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Archive for 'Non-Fiction'

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History (2011) Bill Laws I like to read non-fiction books. First, I like learning stuff, and second, non-fiction is generally good to read before bed, since it tends to lack suspense and surprises. Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History cover a lot of plants, focusing on […]

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) (2012) Jenny Lawson As readers of my twitter stream and blog already know, I love The Bloggess. I fully admit she isn’t for every. After all, this is the woman whose tag line could (and should) be “knock knock motherfucker” But if she does amuse you […]

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities (2009) Amy Stewart Cute, and at times interesting, but also at times, she was trying way too hard. Plants (at least to me) are fascinating in and of themselves. And people do tend to naively assume that if someone is a plant it’s […]

Elizabeth Street: A Novel Based on True Events

Elizabeth Street: A Novel Based on True Events (2006/2010) Laurie Fabiano Laurie Fabiano’s grandmother and great-grandmother were amazing, remarkable women. This is a retelling of her great-grandmother Giovanna’s life, with pieces of the author’s interactions with her grandmother (Giovanna’s daughter) added in, and details, where they would have been unknown so many years later (such […]

A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book

A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book (2007) edited by Frank Warren Another PostSecret book.

PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God

PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God (2009) Frank Warren This is the fifth PostSecret book, compiled from a PostSecret show that was part of a show on Faith. Published by Morrow

The Fearless Mrs. Goodwin

The Fearless Mrs. Goodwin (2011) Elizabeth Mitchell This had the potential to be a fabulous story: Mrs Goodwin was the first woman to become an official New York City police detective. She worked undercover helping to take down not just fake spiritualists and others who preyed on women, but also dangerous criminals. Instead, the writing […]

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (2010) Sam Kean This was a fun book. Although I was initially a little unsure, once we got to the part where he explained the big bang and it completely made sense […]

The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom And Wit in the Wild West

The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom And Wit in the Wild West (2006) Steve Sheinkin I completely and totally got this one a whim, because I love folklore, which is what much of this is based upon. Imagine the Wild West. Now imagine a Rabbi there, keeping the peace and […]

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (1972) David McCullough I picked up this book while perusing the “Buy 3 get a 4th Free” table at a book store, and it looked interesting, and I like to read about history, so I figured, why not? When the perfected East […]

The Anatomy of Deception

The Anatomy of Deception (2008) Lawrence Goldstone Ephraim Carroll is a young doctor studying under the great William Osler (a doctor who would go on to be one of the founding professors at Johns Hopkins). Osler is a somewhat controversial doctor, who embraces the newest medical techniques including sterile surgery, and autopsy as a method […]

Tender at the Bone

Tender at the Bone (1998) Ruth Reichl I’ve heard Ruth Reichl interviewed several times, and I’d heard her relate stories that were excerpts of the book, so I eventually picked up the book, but then it languished on the shelf for an embarrassingly long time. Here’s the bit I heard that first drew my attention […]

Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books (2003) Azar Nafisi Azar Nafisi lived and taught English literature in Tehran during the upheaval of the Islamic Revolution. Her memoir is not only of her memories of that time, but of how attitudes towards women changed, and how not just she–but also her students–used English literature […]

Newton and the Counterfeiter

Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist (2009) Thomas Levenson The first third of the book is simply a biography of Newton, from his childhood up until he took the position of Warden of the Mint in London. Although it was interesting, I’m not certain the background had a […]

Food Matters

Food Matters (2009) Mark Bittman I really like Mark Bittman’s cookbooks. His How to Cook Everything is well written, clear and concise. So when I heard he’d written something of a food manifesto a la Michael Pollan, I was very curious to see what he had to say. First, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan […]

The Poisoner’s Handbook

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York (2010) Deborah Blum I think that anyone who enjoys mysteries has to be at least a little bit fascinated with poisonings and forensic medicine, and The Poisoner’s Handbook looks at the beginning of forensic medicine and the circumstances that allowed […]

In Defense of Food

In Defense of Food: An Easter’s Manifesto (2008) Michael Pollan After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma I picked up In Defense of Food to see what he had to say about the Western Diet and what most Americans eat. OK. I have to admit that I didn’t particularly learn a lot reading this book, because I’ve […]

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006) Michael Pollan I picked up The Omnivore’s Dilemma a year or so ago, and it sat by the bed, waiting to be read for the longest time. However, once I gave up trying to finish Herodotus, I started to enjoy reading non-fiction again, and was able to pick-up and read The […]

A Short History of Myth

A Short History of Myth (2005) Karen Armstrong I love Karen Armstrong’s writing and her books on religion. I picked up A Short History of Myth several years ago, and then never got around to reading it. Having spent a couple years trying to get through Heredotus (I’m still only 2/3rds of the way through) […]

The Planets

The Planets (2005) Dava Sobel Several years ago I read and thoroughly enjoyed Galileo’s Daughter, and when I found The Planets in paperback and a 4-for-3 sale, I decided to pick it up. The Planets looks at–unsurprisingly–the planets. Including (since it was published in 2005) Pluto. Although as a whole I thoroughly enjoyed it, there […]

The City of Falling Angels

The City of Falling Angels (2005) John Berendt I loved Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil so when I came across it in paperback, I picked up a copy of City of Falling Angels. And then proceeded to not read it for several years. Part of the problem was because I had no […]

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar

Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy through Jokes (2007) Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein My dad got me this book for Christmas, and I’d been reading a few pages at a time before bed, but last night I didn’t know what I wanted to read so decided to finish this book […]


Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (2005) Mary Roach As much as I enjoyed Stiff, I found Spook disappointing. As a scientific look at life after death, excluding the last couple chapters, it read more as a debunking than a presentation. Of course that’s partially because several chapters deal with things like ectoplasm exuding from mediums, […]

The Buried Pyramid

The Buried Pyramid (2004) Jane Lindskold I spent the first two thirds of this book mildly wondering why it was classified as a fantasy. Then the fantasy kicked in, but I’d given up caring whether it was fantasy or historical fiction long before. I just wanted to know what happened. Jenny Benet has been orphaned, […]


Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (2003) Mary Roach I was wandering the bookstore and Stiff was sitting on one of the display tables, one of the “Recommended Summer Reading” tables or something like that. I’d heard a review or interview or something like that when it first came out, but never ran across […]


Labyrinth (2005) Kate Mosse This book could be classified in any number of ways. There are elements of fantasy, mystery, suspense, romance, and history. As such, I thought it worked best as an historical novel, because this was the strongest part of the book. The story of Alais and Guilhem and Sajhe was the most […]

The All-American Dessert Book

The All-American Dessert Book (2005) Nancy Baggett I love to bake. So when I come across interesting dessert cookbooks I tend to pick them up. I ordered this one on a whim, just because I was looking for something new. The first thing I noticed about this book is that is has gorgeous pictures. Gorgeous–but […]

Elizabeth & Mary

Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens (2003) Jane Dunn I like to read books about history because my knowledge of history is–at best–poor, and I always like learning more. For instances, the sum total of my knowledge of the relationship between Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots was that Mary thought the secret codes […]

Cookies and Brownies

Cookies and Brownies (1999) Alice Medrich This is, hands down, my favorite cookbook. I bought it on whim from a cookbook club, and when I pulled it out of the box, was slightly disappointed at how slender the book was. This was the only disappointment this book was ever to give. I have a lot […]

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1999) John Berendt I read this book several years ago, after listening to the abridged version as an audio book. I was looking for something that I could read a little bit of and put down, so this seemed a good choice. Author John Berendt traveled to […]

Luscious Lemon Desserts

Luscious Lemon Desserts (2001) Lori Longbotham For the past couple of years I have been searching for the perfect lemon cake recipe. As a rule I prefer cakes from scratch, but when it comes to lemon cake, none of the cakes I made seemed quite as good. In my quest I’ve ended up with several […]

An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life

An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life The Dalai Lama Unlike the previous book I read by the Dalai Lama, this book only took me about nine months to read. They’re not long books, I just tend to set them aside for something else, and then have to go back an re-read portions to […]

Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis I realized that I’d actually finished this book several months ago, but managed to forget that I had done so. Take that as you will. Mere Christianity puts forth some interesting arguments, but I find that although they may have been convincing at the time C.C. Lewis wrote them, I found […]

The Ethics of Star Trek

The Ethics of Star Trek Judith Barad with Ed Robertson This book was definitely a disappointment. I’ve read The Physics of Star Trek and The Metaphysics of Star Trek both of which I found interesting. Perhaps because of this I had high hopes for this book. I was, unfortunately, disappointed. The authors used specific episodes […]

Denial of the Soul

Denial of the Soul (1997) M. Scott Peck My introduction to M. Scott Peck was the abridged audio version of this book, purchased when I regularly listened to books on tape at work, and preferred non-fiction to fiction. I listened to it several times, but when I chose physician assisted suicide as my topic for […]

People of the Lie

People of the Lie (1983) M. Scott Peck I’m taking Legal/Ethical Issues in Public Health, and this is one of the books my professor has brought up several times, so I thought I’d read it. Parts of the book I like, other parts I was less sure about, and sometimes even disagreed with. I was […]

The God of Old

The God of Old by James L. Kugel This was one of my “½read before bed” books that although good, took quite awhile to finish, since some nights I felt like I could barely read a page before I fell asleep. But then that is why I read history books and non-fiction before bed, precisely […]

Woe is I

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner I picked this book up several years ago, but had not gotten very far in it, for as much as I wanted to improve my writing, I was not necessarily interested in reading about improving my writing, but since […]

Taking the Red Pill

Taking the Red Pill Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix Glenn Yeffeth ed We’re not going to discuss my somewhat obsessive interest in The Matrix. Let’s just say it’s one of those things and move along. Obviously, this book is not of interest to you if you did not like The Matrix or are […]

Teach Yourself CSS

SAMS Teach Yourself CSS in 24 Hours by Kynn Bartlett When I decided that it was time to lean CSS, I knew I was going to need a book for reference, so I went looking for one. I found plenty of HTML books with sections on CSS, but I quickly discovered that it wasn’t what […]