It is a paean to the irreducible reality of stone and leaf and wave. Then you have your specialists—your eye, ear, nose, and throat mosquitoes.”. but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change. “During mass extinction events,” Kolbert writes, “the usual rules of survival are suspended.” Once-dominant species are wiped out in the geologic snap of a finger. This friendship, as fiercely committed and abiding as any blood tie, is built on junk food, scavenged equipment, wisecracks, and a shared hunger for both knowledge and the task of getting it. This choral account of American life over the past 35 years is told from the points of view of famous individuals (Newt Gingrich, Elizabeth Warren, Colin Powell, Alice Waters) and unknowns (a black labor organizer, a would-be entrepreneur high on self-help nostrums, an Ohio woman who lost her retirement savings to a Ponzi scheme, and in one bravura chapter, the city of Tampa as it underwent a cascade of mortgage foreclosures following the 2008 recession). But it’s also a warning about what awaits the animals of Earth in the Anthropocene, the climate-changed and human-shaped era in which we now find ourselves. In 1951, a 30-year-old black woman was diagnosed with cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Historical nonfiction is so much more than the history books you read in school. This plan went unhampered by international intervention, even after Western leaders became aware of the atrocities being perpetrated. As a result, Armstrong’s take on fundamentalism has shaped our understanding of the phenomenon more than perhaps any other thinker’s. “Among the ruins now, an unscripted experiment in American life had gotten underway.” Langewiesche had nine months of unfettered access to every meeting, decision, and subterranean hellhole at ground zero, which resulted in this astonishingly detailed and deeply emotional look at the labor of thousands of city employees, engineers, and construction workers as they cleaned up the burning, toxic, dangerous wreckage of Lower Manhattan. Whose arm is that, flailing from the sea behind J.M.W. Small Business Strategy. You could present your story with purported sincerity (as pretty much anyone in their late 20s would do today). or for being critical of a book. Quinones’ depiction of the contrast between the strangely healthy and robust communities in Nayarit and the economically and socially disintegrating American towns where the dealers preferred to operate (avoiding clashes with the established drug dealers in metropolitan centers) is both surprising and enlightening. One place is too hot to get anything done; another is too beautiful. The result is a chilling, fascinating history of mass extinction, those once-every-hundred-million-years-or-so events in which the Earth’s population of species crashes. We will not remove any content for bad language alone, Grant by Ron Chernow. Flagging a list will send it to the Goodreads Customer Care team for review. Deraniyagala’s story alone would have made this book unusual, but it is her artistry that makes it indelible. It comes in pieces, a recording of those incidents, big and small, that are for whatever reason lit up as if by spotlights when we cast our minds back over the great, dark stretches of the past. slanderous attacks on other members, But Fox clearly has no interest in crafting a tale of woe. The best history books . Gene Marks Contributor. When Aeroflot loses her luggage, the clerk asks her, “Are you familiar with our Russian phrase, resignation of the soul?” She gets talked into judging a boys’ “leg contest” at a Hungarian summer camp. The most moving moments of this work of deep reportage come when its women find brief moments of peace in good relationships, in family, in jobs they enjoy; but always trouble waits around the corner, to “break open like a burst of billiard balls.”. Hall’s quixotic premise—to write a detailed biography of his own daughter, Madeleine, from infancy through toddlerhood to small-kidness—works only because Hall is such a curious observer and imaginative interpreter of his subject. In his monumental history of that battle, from the first cases in the 1970s to the mid-’90s advent of the “triple cocktail” that made AIDS a manageable condition for many economically advantaged Americans, David France notes that many of those activists’ work was extensively documented, because the activists themselves feared they’d never live to see the results of their work. 2010-2019: The Decade’s 25 Best Nonfiction Books On the eve of a new decade, we take a fond look back over some of the best nonfiction from the 2010s. It’s 2018, and we’ve all heard the phrase "New Year, New You"…but here’s the thing: being you is actually the best, because you’re the only you there could ever be! Good nonfiction books about history: Big History A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves by Walter Alvarez – The unlikely story of life on Earth The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection by Tamim Ansary— Understanding human history as an extraterrestrial might view it A propulsive, dramatic, heartbreaking book. The product of more than three years of in-depth reporting in a slum near Mumbai airport called Annawadi, Katherine Boo’s masterpiece is a Kafka story for our times, the tale of determined strivers so hemmed in by circumstance, official disregard, and rampant corruption that even those who succeed are punished for their accomplishments. Grann—“nearly 40 years old, with a blossoming waistline”—resolves to tell Fawcett’s story and soon finds himself stuck in the jungle himself, captured, absurdly, by the same lust for discovery that killed his subject. He did get some things wrong—social media was a fledgling force at the time, and Google then seemed an admirably open gateway to content compared with Apple—but the stories of those other industries remain a potent warning about the fate of any crucial communications medium in a society that fails to protect itself. American Ground is an inspiring portrait of American ingenuity when faced with an impossible task and a gripping exploration of the American psyche in the aftermath of a great shift in the world order. William Herschel, who identified the first new planet in centuries; Humphry Davy, who invented electrochemistry and experimented with nitrous oxide; Mungo Park, who searched for Timbuktu; and others were as much adventurers of the imagination as any artist, Holmes insists. This is historical nonfiction at its most important and most necessary. Stuff Matters describes how our stuff (bricks, coffee mugs) gets made and what it may someday be able to do for us (invisibility cloaks, bionic human limbs, exploding billiard balls, an elevator to outer space, concrete that can be rolled up like fabric or purify air). Parry, Tokyo bureau chief for the Times of London, covered the story of the murder of Lucie Blackman, a 21-year-old former flight attendant who disappeared while working as a hostess in the city’s Roppongi district. Also read TIME’s lists of the 10 best fiction books of 2020, the 100 must-read books of the year and the 10 best video games of the year . Harris, Cullen concludes, was merely an angry psychopath, and Klebold, his suicidal apostle, but in the aftermath, everyone from onetime adolescent misfits to evangelicals with martyr complexes twisted this bald reality into a story that confirmed their views of the world. Even nonparents will be fascinated by Madeleine’s World for the ways it delves deep into the thought patterns and imaginative leaps readers half-remember from their own childhoods; for parents, the book—in its insistence that to pay attention is to love—can be almost unbearably moving. A kind of capstone to a career spent visiting seemingly empty landscapes and finding the warm hearts that beat inside them, Travels in Siberia exhibits all of Ian Frazier’s remarkable travel-writing talents. Weingarten, a longtime, Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post writer, begins his book with a gimmick: He and his editor choose a random day—Sunday, Dec. 28, 1986—and Weingarten sets out to report every single interesting thing that happened. The planet would eventually recover, he assures his readers—if “assure” is even the right word: The air would clear, the waters sweeten, and the animals, birds, and insects would take up residence in our old haunts. A red diaper baby, she fantasized during her Bronx childhood about leading the revolution and finding true love, but as she looks back, she decides that she, like her mother and several of her literary heroines, “was born to find the wrong man,” to seek “the unholy dissatisfaction that will keep life permanently at bay.” In exchange, she got New York, which (almost) never fails to satisfy her with its parade of characters and “the variety and inventiveness of survival technique.” In supple, searching prose, Gornick meditates on the riches of friendship—particularly her bond with Leonard, a gay man who shares her saturnine take on just about everything—and the life of the mind, as well as the self-knowledge that comes with age. Politics and war, science and sports, memoir and biography - there's a great big world of nonfiction books out there just waiting to be read. For years, Fawcett hunted for his “lost city of Z,” even as he was betrayed by collaborators, weakened by hunger, and attacked by poisonous ants and carnivorous fish. This book constellates around Claude Shannon, a Bell Labs mathematician and cryptographer who founded information theory with a 1948 paper considering how to measure what it takes to transmit a message from a sender to a recipient—even if that recipient is just a subatomic particle on the other side of the universe wondering which way to spin. The Top 50 greatest nonfiction books of all time determined by 129 lists and articles from various critics, authors and experts. Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. Here, the best nonfiction books of 2020. The nonfiction writer’s job is to look long and hard enough to find them, and to tell them with enough empathy and care to bring them to life. He left a pretty good path behind him, too. It explains to readers how the average men and women (as opposed to the ‘Great men of history’) have been the main driving force behind change. Readers turned to her in droves, trying to understand what felt like a sudden, unanticipated, overwhelming menace. But over the years, Alexander’s work as a lawyer for the ACLU ultimately led her to agree with the sign’s author. Chang fills his book with the names and stories of the kind of small-time heroes whose creativity and inspiration get overlooked in so many cultural narratives: the party promoters whose DIY bashes in dingy apartments drew crowds and DJs, the dance crews who drove the community’s passion for this new music, the graffiti artists who brought street style downtown. The writer is reconciling herself not to loss but to life, a thing as beautiful and terrible, as merciless and vital, as the goshawk. She matches up archival photos of vacant lots and storefronts with the new, gentrifying constructions erupting in their place. A deep and entirely platonic bond between the kind of people who celebrate receiving their advanced degrees by blowing glass tubes full of carbon dioxide into the wee hours is really not the sort of thing you often get to read about. Each year, the judges pick out outstanding books that are both originally researched and readable. Eggers himself was inspired by David Foster Wallace, but unlike Wallace, Eggers was able to hack his way out of the thickets of self-consciousness, or maybe it was even further into them, and arrive at a rock, a kernel of reality, which was his love for, and commitment to, his brother Toph. Tell us in the comments below. Born just after the end of World War II to a Chicago pediatrician and his “socialite” wife, Margo Jefferson grew up in “Negroland,” the name she gives to the black American elite—a class defined by profession, affluence, pedigree, and to her dismay, skin color and comportment. Building true kinship starts as a choice and then often comes to seem inevitable, an act of will in the face of daunting odds that ends up feeling like a miracle. The Tennis Partner is, in part, the story of the friendship that grew between the two men as they interact at work and on the tennis court, with Verghese encouraging Smith to rekindle his love of the game and Smith counseling Verghese through the difficult end of his marriage. You can cancel anytime. by Michael Benninger | Dec 20 2019 This has been a banner decade for publishers of nonfiction, as sales have steadily outpaced fictional literature every year since 2013. (eg. That is the irresistible premise of Weisman’s book, a thought experiment substantiated by deep research into what it takes to keep the built world functioning and what has happened in the few places (Chernobyl, the Korean Demilitarized Zone) where there has been no one around to prop it up. Instead of putting together a list of the 223,546 best historical fiction books, I opted instead for adult historical fiction showstoppers that present a wide array of time periods, places, characters, and more. Our list of the best historical fiction books includes bestsellers, bookseller favorites, and award winning titles. Skloot’s impeccably reported book tells a remarkable story of scientific development but also makes an impassioned argument about the way medicine has always used black and poor bodies. You may think you don’t care about a life spent chasing waves all over the world, but William Finnegan’s memoir so precisely distills the “brief, sharp glimpse of eternity” the surfer gets from riding a board through a crystal-blue tube on a perfect run that a hundred pages into Barbarian Days you, too, will have stepped through the looking glass. If you were a semifeckless, amply flawed but eminently clever twentysomething Gen Xer at the turn of the 21st century, and you were writing a memoir about how your parents died within five months of each other when you were a senior in college, leaving you to care for your 8-year-old brother, you faced a choice. As a general rule we do not censor any content on the site. Packer strives to transmit each subject’s narrative without editorializing or moralizing, an approach that feels radical a mere six years after the book’s publication, since today the imperative to opine never seems to let up. These stories are well researched, thought provoking, and are just as riveting as fiction. Most importantly, she recognizes that all forms of fundamentalism are reactions to the dislocation and confusion of modernity even as fundamentalists embrace modern tools like mass and social media. We are a culture intoxicated by apocalypse and ruin, forever telling one another stories about what we’d do to survive should civilization as we know it collapse. The timeline the book covers is extensive; taking you from time Columbus landed on th… A neighborhood is defined by its eccentrics, and Rhodes-Pitts seeks them out, chatting with old ladies, searching for the author of inspirational messages chalked on the sidewalks, subjecting herself to the lectures of one of the last members of a nearly extinct black nationalist movement. Historian and Wolfson judge Richard Evans talks us through the six history books that made the 2020 shortlist. Erik Larson (Goodreads Author) (shelved 131 times as historical-non-fiction) avg rating 3.99 — 533,658 ratings — published 2003. pornography, pro-Nazi, child abuse, etc). It’s Fadiman’s commitment to sympathetically depicting both sides without ceding all judgment entirely that makes this case study so impressive. Adrian Nicole LeBlanc spent 10 years reporting on a group of young men and women in the west Bronx as they paired off, grew up, escaped, returned, and tried to raise children of their own. Howard ZinnLively written and well researched, A People’s History narrates the story of the US through the eyes of ordinary people and their experiences, something that most history books tend to ignore. Many of them didn’t. A dazzling meditation on invisibility, blackness, and America, Citizen grapples with the double-take moments in daily life: “Hold up, did you just hear, did you just say, did you just see, did you just do that?” And it asks other, more pointed questions: What was rising up in Serena Williams’ throat her entire career? Holmes is our greatest living biographer. In this unusual work, he considers several British scientists and explorers as the 18th century gave way to the 19th. The Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 Sex, Facebook, and an empty planet: 29 reads we're diving into this year. (A bald eagle in flight looks like “a coat thrown into the air, ragged and enormous.”) But the true subject of this gorgeously sorrowful book is the drive toward self-destruction, and what it means to live close to a person who can’t resist its siren call. In this moving memoir-as-investigation of her own father’s hidden life, Alison Bechdel combines the skills of an experienced cartoonist—expressive drawing, concise storytelling, mordant humor—with the ingenuity and curiosity of a reporter. Gourevitch, a journalist, was determined to understand how a country united by a single language and religion could become so divided that one part of its population would suddenly turn on the other, killing a million of their fellow citizens, including their own neighbors. Weisman, a science journalist, projects a week-by-week progression of flooding subway tunnels, farms reclaimed by grassland, toppling skyscrapers, domestic animals reverting to their feral state, and, less romantically, nuclear reactors melting down, chemical plants exploding into poisonous bonfires, and a vast mass of discarded plastics drifting around the world’s oceans for ages to come. This collection also includes some top-notch writing on tennis, and Wallace’s still-relevant essay on television and fiction, “E Unibus Pluram,” but the cruise ship and state fair pieces still shine the brightest. Rather than harming the author’s “objectivity,” these friendships transform what was already a very good science book into a deeply humane and crucial interrogation of how technological progress churns along, indifferent to the lives fueling its course. In this book, he follows the histories of telephony, radio, movies, and television, observing that early periods of innovation and access for small, nimble players (such as local telephone companies) always yielded to centralized control. Krakauer sets out to unravel the mystery of how this adventure ended in tragedy, and the tiny mistakes that cost McCandless his life, by reading McCandless’ journals, talking to his friends, and traveling to the abandoned bus where McCandless spent his last months. The result is funny, heart-wrenching, chilling, and absurd, as Weingarten chronicles a serial killer, a heart transplant, a tragic fire, an unlikely romance, a political miscalculation, a Grateful Dead concert—all of them expert portraits of American life in miniature. Above all, he blames the schemes of the ruling Hutu elite, who deliberately engineered the massacre by using radio, Rwanda’s primary means of mass communication, to foment murderous hatred among Hutus toward the Tutsi minority. What these hopeful travelers found once they left was often exploitative, but the slight advantages they discovered under those other suns became the springboards for that most American of dreams: a better life. What Batuman, a staff writer for the New Yorker, loves most about Russian literature, and about Russianness itself, are what she calls its “mystifications,” specifically, “the feeling of only half understanding.” In this delectable collection of essays, she describes her travels to such perplexing locales as Tolstoy’s former estate, Uzbekistan, a monastery on an Adriatic island, and graduate school. France tells their stories with clear-eyed compassion, leaning not only on his dogged research skills but also on his history as both activist and reporter for the New York Native. They abandoned her to assorted relatives, friends, and strangers for years at a time, bouncing her from an elderly minister’s house in upstate New York to a Floridian resort, a Los Angeles apartment, a Cuban sugar plantation, and a fancy Montréal boarding school. In 25 years of casual history reading, I have found myself becoming more interested in intellectually challenging history books. A practiced falconer, Macdonald understands how ill-advised her project is; the species is famously hard to train, stubborn in its wildness. Z finally cost Fawcett his life, along with that of his son, when they both disappeared on a 1925 search. It’s a scenario both beautiful and terrifying, the original definition of the sublime, and executed with a methodical bravado that’s breathtaking. Carrying us through it all is Verghese’s voice: empathetic, rueful, honest to a fault, and always kind. Carr was mulling over the difference between fiction and nonfiction, the novelist’s art and the reporter’s craft. “What kind of place is this exactly?” Lawrence Weschler asks the proprietor of the oddball Los Angeles storefront museum he stumbles into one day, where the exhibits are surprising, whimsical, and in fact often (but not always!) Every one of its 884 pages is an absolute joy to read, and no book is more deeply comforting to neat freaks—or inspirational to slobs. It seems obvious today that the internet would trend toward the consolidation of power in the hands of a few major players, but nearly 10 years ago, Wu raised hackles when he argued that all information industries move from openness to concentration unless outside forces intervene. The ten authors here share wide and fascinating perspectives on myriad events and lives caught up in the horror, the devastation, and the inhumanity of a horrific time. This deeply researched, profoundly empathetic story of cultural miscommunication in medicine focuses on the case of Lia Lee, the doted-on youngest daughter in a family of Hmong refugees in rural Northern California. All the Light We Cannot See (Pulitzer Prize Winner) Paperback $14.99 | $18.00. Want to Read. Although he’s now best known for his 1996 novel, Infinite Jest, Wallace made his reputation, particularly among younger readers in the late ’90s, as an essayist and a very particular sort of journalist. What they all share is a commitment to “mostly truth” and the belief that digging deep to find a real story—whether it’s located in your memory, on dusty archive shelves, in Russian literature, in a slum in Mumbai—is a task worth undertaking. 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