What We Are Reading: Nonfiction

Converses75 Books Challenge for 2015

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What We Are Reading: Nonfiction

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des. 26, 2014, 8:44pm

Are you a history buff? A science maven? A biography hound? Here is the place to share your nonfiction interests!

des. 28, 2014, 2:07am

The first NF book I have slotted for 2015 is The Sixth Extinction.

des. 29, 2014, 4:48pm

Hi. This is my first year and thought I'd give it a shot. I'm currently reading Mark Noll's "From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian's Discovery of the Global Christian Story." And have Harold Holzer's "Lincoln and the Power of the Press" started to finish up after Noll's.


des. 29, 2014, 9:19pm

>3 photoray1970: Welcome, Ray! From Every Tribe and Nation sounds interesting. How is it?

des. 29, 2014, 11:55pm

I'm currently reading The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 and hoped it would be done by the end of the year, but I still have about 100 pages to go so it will probably be the first book of the new year.

des. 30, 2014, 12:06am

Yes, I finally found my perfect group. Non-fiction is my favorite. Right now I'm reading Do Dogs Dream?. I saw it on the new book shelf at the library today and just had to read it. I found out I already know a lot of stuff but there's always something new to learn in a book like that. I already knew that dogs must dream. My little terrier/poodle mix has some of the most violent dreams at times that he wakes me up. If you like learning about dogs, this is a good general topic book about odd dog facts. The most fascinating so far is exactly how well they can sniff out cancer in people. I had heard anecdotal evidence but the actually scientific testing done is really surprising.

des. 30, 2014, 4:44pm

I've been reading more non-fiction of late, so I'm glad to find this thread so I can post my non-fiction reads with the group and also see what others are reading. I had started The Rape of Nanking by Irish Chang 2 days ago, but less than a third of the book in, I've had to put it aside for a bit. It's so terribly gruesome and horrifying that it was making me nauseous visualizing the terrible atrocities the Japanese soldiers subjected the men, women and children in Nanjing to. This is definitely an important book that I want to finish reading, but I'm going to need to read it only in bits at a time and intersperse my reading with something lighter and fictitious.

des. 30, 2014, 9:39pm

>7 cameling: I intend to read The Rape of Nanking in 2015; read Finding Iris Chang a couple months ago somewhat in preparation, but yeah, I want something else nearby for breaks.

des. 31, 2014, 7:37am

I'm reading The Invention of the White Race as my first NF for 2015. It's volume 1 of two volumes (on sale now in the ebook version at versobooks.com if anyone's interested - they have tons of great stuff!) so I think it will take me a while to read both of them, but I've been reading a bit of US history in the last couple of years and it's a really interesting topic.

des. 31, 2014, 9:53am

I'm starting Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman today. Won't get done today, it'll be the first nonfiction of 2015. :)

des. 31, 2014, 9:56am

I'm listening to the audio version of Call the Midwife, an interesting look at life in the East End of London in the 1950s as well as the medical aspects of childbirth.

des. 31, 2014, 10:23am

First up for 2015 is First Resorts a book about Coney Island, Newport, and Saratoga Springs which I bought some years ago because I wanted to learn more about Saratoga Springs.

des. 31, 2014, 10:35am

>8 qebo: It's so sad that her life was shortened by her mental illness at the end. It must have been terrifying to have to live with that level of paranoia.

des. 31, 2014, 5:12pm

I'll be dropping by this thread from time to time. I always have nonfiction books started, and sometimes I set them aside for a bit, only to pick them up later. I'll report in when I have an attack of nonfiction reading.

gen. 1, 2015, 10:45am

I'm currently reading Mendel in the Kitchen, which has been sitting on a shelf for some time.

gen. 1, 2015, 11:13am

Finally getting around to Reading Lolita in Tehran after having it on my shelves for quite some time...

gen. 1, 2015, 11:57am

I have both Dirty Chick and The Map Thief in progress. carried over from 2014, so I have a head start.

gen. 3, 2015, 11:00am

I just finished reading Me, Myself and Us : The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being by Brian R. Little and I liked this narrative non-fiction.

How often have you found yourself thinking someone you thought you knew very well was acting out of character? Is one's personality fixed or can we make changes to our personality to fit the situations we find ourselves in? If we can make changes, is there a cost to our health in doing so? Are we more susceptible to being persuaded by our peers or are we less open to suggestions? Is there a difference between eccentricity and creativity?

The study of personality science is an interesting one, and the author delivers his research in addition to some great personal and anecdotal stories. Perhaps the understanding of what makes us and those close to us tick and why we behave the way we do will enable us to communicate better with them, lower stress and increase our sense of well-being.

gen. 3, 2015, 11:03am

I saw The Imitation Game last night, so pulled out the recently purchased Alan Turing: The Enigma and began reading. That's two non-fictions going at once, which tends to mangle my brain, so we'll see...

gen. 3, 2015, 11:13am

I saw that movie the other night and really liked it. I thought Benedict Cumberbach did a good job of playing Alan Turing, although for the first half hour of the movie, he seemed to be channeling his Sherlock Holmes character. I have The Innovators :How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution in my TBR Tower and am planning on reading this in this first half of the year.

gen. 3, 2015, 12:40pm

I'm reading Centuries of Change by Ian Mortimer, which looks at which of the last ten centuries has seen the greatest change and why it matters to us. Apparently everyone says "the 20th" when he asks them, because of landing on the moon and, you know, mobile phones, but I don't think the 20th is going to win, somehow! It's an excellent look at the highlights of (Western) human development.

gen. 3, 2015, 1:15pm

>21 susanj67: -that sounds like an interesting question, Susan. I think I'll be pondering that one today.

gen. 3, 2015, 5:32pm

I'm reading The Third Man Factor by John Geiger -- a fascinating analysis of folks in extreme circumstances who felt that they experienced another "presence" with them. It looks at the various way these "encounters" have been explained by people through the years -- from the religious/supernatural thrugh the psychological and neurological.

gen. 3, 2015, 8:39pm

I am also listening to Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth and loving it.

gen. 3, 2015, 9:03pm

I'm currently reading Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art by former director Thomas Hoving. My, but this man loves to gossip and make some rather snide, nasty comments/descriptions of people. I don't think I'd want him as a friend/acquaintance.

gen. 4, 2015, 9:37pm

I've started reading Men We Reaped by Jessmyn Ward, the winner of the National Book Award winning novel Salvage the Bones, which is about the lives of five African American men from her family and home town in the Mississippi Gulf Coast who died at young ages due to the indirect effects of poverty, racism and lost hope.

gen. 4, 2015, 9:56pm

I'm currently reading Being Mortal and have The Sixth Extinction up next!

gen. 5, 2015, 12:29am

I'm halfway done with The Sixth Extinction and almost done with The Social Conquest. And I'm a third of the way into Overcoming Dyslexia (for professional development). Not sure why I am reading 3 NF right now!

gen. 5, 2015, 3:15am

I am reading An Appetite for Wonder. I'm not very far in and so far I'm iffy on it. Hopefully when he gets past all his reminiscences of childhood, it will get better.

Also reading A Patriot's History of the United States which I am liking very much.

gen. 5, 2015, 8:28am

I'm currently listening to David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls on audiobook and have just started reading The Ghost Map by Steve Johnson about the 1854 cholera outbreak in London. These are both very 'easy' (ie. accessible) non-fiction books, and I'm probably due to read something a bit less fun from my collection, like a Great Ages of Man book or something.

gen. 5, 2015, 8:39am

I'm reading Barren Grounds: The Story of the Tragic Moffatt Canoe Trip by Skip Pessl. I haven't read an outdoor/adventure story in a while and this is a good one. I received it from LTER several months ago, so I am being quite slow with my review.

gen. 5, 2015, 6:43pm

I've just started The Porcelain Thief and I'm not far enough in to have formed an opinion. If it lives up to the book description I know I will like it.

gen. 5, 2015, 6:49pm

>32 cbl_tn: I'll be very interested to hear what you think of it.

gen. 5, 2015, 9:46pm

Just finished Being Mortal. Should be required reading for us all. I have lived through these conversations, and wish I'd had the opportunity to read this before I had to live it.

gen. 7, 2015, 6:45pm

I'm reading through God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi by John Safran right now - it's interesting as a true crime book but also as a book about the genre of true crime as a whole and about the process of researching and writing nonfiction.

gen. 12, 2015, 5:59pm

I'm currently reading Shackleton's Boat Journey a first hand account of this amazing story of survival in the Antarctic by Frank Worsley who was the captain of the Endurance.

Editat: gen. 15, 2015, 4:04pm

I've finished reading The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, Me, Myself and Us by Brian Little and The Beekeeper's Lament : How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America by Hannah Nordhaus.

I think I'll start reading A Spy Among Friends : Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben MacIntyre this evening.

gen. 15, 2015, 4:18pm

I recently finished reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert and listening to History Decoded: The Ten Greatest Conspiracies of All Time by Brad Meltzer with Keith Ferrell. I enjoyed both of them.

I just started listening to Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948
by Madeleine Albright (I'm blessed with a job where I can often listen while I work) and reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham. Initial thoughts just a handful of pages in: Prague Winter is going to be dense reading, but I think I will enjoy it, good choice to go audiobook; Anne Perry is already enthralling.

gen. 15, 2015, 5:14pm

Dipping in and out of How Patients Should Think. I don't like the title (tell ME how to think!), but the information is thought provoking, well, it makes my blood boil mostly. A lot of the advice involves following the money to see if you are getting unbiased, best-health-outcome-for-you advice. Short answer - probably not.

gen. 17, 2015, 6:07pm

Re-reading The Great Fire of London by Neil Hanson. Didn't mean to, but pulled the book off the shelf to dust it, opened it and had no choice but to read it again.

gen. 18, 2015, 12:08pm

Just started The Righteous Mind, enjoying his evolutionary biology approach to people's perceptions of morality, thus far.

Editat: gen. 18, 2015, 12:42pm

>41 karspeak: that title sounds really interesting. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on it. (OK, actually I am sitting on my hands so I don't whip over and order a copy because the subject sounds fascinating. Darn my resolution to acquire fewer books this year!)

gen. 18, 2015, 1:24pm

>42 streamsong: Ha! I will make sure to post my review here, do you want me to say it's terrible so you don't buy it;)?

gen. 18, 2015, 7:31pm

I just finished reading A Spy Among Friends :Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre. It's incredibly how this man could have fooled his closest friends through the war and well into the early 60s into thinking he was working for the good of Great Britain when all along he was a Soviet spy.

gen. 18, 2015, 10:34pm

>39 MDGentleReader: Oh, that sounds fascinating and, as you indicate, annoying. I'll be interested in your final thoughts.

gen. 20, 2015, 12:36pm

I have read 4 really interesting non-fiction books so far this month. In order of preference:
Being Mortal Atul Gawande
Elephant Company Vicki Constantine Croke
Astoria Peter Stark
Savage Harvest Carl Hoffman

gen. 20, 2015, 2:13pm

I've just received a copy of The Secret Life of Lobsters that I hope to get to this weekend.

gen. 26, 2015, 9:39pm

I finished and reviewed Mendel in the Kitchen a couple weeks ago. I’ve just started Food, Inc. for another perspective. I read and reviewed The Bird Market of Paris, an ER. I finished (phew!) the 675 page Alan Turing: The Enigma a couple days ago, but haven’t yet reviewed.

gen. 26, 2015, 10:00pm

I've just started Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff.

gen. 26, 2015, 10:54pm

I finished The Mockingbird Next Door: Life With Harper Lee by Marja Mills. I want to give a shout out and a must read! If you are a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, this is a must read.

gen. 27, 2015, 12:40am

>50 Whisper1: hey, Linda - my RL book club has that one scheduled for later this year. I'm glad to hear it's a winner!

I'm currently reading an ER book, Beijing Bastard about life in Beijing (duh) just as China was opening to the west.

gen. 28, 2015, 6:57pm

>7 cameling:
In 2014 I read Flyboys by Tony Bill. If you have any energy left over after reading The Rape of Nanking, this may help to balance the atrocities. I hear you when you say it isn't a one sitting book!

gen. 29, 2015, 7:55am

I just finished The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. I thought the content of this book was excellent, and appropriate for both liberal and conservative readers, IF they can appreciate a scientific approach to moral beliefs. It is very academic in tone. I definitely came away with a better understanding and appreciation of conservatives' political views (I am fairly liberal) after reading it. But to get there the author leads the reader through a lot of cognitive psych research and evolutionary biology theory, as well as some anthropology. Not an easy read, but well worth the effort me.

Now I am reading The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.

gen. 29, 2015, 9:52am

The Mockingbird Next Door sounds fascinating. Duly added to the library request list.

Reading Patrick Leigh Fermor's final account of his trip across Europe as a young man, The Broken Road and starting Vanishing for the Vote which I bought a couple of months ago from the lovely News from Nowhere bookshop and have yet to read (hangs head). Newly released census records from 1911 show how women used the census to protest against their lack of voting rights.

feb. 17, 2015, 3:54pm

>45 bohemima: How Patients Should Think.

How Patients Should Think. I don't like the title, but the book is filled with good information. Not the most well written book I've read, and a tad repetitive. However, it is filled really, really important information given in a non-inflammatory, non-sensationalized, non-demonizing way. Warning, some sections made me really angry and I had to put the book down for a bit.

Important points:
Medication review. Anyone being treated with medicine for multiple conditions by multiple medical professionals should undergo one. All supplements should be included. It is appalling how many health problems are caused by side effects of medicines or interactions between medicines (including supplements and herbals).

Decision aids. Look for unbiased decision aids whenever you are faced with decisions about treating (or not) any medical condition.

Who profits? Does the medical group where you receive care own the testing equipment at the center you are being referred to? Perhaps the medical group manager encourages referral to that center because it affects profits.

Perhaps the medical rep for a particular drug is a really nice fellow and provides educational and dining opportunities to medical practitioners and is available when there are questions. Does a competing drug get a look in when it comes to writing a prescription?

Is the patient group or medical foundation you are trusting to provide you with information about your condition receiving money from a drug or testing equipment manufacturer?

What are the side effects for this medication, treatment or surgery? Are there controlled studies showing the benefit of what is being recommended? What is the likely outcome if nothing at all is done? Have you given your health care provider detailed information about your current health, recent health, health care history. Have you explained what negative outcomes are acceptable and what are not?

My favorite question to ask which is not mentioned in the book is "What would you do if you were in my shoes?". The answer is usually very different from what is being offered.

Tests are not harmless. Consider very carefully the risks/benefits for any test that is offered.

Places like the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews do meta-analysis of quality studies of medical care seeking to improve the evidence base of health care.

Media reporting is a problem. For assessments of media reporting of health news:
Media Doctor Australia
Media Doctor Canada
Hitting the Headlines (UK)
Health News Review (US)

There are many books out there reporting on these issues, I encourage folks to read this one or any other that sounds interesting.

feb. 19, 2015, 7:14am

I have started a small face-to-face book group in my neighborhood, and we are reading Sonia Sotomayor's biography My Beloved World. This is a re-read for me, and I recommend it highly.

feb. 19, 2015, 1:51pm

>56 MDGentleReader: Thank you for a complete follow-up on the book! I probably will read it.
I understand the anger; I managed my late husband's care for several years--he had multiple problems--and it sometimes was a complete nightmare just trying to untangle the sometimes contradictory advice. Unfortunately I'm not so diligent about my self, but your review encourages me to get to work on that, and to read the book.

feb. 19, 2015, 3:04pm

>57 maggie1944: Oh, my book group read that last year and everyone enjoyed it quite a bit! Made for a really good discussion, too.

feb. 21, 2015, 7:32pm

>59 bell7:. Yes, I think it will be a good discussion.

març 1, 2015, 1:04pm

>53 kaulsu: Thank you for the recommendation. I just looked up some reviews for Flyboys and I've added to my ever growing wish list.

Editat: març 1, 2015, 1:09pm

I read A Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik and while the medical cases and the science behind the neurosurgery was very interesting, the amount of time the author spent sharing her childhood was not. It's still not a bad read though, and being a slim work, takes no time at all to finish.

I've also just completed The Steampunk Bible: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Imaginary Airships, Corsets, Goggles, Mad Scientists, and Strange Literature by Jeff VanderMeer and I highly recommend this book if you're interested in the history behind this genre. The illustrations alone are extremely beautiful and the book provides an overview into the beginnings of Steampunk literature and how it's grown into a pop culture through fashion, music, art and film.

Editat: març 1, 2015, 1:16pm

I just finished reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan. I know the science is getting a bit old, but wow! this book totally blew me away. Sagan's enthusiasm is hard to resist. It's my favorite non-fiction of the year so far.

But the one I've just started, Gandhi My Autobiography is going to give it a run for its money.

Both of these are hidden gold, lurking in the depths of Planet TBR.

maig 4, 2015, 2:03pm

Two chapters into Eva Braun: Life with Hitler, a biography of, well, Eva Braun. I've always wondered about who she was and why she was with him for so long. Here's hoping Gortmaker will shed a little light.

maig 5, 2015, 7:07am

I'd be interested, too. I confess. I think the whole Hitler phenomena are fascinating.

des. 4, 2015, 9:29am

Currently I am finishing up The Anatomy Murders by Lisa Rosen. I started in October and have just dipped in and left it on my nightstand several times.

I also started The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and am reading several sutras daily. My goal is to complete this by years end.

I picked up from the library a short work entitled Informal Logical Fallacies by Jacob Van Vleet.

des. 4, 2015, 9:43am

I'd love to see this thread re-vitalized!

I'm currently reading:

A Guide to Navajo Sandpaintings - Mark Bahti - short, but very interesting!

The Mockingbird Next Door - Marja Mills - This was for my RL book club last month. I hate to disagree with Linda, but I'm not finding it hugely interesting so far. Book club members said it got more interesting in the second half of the book, so I'm continuing.

Shock Doctrine - Naomi Klein - a very sobering and uncomfortable read

des. 4, 2015, 10:02am

>67 streamsong: I have Shock Doctrine in the stacks. I should bump it up.

des. 4, 2015, 10:23am

Just picked this up second hand. Need to finish a few library books but do want to get to it.

Editat: des. 4, 2015, 12:30pm

>67 streamsong: Me, too. I had forgotten all about it.

I've just finished listening to Voices in the Ocean on audio. It is subtitled "A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins", but I think that's misleading. It is more a journey into the harrowing and horrifying world of dolphin exploitation and abuse. It was extremely difficult to listen to, but the writing is very fine, and the reading performance by Cassandra Campbell was outstanding. Thankfully, Casey concluded her book with visits to ancient Minoan sites on the Isle of Crete, where back in the Bronze Age they apparently appreciated and lived in harmony with nature and its other creatures, particularly those dwelling in the sea around them.This is important stuff, and if you can stand it, I recommend it.

More of my thoughts on it here

des. 5, 2015, 9:29am

I'm having a tough time finishing Shock Doctrine because it is making me sad. And angry. And a bit embarrassed as to how naïve I am about world events. And, silly me, I was also reading Voices From Chernobyl at the same time. The two together are bleak, bleak, bleak.

The Real Life book club is choosing next year's books this month. One of the nominated books is Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

des. 5, 2015, 11:31am

I recently finished Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World and Rain: A Natural and Cultural History. both were LT-ER ARCs, both were good... Reviews posted.

des. 6, 2015, 1:46pm

>71 streamsong: Oh, those two do sound bleak to read together!

I am reading Steve Silberman's Neurotribes: the legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity and got stuck in "sad and angry" in the early going, reading of Nazi eugenics; and then of how Kanner's ego and Bettelheim's fraud set back autism research for a quarter century or more. I'm moving into a section now that looks more upbeat.

des. 7, 2015, 8:06am

>73 tymfos: That one's really starting to interest me.

des. 18, 2015, 5:26pm

I'm about halfway through Sex at Dawn and finding it very interesting.

des. 20, 2015, 2:39pm

I finished The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. A great deal went right over my head. I definitely want to reread but with a tutor next time.

des. 21, 2015, 12:17pm

Yes Please by Amy Poehler was an entertaining and often laugh out loud funny memoir. It was also quite touching in places, especially when she talked about raising her two sons.

des. 24, 2015, 6:32pm

Some interesting reads. I have Yes, Please on my Kindle. Neurotribes and This Changes Everything were already on my To Read list. I'll have to peruse the list more carefully when not in the throes of the holiday season.

My current non-fiction read is Motherless Daughters. Helpful, but the read definitely brings on tears. My mother has been dead for over 25 years, but somehow I am missing her a lot right now. I should add that this is not a book meant for someone still raw from her loss and so far, tends to focus of those of us who were in childhood, teens or early adulthood when the loss happened. I do think it would be helpful for any woman, regardless of current age, years since loss or age when her mother died and also for those who care about a woman whose mother has died.

des. 28, 2015, 10:24am

I recently finished The Gardner Heist, the story of the unsolved theft of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Keeping with the theme of obsession - but moving from art to books - I started reading The millionaire and the bard by Andrea Mays, about Henry Folger's collection of Shakespeare's First Folios and the creation of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

des. 28, 2015, 12:38pm

I'm about 70% of the way through Destiny and Power, Jon Meacham's biography of George H. W. Bush - I'll likely finish it by the end of the year, but maybe not. :)

It's a pretty good bio - Bush is fairly represented, and I'm getting a new appreciation for the man.

des. 29, 2015, 5:04pm

>80 drneutron: Interesting....my boss was just mentioning that he's reading that biography now as well. (Having finished Being Mortal over the weekend, which I gave him last week.)