02 July 2015

8 Books to Satisfy the Nonfiction Reader in You

The other day I was chatting with friends on Twitter about reading nonfiction and was encouraged and inspired by them to write about true stories that I've read and/or that have caught my attention. Here then is roundup of eight nonfiction reads picked at random from my shelves. Look for more suggestions in the coming weeks.

Science and Medicine

Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean; The Nurses by Alexandra RobbinsMargaret Lazarus Dean's Leaving Orbit (Graywolf, 9781555977092, May 2015): This award-wining account of the end of the American Dream in space is both well researched and very personal. If you're too young to remember the first manned space program or weren't yet born when we first stepped foot on the moon, it's hard to convey the collective excitement and interest Americans had for NASA and space travel. Dean brings those feelings alive in Leaving Orbit, detailing a variety aspects of the U.S. space program, from the vehicles to the funding issues to the personalities. I agree with the Kirkus reviewer who predicts that you won't be able to stop reading.

Alexandra Robbins's The Nurses (Workman, 9780761171713, April 2015): This book-length piece of investigative journalism looks at the women and men who become our anchors when we're at our worst. Robbins followed four RNs for a year, shedding light on the truth of what it's like to be a nurse. These important healthcare providers are caught between patients and doctors and between policy and compassion, working long hours under enormous pressure. But The Nurses isn't just a song to the profession, it's an insiders' look at the way hospitals really work. Be prepared to be both shocked and awed.

Manners and Secrets

Sorry! by Henry Hitchings, Members Only by Julie TibbottHenry Hitchings's Sorry! (Picador, 9781250056153, December 2014): One of the many things I learned when I lived (briefly) in the UK was that despite our historical connections, social norms in England are not necessarily the same as they are in the States. I haven't read this one yet, but the publisher's summary caught my attention: "Sorry! presents an amusing, illuminating, and quirky audit of English manners." Hitchings uses a "blend of history, anthropology, and personal journey [to help] us understand the bizarre and contested cultural baggage" of what passes as good manners. Looks good, eh?

Julie Tibbott's Members Only (Zest Books, 9781936976522, February 2015): This is a fun and informative look at all things secret society. Ever want to better understand the Knights Templar, wish you knew what it really means to be a Freemason, curious about cults, or how about getting a peek inside the famous Magic Castle in L.A.? I loved learning the meaning behind various familiar symbols, the requirements to join exclusive clubs, and some of the associated stories and scandals. This was great fun to read.

Spies and the Mafia

The Wolf and the Watchman by Scott C. Johnson; Gotti's Rules by George AnastasiaScott C. Johnson's The Wolf and the Watchman (Norton, 9780393349436, May 2014): I'm not at all sure why I haven't read this yet because it sounds amazing. Johnson writes about what it was like to be the son of a real-life CIA spy. Here's what I've learned about Johnson's book: Although being the son of a spy sounds kind of glamorous, the reality is that your father makes his living by hiding the truth and manipulating situations to gain knowledge and data. In reaction, Johnson grew up to be a foreign correspondent, making his living uncovering the truth about wars and other global situations. Johnson writes about the tensions and reconciliations that colored his relationship with his father, especially when their careers were at cross-purposes.

George Anastasia's Gotti's Rules (Dey Street, 9780062346872, January 2015): What is it about the American Mafia that fascinates us? We can't seem to get enough movies, books, and TV shows about the mob. Anastasia takes a look at the Gotti family and the code they lived by to run the infamous Gambino syndicate. Using firsthand accounts, insiders' information, interviews, and FBI files, Anastasia unveils the truth behind the legend. It's probably no surprise that the Mafia code is less about honor and more about power and greed, but the details of the crimes and violence and of the behavior of the bosses are fascinating and startling.

History and Mystery

Napoleon by Andrew Roberts; American Ghost by Hannah NordhausAndrew Roberts's Napoleon (Viking, 9780670025329, November 2014): Biography is one of my all-time favorite genres, especially when as well-written as is this account of the famous general. Although other biographies exist, Roberts's is the first to have been based not only on historical accounts but also on the tens of thousands of surviving letters from Napoleon himself. This is an amazingly accessible and utterly fascinating story of a man who has often been misrepresented and misunderstood. He was smart and curious, loved art, and ran an army and empire while trying to stay true to his vision and hold off his detractors. From Napoleon's birth to his political rise and fall, you'll be glued to the pages.

Hannah Nordhaus's American Ghost (Harper, 9780062249210, March 2015): True confession: I'm never going to read this book! I'm pretty much a wimp when it comes to ghosts, and this true story is probably a little too creepy for me. My husband, however, is looking forward to American Ghost and will give me the scoop when he finishes reading about the author's great-great-grandmother and the reports of her haunting of a present-day Santa Fe hotel, which used to be her home in the 1800s. To determine the veracity of the stories, Nordhaus studied her family history and the pioneer life as well as twenty-first-century psychics and ghost hunters. Will Nordhaus's investigation prove the existence of the ghost? I'm waiting for somebody to tell me.


(Diane) bookchickdi 7/2/15, 7:34 AM  

Members Only sounds like a great read, and my brother would love the Gotti book.

JoAnn 7/2/15, 7:36 AM  

I've been in a nonfiction mood so am so glad you decided to write this post. Both of the Science and Medicine offerings look great to me, as does Sorry!

Vicki 7/2/15, 8:32 AM  

Members Only is going on my list for sure, and maybe Sorry!.

bermudaonion 7/2/15, 8:46 AM  

I love nonfiction and want to read several of those books!

Heather 7/2/15, 9:30 AM  

I have The Nurses! I keep forgetting I have it! lol I need to move it up. I thought (at the time I received it) that it sounded super interesting. I love nonfiction.

Katherine P 7/2/15, 10:07 AM  

These look great! I'm especially intrigued by American Ghost. It sounds absolutely fascinating. Adding to my TBR!

picky 7/2/15, 10:51 AM  

Ooh, The Wolf and the Watchman sounds fantastic. I definitely need to pick this up.

Amanda 7/2/15, 4:26 PM  

Ooh, Sorry! looks like a fun one!

Carrie 7/2/15, 7:13 PM  

Thanks for the recommendations - I just added several to my to-read list on Goodreads. :)

Lisa 7/5/15, 9:26 PM  

I don't know why I don't read more nonfiction - there are so many interesting books out there!

Meg @ write meg! 7/6/15, 5:01 PM  

Bookmarking for when I'm stumped on audio book inspiration (provided my library has them, hopefully!). I find that I do better with non-fiction over fiction in the car . . . and prefer non-fiction audios to printed versions. Whatever works to get that reading in!

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