Looking for nonfiction books to read

I’m looking for some recommendations to load my Kindle up with that hopefully I can learn something from or take something away from reading. Topic doesn’t matter as long as if the book is written for a general audience and doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of its specific subject to understand it. Pretty much hoping to hear about books which you feel “smarter” after reading. Any suggestions?

Well, I just finished Ken Jennings’ Maphead and thoroughly enjoyed it. Did you read *Freakonomics? * The Steve Jobs bio?

Do you like history? What about In the Garden of Beasts or Americans in Paris by Charles Glass?

The only non-fiction ebook I’ve ever bought was “The procrastination equation” by Piers Steel. It was a good read, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Most of my reading is fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. If you’d asked me if I would like a book about Garfield and his assassin I would’ve said "no thanks"but I heard a radio interview with the author and was intrigued. I

My sister, who knows my tastes well, has given me Salt and Cod by Mark Kurlansky. She’s currently reading and will likely soon also pass on to me his book on Clarence Birdseye. I haven’t read them yet, but her enthusiasm, and a quick look at the front matter earned them a spot on my "to be read"shelf during the great book purge of 2012.

There have been a few previous threads on this topic, you should do a search.

I don’t know if it qualifies as being written for a general audience, but Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is amazing.

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements is a much easier read, quite funny and interesting.

I’d also recommend Mary Roach’s books.

Both entertaining books.

If you want a history recommendation, I’d suggest American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 by H.W. Brands. As the title implies, it’s a general history of post-war America and Brands is an excellent writer.

eta: It’s an excellent book. But checking on Amazon just now, I see it isn’t available in Kindle format.

1968: The Year that Rocked the World, by Mark Kurlansky

The Last Grain Race, by Eric Newby

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt

Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, by Michael Ghiglieri

Paris 1919, by Margaret Macmillan

All recommended.

Seconded -fascinating, couldn’t put down. But also not available on Kindle but I got it free at my local library :slight_smile:

I bought a copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach almost twenty years ago, and I have made several attempts at reading it. It is an excellent book, and the concepts Hofstadter discusses are amazing.

But I never manage to finish it. I bog down somewhere about two thirds of the way through.

Note that it isn’t available or Kindle, and it would be a terrible candidate for a Kindle book. There are too many illustrations.

The Disappearing Spoon is excellent.

I would also recommend “The Demon Under the Microscope: From Battlefield Hospitals to Nazi Labs, One Doctor’s Heroic Search for the World’s First Miracle Drug”
This book gave me an interesting historical understanding of the early beginnings of the pharmaceutical industry.

Anything by Michael Shermer is good, and very Straight Dope-minded. Why People Believe Weird Things is a good place to start.

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is very enjoyable. It’s non-fiction that reads like fiction.

Nation of Rebels: Why Counterculture Became Consumer Culture [Paperback]
Joseph Heath (Author), Andrew Potter (Author)

Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond [Paperback]
Martin A. Lee (Author), Bruce Shlain (Author)

Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind [Paperback]
V. S. Ramachandran (Author), Sandra Blakeslee (Author)

My top three, still think about, learned a lot reads - so far. I’m a non-fiction, sociological study junkie.

Well, it’s not in digital format (Yet?) but I still recommend Scottish Customs: From The Cradle To The Grave by Margaret Bennett.

I found Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics to be pretty interesting reads.


This is a link to some reviews of nonfiction books that I’ve posted on my blog. (My own reviews, so expect amateurish, but at least they’re short!) I review the type of book you’re describing, I believe: books on conjoined twins and identity, the representational features of sign language (Oliver Sacks), Gary Gilmore’s childhood, and a historical play about an American town that hung an elephant.

In the middle of the search, there are a few stray posts listed–go further down to see more books.

I hope you enjoy these–I did, so much!

Sam Kean’s latest, The Violinist’s Thumb is just out. Equally as good IMHO.

Richard Feynmann’s autobiographies are interesting, and funny as well.

What, no Guns, Germs and Steel? I thought it required a mention in any SDMB thread about non-fiction. :wink:

My Kindle is full of the type of books you’re looking for. Some of my favorites:

The Warmth of Other Suns, about the migration of African-Americans from the South to the North. Provides a whole new perspective on a lot of American history, and where we are today.

A History of the World in 100 Objects, 100 stories about world history that you probably didn’t know. I gave this book to my 80-year-old, extremely well-read father, and he was astonished at the things he learned.

Young Men and Fire, about a devastating wildfire in Montana. You will learn a lot about wildfires (this book lead to me to read several others on the subject), but mainly it’s just an absolutely beautifully written work by Norman Maclean of A River Runs Through It fame.

Final Cut, about the making of the massive Hollywood flop Heaven’s Gate. A real insider’s view of the movie industry, written by a producer, so it’s the nuts and bolts of the business rather than celebrity gossip or p.r.

All the President’s Men, about the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon administration. I’m a Watergate buff, but if you’re not, and especially if you don’t know much about this moment in history, it’s well worth reading and an exciting thriller too.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, about the Hmong people of Laos and the clash of cultures when they came to the U.S. as refugees. A window into a completely new world.

The Emperor of All Maladies is remarkable. It’s a history of cancer research, but it’s much more than that. This is a book that I finished in one night’s reading. Stayed up till 4am because the book was so thought-provoking that I didn’t want to let go of it.

I highly recommend The Lost City of Z by David Grann.