Thursday, May 16, 2013


A few months back, I was listening to NPR (not uncommon). On that day, I heard about the book “Brain on Fire” by Susannah Cahalan. It sounded intriguing, so I ordered it from the library, and it finally came this week.

The book is absolutely fascinating – Susannah contracted this bizarre autoimmune disorder that basically caused her to go completely insane. And for a long time, no one knew what was wrong with her. It’s very odd and creepy to think about – that you could potentially contract a virus that makes you go all psychotic, and it's so rare that the doctors won't necessarily know how to fix you.

Basically, reading this book made me realize how few nonfiction books I actually read in a given year. Granted, I read a TON of scientific articles (weight near approximate, since i recently had to clean out my office for a move to another building). But all the same, I feel like there must be more awesome non-fiction books out there that I need to try.

Here are some non-fiction books I've enjoyed in the past few years:

Song of the Dodo, by David Quammen

I'm a huge David Quammen fan - in fact, my most common internet name is inspired by one of his essays. I first learned about him through this book. It's in large part about Island Biogeography . Without getting too technical (don’t make me be technical – it’s my Friday and I’m tired)  islands are basically the most awesome place to study ecological processes, because weird evolutionary things happen when species are isolated. For example, islands tend to have gigantic versions of species that exist on continents, such as the giant tortoises of Galapagos.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

My brother got me this for Christmas one year. Aside from the bizarre theory about how being born at a certain time of year makes you a better hockey player,  I liked the idea that you have to practice just about anything to be awesome. His figure is 10,000 hours – and a few years ago, when I calculated it out, I had indeed come close to 10,000 hours of writing practice.

Okay, so maybe I don’t have a pro publication yet. But by the hour count, I’m getting close! And if you’re a depressive, anxious personality like me, even those little encouragements make a difference.

That Book I read one time about the history of the English language that was probably by Bill Bryson

I don’t really remember much about it, except that it was awesome. The only reason I think it wasn’t by Bill Bryson is that I read two books about the English language at the same time, and I think I liked the one that wasn’t by him better. Not that I recall which one that was.  But I love books about the English language, and so any you all have to recommend would be much appreciated.

Wow, that's not very many, is it? So what are your favorite nonfiction books? I'd especially love to hear about books about nature, science, language, and really anything captivating. Because I think that's my one weakness with nonfiction - I tend to assume straight out that it's going to be a tedious read. 

I blame it on peer reviewed journal articles.


  1. I just finished The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life by Charles Duhigg, and I really liked it.

    Yikes, I thought I'd have a lot more suggestions than that, but once I started thinking about it, I haven't read much non-fiction lately. So, I just requested The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters and What You Can Do To Get More Of It by Kelly McGonigal.

  2. I don't read much non-fiction either. I'd like to read more of it. Well, I'd like to read more of everything, but life gets in the way. :)

    I did really enjoy Deadly Feasts by Richard Rhodes. It's about how scientists discovered that prions were responsible for Mad Cow Disease. I've always been fascinated by infectious diseases, and of course prions was such a revolutionary theory that I just had to read the book.

    It's a great book, but also kind of scary. It kept me away from hamburgers and steaks for several months. :)

  3. I just read a book about Nikola Tesla.

    It read like someone's thesis they decided to publish, but would have made a fascinating story. I hope someone takes all that research, and then fictionalizes it.

    That's the problem I find when I read nonfiction...I want it fictionalized.


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