I hated cartoons as a kid.

Weird, I know, but I just couldn’t (and can’t) get invested in a story about talking ducks or mutant turtles. I’m just too much of a realist.

As I grew up this love of reality manifested itself in my reading habits as well—I became a die-hard non-fiction lover. I just really like true stories. I’ll read almost anyone’s biography. Really, anyone- I read a crappy biography of Rosie O’Donnell twice as kid, for no apparent reason.

But, even I must admit that every so often I long to get lost in the fictional world of a good novel.  Now I can’t go so far as to become wrapped up in the love triangles of vampires or the scandals at a school of wizardry, but there are some beautifully written novels that allow even a realist like me a chance to escape.

Here are some of my favourite fiction picks for non-fiction aficionados.

White Oleander by Janet Fitch
I am hardly the first to sing the praises of this book; it was an Oprah book club book after all.

It tells the story Astrid, a young girl who is bounced around from foster home to foster home after her mother, a self-centred, unfeeling woman named Ingrid, is put in jail for murder.

As she passes through the different homes Astrid encounters violence, jealousy, drugs, prostitution, infidelity, and a string of complicated and unhealthy relationships, all the while maintaining her most unhealthy relationship, that with her imprisoned mother.

It’s an enthralling tale.

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Ok, I may be cheating a bit on this one as The Bell Jar is thought to be a largely autobiographical novel, but it is a novel nonetheless. 

It chronicles the debilitating mental illness of a young woman named Esther Greenwood.

Very much a glimpse into the mental health ethos of America in the 1950’s, the book details electroshock therapy she endures and her unpleasant stay in a mental hospital. Likely, because Plath’s own story was so closely linked to Esther story, there is a distinct ring of truth to it.

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The Love Wife by Gish Jen
The Wongs are a self-proclaimed “half-half” modern American family with a Chinese American father, a blonde haired WASP mother, two adopted Asian daughters, one from China and one of unknown origins, and a half white half Chinese biological son.

Their placid home life is interrupted when a distant cousin from China comes to live with them and help out with the children. It is a fascinating, and realistic portrait of the struggles of one modern American family.

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The Memory Keepers Daughter
This page-turner tells the troubling story of man’s split second decision to give away his newborn daughter with Down ’s syndrome. Instead of telling his wife the truth he tells her the baby died during birth, in hopes of sparing her pain.

Instead, the secret drives a wedge between the couple as they both retreat to their independent cocoons of grief; all the while the baby is being secretly raised by a nurse who kept her instead of institutionalizing her as she was instructed to do.

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Empire Falls by Richard Russo
This Pulitzer Prize winner is set in a small, depressed Maine town called Empire Falls. The narrator, Miles Roby, runs the Empire Grill, the local diner, while struggling to keep his family afloat.

He has a teenage daughter, known as Tick, a soon-to-be ex-wife, Janine, who is already set to remarry, a trouble-maker brother, and an alcoholic father.  With rich, well developed characters it’s hard not to get caught up in the drama of Empire Falls.

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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Though fiction, the story is based on the true events of the Lima Crisis, the hostage crisis that took place in 1996 when a rebel group took hundreds of people hostage during a party at the home of the Japanese Ambassador to Peru. The book is captivating largely because it isn’t simply a story of good vs. Evil.

Patchett manages to capture the humanity of both the hostages and terrorists as they form deep and complicated relationships with one another. The name, Bel Canto, is Italian for beautiful singing and refers to the central role opera plays in the novel as a means to bring people from vastly different walks of life together.

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What fiction reads would you recommend to lovers of non-fiction books? Add to our list in the comment box below.