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Binker

What is your favorite/favourite non-fiction?

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Dan and I have been having a discussion about non-fiction that we thought we'd bring to the larger group.  Since we are both in the U.S., the exploration suggestions are mostly about the U.S.  But they are still wonderful books:

 

 

Exploration:

 

The Exploration of the Colorado River and its Canyons, by John Wesley Powell.

 

Rising from the Plains, by John McPhee.  

 

Undaunted Courage:  Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose.  

 

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, about the Mt. Everest Disaster.  I have enjoyed almost all of Krakauer's books.

 

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

 

Science:

 

Wonderful Life:  The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History by Stephen J. Gould.   Anything by Stephen J. Gould is worth reading.

 

The Epigenetics Revolution:  How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance by Dr. Nessa Carey.

 

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

 

History:

 

Anything by Simon Winchester:  I've read (in the order that I read them):  

The Map that Changed the World (about the first geological map--fascinating), 

The Professor and the Madman (about the inmate of an insane asylum who was one of the great contributers to the OED), 

The Meaning of Everything (about the OED generally), 

Krakatoa (very good until he was forced to tie it to the more recent tsunami, which I found kind of useless), 

The Man Who Loved China (didn't really like it), and 

The River at the Center of the World (about a journey up the Yangtze and back).  

 

Anything by Erik Larson--he writes very interesting popular histories.  I've read, in the order that I read them:  

The Devil in the White City (about the first known U.S. serial killer, in Chicago), 

In the Garden of Beasts (about the last American ambassador to Nazi Germany), and 

Isaac's Storm (about the terrible hurricane that demolished Galveston Island in 1900).

 

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  

 

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink.

 

The Hare with Amber Eyes:  A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal.

 

1491 by Charles C. Mann.  

 

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

 

Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng

 

The Telling Room:  A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti

Edited by Binker

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In no particular order and from across multi genres

 

A Short Walk From Harrods by Dirk Bogarde

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

A House In Flanders by Michael Jenkins

An Evil Cradling by Brian Keenan

Life by Keith Richards

Oswald's Tale by Norman Mailer

Albert Speer - His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill bryson

The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert

My Forbidden Face by Latifa

The White Mughals by William Dalrymple

Virtually anything by Dervla Murphy but especially Eight Feet In The Andes

Beyond Belief by V. S. Naipaul

Any of Tim Severin's voyages.

The Hare With The Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal 

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I loved Wild Swans, Life, and A Short History of Nearly Everything, so thanks for adding those (and for giving me additional suggestions).

 

I read Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng at about the same time as I read Wild Swans and it was very compelling, too.

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I loved Wild Swans,

 

I took this off my shelf yesterday. I hadn't looked at it for years but thought my youngest daughter would like it - really will recommend it now that you and Tay have mentioned it too.

 

I'll need to think further about other non-fiction I've liked.

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Immediately coming to mind are:

Bernie Krause "The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World's Wild Places"

Jared Diamond "The Third Chimpanzee", and "Guns, Germs and Steel"

Bill Bryson "Mother Tongue"

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I know there are more that arent coming to mind but for now;

Alexandra Fuller-Don't let's go to the dogs tonight, cocktail hour under the tree of forgetfulness,Scribbling the Cat

Barry Holstun Lopez-Arctic Dreams,Crossing open ground

Joe Simpson- Into the void

A.Alvarez- Feeding the rat

Barbara Kingsolver- High tide in Tucson

Edward Abbey- Desert Solitaire

Robyn Davidson-Tracks

Rachel Carson-Silent Spring

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These come readily to mind over the last decades -

 

London: The Biography  - Peter Ackroyd

 

Dickens  - Claire Tomalin

 

The Story of Art  - E Gombrich

 

The Return of a King -  William  Dalrymple

 

Will in the World  - Stephen Greenblatt

 

1599  - James Shapiro

 

The Road to Wigan Pier -  George  Orwell

 

A Better Class of Person – John Osborne

 

Wild Swans -  Jung  Chang

 

The Subterranean Railway  -  Christian Wolmar

 

Caravaggio -  Andrew  Graham-Dixon

 

Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux

 

Faver Pitch - Nick Hornby

 

The Road to Oxiana - Robert Byron

Edited by chuntzy

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I'd have to think about this for more time than I currently have to come up with a list of actual titles.

 

My favourite non-fiction genre is travel writing, although there are some writers in the field who have been accused of playing fast and loose with the truth. I've particularly enjoyed what I have read by Paul Theroux, Pete McCarthy, Bruce Chatwin and Bill Bryson. Bryson on anything, in fact, is rarely less than entertaining.

 

I'd also second Barblue's vote for George Orwell; the only slightly disappointing non-fiction book of his I've read was Homage to Catalonia.

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My favourite non-fiction is a little known book called the Seashell on the Mountaintop by Alan Cutler.  It's sub-title is A Story of Science, Sainthood and the Humble Genius Who Discovered a New History of the Earth.

 

I cannot remember how I managed to come by this book but I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to everyone.  Accessible science and history it tells how one man discovered geology and created a whole new field in science and who's  procedures are followed to this day.

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Reserved Wild Swans from the library - saw the title on a post by Binker and it caught my interest.

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I'd have to think about this for more time than I currently have to come up with a list of actual titles.

 

My favourite non-fiction genre is travel writing, although there are some writers in the field who have been accused of playing fast and loose with the truth. I've particularly enjoyed what I have read by Paul Theroux, Pete McCarthy, Bruce Chatwin and Bill Bryson. Bryson on anything, in fact, is rarely less than entertaining.

 

I'd also second Barblue's vote for George Orwell; the only slightly disappointing non-fiction book of his I've read was Homage to Catalonia.

Oops how could I forget Paul Theroux's travel writing.  I'll edit my list.  (and 'twas me, Gram, regarding Orwell :yup: )

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Luna, you recommended that book before and I couldn't find it.  I just downloaded it on my tablet, so thank you for mentioning it again.

 

Momac, I hope (and believe) that you will enjoy Wild Swans.

 

Adding some things to my list based on this discussion.

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Luna, you recommended that book before and I couldn't find it.  I just downloaded it on my tablet, so thank you for mentioning it again.

I did? Wow, I do hope that you enjoy it, I loved it and bored my father to death with it for ages.

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Another long list from me. Some of them are quite old.

 

 John Berendt  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994)
Christabel Bielenberg The Past Is Myself (1968)
Dirk Bogarde -A Postillion Struck by Lightning, (1977) and other memoirs (the ones covering the height of his fame have too much name-dropping for my taste, but the early and lateones are good)
David Niven The Moon’s a Balloon (1971) Bring On The Empty Horses (1975)

Jung Chang Wild Swans  (1991)

Tom Cox Educating Peter (2004)

Philip Gourovitch We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families (1998)
M Howell & P Ford The True History of The Elephant Man, (out of print)

Margaret Humphreys Empty Cradles (1994)

Brian Keenan An Evil Cradling (1991)

Alice Marriott   The Ten Grandmothers (1983)

Brad Newsham Take Me With You (2002)

Gervaise Phinn Head Over Heels In The Dales  and The Other Side of The Dale  & others ( early 2000ish)

 Dava Sobel Longitude (1995)

Wilfred Thesiger Arabian Sands (1959)

Catherine Parr Traill The Backwoods of Canada (1836)

Marie Vassiltchikov, The Berlin Diaries (1988)

Simon Winchester The Surgeon of Crowthorne (1998)

Nigel Slater Toast (2003)

Alexander Masters   Stuart: A life Backwards (2005ish)

Gwen Raverat  Period Piece (1952)

Claire Tomalin Thomas Hardy: The Time Torn Man (2006)

Horatio Clare Running For The Hills (2006)

A.J Mackinnon The Unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow (2009)

Fergus Garrett, Beth Chatto and Christopher Lloyd  Dear Friend and Gardener (1998)
 

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Oops how could I forget Paul Theroux's travel writing.  I'll edit my list.  (and 'twas me, Gram, regarding Orwell :yup: )

 

My apologies, chuntzy.

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Rachel Carson-Silent Spring

Absolutely Dan: Rachel Carson "Silent Spring".  Bernie Krause's "The Great Animal Orchestra" also focuses on the welfare of environments, but does it through recording soundscapes. Maybe I was influenced because of being a sound engineer, or maybe it was the environmentalist in me, but "The Great Animal Orchestra" left me breathless.

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Almost any of Joel Whitburn's American Record Research books.  It's not just the information they contain, but the sheer quality of the presentation and the books themselves.  Mind you, they do have a price that matches! 

 

On this side of the Pond, I'm very much looking forward to a new book, due out next month, that lists the UK's weekly top 30 selling 78s from 1940 to 1952.  These charts are compiled from data provided by the record companies on wholesale shipments from them to shops (rather than retail shops to consumers).

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Carl Sagan: "Cosmos". Outdated in a couple of places, but lovely poetic in many others.

Stephen Hawking: "A short history of time". Due to my educational background, I think I about understood it. Which is more than some others said about it.

Timothy Ferries: "Galaxies". A large-sized book full of large-sized images. Get the original, not the down-sized edition, even though it hardly fits into anyone's shelf.

Herman Potočnik Noordung: "The problem of space travel". The great pioneering work on manned space stations from which von Braun, Kubrick and others drew their inspirations. I saw just today that a high-quality reprint of the US translation has been made available by an institution named KSEVT, from Vitranje, Slovenia, that is also running a very modern museum on Noordung's life and the general history of spaceflight.

Edited by Romanike

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Binker and Dan, thank you for the courtesy of inclusive spelling :flowers:

 

My  absolute favourite non fiction books could be considered 'reference' but once I open any of these I am lost for hours:

 

Illustrated English Social History - G M Trevelyan

 

A History of the English Speaking Peoples - (one volume edition) - Winston Churchill

 

Post War   A History of Europe since 1945 - Tony Judt

 

The Ascent of Man  - J Bronowski

 

The Story of Art - E H Gombrich

 

A Life in Letters - P G Wodehouse edited by Sophie Ratcliffe

 

........and as you did not specify prose

 

Wall and Piece - Banksy

 

Vogue Covers - On Fashion's Front Page

 

Paris Vogue Covers - Sonia Rachline

 

Meetings with Remarkable Trees - Thomas Pakenham

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Another long list from me. Some of them are quite old.

 

 John Berendt  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1994)

Christabel Bielenberg The Past Is Myself (1968)

Dirk Bogarde -A Postillion Struck by Lightning, (1977) and other memoirs (the ones covering the height of his fame have too much name-dropping for my taste, but the early and lateones are good)

David Niven The Moon’s a Balloon (1971) Bring On The Empty Horses (1975)

Jung Chang Wild Swans  (1991)

Gwen Raverat  Period Piece (1952)

 

Oh MM, I'd agree with you for all the above, Period Piece is one of my favourite books.  Everyone I've recommended it to has loved it as well.

 

Some more non fiction books I've loved

 

Pepys - Claire Tomalin

Magnificent Obsession - Helen Rappaport

Mother Tongue - Bill Bryson

Home                     "     "

Made in America   "      "

The Great Western Beach - Emma Smith

To War with Whittaker - Hermoine Ranfurly

City of Djinns - William Dalrymple

Almost French - Sarah Turnball

Curry - Lizzie Collingham

The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh - edited by chaarlotte Moseley

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 

by Rebecca Skloot

 

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage 

by Alfred Lansing

 

The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History 

by John M.Barry

 

The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books I-II

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

 

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

by Christopher McDougall

Edited by Biochemisty-n-Classics

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A few other non-fiction books that are permanent keepers:

 

The Last Grain race - Eric Newby

Something Wholesale  "       "

Most of Newby's earlier travel books, especially Love and War in the Appenines and A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush

My Life in France - Julia Child

Isaac's Storm - Eric Larson

Seabiscuit - Laura Hillenbrand

Peter Fleming - Duff Hart Davies )

Crete - Antony Beevor                 ) These last two because there's quite a bit about my father in both of them.

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