OT: Recommend some good non-fiction reading

Submitted by Rodriguesqe on May 12th, 2015 at 9:01 PM

I realized recently my reading taste has started to favor non-fiction. Right now I'm reading Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers", bought "Tipping Point" at the same time, and will pick up "Blink" soon. He's a fun author.

Anyone got some good ones? Bonus points if they're a little under the radar.



May 13th, 2015 at 12:25 PM ^

of a book I thoroughly enjoyed, and considering I'm not even qualified to participate in the what-are-you-drinking threads but have noticed how many there are...

  Tom Standage, technology editor of the Economist, putting together the discovery/invention/popularity of 6 different beverages with major shifts in human civilization.



May 12th, 2015 at 9:09 PM ^

The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy, which won the 2010 Pulitzer, is a non-fiction account of the U.S. and Soviet Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons programs and how they are scarier than you even realized.

The Warmth of Other Suns, which has become the deinfitive history of The Great Migration.

From the Inside which is Don Canham's biography, a very insightful look in to his life and time and Michigan.


May 12th, 2015 at 9:12 PM ^

Well take Gladwell with a grain of salt, he's a peddlar of annoyingly simplistic and anecdotal social theory. Plus evidently he has an attribution problem, too, but that's not uncommon. 

You're better off reading Steven Pinker from Harvard, he's also a popular author but he's also a scientist (psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist) who knows what he's talking about. The Language Instinct, The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate, etc. All fascinating stuff. 



May 12th, 2015 at 9:17 PM ^

And if you're really willing to challenge yourself, and want to read a Michigan author, try Don Herzog, who teaches in the UM law school but also in polisci (full disclosure, I studied with him way back). "Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders" about the rise of English conservatism; and "Cunning" are brilliant. But they are a challenge.


May 12th, 2015 at 9:16 PM ^

Not sure how interested you would be in obscure books about business, but I just finished "Splash Of Color", which is a book about the effects of airline deregulation, specifically how that and some bad decisions internally ultimately toppled Braniff International. It was written by John Nance, a former Braniff pilot and now aviation cunsultant for ABC News. If you can find a copy of this one, it is a pretty dramatic read and Nance does a good job - through his research - telling the story of the end of an airline. 


May 12th, 2015 at 9:23 PM ^

The Emperor of All Maladies: A History of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee was interesting. Also, if you like shorter reads, there's an editorial series, "Best of......" essays, sports writing, and short stories. Every year, new collections come out edited by a writer in the field. One year, David Foster Wallace edited the short story series, and it was fantastic, especially the first story in the collection. 

That's Just Kramer

May 12th, 2015 at 9:26 PM ^

63 Alfred Street by John Kossik
Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Tears for My City: An Autobiography of a Detroit White Boy by Dean Dimitrieski
The Big House: Fielding H. Yost and the Building of Michigan Stadium by Robert Soderstrom
The Lone Wolverine by Elizabeth Shaw and Jeffrey Ford


May 12th, 2015 at 9:28 PM ^

Guns, Germs, and Steel is still the best non-fictions I have ever read.

Brief History of Time and The Elegant Universe will blow your mind.

SMart WolveFan

May 14th, 2015 at 2:36 PM ^

It's not really a book about history, it's a book about the theory of environmental determinism which Diamond believes has had a larger impact on the current state of the world than the people themselves.

Anthropologists today don't agree with him because they think they're psychologists.


May 13th, 2015 at 9:18 AM ^

Guns and Steel", "The Guns of August", "And the Band Played On",  AND Harry Potter (I know it's fiction, but read the entire series in order.  It's as brilliant for adults as it is for youth.  They are great  to read along with your kids.)

There are so "aha" moments in GG and S et al.  They give plausible reasons why things happened that you wondered or speculated about over the years.

Another book to suggest is "Your Inner Fish" by Neil Shuban.  It is used as a text in medical schools for evolutionary anatomy.  It was also the basis for a PBS series that you can watch on PBS.org or Youtube.  The episodes are titled: "Your Inner Fish", "Your Inner Reptile" and "Your Inner Monkey".  Fascinating.


May 12th, 2015 at 9:30 PM ^

Some past favorites :

"Cleopatra:  A Life" by Stacy Schiff

"A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

"Seeing in the Dark" by Timothy Ferris

"Genius:  The Life and Science of Richard Feynman" by James Gleick

"Endurance:  Shackleton's Incredible Voyage" by Alfred Lansing