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Thread: Great Non-Fiction

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    Picture Perfect SnowflakeGirl's Avatar
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    Great Non-Fiction

    I may have mentioned some these titles elsewhere, but I thought I'd start a new thread specifically for non-fiction. While I read a lot of fiction, lit, and poetry, I like to break it up with non-fiction or creative non-fiction from time to time (to cleanse the palate, as it were).

    Below are some recent non-fic I have enjoyed. I'd love to see recommendations from you all, as I'm always searching for something new.

    Word Freak by Stephen Fatsis
    This was one my favorite books from last year, a funny, moving, almost operatic tour-de-force exploration of the wild and wacky world of competitive Scrabble players. To describe the Scrabble maestros as "eccentric" would be like calling Charles Manson "cranky". These guys are geniuses and madmen, and Fatsis (a sports writer by trade) describes the Scrabble tournaments with breathless drama. Will also give you killer tips for playing at home.

    Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
    The rollicking, swashbuckling, foul-mouthed and rowdy (mis)adventures of...a gourmet chef? Anthony Bourdain is one tough cookie, I could almost see him at home in a Hemingway novel or in some masculine Sebastian Junger book. But he doesn't need someone else to write his life story; no one could better than he did in this frank, candid memoir of life on the (prep) line. Will give you new-found respect for cooks everywhere, and the cuisine descriptions are like porn for foodies. Even if you're not a big food-lover (then you're no friend of mine), there's plenty o' drama (and drugs, and sex, and rock 'n' roll) fo' yo' mama in this thrill-a-minute ride from lowly line chef to five star impresario.

    Brothel by Alexa Albert
    As a medical student, the auther Albert was allowed entree into the exclusive, hidden world of the Mustang Ranch, Nevada's notorious legal house of prostitution, in order to do research on sexually transmitted diseases. Over the course of many years, Albert gained the trust and confidence of the women who worked there, and thus gained fascinating insight on the life of these "women of ill repute". She tells the true stories behind the myth and fantasy here. A sympathetic, never exploitative glimpse into the lives of the women of Mustang Ranch.

    Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
    New York Times writer Ehrenreich goes undercover in the world of minimum wage. She takes various minimum wage jobs (waitress, maid, Wal-Mart Clerk) across America and sees how (if!) she can live off such earnings. This book keeps its chin up with wry, intelligent humor, but breaks the heart with its insights into the lives of America's "working poor". Will make you want to tip every waitress who serves you extravagantly for the rest of your life.

    So, what suggestions do you guys have?
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    . karen14's Avatar
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    I LOVED Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt!! It was his bio about his life as a child born in America whose parents moved back to Ireland and all the troubles they had with poverty. It really made me appreciate what I have and had growing up. Very well written & I couldnt put it down. I went and got all the rest of his books and his brother Malachy McCourt too. But Ashes was just fantastic. I recommend it highly.
    If anyone can suggest other non-fiction books like Ashes, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

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    Staying Afloat speedbump's Avatar
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    I pretty much only read non-fiction, with a few fiction books thrown in for good measure (and to assure visitors that I'm not that much of a history geek). I have two floor to ceiling book shelves filled with non-fiction although most would not be appealing to all. Here's a few off the top of my head that may be of interest and a short summary:

    Silent Night by Stanley Weintraub
    Examines the Christmas truce of 1914 between the allies and Germans. This was once believed to be an urban legend until pictures and historical data became available. The culminating climax comes as soldiers from both sides leave their trenches, meet in the middle of "no man's land" for a game of football. Weintraub then goes on to speculate the outcome of the war had the soldiers decided to lay down their weapons since they had realized they are all the same.

    The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw
    Through letters of the soldiers, nurses and civilians during the Great Depression and WWII, Brokaw gives us insight to what the greatest generation had to overcome during such a changing time in history.

    The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC by Cleveland Sellers
    This is one of my favorite books. I read it in college and still read it yearly. A first hand account of the Civil Rights Movement through Sellers and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committe. It follows his childhood and his involvement in the movement of the 50's, 60's and 70's from Mississippi, Birmingham and other hot spots of racial violence. It's very eye opening and a nice perspective from someone who was well known within the movement but not as much known compared to the Civil Rights leaders we asscoiate with today.

    Walking With Spring by Earl Shaffer
    When Shaffer returned from WWII he was looking for peace and a way to heal the pain of war. The Appalachain Trail had just recently been completed and what better way to seek solace than to set out and complete the trail. Shaffer became the first solo thru-hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail and along the way tells his adventures- from the people he met in towns and on the path. One does not need to be a backpacking enthusiast in order to appreciate the way life was and how it has changed.

    I could go on and on, but here's a few to get the thread started.

    p.s. Snowie, I loved Kitchen Confidential as well.

    ETA: I just realized this thread is almost two years old.
    Last edited by speedbump; 06-27-2005 at 01:03 AM.
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    Evil Slash Crazy Miss Filangi's Avatar
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    If you like the true crime genre, there are a lot of good books. The best is Helter Skelter about the Manson Murders, written by the prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. It sheds a lot of light about the history of the Manson family in addition to the trial from start to finish.
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    Picture Perfect SnowflakeGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedbump
    ETA: I just realized this thread is almost two years old.
    It's alive! ALIVE!!! I forgot I even started this thread, and I'm shocked to see it resurrected from the dead.

    Thanks for these suggestions. I've been reading a lot of fiction, so it's time to cleanse the palate.

    Miss F, I did read Helter Skelter quite some time ago. Imagine morbid, gothy teen SFG thumbing through the paperback.

    I have a book I haven't started yet called Candy Freak which is supposed to be a fun history of candy, especially the popular brands of candy bars we knew and loved as kids (or adults). It's supposed to be cleverly written, too.

    I have another question. Can anyone recommend books similar to A Perfect Storm? The hubby loves true adventure books like this. It's not a genre I'm overly familiar with (though I did read Perfect Storm in just one day, it was so gripping), but I'd like to get him a few more in this vein. Thanks!
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    Staying Afloat speedbump's Avatar
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    Snowie: Any book by Jon Krakauer, most notably Into Thin Air and Into The Wild. Very good books!
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    Kanai Nemeses's Avatar
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    yay, karen, for resurrecting this thread!

    I love to read, and 98% of what I read is non-fiction, so I love seeing this thread. My favorite topics are biographies, true crime, and history.

    SnowflakeGirl, if your hubby likes books like A Perfect Storm, he might also like these: (either myself or my hubby have read these and thought they were pretty good). Rather than describe the books myself, I've included a description from the book publishers themselves -- they can summarize it better than I can.

    Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer: "Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest."

    Touching The Void, by Joe Simpson: "harrowing account of near-death in the Peruvian Andes, is a compact tour de force that wrestles with issues of bravery, friendship, physical endurance, the code of the mountains, and the will to live."

    Between A Rock and Hard Place, by Aron Ralston: "a moving account of strength in the face of adversity, Ralston presents the full story behind the 2003 event that became worldwide news: his self-amputation of his right arm after it was caught between a boulder and a canyon wall during what began as a routine day hike in the Utah Canyons." My husband read this, said it was an excellent read.

    Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea; by Tami Oldham Ashcraft: This is an amazing real life story of tragedy and survival. Here's the description: "Experienced boaters, Ashcraft and her fianc‚, Richard Sharp, had been hired to ferry the four-masted Hazana from Tahiti to the U.S. mainland. The jaunt seemed simple enough, until the pair unwittingly sailed into the throes of a hurricane. Sent below decks during the worst of the storm, Ashcraft was knocked unconscious; when she awoke 27 hours later, all that remained of Richard was his broken safety tether. Thus began Ashcraft's horrifying 41-day solo journey toward civilization, which makes up the bulk of this book. Having lost all radio contact, Ashcraft made the best of her rudimentary celestial navigation skills and sailed for the shores of what she hoped was Hawaii. Facing fatigue, injury and almost certain death, Ashcraft suffered a near mental breakdown. She survived on canned food, beer and cigars, endured minor squalls and mirages of ships on horizon and was finally rescued off the coast of Hilo by a Japanese touring vessel."

    Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, by Steven Callahan: My hubby and I both read this -- he enjoyed it more than I did. "Before The Perfect Storm, before In the Heart of the Sea, Steven Callahan's dramatic tale of survival at sea was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than thirty-six weeks. In some ways the model for the new wave of adventure books, Adrift is an undeniable seafaring classic, a riveting firsthand account by the only man known to have survived more than a month alone at sea, fighting for his life in an inflatable raft after his small sloop capsized only six days out. "
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    Picture Perfect SnowflakeGirl's Avatar
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    Speedy, Nemeses, those sound perfect. Thanks so much!
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    Rude and Abrasive Texicana's Avatar
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    Snowy, you'll like CandyFreak! I've also read all of the books you listed, except for one.

    I recommend this one by Lois Gibson, the uber-police sketch artist.

    Faces Of Evil: Kidnappers, Murderers, Rapists and the Forensic Artist Who Puts Them Behind Bars
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    Just Forting Around roseskid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnowflakeGirl
    Miss F, I did read Helter Skelter quite some time ago. Imagine morbid, gothy teen SFG thumbing through the paperback.
    I read Helter Skelter in the 70's...I lived with several friends in a rural area (I was quite the flower child, don't you know ), but I was home alone the night I began it, and I ended up running around locking doors, and making my large dog practially sit on my lap. I loved it, though.
    Can anyone recommend books similar to A Perfect Storm? The hubby loves true adventure books like this.
    I love these types of books and have read all the others mentioned above. Another book I would add is, Into the Wild, a true story about a young man who chucks all material belongings, and walks into the wilds of Alaska solo. I saw a snippet in an Outside Magazine, and ran right out and bought it. It's also written by Jon Krakauer, and I thought it was even better than Into Thin Air (which was wonderful itself).
    Last edited by roseskid; 06-27-2005 at 04:57 PM.
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