of time when so many things we use today were being invented (electricity, etc.), plus a gruesome backstory of a horrific mass murderer operating at the same time. The juxtaposition of the two makes for a phenomenal book. (Nonfiction.)
2. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan... The Great American Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The author realized that he needed to act immediately if he wanted to actually get first hand accounts of this horrific period of time in American history. The book is based on the many interviews that he conducted with folks who lived through the Dust Bowl. (Nonfiction.)
3. Playing the Enemy by John Carlin...Nelson Mandela and the game that saved South Africa in the 1990s! How did South Africa move from apartheid to integration without a civil war? This book explains the role that rugby played. (Nonfiction.)
4. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden... Japan before and during WWII and the life of a geisha. Fiction but you will think it really is a memoir. (Fiction.)
5. The Race to Save the Lord God Bird by Phillip Hoose... The beginning of the Audubon Society and the race to save a woodpecker from extinction. (Nonfiction.)
6. The Big Burn by Timothy Egan...Teddy Roosevelt and the fire that saved America in 1900s. This book was fascinating and eye-opening. (Nonfiction.)
7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See...China in the 1800s. What is was like to be female and specifics on the horrors of foot-binding. (Fiction.)
8. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann...What happened to the British Explorer Percy Fawcett in 1925 when he was searching for the lost city of Z? (Nonfiction.)
9. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson... Bryson set out to understand the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves and in his typical straight forward style made everything accessible and often funny. (Nonfiction.)
10. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom...During World War II in Holland the Ten Boom family hid Jews. Corrie and her sister were imprisoned in a concentration camp. This is their story.
11. The Help by Kathryn Stockett...Civil Rights and what is was like for for black maids raising white children in the deep South in the 1960s. This should be required reading.