Five Favorite Nonfiction Reads 2018
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Is it too early to start this? Oh well. Here it is if anyone wants to post their favorites. Of course five is not mandatory, just a guideline for the brain to narrow it down some.
Nonfiction favorites for me this year:
Water at the Roots by Philip Britts (from the ER program) 5 star
Buried in Books by Julie Rugg (possibly from my FIL's paperbag of random books?) 5 star
In the Land of the Grasshopper Song by Mary Ellicot Arnold (long loved by the women in my family, local history) 4 star
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz (purchased at The Strand, in NYC, I use it a LOT) 4 star
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin (purchased at The Strand, in NYC) 4 star
There are a couple of other 5 and 4 star nonfiction books I've read this year, but these are the ones that had an impact on my soul, or are indispensable to me.
>2 Jim53: I think I read more nonfiction this year than usual, although I only read about half as many books this year as I usually do.
My favorite this year: Who We Are and How We Got Here by David Reich
I have two favorites.
I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships - Great advice on how to be a better communicator.
Hail to the Chin - Such an amusing memoir.
I read a lot more non-fiction than usually this year, and not just because I am taking a class on management.
My favourites were:
The Management Myth by Matthew Stewart - wildly amusing and thoughtprovoking book about management as a ‘science’ (spoiler alert: Matthew doesn’t agree that it is, and I agree with him) and management consulting and what scam it is.
Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard - about how women are continously silenced with examples from the Greek classics.
I’ve loaned both of them out, and haven’t gotten them back yet - either they are appropriated out of appreciation, or languish unread. I hope the former.
The body keeps the score by Bessel A. Van der Kolk - about how trauma influences the brains, and why it can be so difficult to treat.
Seven belong here for me. Three of them are probably of local interest only:
The Historical Overberg
My Cape Malay Kitchen
Books of more international interest are:
The secret life of Bletchley Park and a couple of others of the same drift
It's all Greek to me
A brief history of everyone who ever lived and, keeping the best for last
Travelling Cat in Ireland
>10 infjsarah: The first 2 of those enthusiastically seconded. I am trying to read as many books as possible that give me some hope for my children’s world.
As usual I was rubbish at reading non-fiction this year. Here are my 4 top reads ( I did read more but wouldn't consider that any belong on a "best" list).
Marmee and Louisa - excellent double biography of Louisa May Alcott and her mother
The Peabody sisters - more literary biography of New England women
Munnu - I'm classing this graphic novel as NF as I believe it is a memoir. It is a vivid and moving account of life in Kashmir
The future starts here - exhibition catalogue with thought-provoking essays about design and the future.
I didn't read as much non-fiction as I would have liked, but I did finish 9 books. These were the best.
In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown - Nathaniel Philbrick
I tore through this in two days. Philbrick writes his histories in such a compelling way that even if you know how things turn out, you are so fascinated and pulled along you can hardly turn the pages fast enough.
Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle - Thor Hanson
Written in an engaging and enthusiastic style, the book was continually interesting and entertaining. It begins with feathered dinosaur finds and scientists working on the evolution of feathers and flight and how, or how not, those might intersect. Then on to feathers in fashion and other human uses like pens and the functions of feathers aside from flight. There are chapters devoted to colors and breeding displays. If you are into birds or evolutionary biology this book is well worth adding to your library.
The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit - Michael Finkel
I didn’t write a review for this one, but it was an interesting look into a truly strange person. While Knight was pretty much isolated and had no human interactions, he wasn’t cut off from the rest of the world. His presence was noted, although no one knew who was doing the stealing from cabins and camps all around a lake in Maine. Through an ingenious use of space and those stolen items, Knight created the life he craved. Too bad he couldn’t respect others as he demanded they respect him.
The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature - David George Haskell
What happens in the forest, stays in the forest. One man watches one square meter of woods in Tennessee and oh boy is there more going on than he bargained for. I learned a lot from this book and enjoyed my virtual time in the woods with the writer.
The Enigma of the Owl: An Illustrated Natural History - Mike Unwin
A wonderful, laugh and smile inducing look at the current state of major owl populations throughout the world. On the whole it provides excellent photographs and descriptions. It does get a bit repetitive though and I found myself skimming a bit toward the end. If you love owls and want the latest taxonomy information, this is your book.
Again I was fairly spoilt for choice as I had some great non-fiction reads
A Little History of Religion by Richard Holloway
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
Night by Elie Wiesel
The final spot could be filled by any of these
Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama
Edge of Blue Heaven: A Journey Through Mongolia by Benedict Allen
When the Sky Fell In Search of Atlantis by Rand Flem-Ath and Rose Flem-Ath
I started eight non-fiction books in 2018 but I would only list three of them as worth inclusion in a top five. Some of the others were quite disappointing.
Confessions of the Pricing Man
Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them
Write to the Point
The three I have listed will be beside me well into the future.
I rated these all at 4.5 stars.
The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
I think I enjoyed this one the most. Cornelius was quite the character although it was about at my limit of remembering who all the people discussed were.
Reality is not what it seems: the journey to quantum gravity
I remember thinking that his description of the evolution of theory of relativity explained some things that hadn't made sense to me before but I find I don't remember much of it anymore.
The emperor of all maladies : a biography of cancer
The reluctant metropolis : the politics of urban growth in Los Angeles
This was particularly interesting to me as it described the politics of the LA and Orange County of my youth and young adulthood. It may not be as interesting to others though.
The spirit level : why greater equality makes societies stronger
>11 haydninvienna: >12 amberwitch: In a year where everything seemed to be "going to hell in a handbasket", I found these top 2 books remarkably cheering. Media only wants a crisis and only wants to report the bad stuff and wants to make a crisis out of minor things too. Being exposed to that daily makes us pessimistic. These 2 books reminded me that actually there are many, many people doing small and large things every day to make the world a better place and mostly succeeding very, very well. Of course, the world isn't perfect and is unlikely to ever be so and there ARE some things such as climate change which are going to be a huge challenge for the world. But being reminded of the things we have achieved is good for your mental health, I think.
I now make a conscious effort to seek out positive news regularly to counteract the negative drone. And to question the negative spin at times.
Indoor plumbing alone makes me grateful :)
>19 infjsarah: Of course you're absolutely right. The media have little use for a good news story, and politicians like good news only when they can claim the credit (and even then, their good news might be our bad news--fill in the blanks to suit yourself). Some things really are improving though. Angus Deaton won a Nobel Prize in Economics a couple of years ago for work that produced his and his wife's book The Great Escape--that is, the "great escape" from poverty.
If to the 2 books I've already seconded I add the book by Carlo Rovelli mentioned by >18 jjwilson61: , Bad Science mentioned by >16 Peace2: and the Deaton book, I could make up a decent top 5, except that I haven't finished reading the Deaton book; or I could add Dreams from My Father, also mentioned by >16 Peace2: , which I have but have not read yet. (I also bought Becoming and The Audacity of Hope, not necessarily with any intention of reading them, just as an eff-you to the present incumbent of the highest US office.)
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