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Looking For Recommendations > Interesting Non Fiction

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Fiona (bookcoop) I'm going to try to read two books at the same time - one fiction and one non fiction and I'd like suggestions.

I want history, biographies etc, politics too... general stuff. Not interested in the cold war, the Vietnam war or any other war beyond ww2.

I want the writer to have a soul, someone who connects with me the reader and not someone who blathers on into their beard like most sociology text books I was subjected to. (I enjoyed sociology, but honestly some sociologists need to learn when to get to the point.)

I'm not interested in personal memoirs or autobiographies. No woe is me tales of child abuse, there's so many of them and I don't feel like I need to read about them unless it is a more objective history of child abuse etc.

At the moment I'm reading Stiff and am interested in Spook and Bonk too.

I am also going to finish reading One Day in September: The Full Story of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre and the Israeli Revenge Operation "Wrath of God" and The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism both which I have started before but due to time restraints never got around to completing. They are about terrorism and the like and whilst I'm interested, it's more the writer's (Simon Reeve) style I like. I can read anything at all as long as the person who writes it is engaging.

I haven't read much non-fic as I feel I should, so nothing too deep, but I don't want anything too fluffy.

Not sure about true crime - maybe, not sure. Maybe the psychology of criminals, but not just a book about the Yorshire Ripper or whatever.

Any suggestions?


Laura (apenandzen) Any book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She mostly is a US Presidential biographer. Her stories really come alive. They do not feel one bit like dry boring 'history'. Also, I've heard good things about David McCullough - and I believe he writes in the same vein.


Robin (RobinSullivan) | 1002 comments So I know this is going to sound really really really strange but I would recommend .....

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. It about ... well "Salt" and you would think it would boring as heck but I read it for a face2face and really liked it.

I would also recommend. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness and the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. It is about the Chicago Worlds fair justiposed against a mass murderer. I didn't like the murder parts but the history behind the city and all the stuff that came about as part of the fair I found interesting.

-- Wife of GR Author Michael J. Sullivan | The Crown Conspiracy | Avempartha


Fiona (bookcoop) How did this get in here? I thought I put it in the recommendations folder? Bah, the internet is against me.

Thanks for the rec's... Salt does look interesting. Added a couple from the author's you rec'd Laura - I need to read more American history as apart from the boring cold war, we never covered anything much in school.




message 5: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori | 8389 comments Mod
Its ok Fiona, I relocated it for you!


message 6: by Laura (last edited Dec 25, 2008 07:23PM) (new)

Laura (apenandzen) Has anyone read The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective? It's a true murder mystery, where all the characters are introduced in the beginning like an Agatha Christie novel. I think it takes place in jolly old England, Fiona. I got it for my hubby @ the library.

Also in the same vein - Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England. I've read neither but both look interesting. I'm a sucker for Victorian England so...

:)


Hayes (Hayes13) You said you didn't want auto-bio, but I recommend anyway Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) by Richard P. Feynman. Feynman was the physicist who investigated and found the cause of the challenger disaster. This is his first (I think) memoir and it is charming, written in the early 80s.


message 8: by Robin (last edited Dec 26, 2008 06:51AM) (new)

Robin (RobinSullivan) | 1002 comments Hayes wrote: "Feynman was the physicist who investigated and found the cause of the challenger disaster. This is his first (I think) memoir and it is charming, written in the early 80s."

Challenger disaster and charming - I must be missing something here.


Hayes (Hayes13) Challenger disaster and charming - I must be missing something here.

In the sense that... he investigated the challenger disaster in 1986. He had previously written this first memoir (1985). The memoir is charming... not the disaster.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 1733 comments I almost always have a non-fiction going, as well as a novel. Right now it's Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life, by Alison Weir, which I am enjoying.

Ones I've read that I can definitely recommend:

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Anything by David McCullough (I particularly enjoyed The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge and Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt, but all his presidential bios are good, as is 1776)
The Guns of August, by Barbara Tuchman
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara Tuchman
The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman
Nothing Like It In the World : The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869, by Stephen Ambrose
Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, by Tom Holland
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes
The Fabric of the Cosmos, by Brian Greene


Lisa | 69 comments For an 'adventurous' non-fiction, my book club read this one a year ago and were totally amazed, we still talk about it from time to time: "Endurance - Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antartica" by Alfred Lansing


message 12: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 193 comments Fiona wrote: "I'm going to try to read two books at the same time - one fiction and one non fiction and I'd like suggestions.

I want history, biographies etc, politics too... general stuff. Not interested in ..."


"Truman" by David McCullough. Won the Pulitzer. After reading it my father-in-law, a lifelong Republican said that now there are two Democrats he liked Harry and me.


Liesl (LieslM) | 170 comments A few of my favorites are:

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read

A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen

Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater

The Wrinkle Cure by Nicholas Perricone

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor


message 14: by El (new)

El Just going through my notebook of books I've read - I have a miscellaneous non-fiction shelf on my page if you would like to take a look at other titles. I tried to come up with a different variety here:

Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality, and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale by Catherine Orenstein.
In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land by Bill Weber and Amy Vedder.
Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman.
A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries, and Recluses by Isabel Colegate.
An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks.
Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear and A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities by Jan Bodeson.


JG (The Introverted Reader) I'm not sure if he's exactly what you're looking for, but I love almost anything by Bill Bryson. Stay away from The Mother Tongue though. That book bored me to tears. But his travel books are absolutely hilarious. I laugh till I cry. I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away and In a Sunburned Country are two of my favorites. A Short History of Nearly Everything was an interesting general science book.


Jeane | 4887 comments JG, I would like to read something of BYll Bryson. His books seems to have something interesting but there is something that makes me wonder if I will enjoy them.


Hayes (Hayes13) Ed said: "Truman" by David McCullough. Won the Pulitzer. After reading it my father-in-law, a lifelong Republican said that now there are two Democrats he liked Harry and me.

Nice!


message 18: by Linda (last edited Dec 29, 2008 04:02PM) (new)

Linda | 888 comments Robin wrote: "So I know this is going to sound really really really strange but I would recommend .....

Have you read The Torture Doctor by David Franke? It's about H.H. Holmes.



Brenda | 163 comments I've read and enjoyed the following:

Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larsen
All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Wall
Candy Freak by Steve Almond
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner


Joanie | 711 comments We read Ballad of the Whiskey Robber a few months back-that was pretty good.


message 21: by El (new)

El Ooh, Ballad of the Whiskey Robber *was* really good.


Robin (RobinSullivan) | 1002 comments Linda wrote: "Robin wrote: "So I know this is going to sound really really really strange but I would recommend .....

Have you read The Torture Doctor by David Franke? It's about H.H. Holmes."


No I haven't but I'll look into it now - thanks




Donitello Lisa wrote: "For an 'adventurous' non-fiction, my book club read this one a year ago and were totally amazed, we still talk about it from time to time: "Endurance - Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antart..."

Ooh, yes, the story of Shackleton is astonishing.

Some of my all-time favorite non-fiction books are:

1. ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION, by Temple Grandin

2. SELF MADE MAN, Norah Vincent

3. THICK FACE, BLACK HEART, Chin Ning Chu

4. PLAY LIKE A MAN, WIN LIKE A WOMAN, Gail Evans






Julianne | 311 comments Fiona,

Here are some of my favorite non-fiction authors. Since you mentioned that you wanted a connection from the author versus a lecture-type format (I don't remember if that's how you said it, but I felt like you wanted a book that, though educational could also be like having a one-sided conversation with the author).

Bill Bryson-I listened to A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail and really enjoyed it. And I just picked up I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away.

Sarah Vowell-I first learned about her b/c she's the voice of Violet in the Pixar move The Incredibles. But she's been doing NPR for ages and has several books out. Her most recent is The Wordy Shipmates (about the Puritans coming to The New World), which I just got for Christmas. Assassination Vacation is about the first three US presidential assassinations, and she has a Lincoln obsession that makes the story so engaging.


Tony Horwitz-Another one who writes about a different side of history. His niche is that he tells the story as he travels to the places where it happened. He interviews local people (today) about their thoughts and views of the historical events that occurred, and then gives insight on how that's shaped the local or regional culture over the centuries. I've read Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before and A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. Both very good.

These are three engaging authors who I've come back to read more of what they have to offer, because I liked their writing style so much.


Leslie (LeslieHealey) Laura wrote: "Has anyone read [b:The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective|1747896|The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective|..."

Laura wrote: "Has anyone read [b:The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective|1747896|The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective|..."

Hayes mentioned "you must be joking mr. Feynman" and I second it! I am a fiction reader, mostly, but I abought this for my engineer father, and had to read it before I gave it to him. What a beautiful man, what a creative mind!


message 28: by Ed (new)

Ed (ejhahn) | 193 comments re: Feynman.

I third the recommendation. I had the pleasure of knowing him, though only slightly. I worked for an educational publisher, Addison-Wesley, that published a compilation of a number of his lectures.

I interacted with him when then Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the California State Curriculum Commission that was deciding what Elementary Math books would be used in the State for the next four years (around 1967 0r '68). I was very involved in our company's effort to be listed.

You cannot imagine the hilarity we all experienced when he took on the "Professional Educators" about what was good mathematics and what was bad mathematics. Most of them hadn't cracked a math book since High School Algebra. They depended on advisors who all had private agendas depending on which publisher they did consulting for. Feynman on the other hand had no advisors but did all the evaluating himself and refused to discuss the books with anyone including us, his publisher. Too much integrity, I guess.

When one of the most obnoxious, obsequious, simpering members suggested that he couldn't possibly know what an elementary student should be learning, he replied that one thing he did know was that it was wrong to teach bad mathematics at any level, thereby shutting her up.

What a guy!


Rebecca Here are a few of my favorites that I've read over the last couple of years. I've recently been trying to read at least one non-fiction book per month. It has been really interesting.
1) Under and Alone The True Story of the Undercover Agent Who Infiltrated America's Most Violent Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, by William Queen
2) The Glass Castle A Memoir, by Jeannette Wells
3) Eat, Pray, Love One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert
4)Hooked Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish, by Bruce Knecht
5) The Year of Living Biblically One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible, by AJ Jacobs
6) A Long Way Gone Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah
7) Gang Leader for a Day, by Sudhir Venkatesh
8) Into Thin Air A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

Has anyone read these? If so, any suggestions for me on others I'd like?


Cindy (cyndil62) | 253 comments Rebecca, I think you might enjoy:
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas or
A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson

Fiona, I am still recommending Alison Weir...any of her books are great!


Leslie (LeslieHealey) Cindy wrote: "Rebecca, I think you might enjoy:
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas or
A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson

Fiona, I am still recommending Alison Weir...any of her books are great!"


Rebecca wrote: " Here are a few of my favorites that I've read over the last couple of years. I've recently been trying to read at least one non-fiction book per month. It has been really interesting.
1) Under a..."


Hi Cindy-is Alison Weir more historically accurate than Phillipa Gregory? love the time period, but disappointed that Gregory takes such liberties--it isn't like the true story isn't outrageous enough on its own!


message 32: by Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (last edited Jan 28, 2009 02:09PM) (new)

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 1733 comments I would certainly say she was more accurate than Philippa Gregory.

Avoid Henry VIII The King and His Court. It's dry, dry, dry. Her other non-fiction that I've read is OK, I think.

And why on earth an author would need to get "creative" with the facts about the Tudors is beyond me; the truth is bizarre enough as it is!


Leslie (LeslieHealey) thanks-I might also add it to my extra credit list for my BritLit students!


Leah (Ling_Ling) | 226 comments How the Irish Saved Civilization The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill or any of his books.. I'd recommend.. It is not a lengthy volume but it was suggested to me by one of my history professors and now I always suggest it when someone is looking for a good nonfiction!


Cindy (cyndil62) | 253 comments Leslie, I haven't read any Phillipa Gregory though I do have The Other Boleyn Girl on my bookshelf waiting to be read!

Alison Weir's books are interesting, fun to read, and bring history to life. Some quotes about her writing that I got from her website (alisonweir.org.uk) are:

"The scope and depth of Weir`s research provide a wealth of detail missing from many other narrative histories about the Tudors." (Publishers Weekly)

"Alison Weir has become an authority on Britain`s royal families…she has blown the dust from archives that have mouldered for years in dusty palaces and museums. The result is a series of vivid cameos as brilliantly conceived as they are scholarly." (Birmingham Post)

"Weir is an expert on Tudor history, and her work is both scholarly and readable - an enviable talent to possess." (The Bookseller)

Her latest book Mistress of the Monarchy will be available on Jan 27th!




message 36: by Bonnie (last edited Jan 31, 2009 02:31AM) (new)

Bonnie | 271 comments I've read Freakonomics Rev Ed A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt, Blink The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, and The Tipping Point How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference again by Malcolm Gladwell. They are all easy to read, fun and interesting.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation was both entertaining AND taught me better grammar.

One of my very favorite history books is
The Island at the Center of the World The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America by Russell Shorto about New Amsterdam (renamed New York when the English took it). Adriaen van der Donck, one of the main players in the book, became one of my historical crushes.

My favorite biography is Marie Antoinette The Journey by Antonia Fraser. SO much better than the movie. It kept me engaged and started feeling like I was reading a novel more than nonfiction.

Last month I read The Professor and the Madman A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. Also a really good, interesting read. And I just finished Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. Again, better than the movie. The politics can get a bit slow, but Georgiana was fascinating.

All these books were very engaging. I've read enough dry academic texts as a history major to appreciate a well-written nonfiction book.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 1733 comments Bonnie said "All these books were very engaging. I've read enough dry academic texts as a history major to appreciate a well-written nonfiction book."

Boy howdy have I been there, done that! I also have hard-earned appreciation for well-written non-fiction as a result.


Bonnie | 271 comments I'm also almost done with Four Queens The Provencal Sisters Who Ruled Europe, another really good history book. It's about four sisters from the south of France in the 13th century who all married men who either were kings or would later become kings.


Jill (wanderingrogue) | 329 comments I'd second Marie Antoinette. It's a completely engrossing read, something you don't always expect out of non-fiction history books. Marie is a much more sympathetic person to me now that I've read it too.


Claire | 30 comments Stasiland is fantastic. It's about Berlin and surrounding areas since the Stasi was in place, and in the 1990's. It's really well written, and very easy to read despite the subject matter.


Paula (Paula717) | 52 comments I loved "Mayflower" by Nathaniel Philbrick. I believe I learned more about the early American settlement, by reading this book, than I did in school. It was an incredible read.


Cindy (cyndil62) | 253 comments Thanks for sharing Paula! I've been wanting to read that book.


Nadia (bagambo) Philip Gourevitch's book, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda. Amazing book!


Paula (Paula717) | 52 comments Cindy wrote: "Thanks for sharing Paula! I've been wanting to read that book."

I hope you enjoy it.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (SusannaG) | 1733 comments Yes, I read Mayflower last year (I think) and enjoyed it.


message 46: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 27, 2009 05:29AM) (new)

Check out 'The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil' by Philip Zimbardo. It's about the psychology of good and evil, how ordinary people can do horrific things. Its very readable, Zimbardo is an excellent writer.

Politics...'A Problem From Hell: America and the age of genocide' by Samantha Power is amazing. This won the Pulitzer prize. It's deals with America's response to genocide, and is excellently written. (As an aside, Samantha Power is now part of the Obama administration, isn't she?)

The Irish saved civilisation? Interesting!


Avory (judithavory) | 251 comments Three Cups of Tea One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time

It's absolutely amazing, well-written, inspiring, etc. Though it is technically a kind of a memoir, it isn't in the way you're thinking. David Oliver Relin, a journalist, writes about Greg Mortensen's experience going from mountain climbing to developing schools for women in Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Pamela Pickering In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

I also second previous suggestions: Under the Banner of Heaven and Devil in the White City.


Liz (HisSheep) | 466 comments Robin wrote: "So I know this is going to sound really really really strange but I would recommend .....

[b:Salt: A World History|2715|Salt: A World History|Mark Kurlansky|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1161..."


Robin, I agree with you on "Devil in the White City", not sure why the author had to include that in such an interesting story about the creation of the Chicago World's Fair!


Liz (HisSheep) | 466 comments Pamela wrote: "In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

I also second previous suggestions: Under the Banner of Heaven and Devil in the White City. "


I'm familiar with all the books (and have read all or portions) mentioned except "Under the Banner of Heaven". Curiosity made me go directly to my library website and reserve it! Thanks, I think ... ;o)


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