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Unputdownable Non Fiction

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Showing 1-25 of 30 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Jun 2012, 17:05:00 BST
Last edited by the author on 14 May 2014, 15:51:32 BST
Chris says:
Okay so this is the fiction forum, but I'm not sure that there is a non fiction equivalent, and posting questions on those sub-catagorised forums is about as useful as shouting them down the bog, so can you recommend any truly fascinating non fiction? Not just a decent read, but genuinely enthralling.
I just finished 13 Things That Don't Make Sense. I'd probably recommend it as unputdownable were it not for the fact that most of you are probably already familiar with the 13 scientific anomalies contained within. Still, it had that narrative style to it that made it very easy and enjoyable to read.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2012, 17:13:01 BST
a random book you will probably enjoy is The devil in the white city. It tells of the organisation of the chicago worlds fair of 1893 and a mass murderer at large. I recommend checking this it. cheers

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2012, 17:27:48 BST
Chris says:
Thanks. That reminds me... The Professor and the Madman was a pretty good read too. Though I couldn't help wondering how much of the narrative side of things had been invented for the sake of a good story. It's no fun being a suspicious ******.

Posted on 8 Jun 2012, 21:25:33 BST
Last edited by the author on 8 Jun 2012, 21:27:00 BST
gille liath says:
Loads...but I'm not going to try and second-guess what you'd find enthralling. Once bitten, twice shy.

After all, non-fiction is not a single type of writing as fiction is; it's everything except fiction.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2012, 23:13:49 BST
Chris says:
Then I'll second guess what YOU'Dfind enthralling and read that. There's so much to choose from.

Posted on 9 Jun 2012, 12:05:56 BST
Last edited by the author on 9 Jun 2012, 13:47:12 BST
gille liath says:
Alright, then - these are a few of my favourites (excluding military history which I know you don't like) covering a pretty random bunch of subjects:
The Gamekeeper at Home - Richard Jefferies
Penguin Essays of George Orwell (in fact, any of his essays and journalism)
DH Lawrence - ditto
Into the Crocodile's Nest and The Proving Grounds - Benedict Allen
'Best of Myles' - Flann O'Brien
Last Night's Fun - Ciaran Carson
Fall of Constantinople - Stephen Runciman (also his History of the Crusades)
Essays of 'Elia' - Charles Lamb
Ten Novels and their Authors - Somerset Maugham
Seven Pillars of Wisdom - TE Lawrence
White Goddess - Robert Graves
Songlines - Bruce Chatwin (a bit unsatisfactory but a unique book)
Teachings of Don Juan - Carlos Castaneda (not sure whether it's entirely non-fiction, but again a fascinating read)
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee - Dee Brown
Reindeer People - Piers Vitebsky
In Siberia - Colin Thubron
Cottage Economy and Advice to a Young Man - William Cobbett
Unending Quest - Karl Popper
Revolution in the Head - Iain MacDonald

Posted on 9 Jun 2012, 12:19:18 BST
Last edited by the author on 9 Jun 2012, 12:20:14 BST
If you are into psychology: I'm okay, you're okay by Thomas Harris
Driven to distraction (about ADHD) by Edward M. Holloway

Both a little older, but quite informative and not too difficult to understand.

Posted on 9 Jun 2012, 13:18:47 BST
Last edited by the author on 9 Jun 2012, 13:27:31 BST
Garscadden says:
Some which I enjoyed:
A Short History Of Nearly Everything - a Bryson. Pretty entertaining history of modern science - it is a lot more interesting than it sounds...

In Search Of Schrodinger's Cat - quantum physics, fascinating and very readable. Really. honestly, truly. I also learnt more about chemistry in 5 pages than i did in a chemistry O-level. Really readable.

Samurai William: The Adventurer Who Unlocked Japan - I remember it being a fantastic read, I'm not sure how fictionalised it is, or where something stops becoming non-fiction and becomes historic narrative. I seem to remember thinking it stuck to the main points, it's not like a historic fiction.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything - a cliche, but a really good read

How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World: A Short History of Modern Delusions - if you like the scientific anomalies book you'll probably enjoy this. Maybe. I can't know what you'd enjoy :)

Bad Science - should be required reading, for everyone. Ben Goldacre's writing seems to just be something that flows into your eyeballs - he's really good if you get a chance to hear him speak too.

Thinking and Deciding - bit of a niche one - if the subject sounds interesting to you, then I'd pretty much guarantee you may enjoy (or may not).

Con Art - Why you ought to sell your Damien Hirsts while you can - 90p - if you have any interest in art this is a good read (whether you agree with the author or not). If you aren't particularly into art then it may not really do much for you. (Basically if you know who Duchamp, Emin and Hirst are, it's worth the price, in my opinion).

Traders, Guns and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives (Financial Times Series) - if you've ever heard the term 'Investment Banking' then you may enjoy this - again it is quite nicely written.

I really did find all the above really very good reads, and I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. (But, looking at the list, I may be a bit of a nerd - at least I left out the mad Bill Drummond travelogue, and the book about ubiquitously unpredictable events, like earthquakes)

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Jun 2012, 13:30:52 BST
I think I'd love to read your second suggestion. Sounds amazing.

Posted on 9 Jun 2012, 22:00:12 BST
Chris says:
Cheers. Lots that sound interesting to me, and I've only read one of the suggestions. Don't worry about the nerd thing. I consider myself at least a partial nerd. I'm reading God and the New Physics right now.

By the way, here's a few I've enjoyed, though you all seem so well-read that you've probably already read them.
As Far As My Feet Will Carry Me, which is really a novel, but it's loosely based on a true event.
Adrift; 76 Days... something or other. Can't remember the full title. Good though.
A Fighting Chance, which is about two virtual sea novices rowing the Atlantic in an open boat.
Joe Simpson's Touching the Void was very good.
The Elephant Whisperer was probably one of the most emotionally involving books I've read. When he had to have his 14 year old staffy put to sleep it put me over the edge because I'd just been through the exact same experience 6 months earlier. Same type of dog, same age. But the whole thing was very emotional if you're the sentimental type, which I am.

Posted on 9 Jun 2012, 22:13:14 BST
Anita says:
For fun - almost:

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Posted on 9 Jun 2012, 22:32:05 BST
M. Dowden says:
I absolutely love The True History of the Elephant Man.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jun 2012, 16:00:00 BST
Last edited by the author on 10 Jun 2012, 16:05:37 BST
LEP says:
A Voyage for Madmen - Peter Nichols
And Miles to go Before I Sleep - Hugh Cran

Posted on 10 Jun 2012, 16:19:42 BST
Essays - George Orwell (Everyman edition)

Oranges - John McPhee

Original Copy - John Carey

Reliable Essays - Clive James

This Boy's Life - Tobias Wolff

A House on Fire - Andrea Ashworth

Stop-Time - Frank Conroy

Stet - Diana Athill

You've Had Your Time - Anthony Burgess

And When Did You Last See Your Father? - Blake Morrison

Posted on 3 Aug 2012, 12:47:50 BST
Last edited by the author on 3 Aug 2012, 12:48:16 BST
Dont bother with fiction much myself and cant seem to find a Non-Fiction forum either. tend to like books of the 'wake up and smell the coffee' type like
Bad Science
Tescopoly: How One Shop Came Out on Top and Why It Matters
Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets
No Logo
Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions

Dont care much for miltary history but these are very entertaining and quite shocking
Great Military Blunders and The Guinness Book of Historical Blunders

Posted on 13 May 2014, 19:43:13 BST
Lore says:
Non-fictions that I really liked, and recommend:
A Long Way Home: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah
Beautiful Boy : A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, by David Sheff
Lee Iacocca - An Autobiography, with William Novak
Lincoln, the Unknown, by Dale Carnegie

Posted on 13 May 2014, 22:11:36 BST
DLJ says:
Try Bill Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything". It tells you all you never knew about everything from atoms to astronomy and is good for a smile, if not an outright laugh, on every page,

Posted on 13 May 2014, 22:42:40 BST
Lore says:
I also liked very much: Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

Posted on 4 Jun 2014, 14:22:06 BST
Chris says:
Just finished The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert. Very interesting and readable, but it seemed to have the opposite affect to the one you'd think a book like that was aiming for. It seemed to me to be encouraging apathy. There were quite a few examples where the author spent time with people who were actively trying to make a difference, and she effectively undermined what they were doing with a couple of well-chosen sentences. Strange. Still there's interesting stuff in there.

Posted on 7 Jun 2014, 18:45:07 BST
Last edited by the author on 26 Jun 2014, 10:12:24 BST
Sombrio says:
An interesting post, (especially with your reasoning about the futility of trying to find a non-fiction forum).

Off the top of my head, in no particular order, these are some of the most totally enjoyable non-fiction books I've read :

(1) My Family and Other Animals ...................Gerald Durrell

(2) Never Cry Wolf ...................................... Farley Mowat

(3) Into Thin Air ..........................................Jan Krakauer

(4) I Sank the Bismark .................................John Moffatt

(5) The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.. Bill Bryson

(6) City of Djinns ........................................William Dalrymple

(7) White Cargo ...........................................Felicity Kendal

(8) Life: Keith Richards .................................Keith Richards

(9) Miss O'Dell: My Hard Days and Long Nights with the "Beatles", the "Stones", Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and the Women They Loved..............Chris O'Dell

(10) The Blue Nile, and The White Nile............(both by) Alan Moorehead

Posted on 8 Jun 2014, 20:13:10 BST
The Spade As Mighty as the Sword (about the dig for victory campaign)


EB White's Essays

Reporting, David Remnick

Looking for a Ship, John McPhee

The Hot Zone

Posted on 7 Jul 2014, 15:27:14 BST
Helena says:
Non fiction I have enjoyed:

The Road to Oxiana .................... Robert Byron
The Last Heart of Asia, and Shadow of the Silk Road.................Colin Thubron
From the Holy Mountain ...............William Dalrymple
War in Val d'Orcia ........................Iris Origo
Travels with Herodotus .................Ryszard Kapuscinski

Posted on 14 Jul 2014, 19:21:44 BST
Chris says:
Couldn't put this down yesterday: Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet. Read the first half or so in one sitting, and missed the first half of the World Cup Final as a result. Thought it was about sixish when it was half eight. Not so good in the second half (the book not the world cup), but still very enjoyable reading.

Posted on 17 Jul 2014, 22:33:56 BST
Marc Morris writes History very well , very readable , his histories of Edward 1 , the Norman Conquest and Castles are all very entertaining , my favourite Historian .
The only book of his not in my possession is ' The Bigod Earls Of Norfolk ' , and that is only because it's out of my reach money-wise .
Antony Beevor is another Historian I read .

Posted on 21 Jul 2014, 21:49:03 BST
Chris says:
Another one I tore through in just two sessions: Freak Out! My Life with Frank Zappa by Pauline Butcher. Possibly you need to be a Zappa fan, but maybe not. It's a well written memoir of a very straight-laced English girl's time working as a secretary in a log cabin full of hippies between 68 and 71. Although there's no peace and love anywhere to be found, just lots of conniving swines, some funny, some not so. Very enjoyable. Ever heard of Cynthia Plaster Caster who needed a bigger vase for Hendrix? :)
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
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Initial post:  8 Jun 2012
Latest post:  4 Aug 2014

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