help me out, recommend a killer nonfiction book for me...

I’m looking for a few nonfiction recommendations but right now am coming up empty.

here are the last few nonfiction books I’ve enjoyed, in order of personal preference:

William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War by Eric H. Walther
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner
Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago by Mike Royko
Rebels on the Backlot by Sharon Waxman
An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sack

I am also contemplating picking up:
Mark Penn - Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes

(please…gladwell is so last year)

Hi kroutland,

Why not write one?


I’m currently reading:

The Reformation, by Diarmaid MacCulloch
Best American Science and Nature Writing, 2007, edited by Richard Preston
A New Kind of Science, by Stephen Wolfram
Now and Then: The Poet’s Choice Columns, by Robert Hass

I’m just starting the Wolfram book, but it’s very long and very dense. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone other than scientists wanting to know whether Wolfram is really a bozo or not (like me). The others are excellent.


On my bedside table: Adam Nicholson’s “God’s secretaries: The making of the King James Bible.”

Nicholson is a terrific writer who brings Jacobean England to life.


These are pretty amazing books:

Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky

Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala (David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies) by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer

Killer as in brain-implosion-inducing? I note that you don’t appear to be into science, but maybe that’s temporary - so how about “The Trouble with Physics” by Lee Smolin? String Theory and the multiverse will blow your synapses.

I hear Think Better is pretty good, by Tim Hurson. :wink:

Thanks, Amber. You’re a pearl!

I’m not sure I can hold a candle to some of those already recommended, but
I think those who read it will find it useful.

Thanks again,


PS I’ve just learned that the book will get its first national media hit on Sunday, Oct 21.
A syndicated careers columnist, Joyce Kennedy, is featuring it in her weekly piece. Woohoo!

John McPhee is the pioneer of creative nonfiction. If you don’t know his work, I recommend The John McPhee Reader or his latest, Uncommon Carriers. A full account of his career is on Wikipedia or at his publisher’s website:

Either of the McPhee books recommended by Druid (or anything else by McPhee);
anything by Barry Lopez, especially Crossing Open Ground;
The Richness of Life, selected works of Stephen Jay Gould with a forward by Oliver Sacks;
1776 by David McCullough;
Gun, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond.

The Nicholson – God’s Secretaries – book is fascinating as English history and as church history, but even more as a look at how (and why) scripture is translated.


The Ongoing Moment, by Geoff Dyer
A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit

A couple of recent and good non-fiction reads:

The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone.

The Hidden Hand: Britain, America, and Cold War Secreat Intelligence by Richard Aldrich

Gauntlet: Five friends, 20,000 Enemy Troops, and the Secret That Could Have Changed the Cold War by Barbara Masin, Naval Institute Press, 2006.

Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes (currently controversial, if that’s a bonus)

Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen (check out his others, very well written historical accounts)

Gulag: A History by Anne Applebaum (won the 2004 Pulitzer prize, been reading it for months. Too depressing to read over a weekend…)

Julie Phillips’ biography of James Tiptree, Jr./Alice Sheldon: The Double Life (great literary bio, but a must read for fans)

Madness and Civilization and/or Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault.

Eland: 25 years’ dedication to classic travel writing
Thousands of new books are published each year. And you might imagine that about the same amount go out of print each year.

The history of virginity with Hanne Blank
How do you define virginity? According to historian Hanne Blank, it’s not as straightforward as you’d think. St Thomas Aquinas said that to be a virgin you had to be pure of body and mind. In Ancient Greek times the ‘parthenios’ were considered virgins and yet they often had children; and during the Renaissance the ‘piss prophets’ would study the urine of young women to test their virginity. It’s the history of virginity on the Book Show – it’s not as simple as the birds and the bees.

Be quick - this will not stay up long.

Field Notes From A Catastrophe - Elizabeth Kolbert

And one or two closer to home…

Was Linda Colley’s “Britons: Forging the Nation.” Don’t know whether British 18th century history is your thing but really a brilliant book.

Hmm…doing a definition search, “Forging” comes across as “to make falsely.”

Heat by Bill Buford.


Agreed, but also ‘forging’ as in ‘to forge’ as in iron!:

  1. The action of the vb. FORGE in various senses; an instance of the same. Also, used gerundially with the omission of in.

Forge: 1. trans. To make, fashion, frame, or construct (any material thing); = FABRICATE v. 1. Obs. exc. as coincident with transf. use of 2. to forge together: to frame together, weld.

2. To shape by heating in a forge and hammering; to beat into shape; to coin (money). Also with out. 

b. absol. or intr. To work at the forge; to do smith's work.