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#51043 - 11/07/03 11:17 AM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
deborah Administrator
Chief Bibliofreak
Ching Shih

Registered: 05/27/00
Posts: 3901
Loc: Funkytown

Great suggestions, everyone!

Persepolis is fantastic -- do we want to include graphic novels?

Kivrin, I've noticed the subtitle thing, too. Very few nonfiction books anymore seem to lack a subtitle.

#51044 - 11/07/03 11:20 AM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 02/22/01
Posts: 186

Some engrossing nonfiction reads (though some are pretty old):

Tomorrow is Another Country by Alister Sparks - an account of the negotiations for the transition from apartheid to non-racial democracy in South Africa. Besides the obvious drama, there's also lots of crazy skulky spy stuff.

Common Ground, by J. Anthony Lukas. The battle over school bussing (to integrate the schools) in Boston in the 1970s.

Black Mountain by Martin Duberman. Story of this crazy communal experimental arts college in North Carolina in the 50s - cast includes John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Joseph Albers, etc.

Any of Michael Pollan's nonfiction - his latest, Botany of Desire got a lot of attention, but I think his two previous books, one about the sociological implications of gardening (Second Nature: A Gardener's Education) and one about teaching himself to build a workshop where he could write (A Place of My Own: The Education of an Amateur Builder), are even better.

#51045 - 11/07/03 11:39 AM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Kivrin Moderator
Ching Shih

Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 4604
Loc: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

Persepolis is fantastic -- do we want to include graphic novels?
Since it falls under the category of memoir, I thought it might work--especially for those "reluctant" nonfiction readers...ahem.
It should be out in paper by May, I believe.

#51046 - 11/07/03 01:43 PM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 06/02/00
Posts: 219

This one might be on the fluffy side, but I'd also like to recommend Climbing Free, by Lynn Hill, who in her prime was arguably the world's finest female athlete. The book is an account of her life as a rock climber.
#51047 - 11/07/03 08:05 PM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
FishDreamer Administrator
Ching Shih

Registered: 08/27/01
Posts: 2804
Loc: Windy City USA

I'd love to do Between Silk & Cyanide by Leo Marks.

A Certain Genius, about Oscar Wilde

Diaries of Sylvia Plath and/or Lucy Maud Montgomery

Everyone could read How Brains Think by William Calvin with me! Or The Physics of Consciousness by Evan Harris Walker.

And I would love to read more about women in Muslim countries. My knowledge is sorely lacking here so I can't suggest anything, but it's an area in which I have a lot of interest.

#51048 - 11/07/03 09:35 PM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 06/04/03
Posts: 37
Loc: New York

I, too, have only made it about two-thirds of the way through Guns, Germs, and Steel. A friend who actually finished it says that you get the idea about halfway through and then it's just more of the same...

Some of the non-fiction books on my to-be-read list are:

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir (I really enjoyed her Elizabeth I.)

God's Secretaries by Adam Nicolson (about the creation of the King James Bible; not in paperback yet)

Stiff by Mary Roach (okay, it's about cadavers, yes)

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (also not in paperback yet)

Brunelleschi's Dome

The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure by Juliet Schor

Hmm, looking over my list, I see half of them aren't out in paperback yet. Guess that's why they're still on my to-be-read list (instead of my just-bought list). \:\)

#51049 - 11/07/03 10:25 PM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 10/29/00
Posts: 877
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI

Oh, dear, now I want to read all of these books!

Diaries of Sylvia Plath and/or Lucy Maud Montgomery
I'd like to second that, and I'd be interested in pretty much any diary or collection of letters.

#51050 - 11/09/03 07:28 AM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 01/23/02
Posts: 218
Loc: Perth, Western Australia, Aust...

I've read Guns, Germs and Steel the whole way through, and while it was very interesting, those of you who've only made it about halfway through aren't missing terribly much. Diamond gets repetitive, giving many examples of the same concept. When my boyfriend read it I recommended that if he was finding it difficult to get through he should skip to the last chapter to read the conclusion - and I'm the sort of person who shudders at the thought of not completing a book. Still, I'm glad I read it, it filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge.

I'd love to read The Botany of Desire, after hearing such good things about it in the Science forum. And I'm another one who'd be interested in trying some diaries and/or letters.

#51051 - 11/09/03 11:21 AM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 11/04/01
Posts: 443
Loc: Texas

Oh man, my TBR list just got soooo much longer. I'll throw in my vote for the following:
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Sixpence House
Between Silk & Cyanide
The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Vol. 1: 1889-1910 (I'm selecting this over Sylvia Plath only because I already have it...)
Brunelleschi's Dome
Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
Slaves in the Family
She's Not There
A Certain Genius
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (this book has been on my shelf unread for mumbldymumble years)
The Book on the Bookshelf
The Language Police
Under the Banner of Heaven

and what about:
Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Advisor to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach (the writing gets pretty mixed reviews on but the subject matter seems very interesting) -
A biography of the woman who, indirectly, was the catalyst for many of the troubles in the Middle East, including the Gulf War. In 1918, Gertrude Bell drew the region's proposed boundaries on a piece of tracing paper. Her qualifications for doing so were her extensive travel, her fluency in both Persian and Arabic, and her relationships with sheiks and tribal and religious leaders. She also possessed an ability to understand the subtle and indirect politeness of the culture, something many of her colonialist comrades were oblivious to. As a self-made statesman her sex was an asset, enabling her to bypass the ladder of protocol and dive into the business of building an Empire.
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom by Leonard S. Marcus

Good luck narrowing the selections Deborah, I can't wait to see the final list.

#51052 - 11/09/03 11:32 AM Re: The Nonfiction Book Club
Ching Shih

Registered: 04/27/02
Posts: 1257
Loc: Brookline, MA, USA

I don't know to what extent I'll be participating in this club (good intentions, etc.), but I do have recs:

Unweaving the Rainbow, Richard Dawkins -- it's about what science is and how it can be beautiful and uplifting. (I'd also recommend The Selfish Gene by the same author but I think this book has more general appeal).

Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett -- not an easy book, but worth it. Maybe not appropriate for the book club, since it's very long and dense; it took me a long time to get through it. But it's absolutely fascinating and sheds a lot of light on the philosophical implications of Darwinian evolution. Sort of a "what does it mean to believe in evolution?" kind of thing. Or maybe "what are the intellectual/philosophical consequences of evolution?"

Why People Believe Weird Things, Jay Shermer -- this book is fun; it's a debunking book that examines a whole bunch of pseudoscientific ideas (from alien abduction to creationism to holocaust denial to Objectivism) but does it in a fairly friendly way, not saying "people who believe these things are idiots" but sort of explaining why the ideas are attractive, why they seem plausible, and why they are, ultimately, nonscientific.

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong or Lies Across America: What Our Historical Sites Get Wrong, James W. Loewen -- I know these are U.S.-specific, but I think the take-home message and the overarching issues probably apply everywhere. (And it's available from Amazon CA and UK).

Those are all books I've read and recommend; books I'd like to read but haven't include Barbara Kingsolver's essays (her newest book is called Small Wonder), anything by Simon Singh, anything by Molly Ivins, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them (but not sure of international appeal and I know it's not out in paperback in the US).

Oh, and Silent Spring might be an interesting book to discuss.

I really, really liked Guns, Germs, and Steel. I thought it was an important book, just because it presents a new way of looking at the question of why civilizations and peoples are different (so I don't know how important it is that you read all the examples if you get the point). I think I read it in two or three sittings. I very highly recommend it, but several people I've recommended it to have also had that same experience of stalling half or two-thirds through, so maybe I'm weird.

Oh, maybe some Carl Sagan? Demon-Haunted World and Pale Blue Dot are probably my faves, though I haven't read them in ages. And Demon-Haunted World overlaps a lot with two of my previous suggestions.

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