27 July 2018

11 Nonfiction Titles to Read This Summer

I’ve been a nonfiction fan most of my life. As a child, biography and autobiography were among my favorite books. When I got older, I added science, history, and memoir to my nonfiction mix After I discovered audiobooks, the way I read most nonfiction changed: These days I like to tag team between audio and print: a great narrator can bring the book alive and the print copy allows me to see the footnotes, charts, photos, maps, and so on. It’s a great way to get the best of both worlds. Here are 11 books that are on my summer nonfiction reading list.

On the Water

Nonfiction about boatsBarons of the Sea: And Their Race to Build the World’s Fastest Clipper Ship by Steven Ujifusa (Simon & Schuster; July 17): What the subtitle doesn’t tell you about this look at sailing the open seas is that the motivation for building a fast ship in the late 1700s was to get rich via importing spices, tea, silks, and opium from the Far East. The baron in the title is no accident; this is also a story of the early robber barons who were America’s first one-percenters. (audiobook read by Arthur Morey)

Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate and Innocent Man by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic (Simon & Schuster; July 10): You might remember the bare-bones story of the USS Indianapolis: it carried the atomic bomb across the Pacific and was later struck by Japanese torpedoes, leaving 900 men stranded in the ocean—only about 300 survive. Relying on firsthand accounts, interviews with survivors, the authors reveal the true story of what happened to the ship and crew, setting the record straight about who was and wasn’t to blame for the disaster. (audiobook read by John Bedford Lloyd)

Women’s Stories

Nonfiction books about womenLush: A Memoir by Kerry Cohen (Sourcebooks; July 17): In an increasingly stressful world the number of women struggling with alcohol dependency is on the rise. Cohen wasn’t your stereotypical drunk: she kept the household running, she took care of the kids, she had a social life . . . but she also waited impatiently for 5pm when she could respectably pour herself a glass of wine or two or three. This is the story of how she realized she had a problem and how she found a way to embrace life again. (audiobook read by Allyson Ryan)

Open Mic Night in Moscow: And Other Stories from My Search for Black Markets, Soviet Architecture, and Emotionally Unavailable Russian Men by Audry Murray (William Morrow; July 24): I don’t do a lot of solo travel, but the former Soviet Union wouldn’t be on my list of places to visit all on my own. Twenty-eight-year-old standup comedian Murray, however, was not deterred. This is the story of her nine-month journey across what was once the USSR. Part travelog, part tale of self-discovery, the memoir is supposed to be as funny as is it as story of strength and independence. (audiobook read by Emily Woo Zeller)

Women of the Blue and Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies by Marianne Monson (Shadow Mountain; August 7): Like many Americans, I have a fascination with the Civil War and I’ve always been interested in women’s roles during the war. Monson takes a diverse look at the parts played by women on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line and by women of different cultures and skin colors. We meet not only nurses and Underground Railroad workers but also spies, advisers, and soldiers. (audiobook read by Caroline Shaffer)

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal (Norton; July 3): I had no idea that in the early 1600s a Muslim women sat on the throne of Persia. Although the 20th wife of her emperor husband, she ruled by his side and by herself, wielding power and respect both from the court and on the battlefield. Lal rescues Nur Jahan from the backwaters of history, introducing her to a new generation of strong, independent women. (I didn’t find an audiobook)

Men’s Stories

Nonfiction books about menRoom to Dream: A Life by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Random House; June 19): I’ve been a kind of David Lynch fan since Twin Peaks first aired in the 1990s. This book is as unusual and unique as much of Lynch’s work. The text alternates between McKenna’s biography (based on research and interviews) and Lynch’s thoughts and memories of the same events or projects. The font changes so we know at a glance whose words we’re reading, and the book is loaded with black and white photographs. (audiobook read by the authors)

City of Devils: The Two Men Who Ruled the Underworld of Old Shanghai by Paul French (Picador; July 3): In the years between the wars, Shanghai was known as refuge for outlaws hoping to fade into the crowd of their peers. For Jack Riley and Joe Farren, the gambling dens and music halls of the city were their golden tickets to wealth—at least for a few years. French bases his true crime story on eyewitness accounts and contemporary documents, bringing to light the rise and fall of the mob culture of the East. (audiobook read by Paul Chan)

Through History

Nonfiction books about historyThe World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization by Vince Beiser (Riverhead; August 7): I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about how sand shapes my everyday life: paved roads, glass, and silicon are just some of things that owe their existence to sand. Despite the world’s deserts and beaches, quality (useful) sand is actually a limited resource, and its importance has political and social implications. Through Beiser’s research, we gain a new appreciation for the endangered resource. (audiobook read by Will Damron)

1968: Radical Protest and Its Enemies by Richard Vinen (Harper; July 3): You know the saying: If you can remember the sixties you didn’t live through the sixties. Yet few of us alive in 1968 can forget that year of assassinations, riots, and protests—and not just in the United States. Viven takes a global perspective, including French labor strikes and antiwar rallies in London, of a short period in history that had far-reaching affects on social and cultural norms, such as feminism and gay rights. (audiobook read by Tim Gerard Reynolds)

The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke by Andrew Lawler (Doubleday; June 5): One of bits of U.S. history that most of us remember from grammar school is the story of Roanoke and the mystery of what happened to those early colonizers. For 400 years, scholars and the public have debated and theorized on the British colony’s fate, and journalist Lawler introduces us to the archaeologists, historians, and others who are consumed with discovering the truth. A mystery and history rolled into one. (audiobook read by David H. Lawrence XVII)


bermudaonion 7/27/18, 7:57 AM  

I've been in a non-fiction mood lately so I'm making note of several of these titles.

Kay 7/27/18, 8:56 AM  

I don't do much non-fiction, but I have found that audio is often the way for me read these books. I like the look of the Roanoke book. Will see if my library has it. :-)

Susie | Novel Visits 7/27/18, 9:04 AM  

I see a few here that I'm going to take a look at for Nonfiction November, including Women of The Blue and Gray and 1968. I also have one to add to your list: From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein. I recently finished it and thought it was a wonderful blend of a young woman's personal life with life behind the scenes working at the White House during the Obama administration. My review actually posted today!

Unknown 7/27/18, 11:30 AM  

Thanks for the list of new to me non-fiction.

rhapsodyinbooks 7/27/18, 1:23 PM  

I've had my eye on Barons of the Sea.

Unknown 7/28/18, 1:41 AM  

Barons of the Sea - Fascinating history by the author of A Man and his Ship. Ujifusa writes non-fiction with so creative a style that I thought I was reading a novel. I cannot recommend it too highly. Surely to be an award winner.

I found the best Ford 7.3 Injectors

Daryl 8/4/18, 3:50 PM  

not a non fiction reader but i have to admit some sound interesting ..

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