Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 02-14-2008, 11:20 PM
petew83 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 244

Any good random nonfiction book recommendations?


I'm looking for an entertaining nonfiction read by an author with a dry sense of humor; an odd topic is a plus. A book I loved was 'Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife' by Mary Roach. I have never found another nonfiction book that made me laugh like that one.
  #2  
Old 02-14-2008, 11:28 PM
AuntiePam is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Posts: 18,119
Stiff by the same author had some funny bits too.

There was a good bit of dry (har!) humor in The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Tim Egan. It won a big prize (National Book Award?) and was very readable.

There was some wit to leaven the morbidity in The Great Mortality by John Kelly, also very readable. It's about the Black Death.

Last edited by AuntiePam; 02-14-2008 at 11:28 PM.
  #3  
Old 02-14-2008, 11:36 PM
Boyo Jim is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 36,997
Richard Feynmann's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynmann is a hoot.
  #4  
Old 02-14-2008, 11:38 PM
An Gadaí is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 10,156
I'm reading Black Mass: The unholy alliance between the Boston FBI and the Irish Mafia and it's a rollicking read.
  #5  
Old 02-15-2008, 12:36 AM
dangermom is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Northern CA
Posts: 9,155
I'm reading On royalty by Jeremy Paxman. He's got some good humor in there. It's kind of an analysis of how royalty works, I guess--some history, some discussion of human nature, religion, etc. Interesting and often rather depressing. I used to think monarchy in the UK was a pretty iniquitous system on the whole, and, well, I still do, though I don't think he meant it that way--he looks at benefits as well as problems.
  #6  
Old 02-15-2008, 12:57 AM
bundykala is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: New Zealand
Posts: 242
Quote:
Originally Posted by AuntiePam
Stiff by the same author had some funny bits too.
I saw the thread title and came in to recommend Stiff.
  #7  
Old 02-15-2008, 01:07 AM
wouldn't you like to know is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 76
I enjoy Bill Bryson's 'travel' books. "A walk in the woods" , "in a sunburned country" and "notes from a small island" were all easy reads with dry humor throughout.
  #8  
Old 02-15-2008, 02:12 AM
BellRungBookShut-CandleSnuffed is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: sticksville, JP
Posts: 2,833
There's a book called Yes Man by Danny Wallce, about a man who came to realize that a lot of disappointment and banality was present in his life because he refused lots of opportunities to change things. With that in mind, he made himself a promise to say yes to everything that was offered to him for a year. He had some restrictions about committing crimes and such. It was a fascinating read, and filled with British humor.
  #9  
Old 02-15-2008, 07:16 AM
Dung Beetle's Avatar
Dung Beetle is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Florida
Posts: 16,614
Quote:
Originally Posted by petew83
I'm looking for an entertaining nonfiction read by an author with a dry sense of humor; an odd topic is a plus. A book I loved was 'Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife' by Mary Roach. I have never found another nonfiction book that made me laugh like that one.
She's got another one coming out soon: Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Can't go wrong with that!
  #10  
Old 02-15-2008, 07:43 AM
OtakuLoki is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Rochester, NY
Posts: 10,483
Then there's Tony Hawks (not the skateboarder) who has a penchant for dreaming up odd challenges and wagers for himself.

Round Ireland with a Fridge
  #11  
Old 02-15-2008, 11:56 AM
TheMerchandise is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: NYC, NY
Posts: 934
Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels is a great read and filled with HST's peculiar brand of humor.
  #12  
Old 02-15-2008, 12:24 PM
Justin_Bailey is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 15,790
The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Bibically by AJ Jacobs are both fantastic and fantastically funny. The first is about his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica cover-to-cover in one year and the second is his quest to adhere to the rules of the Bible as rigidly as possible for a year.

Both are awesome, but I think The Know-It-All is better.
__________________
signature under construction
  #13  
Old 02-15-2008, 12:29 PM
Lynn Bodoni is offline
Creature of the Night
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Posts: 20,803
Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyo Jim
Richard Feynmann's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynmann is a hoot.
Yes, yes it is. Feynmann was one of a kind.
  #14  
Old 02-15-2008, 06:36 PM
Love Rhombus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: The suburbs of Innsmouth
Posts: 4,439
I've enjoyed all three volumes of the Cartoon History of the Universe.
  #15  
Old 02-15-2008, 07:06 PM
Tenar is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: The Well of Loneliness
Posts: 1,652
A personal favorite is Jessica Mitford's 1963 expose of the funeral industry, The American Way of Death. An updated edition, The American Way of Death Revisited, was published in 2000, but I still prefer the original. If I were ever going to teach a high school class on "the way the world really works," I would absolutely include this book because of the way it illustrates how industries pressure lawmakers to represent their interests rather than those of their constituents.

I also enjoyed the previously mentioned Hell's Angels, by Hunter S. Thompson.

For sheer laugh-out-loud funniness, you can't do much better than David Sedaris' Naked, Me Talk Pretty One Day, or Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, but I don't know if they meet your requirements as they are collections of essays and are only mostly non-fiction. (Sedaris himself admits he exaggerates at times.)
  #16  
Old 02-15-2008, 07:13 PM
ITR champion is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Indiana
Posts: 10,340
Try Heretics, by G. K. Chesterton. Despite the title it is not a religious work. It's a series of essays about various politicians and celebrities in England from the early twentieth century. It's not necessary to be familiar with the subjects, since Chesterton's wit makes it clear what they were like. I found it fascinating to learn that public personalities back then behaved much the same as they do now. The link above goes to the online text, so you don't even need to leave your computer screen.

Last edited by ITR champion; 02-15-2008 at 07:14 PM.
  #17  
Old 02-15-2008, 07:13 PM
IvoryTowerDenizen's Avatar
IvoryTowerDenizen is offline
Retired Straight Dope Staff
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: North Shore of LI
Posts: 19,413
Pissing in the snow

It's a cultural anthropologists take on Appalachian folk tales, with analysis. The tales themselves are raunchy and humorous and the analysis is facinating.

There's another good one on primate observation, but I can't remember the name- excellent read. I will look it up, and return.

ETA: I'm back.

A Primate's Memoir

He has a wry sense of humor and it is at times a poingnant story of his life observaing baboons and interacting with native culture and Jane Goodall.

Last edited by IvoryTowerDenizen; 02-15-2008 at 07:16 PM.
  #18  
Old 02-15-2008, 07:51 PM
Love Rhombus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: The suburbs of Innsmouth
Posts: 4,439
Also The Natural History of the Rich by Richard Conniff, and The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman.
  #19  
Old 02-15-2008, 08:00 PM
Thudlow Boink's Avatar
Thudlow Boink is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Lincoln, IL
Posts: 27,414
Sperm Are from Men, Eggs Are from Women: The Real Reason Men And Women Are Different by Joe Quirk. Educational and hilarious.

P. J. O'Rourke can be pretty good. I think his best book is Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government.
  #20  
Old 02-15-2008, 08:06 PM
Moriarty's Avatar
Moriarty is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Denver, CO, USA
Posts: 2,834
I thorughly enjoyed Assasination Vacation, by Sarah Vowell. She has a wry wit, liberal bent, and made a chronology of trips to all-things Garfield and McKinley very enjoyable.

I'm leaving town tomorrow, and will be driving for three hours, and intend to seek out another Vowell book on CD for the drive. I'm hoping to find Partly Cloudy Patriot at the bookstore.
  #21  
Old 02-15-2008, 09:18 PM
dangermom is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Northern CA
Posts: 9,155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tenar
A personal favorite is Jessica Mitford's 1963 expose of the funeral industry, The American Way of Death. An updated edition, The American Way of Death Revisited, was published in 2000, but I still prefer the original. If I were ever going to teach a high school class on "the way the world really works," I would absolutely include this book because of the way it illustrates how industries pressure lawmakers to represent their interests rather than those of their constituents.
Speaking of which, her letters have just been published, that would be interesting. A few years ago, a fascinating sort of collective biography of the Mitford sisters came out--amazing stuff. Sort of a snapshot of the 20th century all in one family.
  #22  
Old 02-15-2008, 09:21 PM
Elendil's Heir is offline
SDSAB
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: my Herkimer Battle Jitney
Posts: 85,220
Another vote for O'Rourke's A Parliament of Whores. You'll never think of Congress the same way again.

I really enjoyed Richard Brookhiser's Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington, which has a gentle sense of humor but also very entertainingly explores Washington's life and legacy. Brookhiser explains why Washington deserves a lot more respect and admiration than he gets nowadays, when he's practically mummified in the public imagination.

Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams (the Hitchhiker's Guide author) and a coauthor whose name escapes me, is a very, very funny look at a profoundly unfunny topic, probably-doomed efforts to protect extremely endangered animals.
  #23  
Old 02-15-2008, 10:04 PM
petew83 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 244
I appreciate the responses and see no shortage of enjoyable material in the coming months I'm currently working on 'Metaphors We Live By' and 'Influence', which are both interesting, but unfortunately completely devoid of any humor. I'll pick off a few from this list afterwards.
  #24  
Old 02-16-2008, 12:43 AM
Voyager's Avatar
Voyager is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Deep Space
Posts: 46,372
Since your OP recommended the first thing I was going to say, might I add Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice for All of Creation by Olivia Judson - the most humorous and hottest biology book you'll ever find.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:23 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017