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Five Exceptional Nonfiction Books

Updated on March 2, 2009

Nonfiction Books

I don't generally read a lot of nonfiction, so when I find something exceptional it's an unusual treat. I always prelude a nonfiction recommendation with a hearty, "It's nonfiction, but it's good." This implies a certain amount of rarity in good nonfiction, which is not entirely true. I just read more novels. Every one of these books was actually recommended to me by a friend. So it feels nice to be passing them along, as they are fantastic reads.

1. The Broken Cord by Michael Dorris

This is a haunting book about alcohol abuse on Native American reservations. The author and his wife adopt a boy from a reservation and later find out he has FAS, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. It was written in the late eighties, before the rampant problems were discussed in the popular media. It is an extremely informative and well written book. Many phrases and images have remained vividly in my consciousness, despite the passage of time. He wrote another book, Yellow Raft in Blue Water, which is a novel and which I did not like at all. I found it at the dump one day and it was a bitter disappointment. Terrible.

2. Monster of God by David Quammen

A friend of mine lent me this book and never got it back. It's sitting on my bookcase upstairs right now. It is about the predators that still kill humans today, namely Asiatic lions, Australian crocodiles, Russian tigers, and my favorite, the Romanian brown bears. This guy is entertaining, and writes with intelligent lucidity and grace which is a pleasure. He also discusses the history of predators, which is a mind boggling subject if you think of how dramatically the ecological dynamic has changed with the growth of the human population. It is genuinely enthralling.

3. Istanbul  by Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk is an excellent writer of novels, notably Snow and My Name is Red. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 2006. This is his memoir. It is as much about the city of Istanbul as his life, as the two are beautifully linked. It is a romantic, sorrow laden, and triumphant work. Pamuk is a master.

4. The Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson

This is about the United States of America's presence on foreign soil, past and present, and mainly about the U.S. Military. It was very informative, and though fact laden, a gripping and rich read. I'm no lunatic liberal, though I am surrounded by them, and the book does have a tinge of hysteria, but the information is good. This is the second of a three part series by old Chalmers, the first being Blowback and the last Nemesis.

5. Naked by David Sedaris

I don't care how many "Things White People Like" lists this guy appears on, I think he is hilarious. Only Lewis Black can make me laugh harder. This was his only work that I read, I listened to Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim and Me Talk Pretty One Day on audio CD. He reads his own work and everything he says is ten times funnier, his voice makes me loose it.

Alright, so there they are, five exceptional nonfiction books. I hope you get to check them out and love them! One of Pamuk's books opens with, "One day I read a book, and my whole life changed." Let's hope for some of that, shall we. Happy reading.


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    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 9 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Nice choices Pamuk is indeed a master.