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.
Blue Latitudes by Tony Horwitz – Travelogue following the voyages of Captain Cook
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
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)
(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.)
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.