All time favorite non-fiction reads
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What books are your top favorites, well-written, interesting and worth reading again?
Five on my list:
The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin
The Powers That Be by David Halberstam
The Stone of Heaven: the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott Clark
John Adams by David McCullough
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
You're right, fleela, this is tough. I've always hated picking favorites, but some of the best non-fiction that I've read recently would include:
Gender Outlaw:On Men, Women and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein
Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws also by Kate Bornstein
Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity by Lawrence Lessig
Right now I'm reading James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice Sheldon by Julie Phillips which is shaping up to be very good.
rdurick, The Education of Henry Adams sounds like a book I definitely want to read.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh
Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi
Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
Arthur's Britain by Leslie Alcock
The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination with Statistics by Alan Schwarz
The top 2 are definite faves. The next 2 I've read numerous times and is by my fave author. The last one is excellent, although I don't think I'll need to read it again.
1. Freakonomics by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner
2. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
3. The Kid: What Happened When My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage
4. Savage Love by Dan Savage
5. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
#1 - Strangely, last night I was thinking about The Discoverers and its companion, The Inventors (maybe that's the wrong title - it doesn't touchstone) but couldn't remember the author. I never read either one, but was intrigued by both. I haven't heard of either one of them in years - how odd that you should mention this today as one of your favorites. I'll have to try to track them down.
#8 jim53 I wonder if the touchstone is wrong for The Turning Point, since it comes up as fiction.
#9 sjmccreary What a coincidence! Hope you find The Discoverers and enjoy it. I read one other of Daniel J. Boorstin's books, and it was good, but not as good.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol. 1: 1884-1933
Eleanor Roosevelt : Volume 2 , The Defining Years, 1933-1938
by Blanche Wiesen Cook
What an strong, knowledgeable and open minded woman. If only she could have been president after her husband..after she had already worked for years for the country.
#10 Good catch, CD1am, I wasn't paying attention when it created the links. I've changed it to the proper one, by Fritjof Capra. Thanks!
Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough
Into Thin Air: a Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Klondike: the Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush by Pierre Berton (published as Klondike Fever in the US, but I have a Canadian copy)
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
(author touchstones not working - I think this is because TPTB are working on authors today)
Ten good ones:
A Gentle Madness, Nicholas Basbanes- People even crazier about books than I am.
The Origin of Wealth, Eric Beinhocker- Economics gets an overhaul.
Parasite Rex, Carl Zimmer- Amazing strategies employed by parasites.
The Lucifer Principle, Howard Bloom- Rock band manager writes about science.
The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright- Events leading up to 9/11.
Radical Evolution, Joel Garreau- Speculations on humanity's future.
Mobs, Messiahs, and Markets, William Bonner and Lila Rajiva- Funniest book ever on how to be skeptical of people who are sure they know how the world should be run.
Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakuer- Fascinating look at the nature of faith and belief in an American religion, Mormonism.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes- Title says it all.
The World Without Us, Alan Weisman- What might happen on Earth if all the humans disappeared.
A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes is probably my favorite book of all time
Anything by Alex Kershaw but especially The Bedford Boys
Into Thin Air by Jon Karkauer
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L'Amour
How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom
Any of the true crime books by Colin Wilson
I am sure there are others, but those are the ones that just pop right off the top of my head.
Yes, great question. Some of my favorites:
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer
The Proud Tower, by Barbara Tuchman
Godel, Escher and Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris
Enduring Grace, by Carol Flinders
Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
Nickel and Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich
Good to see so many old favorites on these lists -- and to hear there's good reason I've been keeping The Discoverers around all these years, even if I haven't gotten to it yet ...
Some gems that haven't been mentioned yet:
The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
One Art, the collected letters of Elizabeth Bishop
Other Powers by Barbara Goldsmith, a biography of the amazing Victoria Woodhull.
People who like The Powers That Be might want to check out The Paper by Richard Kluger, about the New York Herald Tribune. It's out of print, but available pretty cheap from amazon sellers or alibris. Or, if you're lucky, your local library.
This is a long list, but these are the ones I reread the most:
The italics are mine by nina berberova,
Speak memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Poetics by Aristotle
Eternal Peace by Immanuel Kant
On liberty by John Stuart Mill
A vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
Decline and fall of the roman empire by Edward Gibbon
Hope against hope by Nadezhda Mandelstam
Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi
Histories by Herodotus and Thucydides
The World Within the Word by William Gass
Madwomen in the Attic by Susan Gilbert and Sandra Gubar
Diaries, A room of one's own and The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf
Diaries and Letters by George gordon Lord Byron
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
On Nature by Lucretius
Theory of justice by John Rawls
Consilience by Edward O. Wilson
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict
The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
The American Dilemma by Gunnar Myrdal
Apologia and Crito by Plato
Museum without Walls by Andre malraux
Coming of age in Samoa by margaret mead
Notebooks by Simone Weil
The origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
Number one is definitely An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot.
Cod by Mark Kurlansky
Another Day in the Frontol Lobe by Katrina Firlik
Strange Piece of Paradise by Terri Jentz
The Political Brain: the role of emotion in deciding the fate of the nation by Drew Westen
Anything written by Barbara Tuchman. She is both accurate & interesting. Theodore White, Jared Diamond, Sebastian Junger, Richard Rhodes, Oliver Sachs Gretel Ehrlich, there are many non-fiction writers whose works reads as smoothly as fiction.
Yes, CD1am, The Professor and the Madman was very interesting to me too. Here (in Australia) it was published under the title The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words by Simon Winchester.
The best of those I've read since 2005:
And the Band Played On
Team of Rivals
Dead Man Walking
Things We Couldn't Say
Under the Banner of Heaven
The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo
The Year of Magical Thinking
The Children's Blizzard
Gift From the Sea
I'd also recommend In Cold Blood as one I've never forgotten (and I read it in 1969).
All time? Wow! Having been an avid reader for 48 years, now, that's a tough one. I'll list a few big ones from the past several years:
Behind the Spanish Barricades: Reports from the Spanish Civil War by John Langdon-Davies
Roosevelt and Hopkins: an Intimate History by Robert E. Sherwood
1776 by David McCullough
Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fischer
The Old Ball Game: How John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and the New York Giants Created Modern Baseball by Frank DeFord
What I Learned from Jackie Robinson by Carl Erskine
The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin
Visions of Jazz: the First Century by Gary Giddins
The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia
Young Men and Fire, by Norman Maclean
The Secret Parts of Fortune, by Ron Rosenbaum
Patriotic Gore, by Edmund Wilson
Encounters with the Archdruid, by John McPhee
Asian Religions in Practice, by Donald Lopez
I've just finished reading Oracle Bones, by Peter Hessler. It is terrific -an easy read, but as you get further in and begin to realize what he's doing, breathtaking.
#30 - Hessler is one of my favorite comtemporary writers. I read his River Town:Two Years on the Yangtze some years ago and ever since have kept an eye out for his writing. I believe he has only recently moved back to the US from China, but thru the past few years his work about the ordinary lives and the rapid modernization of the Chinese were often in the "New Yorker." I believe they are available on line in the NYer archives - if you are interested in more of what he has done. Some great stuff.
I thought of another series of nonfiction books I've enjoyed. I haven't read all of them but I've read several of the yearly collections.
The Best American Science Writing and its rival The Best American Science and Nature Writing. I think they started in 2000. Both feature a guest editor for the year and some years there are a couple of pieces that appear in both. They are a collection of magazine length articles that appeared in print that year from a variety of sources. I always learn something from the them or am made to think about a subject in a different light. They're nice to have around because they don't need to be read in one sitting.
Hmmm, I would have to break my nonfiction faves into 2 lists: broad scope, "big idea" nonfiction, and highly enjoyable nonfiction that reads as easily as great fiction.
Jared Diamond's 2 main works, Collapse and Guns, Germs, and Steel
Beyond Civilization: World's Four Streams of Civilization--this work has been greatly overlooked by the nonfiction world, in my opinion
Never Cry Wolf
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
I just added Beyond Civilization: World's Four Streams of Civilization to my I want to read that! list. It sounds really interesting. T'm glad you mentioned it.
Beyond Civilization does sound interesting. My beloved local library doesn't have it, so now I am on a quest!
My favourites from the past couple of years.
Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski.
The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.
A Writer at War A Soviet Journalist with the Red Army by Vasily Grossman and a great commentary by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova.
Six Wives of Henry VIII by David Starkey
Istanbul Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk
Bodies and Souls-The Tragic Plight of Three Jewish Women Forced into Prostitution in the Americas by Isabel Vincent
The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
Vermeer In Bosnia by Lawrence Weschler
My favorite is Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, but after that there are a number of others, mostly classic Christian works like The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Resurrection of the Human Body (which some would consider to be a fiction work). :) I also like conspiracy or political works like One World by Tal Brooke and Slouching Towards Gomorrah by Robert Bork. I can get into all of that stuff pretty heavily.
Hmm, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek has to be near the top of the list for books I found wretchedly unreadable. And I tried, I really did. A dear friend gave it to me, thinking it was wonderful, and he kept asking what I thought of it, so I kept trying to slog through it, but reading even a single page made me want to fling it across the room. Matter of personal taste I suppose. I love nature as much as anyone, but I want to get out and experience it for myself, not put up with someone blathering on endlessly about it.
Definitely In Cold Blood and Kon Tiki, two from my youth that I remember as being terrific, engrossing and well-written. Is The Moveable Feast considered nonfiction? If so, that's another favorite, as is Calvin Trillins' Alice Let's Eat. Also Team of Rivals, Devil in the White City, and Caesar, life of a Colossus, all read in the last couple of years. Oh, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, another from my youth. Ghost Map, which I also read recently, is another winner.
ETA Stiff by Mary Roach, which I read last year and forgot to include on my list of favorites, though it was. Thanks to cgm707 at Msg. 61 for the reminder!
Interesting. I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek after a 10 day long hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains with a group of friends. I had experienced a lot of solitude immediately prior to picking it up -- maybe that's what made it special...the timing. Anyway, I thought it was fantastic.
Difficult but -
London:the Biography by Peter Ackroyd
The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
The Story of Art by E H Gombrich
A Better Class of Person by John Osborne
Will in the World:How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Detective by Kate Summerscale
London: the Biography sounds like a really interesting book. A couple months ago, when reading the mystery Full dark House, I learned that prior to WWII, London had been the largest city in the world. I hadn't been aware of that. With all the fiction I read that is set in and around London, past and present, I definitely have to read this book.
Excellent thread! These are the first ones that popped up:
the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
It's Always Something by Gilda Radner
Til Death Do Us Part by Vincent Bugliosi
Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind by Donald C. Johanson
Tutankhamun: The Untold Story by Thomas Hoving
The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun by Howard Carter
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson
Annapurna: A Woman's Place by Arlene Blum
A Delicate Arrangement: The Strange Case of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace by Arnold Brackman
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Hiroshima by John Hershey
Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes us Human by Richard Leakey
Rhythms of Vision by Lawrence Blair
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander
Longitude by Dava sobel
And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts
Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parada, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote,The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and I'm sure there are others...but those come to mind first.
The first that come to mind are David Hackett Fischer's Washington's Crossing and Helen Castor's Blood and Roses, but those are just the best of the best of the non-fiction I've read fairly recently. Some other really good non-fic titles, including two obviously special-interest nominees, are:
* Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns
* Norman F. Cantor's The Civilization of the Middle Ages
* Gail Collins' America's Women
* Antonia Fraser's The Wives of Henry VIII
* John Guy's Queen of Scots
* Eric Ives' The Life and death of Anne Boleyn
* John Kelly's The Great Mortality
* David McCullough's 1776
* Régine Pernoud's Joan of Arc: Her Story
* Lynn Sherr's Failure is Impossible
* Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror
* David von Drehle's Triangle
* Barbara Walker's four knitting treasuries (A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and so on)
* Alison Weir's Henry VIII: The King and His Court
Memoirs of Glueckel of Hameln by Gluckel (1987).
Publication: Schocken (1987), Paperback, 336 pages
or The Life of Gluckel of Hameln, 1646-1724, Written By Herself by Gluckel, Translated from the Original Yiddish and Edited By Beth-Zion Abrahams Segal (1963).
This is the amazing story of a Jewish businesswoman in Germany. You don't have to be a Jewish feminist to enjoy it (like Levy's rye bread)!.
#53 LynnB - it's sitting on my shelf L44 (Library, 4th bookshelf, 4th row) just waiting to be read. Unfortunately, I have soooo many books to read that it may take a while for me to get to it!
Thanks for reminding me about it, - I have been on an historical fiction binge and it might just fit in perfectly.
I loved Longitude. A gem of a book. Did you like it?
karenmarie, I did like Longitude. Dava Sobel can really bring stories like that to life.
Another favorite recalled from years gone by:
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman, Richard Feynman.
I've enjoyed so many non-fiction books since the mid-1970s that it is difficult to list just a few, but here goes:
The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmond S. Morgan
The Shape of European History by William H. McNeill
The Modern World System by Immanuel Wallerstein
Plagues and Peoples by Wm. H. McNeill
Germany and the Emigration by Mack Walker
The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas
With Malice Toward None by Stephen B. Oates
All God's Dangers by Theodore Rosengarten
The Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch
At the Edge of History by William Erwin Thompson
Fin-de-Siecle Vienna by Carl Schorske
The Feminization of American Culture by Ann Douglas
Goodbye Darkness by William Manchester
The American Monomyth by Robert Jewett and John Shelton Lawrence
No Place of Grace by T. J. Jackson Lears
The Germans by Gordon Craig
The Rising Sun by John Toland
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy
Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer
All That is Solid Melts into Air by Marshall Berman
Celia: a Slave by Melton Alonza McLaurin
Twentieth Century Culture by Norman Cantor
Reinhold Niebuhr by Richard Wightman Fox
The Last Farmer by Howard Kohn
The Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The Modern Mind by Peter Watson
Past Forgetting by Kay Summersby Morgan
Jesse James by T. J. Styles
Truman by David McCullough
Colossus by Niall Ferguson
The Coast of Dreams by Kevin Starr
The Courtier and the Heretic by Matthew Stewart
Postwar by Tony Judt
The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
Mostly I read fiction. However, the nonfiction books that read like fiction stay with me longer. Some of my favorites are In Cold Blood, The Glass Castle, Miracle in the Andes, Seven From Heaven, and Left for Dead: a Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis .
Deutcher's trilogy on Trotsky: Prophet Armed, Prophet Unarmed, Prophet Outcast. A compelling read about the Russian Revolution.
Guns, Germs and Steel Everybody ought to read this one, which basically describes the geographical basis of the cultural head start that led to Eurasian domination of the world.
The End of History and the Last Man Fukuyama develops a theory that Capitalism and Democracy are becoming ubiquitous because of certain characteristics inherent in the human soul. Much of his analysis derives from Hegel. Fukuyama is wrong, profoundly so, but his ideas are rich.
The Making of the Atomic Bomb Explains how it happened, and gives a real feeling for the personalities and motivation of many of the key participants.
1491 What the new world was like before Columbus.
Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 by Paul M. Johnson
1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History
Acid Dreams: Complete Social History of LSD-The CIA, the 60s and Beyond
Capote by Gerald Clark
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
A Gradual Awakening by Stephen Levine
In the Absence of the Sacred: Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry Mander
Last Lion, The - Winston Churchill - Vol. 1: Visions of Glory 1874-1932
Last Lion, The - Winston Churchill - Vol. 2: Alone 1932-1940 both by William Manchester
Mary, Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser
Memories, Dreams & Reflections by Carl Jung
A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David Friedman
Ordinary People as Monks and Mystics by Marsha Sinetar
Oscar Wilde by Richard Ellman
Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder
The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
The Re-enchantment of Everyday Life by Thomas Moore
Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach
Why is Sex Fun: The Evolution of Human Sexuality
Here is a partial list, all read in the last 3 years or so.
Nothing Venture, Nothing Win: His Autobiography - Sir Edmund Hillary Absolutely loved it
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe - Simon Singh
Life is so Good - George Dawson, Richard Glaubman
Ethnic America: A history - Thomas Sowell Like everything I have read by him
The Fatal Shore: the epic of Australia's founding - Robert Hughs
Witness - Whittaker Chambers
The Gulag Archipelago, 1918 - 1956, Volume 1; An Experiment in Literary Investigation - Alexsander Isaevich Solzhenietisyn Searching for the other two
A History of the English Speaking Peoples: The Birth of Britain - Winston S. Chruchill Looking for the other three
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A memoir in books - Azar Nafisi
Wow, The Gulag Archipelago. I used to own that book. I thought it was one of those books that everybody bought when it first came out, but nobody read. I have to admit, I didn't.
And you are actually listing it as a favorite read. Again, wow.
My favorite books are ones that make me think. Or move me. And that most certainly fits that bill.
One of the things that fascinates me is how in our day and age, with books like this available, how anyone can be an apologist for Communism? It truly leaves me gob smacked.
So, it is in the same vein that I would put "Schindler's List" on my all time list of favorite movies. Not a feel good movie, but one that I think every person should see. And I think the "The Gulag Archipelago" should be read.
By the way, I am looking to read the other two volumes if I ever find them.
My top five:
A Walk in the Woods - Bill Bryson
Sex Lives of Cannibals - Troost
Alive - Piers Paul Read
The World Without Us - Alan Weisman
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas- Hunter S. Thompson
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
Three Cups of Tea - Greg Mortenson
Emperors of Chocolate (something) Brennan
No Ordinary Time Doris Kearns Goodwin
Truman - David McCullough
Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krackauer
Walk in the Woods Bill Bryson
Short History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson
And the Band Played On Randy Shilts
FDR's Last Year Jim Bishop
THE FORGOTTEN SOLDIER by Guy Sajer
THE WINTER SOLDIERS by Robert Ketchum
THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION by George O. Trevelyan
VOYAGER by J. Yeager & R. Rutan
All works written by John McPhee
THE CIVIL WAR by Shelby Foote
MARLBORO; His Life and Times by Winston S. Churchill
THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Winston S. Churchill
PERSONAL MEMOIRS OF U. S. GRANT
FOUNDING BROTHERS by Joseph J. Ellis
THE NAVAL WAR AGAINST HITLER by Donald Macintyre
FIREBIRDS: Flying the Typhoon in Action by Charles Demoulin
1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann
GUADALCANAL: Starvation Island by Eric Hammel
ENDURANCE: Shackelton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing
All works written by Barbara Tuchman
THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB by Richard Rhodes
K2: Triumph and Tragedy by Jim Curran
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH by William L. Shirer
GEORGE WASHINGTON: CITIZEN-SOLDIER
by Charles C. Wall
I work for CPS so I read a lot of books about neglect, children, etc. and two of my recent favorites are The Boy Who was Raised As a Dog, and Walk on Water: Inside an Elite Pediatric Surgical Unit. The first book, by Bruce Perry, tells stories of how neglect and abuse shaped children developmentally, and the second, by Michael Ruhlman, gives an intimate inside view of cardiac surgery on newborns.
The stranger beside me by Ann Rule
Capone by Laurence Bergreen
Mao by Jung Chang
Helter skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
Under the loving care of the fatherly leader by Bradley K. Martin
Rasputin by Edward Radzinsky
Stalin by Edward Radzinsky
Crime Inc. by Martin Short
Comrade Chikatilo by Mikhail Krivich
In cold blood by Truman Capote
Probably Paul Theroux's Sunrise with Seamonsters - it hit a nerve in the 1980s for me. Plus good travelogues such as those that come from Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski and Irish writer Dervla Murphy - both are great travellers and social observers.
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman
Marie Antoinette: The Journey buy Antonia Fraser
Eleanore of Aquitaine by Alison Weir
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family by Mary S. Lovell
Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography by Peter Conn
The Ditchdigger's Daughters: A Black Family's Astonishing Success Story By Yvonne S. Thornton
On Golden Mountain: The 100-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family by Lisa See
Bound Feet and Western Dress by Pang Mei Chang
The Art of Burning Bridges by Geoffrey Wolff. OHara was perhaps the best writer of short stories America ever had. His stories, I think, give the truest, richest picture of American life at midcentury. Wolff did him justice.
London Perceived is the most understanding, vivid portrait I've ever read of a city and its people.
the Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes and its newer successor are interesting as much for the interlocking lives as for the usual intriguing chaff of bookish talk. Someone you meet young in one anecdote is forever popping up later on in the background, older and wiser. A great source of material for my own book.
With Chatwin by Susannah Clapp. A riveting, ironic, surprising look at a varied and surprising life. (Clapp's book was another great source of material for A Book of Ages. Cheers to Ms. Clapp who enjoyed and endured Chatwin and brought all these stories home.)
I tend to read fiction, and lately YA, but these I would recommend:
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicky Myron
The Girl in the Green Sweater: A Life in Holocaust's Shadow by Krystyna Chiger
Small Miracles of the Holocaust: Extraordinary Coincidences of Faith, Hope, and Survival by Yitta Halberstam
The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-Three Women Search for Understanding
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert
The books which remain stuck in one's mind after many years seem to be:
THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT: and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks which describes the almost unbelievable ways in which brain malfunctions can express themselves in otherwise healthy and sane individuals. It is almost a horror story.
THE LAST STEP: the American Ascent of K2 by Rick Ridgeway describes the first American expedition to reach the top of the world's second highest mountain. The climb of K2 makes climbing Everest look like a tough Hike. It is probably the toughest 8,000+ meter climb in the world, and very few people have achieved it.
ENDURANCE: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is the story of an Antarctic Expedition which became a struggle for survival on the frozen sea. It is all but unbelievable that everyone survived.
THE FORGOTTEN SOLDIER by Guy Sajer is the story of a young man from Alsace drafted into the German Army to fight in Russia.
COMING INTO THE COUNTRY by John McPhee is the story of a remote town in Alaska near the Yukon Territory and the people who chose to live there. The title refers to the expression used by them, as in; "When did you 'come into the country'?".
THE WINTER SOLDIERS by Richard M. Ketchum is the story of the the American War for Independence told better than I have heard it anywhere else. The title refers to the sentence in Tom Paine's 'THE AMERICAN CRISIS' ; "The Summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.... Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered...". This was written after the American Army was defeated at the Battle of New York and lost 80% of the soldiers, 150 cannon, 12,000 artillery rounds, 6,000 muskets & 400,000 rifle loads, plus all tents and camp equipment, the worst defeat of the war.
Few people know that the Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, Winston S. Churchill would have been known as a great, and popular, Historian even if he had not been the 'Last Lion', roaring defiance at Adolf Hitler. Two of his works come to mind: MARLBORO, His Life and Times and THE SECOND WORLD WAR. Both are well written and enjoyable.
DAY OF TRINITY by Lansing Lamont is the story of the development of the first Atomic Bomb.
The best memoirs written by an American President are considered to be those of President Grant. It is the inside story of how the Civil War was won on the battlefield.
One of the best of the multi-volume works about the War for Southern Independence is THE CIVIL WAR BY Shelby Foote.
Another work which appeals to me is ONE DAY AT KITTY HAWK by John E. Walsh, in which two bicycle mechanics to devise something which the finest scientific and engineering minds in the world had failed to achieve; the Airfoil, which permits Lift to greatly exceed Drag in aircraft wings and propellers.
A book I should have included in my original posting:
A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists, 1854-1967 by Rachel Cohen
I often think of the anecdotes and the unexpected links I learned about from this book.
Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose is a nice series of profiles of Victorian literary marriages -- the happiest, naturally, being the highly uncoventional nonmarriage of George Eliot.
I just know I'm going to leave out something, but here goes, in no particular order...
A History of the Vikings by Gwyn Jones
The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Memoranda During the War by Walt Whitman
I realized I have starred this thread without yet posting to it. It's always difficult to come up with these lists, so I am going to punt a bit. I'll limit my response to within the last four years, as that is what is freshest in my mind.
Team of Rivals
Under the Banner of Heaven
Guns, Germs, and Steel
Beak of the Finch
Can anyone comment on Orlando Figges? I" ve been dying to read Natasha's Dances for a while now.
Here are a few off the top of my head:
Issac's Storm and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Two of my favorite books ever, fiction or non-fiction.
Fast Food nation by Eric Schlosser
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
The Indifferent Stars Above By Daniel James Brown
Fantastic topic! I have a ton of new books to read now.
the devil in the white city by erik larson.
i like my non fiction to be as entertaining as fiction.
freakonomics also very entertaining.
I actually liked the movie Jarhead more than I liked the book.. though the book was engrossing. I felt that the movie was heir apparent to Apocalypse Now
I've recently finished Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power. What an amazing book: a great writer and a fascinating subject.
Favorites from recent years include:
Running for the hills: Growing up on my mother's sheep farm in Wales - Horatio Clare
Everything is miscellaneous: The power of the new digital disorder - David Weinberger
The tipping point: How little things can make a big difference - Malcolm Gladwell
You have the power: Choosing courage in a culture of fear - Frances Moore Lappe
American nerd: The story of my people - Benjamin Nugent
Finding the Heart of the Child: Essays on children, families, and schools - Edward M. Hallowell
Paine's Age of Reason, as it encourged me to use mine.
Kropotkin's Mutual Aid for saving me (in high-school)from Aynn Rand egotism
Lucretius' On the Nature of Things for the maybe-this-maybe-that courage of early science.
C.H. Waddington's The Ethical Animal for showing me what scientists could contribute to our understanding of morals.
Ovid's Loves for the charming mix of psychology and eros.
Chesterton's Orthodoxy for showing me how entertaining philosophical essays may be.
Perhaps I will come back with more another day. I have favorites in many fields of non-fiction including that mixed with fiction. Moby Dick is, afterall half-nonfiction, the metaphysical essays on eyes and tail and brain etc are wonderful and remind us that Carlye's Sartor Resartus could be called non-fiction even if the protagonist is fictional . . .
And, there are my own books -- i find much of them worth re-reading even though I wrote them. Speaking of which, I recall the aesthetic listings (monowazukushi) in the so-called Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon -- first diva of good taste -- and my first large saijiki (haiku almanac) which opened up a world hard to imagine from reading individual poems.
hmm, 5 eh.
Well how about these, in no particular order:
Chaos by James Gleick-a great introduction to the history of chaos theory and fractals
King's Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz-superb study of animal behaviour
Wonderful Life By Stephen Jay Gould- a book about a remarkable haul of very early fossils-fossils that are of soft tissued animals from the pre-cambrian era!
Life on Earth by Attenborough-theTV series, which I first watched as a kid, inspired me so much, and the book is superb!
The Red Hourglass by Gordon Grice- a fabulous look at the many ways predators and other animals protect themselves. The Red hourglass of the title refers to the Black Widow or Red Back spider and an interesting experiment by a brave/foolhardy scientist!
Women's Work: The First 20,000 years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber
Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer (almost anything by him actually)
A Bad Birdwatcher's companion by Simon Barnes
The Great Game: On Secret Service in High Asia by Peter Hopkirk
Why the South Lost the Civil War by Richard Beringer
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.