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Thread: Great Non-Fiction

  1. #11
    . karen14's Avatar
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    I was also going to suggest Into Thin Air! Loved it. Unlike, Rosekid, I didn't like Into the Wild as much.

    Another good book about survival is Alive about the Chilean soccer team who's plane went down in The Andes.

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    One more vote for Helter Skelter I read it the first time when I was about 15 and then again in my mid-20's. Not exactly great bedtime reading, but so thoroughly fascinating. One of the only movies of the genre that I thought lived up to the book, btw. Steve Railsback was terrifying.

    Gee, yet another thread where I can mention Augusten Burroughs' Running With Scissors! Seriously, it's like David Sedaris combined with Dickens on acid (I think one review said Sedaris writing The Hotel New Hampshire). Horrifying (mainly because it's true) and hilarious, sometimes at the same time.

    I just finished Strapless by Deborah Davis a few weeks ago. It's the story behind John Singer Sargent's most famous painting. Even if you're not an art history buff, this one was so engrossing, it read like a novel. In a nutshell: The subject of the painting, a young society wife, was disgraced when this painting (now called "Madame X") was exhibited and the public was scandalized by the fact that Sargent had painted one strap of her gown hanging down off her shoulder. Davis researched the model, the artist and the time period so thoroughly that it was almost like being there.

    I think Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser should be required reading for all Americans. Where the movie Super Size Me (which should be required viewing) talks more about the health risks of fast food, Schlosser delves into the roots of the fast food business and how it's shaped our culture. He also spends quite a bit of time discussing the cattle industry and farming in general and how fast food has changed those industries.
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  3. #13
    Just Forting Around roseskid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by karen14
    Unlike, Rosekid, I didn't like Into the Wild as much.
    Well!
    Another good book about survival is Alive about the Chilean soccer team who's plane went down in The Andes.
    Oooh, I forgot about that one. I read the book, then saw the lame movie on it, so even if you've seen the movie (it's pretty old), read the book...it's so much better (which is typical, I suppose).
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    Snowflake girl - I like the adventure stuff, and I can second the recs for Between a rock and a hard place & - even more so - Touching the void. If your hubbie liked Into Thin Air, I highly highly recommend The Climb. It was written by one of the guides also on the mountain that terrible day in May - and it gives a more balanced story than Into Thin Air and is written by someone who was more part of the story instead of a writer who was there observing the story (not saying Jon wasn't facing danger at all - those guys are all bad ass).
    Re the Angela's Ashes comment - I don't think of that as non fiction. I guess to me memoirs have too much art and lies woven in, they are made from memories, it is not the same as non fiction, even though it is based in true events.
    Oh, another great non fiction is Public Enemies - it's the "first" "really true" story of the rise of the FBI to fight the crime wave involving the charasmatic Dillinger, Bonnie & Clyde, Pretty Boy Nelson, etc. It's so good, I bet your husband will love it (since I know you guys so well and all).

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    Just Forting Around roseskid's Avatar
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    Oops, I has in a hurry when I posted before, and I didn't notice Speedy had recommended Into the Wild already. Like I said I thought that book was riveting.

    I also missed the comment from Karen14 re: Angela's Ashes. Why four 's? I read it 4 times, that's why (and I never do that). My father was born and raised in Ireland until he was 18, and died when I was young, so I felt like I was getting to know my dad through Frank. His life in Ireland was very similar according to my mom. I also read the other McCourt books, and Frank's first book was definitely the best of all of them. I've never looked at a potato the same after reading Frank's description "the fluffy white potatoes..." Even 'Tis didn't seem quite as magical to me as Angela's Ashes. Listen to Angela's Ashes on tape, too, if you really want to feel his passion and the humor...he narrates it himself.
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    FORT Fogey Leftcoaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnowflakeGirl
    Can anyone recommend books similar to A Perfect Storm? The hubby loves true adventure books like this.
    He's probably already read it, SFG, but you might try Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (originally published 45 odd years back) regarding Shackleton's ill fated, yet lucky Antarctic expedition. I'm getting the wires crossed between this tale and another Antarctic expedition I read about in the last couple of years, one that wasn't lucky at all; sad tale of leaving comrades behind to die and ultimately writing personal thoughts to leave with your body when it comes to be your turn to succumb. Wish I could remember the depressing title.

    True adventure is a genre I enjoy, and looking at a few titles close at hand, one whos boundries may be somewhat larger than I ordinarily credit it with, depending on ones perspective. Generally I've thought of true adventure as accounts of blazing new and/or dangerous paths, such as an early account of an outsider into a little known the Amazon interior or sub-Saharan Africa, but it doesn't necessarily need to be grisly or chock full of sorrow.

    CARAVAN ACROSS CHINA: An American Geologist Explores the Northwest 1937-1938 by J. Marvin Weller (March Hare Publishing) is much more than simply a collection of scientific notes of a journey "along the ancient Silk Road into remote Central Asia". (The book is actually an edited compilation of letters and journal entries) This isn't just a western perspective into a little known region; the times plays a role also, Japan and China then being engaged in war.

    I enjoy windows to a past that will never be encountered in quite the same manner.

    EYEWITNESS TO DISCOVERY: First-Person Accounts of More Than Fifty of the World's Greatest Archaeological Discoveries
    Edited by Brian M. Fagan (Oxford University Press) is almost self explanatory by way of the title. The accounts span centuries, and the people involved (and their skills and motives) are far ranging, from your basic tomb raider to our more enlightened present period researchers. The excitement is similar to me though, being on the scene (through their words) of an incredible discovery. Again, for me, the local observations are part of the draw to these tales. A notable moment frozen in time; part historical, part scientific, part travelog.

    Getting away from true adventure (or not) and sideshifting to plain 'ol historical books, here's one that'll make you cringe and weep for the poor fools inhabiting it (an oldie, 1983, but still worthy):

    IN WARS DARK SHADOW: THE RUSSIANS BEFORE THE GREAT WAR by W. Bruce Lincoln

    Pretty near everyone has a general sense that Nicholas II wasn't the most dynamic or capable ruler Russia had had to that point, but good grief, I never really got a taste of how backwards and inept the nation as a whole was prior to reading this book. When one of Nicholas's advisers convinced him he (Russia) needed a quick and easy little war that led (in part) to them locking horns with Japan, reading along you get the sense at times that the Russians forgot who they were fighting, didn't care, or thought they were fighting themselves.

    Easy to forget at times that the majority of Russia's population were slaves literally though with another name until the 1860's. At the time this account took place, they may as well still been, for all the good that emmancipation brought.

    There are several points in the book where it becomes obvious just how much damage a single individual can do working their own agenda; whether the individual is a person or a state. Watching WWI approach must have been truly depressing for the many that didn't want to (or were unprepared to) wage war, but the personal decisions of a few set events into motion in a way that fast tracked a conflict that was inevitable at some point anyhow.

    Had Nicholas nerve or knowledge, he should have abrogated existing treaties that bound a woefully ill prepared Russia to enter a war that another caused. One of the last OUCH! moments involves the Russians, realizing they are hopelessly outgunned by the Germans, musing whether they should submit a bid for updated artillery from a firm in France, or Krupp, makers of the same weapons they couldn't match.

    I was curious when I saw that, I read The Arms Of Krupp some time ago, and seemed to recall that bidness was bidness for Krupp and they actually delivered an order to a client when Germany (or its predessessor) was warring with it. (I could easily be misremembering)

  7. #17
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    Hi Critical, I love that you like Running With Scissors and David Sedaris. I love me some Sedaris. Is that Dave Foley in your avatar? Does this mean the Pit of Ultimate Darkness is somewhere in Canada? I read mostly non-fiction too (if People magazine can be considered non-fiction. I kid, I kid). I always like Spalding Grey (in the strange confessional vein), and read Sarah Vowell's Assasination Vacation this summer and enjoyed that too. For all those people who like Angela's Ashes (and I found it okay, but not life-changing or anything), you might like Brendan O'Carroll's novels (Dublin dirt-poor Irish family), or H.V. Morton's In Search of Ireland. Morton wrote this in 1929, and it's a lovely lyrical read about an Ireland which is no more. I'm waiting to read The Rebel Sell, and also Sweets by Tim Richardson (Snowie you might like this one, it's a foodie book). I'm also waiting on my library coughing up Peter Cook's Tragically I was an Only Twin.

  8. #18
    Come Along, Pond phat32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leftcoaster
    He's probably already read it, SFG, but you might try Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (originally published 45 odd years back) regarding Shackleton's ill fated, yet lucky Antarctic expedition.
    LC, I don't know if you were aware of this, but if you're interested in Shackleton's journey, an IMAX production called Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure was released a few years ago. It's a great film, and I recommend it--especially if you have any interest whatsoever in the subject matter.

    (Of course, I realize that buying the DVD and watching the film on an IMAX big screen are two completely separate experiences altogether...unless you have an IMAX presentation room in your home, then more power to you. )
    "...Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things donít always soften the bad things, but...the bad things donít always spoil the good things." - The Doctor

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leftcoaster
    He's probably already read it, SFG, but you might try Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing (originally published 45 odd years back) regarding Shackleton's ill fated, yet lucky Antarctic expedition.
    By far the best book on survival, travel, adventure and leadership ever written. I couldn't put it down.

    I'll also second "Touching the Void."

    I loved "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers." It manages to be funny without making fun of the subject.

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  10. #20
    Picture Perfect SnowflakeGirl's Avatar
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    Hello, I thought I'd revive this thread to see if I could get any suggestions on new releases. I'm getting a gift for my SIL's boyfriend, who apparently loves non-fiction, also in the true adventure vein, but reads quite a lot, so I don't want to get anything he might have already read. Anybody have recommendations on new books in this genre? Thanks again.
    Sending good vibes and warm fuzzies your way..., SnowflakeGirl
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