Nonfiction TBR

As it is officially Nonfiction November, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I am hoping to get to this month. This is a long list and I obviously won’t get to them all, but these are the books I will be choosing from. I tend to listen to my nonfiction, so I plan to use Scribd for the majority of these, but I do own a few in physical copy. I absolutely adore nonfiction and I am excited to make it a priority this month!

Me by Elton John

44303730Christened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was on his first tour of America, facing an astonished audience in his tight silver hotpants, bare legs and a T-shirt with ROCK AND ROLL emblazoned across it in sequins. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.

In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.

It is no secret how much I loved Rocketman, and Taron Egerton helps to narrate the audiobook- enough said!

The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard

42983957Why was gin and tonic the cocktail of choice for British colonists in India and Africa? What does Starbucks have to thank for its global domination? What has protected the lives of popes for millennia? Why did Scotland surrender its sovereignty to England? What was George Washington’s secret weapon during the American Revolution?

The answer to all these questions, and many more, is the mosquito.

Across our planet since the dawn of humankind, this nefarious pest, roughly the size and weight of a grape seed, has been at the frontlines of history as the grim reaper, the harvester of human populations, and the ultimate agent of historical change. As the mosquito transformed the landscapes of civilization, humans were unwittingly required to respond to its piercing impact and universal projection of power.

The mosquito has determined the fates of empires and nations, razed and crippled economies, and decided the outcome of pivotal wars, killing nearly half of humanity along the way. She (only females bite) has dispatched an estimated 52 billion people from a total of 108 billion throughout our relatively brief existence. As the greatest purveyor of extermination we have ever known, she has played a greater role in shaping our human story than any other living thing with which we share our global village.

Imagine for a moment a world without deadly mosquitoes, or any mosquitoes, for that matter? Our history and the world we know, or think we know, would be completely unrecognizable.

I said it my last post that I would love to read more books about nature, and I think The Mosquito fits the bill. It sounds fascinating, if not downright terrifying! It is a 500 pages so I plan to read a few pages every night throughout the month.

How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Stephen Johnson

20893477In this illustrated history, Steven Johnson explores the history of innovation over centuries, tracing facets of modern life (refrigeration, clocks, and eyeglass lenses, to name a few) from their creation by hobbyists, amateurs, and entrepreneurs to their unintended historical consequences. Filled with surprising stories of accidental genius and brilliant mistakes—from the French publisher who invented the phonograph before Edison but forgot to include playback, to the Hollywood movie star who helped invent the technology behind Wi-Fi and Bluetooth—How We Got to Now investigates the secret history behind the everyday objects of contemporary life.

In his trademark style, Johnson examines unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated fields: how the invention of air-conditioning enabled the largest migration of human beings in the history of the species—to cities such as Dubai or Phoenix, which would otherwise be virtually uninhabitable; how pendulum clocks helped trigger the industrial revolution; and how clean water made it possible to manufacture computer chips. Accompanied by a major six-part television series on PBS, How We Got to Now is the story of collaborative networks building the modern world, written in the provocative, informative, and engaging style that has earned Johnson fans around the globe.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for awhile now, and I am excited to finally make it a priority. I have heard really great things about all of Steven Johnson’s work, to the point that I have included another book by him on this list. I think he writes the kind of nonfiction that appeals to me.

Modern Love: True Stories of Love, Loss, and Redemption edited by Daniel Jones

45697243A young woman goes through the five stages of ghosting grief. A man’s promising fourth date ends in the emergency room. A female lawyer with bipolar disorder experiences the highs and lows of dating. A widower hesitates about introducing his children to his new girlfriend. A divorce in her seventies looks back at the beauty and rubble of past relationships.

These are just a few of the people who tell their stories in Modern Love, Revised and Updated, featuring dozens of the most memorable essays to run in The New York Times “Modern Love” column since its debut in 2004.Some of the stories are unconventional, while others hit close to home. Some reveal the way technology has changed dating forever; others explore the timeless struggles experienced by anyone who has ever searched for love. But all of the stories are, above everything else, honest. Together, they tell the larger story of how relationships begin, often fail, and–when we’re lucky–endure.

Edited by longtime “Modern Love” editor Daniel Jones and featuring a diverse selection of contributors–including Mindy Hung, Trey Ellis, Ann Hood, Deborah Copaken, Terri Cheney, and more–this is the perfect book for anyone who’s loved, lost, stalked an ex on social media, or pined for true romance: In other words, anyone interested in the endlessly complicated workings of the human heart.

Modern Love has been adapted into a TV series for Amazon Prime and so many of my friends have been recommending it to me. When I heard there was also a book, of course I knew I would have to read it first! I really appreciate the idea of this collection and how it look at all the different types of love. Can’t wait to dive in- I have a feeling it is going to be an emotional ride!

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly

29947651The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly inimical to human life. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home–an agonizing situation Kelly faced when, on another mission, his twin brother’s wife, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space. Kelly’s humanity, compassion, humor, and passion resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging step in American spaceflight.
This memoir comes highly recommended from Space to Read on bookstagram. Kimberley’s passion for all things space is so contagious and I have been dying for a chance to read Endurance. I have a feeling that this book could spark a new interest in me, which is exciting!

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

1022807. sy475 From Steven Johnson, the dynamic thinker routinely compared to James Gleick, Dava Sobel, and Malcolm Gladwell, The Ghost Map is a riveting page-turner about a real-life historical hero, Dr. John Snow. It’s the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure–garbage removal, clean water, sewers–necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action–and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories and inter-connectedness of the spread of disease, contagion theory, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a riveting history and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.
This is the other Steven Johnson book that I would love to get to at some point this month. There is something about how diseases spread that fascinates me. I will have to try not to be distracted by the fact that the doctors name was John Snow.

Stiff by Mary Roach

32145Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. In this fascinating account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries and tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.
Mary Roach is a master at nonfiction and I would love to make my way through her collection. Stiff has been on my radar for awhile now. I haven’t put much thought into cadavers, and it sounds a little morbid, but I am very curious.


The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn

40726412. sy475 In the 1950s, a young Indianapolis minister named Jim Jones preached a curious blend of the gospel and Marxism. His congregation was racially integrated, and he was a much-lauded leader in the contemporary civil rights movement. Eventually, Jones moved his church, Peoples Temple, to northern California. He became involved in electoral politics, and soon was a prominent Bay Area leader.

In this riveting narrative, Jeff Guinn examines Jones’s life, from his extramarital affairs, drug use, and fraudulent faith healing to the fraught decision to move almost a thousand of his followers to a settlement in the jungles of Guyana in South America. Guinn provides stunning new details of the events leading to the fatal day in November, 1978 when more than nine hundred people died—including almost three hundred infants and children—after being ordered to swallow a cyanide-laced drink.

Guinn examined thousands of pages of FBI files on the case, including material released during the course of his research. He traveled to Jones’s Indiana hometown, where he spoke to people never previously interviewed, and uncovered fresh information from Jonestown survivors. He even visited the Jonestown site with the same pilot who flew there the day that Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered on Jones’s orders. The Road to Jonestown is the definitive book about Jim Jones and the events that led to the tragedy at Jonestown.

I have read a lot of true crime this year, but The Road to Jonestown is the one I have been looking forward to the most. I am not sure why I haven’t made it a priority! There is something about Jim Jones gives me chills more than no other.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

17465709As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learning to give our own gifts in return.
Knowing that I am a fan of nature-based nonfiction, I have been recommended Braiding Sweetgrass many times and I know that it is going to be incredible. I think it has the potential to be one of the best books I will read this year. I can not wait to finally get to it!

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

2715In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt by Mark Kurlansky is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.
I love the idea of micro-histories, but I have not read nearly enough of them. I think it is fascinating to focus on one thing, something as simple as salt, and explore its history.


Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

39218044Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents–artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs–Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she’d always wanted him to be.

Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents’ fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

I have had Small Fry on my TBR since it came out, and I am interested to hear more of Lisa Brennan-Jobs story. It sounds like her relationship with her dad was extremely complicated.



27 thoughts on “Nonfiction TBR

  1. Wow, these all look like such interesting reads! Especially The Mosquito?! That synopsis definitely has me intrigued although I usually get all excited about blurbs like that and then end up being a little disappointed with the content. Hope it’s great though! I want to read Modern Love too — it sounds so good! Happy reading 😊

  2. Great list! I’d be really interested in reading Stiff, The Road to Jonestown, and Endurance. How do you like Scribd? I’ve been contemplating using it when I can’t find the audiobooks on my libraries app.

  3. I have Stiff on my bookshelf but have yet to open it. The others sound really interesting. In fact, I am liking this nonfiction November theme. Going to keep that as an idea in the future. Great list 🙂

  4. This is an awesome list of nonfiction books!! I’m definitely gonna have to add some to my TBR! I’m reading Endurance by Scott Kelly and it’s so good so far!!! I highly recommend it so far. 😀 😀

  5. Stiff is a great read! I really get a kick out of Mary Roach’s writing style — I still have a few of her books to read, but I’ve enjoyed them all so far. I’d love to read the Elton John book, and I have a copy of the Jim Jones book that I still need to read too. Such a great list! Can’t wait to hear your reactions as you read these. 🙂

  6. I am reading “Braiding Sweetgrass” now. It is very interesting, but it challenges my thinking. Even though I have always been an environmentalist and care for nature, the Indian perspective is foreign to me. I am often saying — “wait a minute, what did that say?” and reading the section over again.
    I have been wanting to read about Scott Kelly’s year in space for awhile. Thanks for reminding me to put it on my TBR list!
    I also added several of the other titles to my wish list.

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