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Old 05-22-2011, 06:00 PM   #1
stonetools
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The Nonfiction Recommendations and Resources Thread

This thread is intended to discuss recommendations and resources for general nonfiction buffs, with a focus on history and biography. We'll leave out science, since there is a separate active science thread. I'll be making recommendations based on the stuff I have read, plus the stuff thought ogff as good. I'll be asking for recommendations as the stuff I want to read. Finally, Ill be pointing to various Internet resources for the history/non-fiction buffs among us. I hope you'll join in with your recs and reading.

WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING

THe first nonfiction ebook I read was :
"The Warmth of Other Suns ,
AMAZON ,
BN

Really outstanding study of the "Great Migration" of blacks out of the South in the 20th century, told through the eyes of three migrants-a sharecropper, a doctor, and a railway worker. They emigrated from three places, to three different cities and had three very different experiences.
I put "Great Migration" in quotes because they didn't think they were a part of anything "Great"- they were just getting out of Dodge, trying to get to somewhere where they could live like a human being.

"Freedom Summer"

From the publishers blurb:
In the summer of 1964, with the civil rights movement stalled, seven hundred college students descended on Mississippi to register black voters, teach in Freedom Schools, and live in sharecroppers' shacks. But by the time their first night in the state had ended, three volunteers were dead, black churches had burned, and America had a new definition of freedom.

Great narrative of the "Mississippi Burning" summer, which continued to discuss the same themes raised by the Great Migration and explored what some Americans did to help some of those who DIDN'T get out of Dodge.

BN


"Game Change"

A nice narrative history of the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama achieved what the Great Migrants believed would never happen: the election of an African American to the Presidency of the United States.
It was a fitting end to an arc of American history that spanned the last 100 years.

BN

"Rebels at the Gates"

A decent but not great history of a little known campaign of the Civil War- the western Virginia campaign of 1861. Its notable for two things- it led to the creation of the state of West Virginia AND it was the first contest between Lee and McClellan .

AMAZON

I got it on sale for $1.20, and it was worth that-I would say.

WHAT I AM READING NOW

"Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance"

Well written book by Atul Gawande about science and art of modern medicine. Been a pleasure reading so far.

WHAT I WANT TO READ

I'm looking at

"Cod", Mark Kurlansky
"Four Fish" , Paul Greenberg
"Salt", Mark Kurlansky
"Moonwalking with Einstein", Joshua Foer
"A History of the World in 6 Glasses" Tom Stanndage.

Has anyone read any of those, and you can give me a review/rec? tia.

Last edited by stonetools; 05-22-2011 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 05-22-2011, 06:33 PM   #2
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Appropriately enough, stonetools, I'm interested in pre-history, primarily UK & Europe, but any is of interest.
My problem is not many works in this field are available e-wise.

I have found some interesting, fairly esoteric, stuff in Gutenberg, Philly, and Baen, one fascinating piece on prehistoric fishing, which was fascinating, I have to say.

I am aiming to compile an itinary, spread over a few years really, of sites - anything on the Orkneys is a must have !

But an excellent idea for a thread/topic.
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Old 05-22-2011, 07:00 PM   #3
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My favourite non-fiction ebooks:

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich: journalist goes 'undercover' as a minium wage earner to see how people survive in low-paying jobs in America.

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan: Man and his family spend a year living in New York City and trying to make zero impact on the environment.

Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman: examines research on how children learn. Chapter on 'race' was excerpted widely on-line and is very good.

Relentless Pursuit by Donna Foote: follows four new recruits in the 'Teach for America' program as they progress through their first year.

The Winter of our Disconnect by Susan Maushart: journalist disconnects herself and three teenage children for all things electronic for six months.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin: woman tries to improve her happiness by focusing on one area of her life each month.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: biography of the woman who accidentally spawned the first 'immortal line' of cells in medical research; follows her family (who did not know what happened) to the present day.

Why we Buy by Paco Underhill: studies the psychology of how men and women shop. A sequel, looking at shopping malls, was not as good.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by Maarten Troost: man and his girlfriend move to remote Pacific island country for a year.

I really enjoy memoir-type books and lately have been reading a spate of 'blogger or journalist embarks on project to do X for a year' type stories. Some of them (e.g. 'On the Outside Looking Indian by Rupinder Gill') have been surprisingly good. Some of them (e.g. Petite Anglaise by Catherine Sanderson) have been awful.
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Old 05-22-2011, 07:30 PM   #4
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I read quite a bit of nonfiction, so will add some rec's here as I think of them. I liked Game Change, but couldn't get into either Moonwalking or 6 Glasses.

If you like memoirs of offbeat professions, I can recommend Down Among the Dead Men by Michelle Williams - her first year (or so) as a post mortem worker in a morgue.

There's also Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy - six escapees stories of the North Korea they're doing their best to hide.

Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier would be good for travel, history and/or Russ-o-philes.

The Tenth Parallel by Eliza Griswold is a well written account of the clash between zealots within Islam and Christianity along that latitude.

Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife by Lisa Miller, religion editor of Newsweek magazine is well worth a read.

I'm going to throw in a mention of A Skeptic's Guide to (American) Writers' Houses by Anne Trubek, wherein she visits several examining the question of whether pilgrimages there really "soak up atmosphere" or whether it's more of a fan fetish thing?

That should be enough for now
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Old 05-22-2011, 07:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Appropriately enough, stonetools, I'm interested in pre-history, primarily UK & Europe, but any is of interest.
My problem is not many works in this field are available e-wise.
I don't have any ebook suggestions off hand, but "God's Own Radio Service" ( My irreverent appellation for the BBC) has two excellent resources for prehistory :

" A History of the World in 100 objects"

It was originally a PODCAST, but there is a companion BOOK.

I describe it as "crack for history buffs ". I think my IQ grew a point or two every time I listened to an episode. Superb stuff-highest recommendation. I wish there had been a 1000 objects!
I also recommend highly Melvin Bragg's "In Our Time" on BBC RAdio 4. Its an ongoing series, but they have archived stuff on pre-history, as well as on history, philosophy, science, culture, and religion. Lots of interesting stuff.

ARCHIVE
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Old 05-22-2011, 08:11 PM   #6
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I've got two for the girls. Not that the boys can't read them, too, but I suspect they're of more interest to those of the female persuasion.

Queen of Fashion by Caroline Weber is a biography of Marie Antoinette, seen through the prism of her wardrobe. Turns out fashion is politics and her choices were more than a bubble-headed desire for the latest thing, but an expression of her attempts to create a power base for herself and also her emotional life.

Aristocrats by Stella Tillyard is the story of four sisters, duke's daughters, in the last half of the 18th century, taken from their voluminous correspondence. Given their aristocratic connections and the men they married, it's a microcosm of English politics at that time; it's also an examination of women's lives in the public and private sphere during a time of immense change and a testimony to the possibility of reinventing oneself.

With both books, it's useful to have a working knowledge of the time period, although either will whet your appetite to find out more if you come to it cold.
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Old 05-22-2011, 10:29 PM   #7
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Funny... Just started reading "Alan Lomax: The Man Who Recorded the World" - Amazon - Alan Lomax Wikipedia.

Didn't buy it from Amazon, nor did I buy the $14.99 ebook. Found it used at my favorite local indie bookstore. I own a number of Mr. Lomax's recordings on CD and I've always been interested in the man. Interesting read so far.
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Old 05-24-2011, 02:52 PM   #8
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Here are a couple of history podcasts that are great resources for readers and lovers of history-specifically Roman history.

The first is "The History of Rome" by Mike Duncan.

LINK

This is a narrative history of Rome dating from the founding Rome in 753 BC to the fall of the western Roman Empire in 476 AD. Duncan does a fine job, and will be expanding the franchise to a book and tours of the ancient sites. What's helpful for history book lovers is that he usually begins every episode with a recommendation of a history book.
That covers the western Empire, but did you know there was a whole nother part of the Roman Empire-the Eastern Empire, known as Byzantium? Byzantium lasted nearly a thousand years beyond the fall of the West, until conquered by the Turks. Professor Lars Brownsworth covers Byzantium in the podcast, "Twelve Byzantine Rulers" PODCAST and also in a book, "Lost to the West" AMAZON

Didn't read the book, but listened to the podcast.
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Old 05-25-2011, 06:03 PM   #9
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Just picked this up.

Excerpt here.
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Old 05-31-2011, 03:35 PM   #10
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Maria Popova, of the blog " Brain Pickings" gives us some choices for nonfiction Summer Readings. Its kind of more "Summer Readings for Geeks" LIST

Interesting stuff, including Number 8- The Late American Novel.
Blurb:
Quote:
The future of publishing is something I ponder daily. And while mainstream media was busy announcing the death of the book, The Millions founders Jeff Martin and C. Max Magee did something better: They assembled an all-star team of literary visionaries and asked them what the future of the written word holds. The results — funny, poignant, relentlessly thought-provoking — are gathered in The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, spanning a remarkable array of perspectives and styles, from historical context to comic relief to the difficult questions that have to be asked.

Are we going to have to find new ways to get noticed? Yes. Do we get to find news ways to get noticed? Yes. Is it trouble? Yes. But trouble is the stuff of writing and creation. Time to shut up and get to the making, get back to that sense of play where everything interesting, including the future, finally fast and soon to be here, starts.” ~ Ander Monson

Kirstin Butler’s full review, with ample quotes from the book, here.
I believe we have had a discussion or two on this topic on this forum

The list:

1.THE INFORMATION: A HISTORY, A THEORY, A FLOOD
2. AN OPTIMIST’S TOUR OF THE FUTURE
3. LIVE NOW
4. THE INTERNET OF ELSEWHERE
5. A NEW CULTURE OF LEARNING
6. THE FILTER BUBBLE
7. FLOURISH
8. THE LATE AMERICAN NOVEL
9. RADIOACTIVE
10. GOD BLESS YOU, DR. KEVORKIAN
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:13 AM   #11
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Quote:
1.THE INFORMATION: A HISTORY, A THEORY, A FLOOD
Looks very interesting, thanks for the heads-up!

I've only had my Kindle for a little week so the titles below - I only read
nonfiction titles, at least in english, not so in my mother's tongue, so this
is a great topic! - is all I've read on the device so far. All of these come
highly recommended if you have an interest in the history of these
two persecuted nations.

(1) The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag
by Chol-hwan Kang (Topaz format).

(2) Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick. I ditto SeaBookGuy's rec for this one.
A very good read.

(3) First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
by Loung Ung.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:46 AM   #12
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Forgot to mention this somewhat esoteric title, that I read in ebook
format recently:

The Kirov Murder and Soviet History
by Matthew E. Lenoe
If you want to read about the murder of Sergei Kirov and what it meant
in the scheme of things in the 1930'ties in the USSR, this is THE book
to read.

Also, I've bought the science & (Ancient) history titles below
but havnt read them just yet (in no particular order):

(1) Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life beyond Our Solar System
by Ray Jayawardhana

(2) Absolutely Small: How Quantum Theory Explains Our Everyday World
by Michael D. Fayer

(3) Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City
by Gwendolyn Leick

(4) Lucy's Legacy: The Quest for Human Origins
by Kate Wong & Donald Dr Johanson

(5) DNA
by James Watson

(6) Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
by Charles Freeman

(7) Ancient Iraq
by Georges Roux

(8) The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
by Paul Kennedy. I Read this like 10 years ago & thought I re-read in
ebook format. Highly recommended.

(9) The Post-Soviet Wars
by Christoph Zurcher

(10) Why Does E=mc2?: (And Why Should We Care?)
by Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw
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Old 06-09-2011, 02:35 PM   #13
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I just completed a charming travel narrative by Danny Bent. Its available on Kindle at Amazon for $0.00, so the price is right. I have reviewed it at Amazon and given it four stars.

LINK


Editorial Review:

Quote:
Have you ever woken up in the sultry heat of the morning, your hair and beard teeming with maggots, and then had potatoes picked out of your ears?

Have you ever felt the cold barrel of a semi automatic gun against your forehead?

When Danny Bent cycled 15,000 kilometres from the UK to India to raise money for ActionAid, it was a decision that took twenty years and one minute. For twenty years he had wanted to do something to raise money for charity. The one minute was when as their teacher he was put on the spot by his pupils and declared that the means was by bike, and he was going to India.

What he had signed up for was slogging along roads with trucks bearing down on him, unable to see and choking in the smog; shooting down treacherous descents with 100 foot drops, shaking with cold and too numb to brake; muscle burn and saddle sores; delirium and food poisoning; thirst and malnutrition; foul and insanitary conditions; life-threatening crises; obstructive border guards, crazed dogs and inquisitive passers-by.

'You've Gone Too Far This Time, Sir!' is a real and compelling blow-by-blow account of Danny's trip across Europe, the former Soviet Republics, Russia, China, Pakistan and India.

And what people he met! They are the true delight of this book, mostly charming, sometimes reckless, occasionally threatening, always unpredictable, and forever inviting Danny to be up for the challenge of entertaining them, in one instance by dancing in front of a packed stadium, in another by eating sheep's brains in a local night market.

Danny turns the wheels, you turn the pages. The pace is relentless. The story is both heart-stopping and heart-warming. The arrival is breakdown-and-cry emotional. And there's loads of fun and wonderment along the way too.

What a book! What a ride! Live your dream.

Go for it, Danny.
About the Author
Danny Bent was born near Buxton in the Peak District into a very loving and supportive family. His father was an international athlete and Danny was necessarily introduced to the attractions and rigours of sport at a very early age, and to cycling (down steps) not long afterwards. He is an international tri-athlete and a bog diver, and has an aptitude for the sort of adventures which require major endurance and a great deal of luck to survive. Fortunately for us, he is also an excellent raconteur, loves life and hugs people whenever possible, which means he gets access to a host of excellent stories and escapades he can roll around his tongue, and entertain us thoroughly, all at the same time.
My review:

Quote:
Yet another eccentric Englishman goes a-traveling. This time thousands of miles, by bicycle, from southeastern England to a village in India. Truly an epic bike ride, as told by an engaging narrator. In pursuit of his quest, Mr. Bent meets interesting people, undergoes many hardships, and endures levels of un-hygiene that would have felled anyone with a weak immune system. I for one will never take for granted clean toilets and running water again. Through all this, Mr. Bent maintains a cheerful disposition and a genuine interest in the people, foods, and customs he encounters. He also finds a measure of spiritual fulfillment at the end.
There are a few spelling errors and at least one indecipherable sentence, but on the whole, this is a well-written book. Kudos to Mr. Bent for pursuing his dream and for telling us about it.

Last edited by stonetools; 06-09-2011 at 05:12 PM.
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Old 06-09-2011, 05:22 PM   #14
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Yet another Summer Reading List, compiled from what prominent Washington insiders are reading. Unfortunately, its another slideshow.

WHAT WASHINGTON IS READING
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Old 06-11-2011, 06:04 AM   #15
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Another Cambodia 1975-79/Khmer Rouge title. This one provides more
background information and is a better book overall than the one I
mention above it seems to me:
When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge
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