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Old 07-22-2009, 05:23 PM
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Please recommend some fascinating non-fiction


Hi there.

I've been looking for some interesting non-fiction to buy, and so far I've found:

The Mountain People by Colin M. Turnbull
St Kilda: Island on the Edge of the World by Charles Maclean
The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst by Nicholas Tomalin
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Anyone read any of those? I'm looking for similar books, though really, I don't mind what they're like as long as you find it them fascinating. Fire away, if you would be so kind.
  #2  
Old 07-22-2009, 06:23 PM
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Travel:
Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz -- Travelogue following the voyages of Captain Cook

Economics:
The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson -- a history of the financial industry from the Middle Ages to today
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely -- an interesting account of modern behavioral economics

History:
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell -- the history and context surrounding the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley, as told by someone with a quirky, funny, somewhat morbid fascination with the subject
The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell -- history of the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Company (Founders of Boston, Salem, and, ultimately, Rhode Island)
Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky -- many major events of history depend on who controls the production of salt, or at least Kurlansky makes that argument (fairly persuasively)

All great books. Enjoy!

-Rick
  #3  
Old 07-23-2009, 03:21 AM
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A Primate's Memoir: A Neuroscientist's Unconventional Life Among the Baboons by Robert Sapolsky. Fascinating and hilarious. About half the book is about baboons - the other half is about his encounters with people in Kenya.

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt. People's driving habits reveal more than you might think.

How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker. in my opinion, this book has a much sounder scientific basis than Jayne's "Breakdown." Many of Pinker's other books are also very good, like The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language
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Old 07-23-2009, 08:20 AM
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Awakenings—Oliver Sacks
(The stage director is telling me I have to explain this one...the real story that the famed movie was based on. If you weren't interested in neurology before reading this, you will be afterwards.)

Gunpowder—Jack Kelly
The history of the development, manufacture, use, and socio-historical impact of black powder Fascinating stuff.

Mars on Earth—Robert Zubrin
About the Mars Society's simulated Mars expedition projects in the Canadian arctic a couple of years back.

The Book of Lists—David Wallechinsky et all
Not deep reading, but an old weird classic (or an old classic for weirdos. Whichever). A fun read, even if you occasionally have to rinse of a film of frustrated post-counterculturalism.

The Zeppelin in Combat—Douglas Robinson
A detailed history of the German airships of WWI. Very slightly possibly an acquired taste, but it has some engrossing tales even if you're not into the technical side; most notably the exploits and raids of Heinrich Mathy, and the record setting (aborted!) resupply flight of LZ104. You're welcome.

I've also got some lovely recommendations for books about the history of germ warfare programs, and Apple Computer before Steve Jobs' return to the company in the late 90s. Eh? Eh?
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Old 07-23-2009, 08:45 AM
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Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer: A fascinating (if biased) account of 1996's deadliest climbing season on Everest

The Ghosts of Everest: Account of George Mallory's and Andrew Irvine's last attempt on Everest in 1924, the attempt to find Irvine (or any artifacts) in 1998, and finding Mallory's body instead in 1999.

A First Rate Tragedy: Account of Scott's and Amundsen's race to the South Pole.

Shadow Divers: Two divers locate a u-boat sunk off the coast of New Jersey and go to great lengths to identify it.

Hmmm - I might be back with more.
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:20 AM
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Thanks a lot for all the recommendations. They're exactly the type of thing I had in mind.

Thanks again, and keep 'em coming if you can!
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:20 AM
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Some favorites of mine:

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger - gripping adventure and tragedy at sea.

Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams (yes, that one) and Mark Carwardine - a tragicomic travelogue about endangered species.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston - fascinating nonfiction about a near-outbreak of the Ebola virus in the U.S.

My Dark Places by James Ellroy - the author investigates the murder of his own mother. Chilling but true.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer - true story of a Mount Everest climbing expedition gone horribly awry (seconding Snickers).

Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis - masterful, Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Framers and their dealings with each other.

Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington by Richard Brookhiser - witty, engaging, quick read on why Washington really was that important and that admirable.
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:27 AM
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Blink and The Tipping Point, both by Malcolm Gladwell.

A Walk In The Woods, by Bill Bryson.
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:30 AM
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A Distant Mirror -- The Calamitous 14th Century, by Barbara Tuchman

Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond

The Civil War: A Narrative (trilogy) by Shelby Foote

The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History, by Howard Bloom (I don't endorse everything Bloom says but his thinking is wide-ranging and provocative)

edit: I have not read this yet but it's on my list:

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, by Simon Winchester



.

Last edited by Sailboat; 07-23-2009 at 09:33 AM.
  #10  
Old 07-23-2009, 09:32 AM
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Longitude: The Ture Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time is one I love.

Totally different vein, but possibly the best non-fiction I have read, given that I am obsessed with military history, is The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad. It is so moving...
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:40 AM
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The Professor and the Madman, about the creation of the OED. And insanity.

Regards,
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:45 AM
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My Father's Gun: One Family, Three Badges, One Hundred Years in the NYPD by Brian McDonald. From Tammany to Serpico, the New York Times journalist used family history and the NYPD archives to recount the experiences of his brother, father, and maternal grandfather, on and off the job.

The grandfather rescuing people from the General Slocum and trying to be an honest cop amongst a sea of corruption. The father's rise from flatfoot to being in charge of Fort Apache, including his encounter with the detectives lying in wait for the big bust in what became known as "The French Connection". The brother's rise from flatfoot to detective, falling hard, and rising again.
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Old 07-23-2009, 10:11 AM
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Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam

The son of a W Virginia coal miner builds and launches home made rockets and goes on to win the national science fair. A great sense of place and time, in the late fifties and a wonderful coming of age story.
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Old 07-23-2009, 10:12 AM
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If you haven't read it, and in honor of his recent death, Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt.
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Old 07-23-2009, 10:27 AM
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Medieval Lives by Terry Jones and Alan Ereira. Yes, Terry Jones of "Monty Python." He knows his stuff.

Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott. How the priorities of a state clash with the way people live. It could have been edited for length, as it gets somewhat repetitive, but it's a very well-researched book.

Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas. A fascinating set of essays, if you're at all into biology.
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:00 AM
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By far my favorite non-fiction read:

Endurance, by Alfred Lansing.

It covers Earnest Shackleton's ill-fated voyage to cross the Antarctic continent overland. Instead, his ship was trapped in pack ice and eventually destroyed. The book meticulously covers the entire voyage and fight for survival and rescue. Everyone survived, due in large part to Shackleton's extraordinary leadership. There are photographs (it blows my mind that these made it) and lots of excerpts from the diaries kept by various crew members, including Shackleton. Absolutely great.
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:33 AM
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I like Stephen Jay Gould's books, especially "Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History". It's the story of the discovery, and interpretation, of a set of fossils that represent a sort of "alternative experiment" in evolution.

Isaac Asimov was also a very prolific nonfiction writer and an excellent explainer. I would recommend "Exploring the Earth and the Cosmos".

If you want to tackle something really in depth, try William L. Shirer's "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich".

"The Guns of August", by Barbara Tuchman, is an account of the beginning of World War I and basically the end of the "old world".
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Old 07-23-2009, 11:45 AM
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The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes: Fascinating and exhaustive account of the times, people, and processes involved in the Manhattan Project. The book assumes no previous physics experience.

Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris: Exhaustively researched and thoroughly readable account of how and why Roosevelt became one of America's greatest presidents.
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Old 07-23-2009, 12:20 PM
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The Places In Between-Rory Stewart. This guy hiked across Afghanistan right after the fall of the Taliban(Herat to Kabul). Fascinating.

http://http://www.amazon.com/Places-Between-Rory-Stewart/dp/0156031566
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Old 07-23-2009, 12:22 PM
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The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes: Fascinating and exhaustive account of the times, people, and processes involved in the Manhattan Project. The book assumes no previous physics experience.
Second this one. Coulpe others from World War II: "Flags of our Fathers" and "Flyboys".

Also, "The Devil in the White City", which examines a serial killer's crimes against the backdrop of the Chicago World's Fair. Excellent read.

Last edited by Sauron; 07-23-2009 at 12:23 PM.
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Old 07-23-2009, 02:55 PM
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Ooooh, Devil in the White City. Loved that one.
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Old 07-23-2009, 03:20 PM
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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. The memoirs of Nobel-laureate physicist Richard Feynman, who led one of the most interesting lives anyone ever led. Just as a sampling, one day he wondered about how so many animals had better senses of smell than humans, and whether that was inborn or learned. So he trained his sense of smell to the point that it was better than a dog's. And while he was at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project, he decided he needed a hobby, so took up safecracking.
  #23  
Old 07-23-2009, 03:27 PM
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Non-fiction I've enjoyed recently:

Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything
Michael Pollon, The Omnivore's Dilemma
Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
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Old 07-23-2009, 03:37 PM
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Anything by Malcolm Gladwell.

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer.

Physics Of the Impossible, by Michio Kaku.
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Old 07-23-2009, 03:46 PM
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I just finished:

The Forever War - eyewitness book about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by an NYTimes reporter. Fascinating.

The Shame of Survival: Working Through a Nazi Childhood - memoir by a woman who was a child in Germany during WWII. Great book written from a perspective I don't usually read about.
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Old 07-23-2009, 03:54 PM
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Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond
Sailboat beat me to my recommendation.
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Old 07-23-2009, 05:19 PM
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I like the mountaineering books - The White Spider is a classic one about the North face of the Eiger. Killing Dragons and The Shining mountain are two less well known ones. The first is a really fascinating historical look at how people started climbing the great Alpine peaks, the second is an account of a landmark ascent of Changabang in the Himalayas by two British climbers. Straightforward, but a bit sad as they both died on Everest a few years later. Anyone who reads Into Thin Air also needs to read The Climb for a second opinion.

The Art of the Soluble by Peter Medawar is a classic read for anyone interested in being a scientist. Sort of dated language, but timeless insight into the process of scientific enquiry.
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Old 07-23-2009, 08:25 PM
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I'll add to the Bill Bryson love. I don't believe I've read anything of his that I wouldn't recommend.

I'll also add to Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air (which was fabulous) and say Under the Banner of Heaven. It's about the Mormon church(es).

Another one that I know has been recommended here (and one that I'm in the middle of) is Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People. It is excellent and fascinating and I haven't even gotten to the "good" part yet.

What else?

And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts about the start of the AIDs crisis is a must read.

Kitchen Confidential is a classic foodie book by Anthony Bourdain but is written for a non-foodie and very interesting and funny.

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich was a very good look at trying to live on minimum wage.

Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness both by Eric Schlosser.

I don't know if all of these qualify as things you'd like but I found them all good enough that I'll never give up these books!
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Old 07-23-2009, 08:33 PM
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I'll second Kitchen Confidential and Fast Food Nation. Of course, you'll never want to eat out ever again.
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:16 PM
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You Belong In A Zoo. I don't normally read biographies, but this one reads like some crazy thriller advernture novel.
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Old 07-23-2009, 09:25 PM
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What do you think of autobiographies and biographies? I know the authors are a bit more stretchy with the truth, but they're usually mostly non-fiction.

Running with Scissors and Dry by Augusten Burrows both captivated me, especially the latter.

I also loved A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

And I Don't Want To Live This Life by Deborah Spungen was also rather interesting. It's a book about Nancy, a la Sid and Nancy, written by her mother.
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  #32  
Old 07-24-2009, 01:02 AM
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...The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes

Anyone read any of those?
I started reading this one not long ago in order to better understand what Neal Stephenson was playing around with when he wrote Snow Crash. (Fascinating fiction, by the way.)

It was interesting in a trainwrecky way, but mostly frustrating.

First, there's a lot of neuroscience that's very dated and sometimes over-generalized and confused. (I was recovering from a final exam on that sort of stuff when I read it, so those things tended to stick out obnoxiously.)
Then there's a lot of argument from ancient literature which is supposed to prove that the ancients were not actually autonomous or conscious, based on their literary devices. It all feels very...creative. The whole time, I had a nagging suspicion that Jaynes was playing just as fast and loose with that source material as he had with the psychology stuff. Of course I, not having crammed for an exam on the Iliad or the Gilgamesh epic in the original language, would have no idea. Suspicion ensued.

By the time Jaynes got to the bit about how Europe conquered the Americas because the natives probably weren't even conscious yet, I was pretty fed up and not convinced enough to enjoy playing along, so I ditched it for some lightweight fiction with velociraptors in it. (It's more fun to laugh at bad science when it's in, you know, actual fiction.)

If you're interested in this sort of thing (interesting and controversial explorations of why the human mind is the way it is), I'll recommend a few things:

The Blank Slate by Stephen Pinker (again, because he's super cool). Actually an argument against the "blank slate" view of human nature, and less technical than Pinker's stuff about language.

The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond. Why we are the way we are, and why our species is so successful, from lots of different angles including ecology, genetics, and sexual selection.

The Red Queen by Matt Ridley. Why we are the way we are, this time blaming sexual selection.

If you find yourself liking Oliver Sacks, who's been mentioned already, you might also like V.S. Ramachandran. In Phantoms in the Brain, he deals with all sorts of really surreal and bizarre neurological disorders. Sacks' The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat would be the granddaddy of that genre, but Phantoms has some crazy, crazy stuff (like Charles Bonnet Syndrome, where blind people hallucinate cartoon animals, fairies, and tiny people(!) in the damaged part of their visual field) and I prefer the writing style and the fact that it's more current.

Last edited by wunderkammer; 07-24-2009 at 01:03 AM.
  #33  
Old 07-24-2009, 01:23 AM
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'I Wouldn't Start From Here' by Andrew Mueller is a truly wonderful book worth eleven out of ten stars. A would-be rock journalist accidentally gets sent to a major war zone to talk to people and ask, 'Why can't we all use a bit of common sense and humanity and learn to get along with each other?'. From then on, he reports from other major sites of war and conflict from around the world, always using the same formula: find locals to talk to, and ask them why they can't sort out the madness and live a bit more 'normally'. Written with impressive wit and flair, many times laugh-out-loud funny. Hugely insightful, providing a perspective on Iraq, the Middle East conflict, Kosovo and other war zones. Sometimes moving but never mawkish or indulgent, it's a fantastic and absorbing study that never loses focus on the central question of how people who agree that war is hell can nonetheless insist on perpetuating it. And it's very, very funny. Mueller will become one of your favourite authors from the first chapter onwards. Buy this book.
  #34  
Old 07-24-2009, 03:38 AM
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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex tells the story of the 1820 sinking of the whaler Essex and the following ordeal the few survivors endured. It was a well-known event at the time inspiring Melville to write Moby Dick. The story is both fascinating and heart breaking.
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Old 07-24-2009, 08:31 AM
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Awakenings—Oliver Sacks
(The stage director is telling me I have to explain this one...the real story that the famed movie was based on. If you weren't interested in neurology before reading this, you will be afterwards.)
I'm currently reading The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks and it's quite good. I'm enjoying it, though I AM interested in Neurology. But the cases themselves are really interesting to begin with and Sacks does a good job of portraying the patients. After I finish this one, I'll be reading An Anthropologist on Mars again by Sacks, and along the same lines as these two books. And then hopefully I'll get to Awakenings.
  #36  
Old 07-24-2009, 08:34 AM
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Stephen King's two non-fiction books, Danse Macabre (about the horror genre) and On Writing (part autobiography and part a guide to good writing) are required reading for anyone who thinks King can't write anything but horror fiction.
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Old 07-24-2009, 09:17 AM
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ianzin's recommendation reminded me of another author I like: P.J. O'Rourke. His Parliament of Whores, which looks at the U.S. government, is insightful and funny. He's done other collections that I like, as well -- All the Trouble in the World, Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich, and Republican Party Reptile. Good stuff.
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Old 07-24-2009, 12:15 PM
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Here is a short selection of some of the books I have enjoyed and recommend:

Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization by Iain Gately 2003

A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield-2005

Cod by Mark Kurlansky 1997

The Big Oyster by Mark Kurlansky 2006

Rum: A Social and Sociable History by Ian Williams 2005

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe 1996

Vanilla by Patricia Rain 2004

The Frozen Water Trade by Gavin Weightman 2003

Charlatan by Pope Brock

A Nation of Counterfeiters by Stephen Mihm 2007

A Pickpockets Tale: The Underworld of 19th Century New York by Timothy J. Gilfoyle 2006

The Sun and the Moon: The Remarkable True Account of Hoaxes, Showmen, Dueling Journalists, and Lunar Man-Bats in Nineteenth-Century New York by Matthew Goodman 2008

Sin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbot 2007

The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin 2005

Washington: The Making of the American Capital by Fergus M Bordevich 2008

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy by Ian W.Toll 2006

Enigma: The Battle for the Code by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore 2000

Code Breaking: A History and Exploration by Rudolf Kippenhahn 1999

Ed Wood: Nightmare of Ecstasy by Rudolph Grey 1992

Last edited by Hypno-Toad; 07-24-2009 at 12:17 PM. Reason: Yes, I keep a categorized list of my books. You don't?
  #39  
Old 07-28-2009, 03:35 PM
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I'd forgotten about this until the latest RO thread in the Pit prompted me to look for the case.
Quote:
The Death of Innocents: A True Story of Murder, Medicine, and High-Stakes Science, the story of bad science and healthcare politics, how misconceptions about the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) covered up a mother's murder of her own five children over a six-year span. It's an enormously frustrating real-life story, and not good bedtime reading.
I read the condensed version in Reader's Digest about a decade ago.
  #40  
Old 07-28-2009, 04:30 PM
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Looks like most of the books I was going to recommend along the lines of what you were looking for have already been mentioned...so for something a little different I'll recommend Truman Capote's classic "nonfiction novel" In Cold Blood - an amazing read - and David Foster Wallace's essay collections, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster.
  #41  
Old 07-28-2009, 04:46 PM
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How about Them: Adventures with Extremists - a series of interviews with some of the world's nuttiest weirdos (who often turn out to be quite charming).
  #42  
Old 07-28-2009, 04:50 PM
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... and David Foster Wallace's essay collections, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again and Consider the Lobster.
I second these. "Consider the Lobster", the eponymous essay in the collection, is available here, and I think it's a pretty fascinating piece of short (well, not all that short) nonfiction.
  #43  
Old 07-29-2009, 12:12 AM
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I second The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell ---- The "tipping point" is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. The book is an exploration of how social epidemics work, whether they are fashion trends, diseases, or behavior patterns such as crime.

Also:

White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and Psychology of Mental Control by Daniel Wegner
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Old 07-29-2009, 01:59 AM
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Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. The memoirs of Nobel-laureate physicist Richard Feynman, who led one of the most interesting lives anyone ever led. Just as a sampling, one day he wondered about how so many animals had better senses of smell than humans, and whether that was inborn or learned. So he trained his sense of smell to the point that it was better than a dog's. And while he was at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project, he decided he needed a hobby, so took up safecracking.
Ooh, seconded. Wonderful book, which I've read many times.

How about:

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter. One of the most eternally fascinating and confounding books I've ever tried to read. (Several times. I get half-way through, realise I need a short break, go and read something else for a while, and never go back to GEB. But -- and here's the important part -- I keep on trying again. That's how much I love this book.) And what other writer has ever managed (let alone tried) to create fugues and canons with words instead of music?
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Old 07-29-2009, 02:28 AM
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Seven Summits - A very underrated mountaineering book about the first 2 guys to attempt the now very famous "Seven Summits" challenge. One is very liberal and one is very conservative and many yuks ensue.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - About a brutal Victorian murder. Explains the history of the detective profession and reads like a novel. Very well-written.

Pale Blue Dot - or really any Carl Sagan book. This one talks a lot about our solar system and then about aliens (including some speculation that we might've possibly already very briefly picked up some signals from some) and then about our species' future in space. Absolutely fascinating.

Crashing Through - A 40-something blind man gets a chance at restored vision. It's a small chance, and the vision would be very limited. Risks are as high as they can be, including loss of the minimal light perception he has, and cancer (a potential side effect of one of the drugs he must take.) He takes the chance.

Kon Tiki - Thor Heyerdahl sets off across the Pacific in a hand-made raft on a practical suicide mission just to prove it can be done. Shark-wrestling ensues.

Travels with Charley - John Steinbeck drives across the country with his poodle. Wins a Nobel Prize for it. 'Nuff said.
  #46  
Old 07-29-2009, 06:57 AM
Martini Enfield is offline
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I'll add my vote to anything Bill Bryson has ever written- it's all excellent, IMHO.

Also, Antony Beevor has written three excellent military history books that I highly recommend for someone who wants a bit more detail than The History Channel provides but doesn't want to be bogged down with technical minutiae or long lists of German Waffengruppe Commanders, either: Stalingrad, Berlin: The Downfall, 1945 and The Battle For Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939.

Thomas Pakenham's The Scramble For Africa is excellent, too- certainly the best overviews of the European colonisation of Africa that I've read.

Also, Simon Winchester's Outposts: Journeys To The Surviving Relics Of The British Empire is a great read, too.

Finally, I'm going to stretch the rules a wee bit and nominate all of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books. Yes, technically they're fiction, but they're so impeccably researched and annotated (and even have a limited bibliography!) that I think you can regard pretty much anything in them not directly involving the protagonist (or his wife) to be historical fact- or near enough to it to make no real difference- and a heck of a lot more readable than many "serious" works on the same subjects, IMHO.
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  #47  
Old 07-29-2009, 09:28 AM
salinqmind is offline
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Location: Liverpool NY USA
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Bill Bryson! YES!


I have a list as long as my arm, but I just want to mention "Uncle John's Bathroom Readers". I must have 20 of them, somehow more come out every year! I give each of us in our family a different version every Christmas, and long after the sweaters are put aside, the 'body butter' sits on a shelf untouched, the wine guzzled and the mixed nuts eaten - there's a fascinating compendium of useful and interesting articles suitable for reading in short bursts while waiting for something to happen...not just in the bathroom! They can save your sanity in many situations.
  #48  
Old 07-29-2009, 09:55 AM
Surok is offline
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Posts: 618
The Medical Detectives by Berton Rouche - a collection of articles by a journalist who wrote for the New Yorker from the 50s onwards, each chapter presents a bizarre medical mystery (a man with blue hands whose circulation was fine, a man to whom everything smelt bad, to the extent he could barely eat, a child with seeming intermittent poisoning who had not ingested any poisonous substance etc.) and the steps that medics went to in order to track down the reason.

We had two volumes when I was young, and I read them until they fell to bits.

Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis is entertaining sports journalism, with the author finding himself sucked into the world of competitive Scrabble playing.

If you like the Colin Turnbull, might also be worth trying his The Forest People. Other travel/ anthropology lite recommends include Redmond O'Hanlon (I think Into the Heart of Borneo is his funniest, and most accessible book) and Nigel Barley's The Innocent Anthropologist and A Plague of Caterpillars, both books about his time spent doing fieldwork among the Dowayo in Cameroon.
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