>> Nonfiction  

I was talking about books with friends Jo, Chad, and Mike, and the question of good nonfiction books came up. I put together this list of 25 good nonfiction books (along with a bunch of also-rans).

Science and Nature:

The Language Instinct, by Stephen Pinker

The Winner's Curse, by Richard Thaler

The Code Book, by Simon Singh

Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner

More good ones: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, by Oliver Sacks; The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins; The Parrot's Lament, by Eugene Linden; Phantoms of the Brain, by V.S. Ramachandran; How Animals Work, by Knut Schmidt-Nielsen; The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen J. Gould; Inevitable Illusions, by Massimo Piatelli-Palmarin; Godel, Escher, Bach, by Douglas Hofstadter; The Curve of Binding Energy, by John McPhee; The Lives of a Cell, by Lewis Thomas

Worth a mention: Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson; The Emperor's New Mind, by Roger Penrose; A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking; The Blind Watchmaker, by Richard Dawkins; Fermat's Enigma, by Simon Singh; The Dragons of Eden, by Carl Sagan; How the Mind Works, by Stephen Pinker; The Moon by Whale Light, by Diane Ackerman; A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, by Paulos


Witness to a Century, by George Seldes

West With The Night, by Beryl Markham

Surely You're Joking, Mister Feynman, by Richard Feynman

Native Son, by James Baldwin

More good ones: Operating Instructions, by Annie Lamott; The Camel's Nose, by Knut Schmidt-Nielsen; The Catcher Was A Spy, by Nicholas Dawidoff; Naturalist, by E.O. Wilson; The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, by Bernal Diaz; Out of Africa, by Isak Dineson; A Sand County Almanac, by Aldo Leopold; Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey Worth a mention: Dangerous Beauty, by Mark Ross; Jackie Robinson, by Arnold Rampersad; I Married Adventure, by Osa Johnson; What Do You Care What Other People Think, by Richard Feynman

Information you can use: The Man Who Ate Everything, by Jeffrey Steingarten The Walls Around Us, by David Owen The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald Norman The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte More good ones: The Curious Cook, by Harold McGee; The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick Brooks

History/Anthropology :

Cod, by Mark Kurlansky

Longitude, by Dava Sobel

Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond

The Man Who Invented Saturday Morning, by David Owen

More good ones: The Potato, by Larry Zuckerman; Zarafa, by Michael Allin; The Road to Ubar, by Nicholas Clapp; The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes; The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester Worth a mention: Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen;The Decipherment of Linear B, by John Chadwick

Sports: Ball Four, by Jim Bouton A Baseball Reader, edited by Eisenstein Men at Work, by George Will More good ones: Paper Lion, by George Plimpton; Levels of the Game, by John McPhee; It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts, by Earl Weaver; My Usual Game, by David Owen


Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer

Endurance, by Alfred Lansing

The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger

Dispatches, by Michael Herr

More good ones: Farthest North, by Fridtjof Nansen; Shackleton's Forgotten Men, by Lennard Bickel; Black Hawk Down, by Mark Bowden

Other subjects: The John McPhee Reader, by John McPhee The Armchair Economist, by Steven Landsburg The Affluent Society, by John Kenneth Galbraith More good ones: Give War A Chance, by P.J. O'Rourke

There's more

After I posted this list, a bunch of friends sent in suggestions of their own. Here they are:

Chris Fontes suggests:

Chris Fontes Psychology/Mythology:

Psychological Types by Carl Gustav Jung

Two Essays on Analytical Psychology by by Carl Gustav Jung

Psychology and Alchemy by Carl Gustav Jung

Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

Chris Fontes Sports:

Eight Men Out: The Black Sox and the 1919 World Series by Eliot Asinof


Ghosts of Everest: The Search for Mallory and Irvine by Jochen Hemmleb et al

The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antartic Expedition by Caroline Alexander and Frank Hurley


Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein by Abraham Pais

Surely You're Joking, Mister Feynman by Richard Feynman

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

On the Road by Jack Kerouac (semi-fictional)

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (semi-fictional)

[Phil says: On the Road is too fictional to make it onto my nonfiction list, but hey, put what you want on your list. Not sure about Acid Test, was it fictionalized?]

Alyce Pearce suggests:

Stubborn Twig, by Lauren Kessler (traces the history and plight of the Japanese-Americans in the Northwest and the Hood River Valley.

Paul Hermann suggests:

Friday Night Lights - I forget the author's name (begins with a B) - about high school football in a small Texas town. Scary reading.

Chad Walters suggests:

Wild Swans by Jung Chang: It tracks 3 generations of women in China from fuedal China through the Cultural Revolution. Very good, especially the Cultural Revolution portions.

The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang: The events surrounding the Japanese attack on Nanking and the continuing denial in Japan of those atrocities. Grim stuff -- not for the weak of heart.

Jen Lee suggests:

Last Chance to See, by Douglas Adams (yes, the Hitchhiker's Guide author)

A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman

Jen Lee Biography/Autobiography:

Personal History, by Katharine Graham

Jen Lee History/Anthropology :

A History of Knowledge, by Charles van Doren

Here is New York, by E.B. White

Strangers From a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans by Ronald Takaki

Alissa Fitz suggests:

All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot

The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe

Rivethead - Tales from the Assembly Line, B. Hamper

(Simone de Beauvoir (biography), by Deidre Bair

Dan Doherty suggests:

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

Gun, Germs and Steel by Ian Diamond

The Autobiograph of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Goedel, Escher Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter

Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram

The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts

The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rostein

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Dan Doherty's "good but less compelling" list:

The Scientist in the Crib by Pat Kuhl and Andrew Meltzoff

Joys and Sorrows by Pablo Casals

Thinking Body, Dancing Mind by John Lynch

Emily Rodgers suggests:

Black Hawk Down

"A Supposedly Fun Thing To Do That I'll Never Do Again" by David Foster Wallace.

Four stars "Ghost Soldiers". A new book about the Bataan death march and Japanese POW camps during WWII. Very interesting. A little traumatic.

"A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson. A hilarious and fast-moving book about a middle aged man's determination to walk the entire Appalachian Trail

"A River Runs Through It" by Norman Mclean.

"Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader" by Anne Fadiman. Really funny little gem of a book. All extremely well-written essays about books and about a person who has filled her life with books.

"Sailing Alone Around the World" by Joshua Slocum. A must-read for adventure story enthusiasts. This guy was the first person to ever do it (and he's from Boston), and he did it in 1895 or something.