7.06.2006

Booking Through Thursday: Non-Fiction

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This week's questions were suggested by Christine.

  1. Do you read non-fiction books for pleasure, not counting books required for courses or for work?
    Of course!

  2. If so, what areas of non-fiction interest you the most? If not, why not?
    I will read anything that catches my eye but most of the non-fiction books I have read seem to cluster in the areas of natural history, travel writing, food writing, history, and biographies of writers.

  3. What are some of your favorite (or least favorite) books from those areas?
    My very favorite non-fiction book has to be Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. This book is an absolutely awe-inspiring feat of science writing. Not only does Bryson manage to accomplish what the title suggests by cramming in virtually everything on the history of science, he manages to do so with wonderful clarity and humor. The book traces a meandering path through the development of the sciences from early alchemy and natural history to their much expanded modern day equivalents with many an interesting factoid or fun anecdote along the way. As usual, Bryson has an amazing eye for the little coincidences and absurdities that litter the lives of "great" men and their discoveries. I never thought I would laugh so much while reading about chemistry or quantum mechanics. The scientist part of me was also quite gratified by how well everything was explained without cutting corners on the facts or clouding the information with metaphor in a perverse attempt to simplify it, both frequent pitfalls in science writing.
    Really, I would heartily recommend all of Bryson's books, especially Notes from a Small Island and In a Sunburned Country.


    Aside from Bryson's writings, I'm also quite fond of Jeffrey Steingarten's collections of food essays, It Must've Been Something I Ate (good food is a close third in importance, after books and yarn, for me), and Mind of the Raven : Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds , Bernd Heinrich's extremely interesting text on raven behavior.
    I still have yet to find any history books that I can count as favorite reads, especially on the topic of pre-1900 English history. Can anyone make any recommendations?

3 Comments:

Blogger Philippa said...

Hee! I've never heard a book review including the words an 'extremely interesting text on raven behaviour'! ;) I'll definitely put A Short History on my list, it sounds great.

I haven't read much popular history, and that I have read I wouldn't recommend. My dad is always trying to lend me history books so I'll check what some of them are this weekend and let you know! I tend to prefer 'personal' histories, like Ingalls Wilder, or the Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy by Flora Thompson.

1:03 AM  
Anonymous yuki said...

My husband loved Bryson's "A Short History" too-- I think I may have to borrow that one! Of all of Bryson's books that I've read so far, I think "A Walk in the Woods" would be my favorite.

As for history books, the only one I've read that I found to be worth reading again (which I haven't done yet but hope to someday) is James M. McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom." I may be a little biased because I'm a secret Civil War buff wannabe, but it is a Pulitzer Prize winner also. Definitely worth a look if you enjoy reading about the American Civil War at all.

Of non-fiction works: I have Jared Diamond books on my must-read-soon list. Have you read any of his works? The three on my list are: "The Third Chimpanzee," "Guns, Germs, and Steel," and his latest, "Collapse." The second book is also a Pulitzer Prize winner. They all look quite good-- do check them out.

3:15 AM  
Blogger Mary-LUE said...

I'm going to go put Bill Bryson on my list right now!

(another BTT player)

8:11 AM  

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