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Topic: Unsung great non-fiction books

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Subject: Unsung great non-fiction books
Date Posted: 5/20/2008 1:49 PM ET
Member Since: 11/21/2007
Posts: 7,642
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I enjoy discovering interesting non-fiction books that most people have not heard about. What are some that you have read (and enjoyed) that most people have not heard about (no "recent" bestsellers)? I'll start.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffen  A White man has his skin color changed to experience life as a Black male in the South in the 1950s.

Everything In Its Path: Destruction of Community In The Buffalo Creek Flood by Kai T. Erikson

Death At An Early Age by Jonathan Kozol  The experience of a White teacher in the Boston public schools in the mid 1960s. I was surprised at the amout of racism in a northern public school.

Date Posted: 5/20/2008 4:09 PM ET
Member Since: 3/10/2006
Posts: 2,819
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Antjie Krog's Country of My Skull, about an Afrikaner journalist who covers South Africa's Trust and Reconciliation Hearings, which affect her and her family on many levels.

Philip Gourvetich's We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, the truly decisive book on the Rwandan genocide.

L. G. (L)
Date Posted: 5/21/2008 2:44 AM ET
Member Since: 9/5/2005
Posts: 12,412
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Five Past Midnight in Bhopal by Dominique LaPierre - a re-created non-fiction book about the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India.


Date Posted: 5/21/2008 10:16 AM ET
Member Since: 6/11/2007
Posts: 1
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I love Diane Ackerman's books.  The two I've read are A Natural History of the Senses and A Natural History of Love.  Fascinating books examining various scientific and sociological aspects of the five senses and love. 

Date Posted: 5/21/2008 12:04 PM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2005
Posts: 1,563
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Yao: A Life In Two Worlds by Yao Ming and Ric Bucher. "What sets the book apart from similar sports bios is Yao's comparison of Chinese culture with the one to which he's adapting in the U.S. For example, he contrasts the freewheeling NBA sexual lifestyle versus his own chaste courtship of a player on the Chinese women's national team. He also displays a sly sense of humor, digging playfully at NBA broadcaster Bill Walton by noting that Yao's translator has no idea what Walton is talking about. Coauthor Bucher, a first-generation American whose initial language was German, adds context to Yao's story with his own experience assimilating a new culture."

The Last Face You'll Ever See: The Private Life of the American Death Penalty by Ivan Solotaroff. "Depicting ironically pleasant last meals with retarded convicts, the creepy antics of the death-house guards, and threats of possible innocents sent to their doom, Solotaroff specifically seeks not to illuminate the ongoing moral dialogue, but rather to examine the living complexities of executioners and the condemned..."

Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson. "British humorist Jon Ronson relates his misadventures as he engages an assortment of theorists and activists residing on the fringes of the political, religious, and sociological spectrum. His subjects include Omar Bakri Mohammed, the point man for a holy war against Britain (Ronson paints him as a wily buffoon); a hypocritical but engaging Ku Klux Klan leader; participants in the Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, battles; the Irish Protestant firebrand Ian Paisley; and David Ickes, who believes that the semi-human descendants of evil extraterrestrial 12-foot-tall lizards walk among us. Despite these characters' disparities, they are bound by a belief in the Bilderberg Group, the "secret rulers of the world."

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. "Those curious or brave enough to find out what really happens to a body that is donated to the scientific community can do so with this book. Dissection in medical anatomy classes is about the least bizarre of the purposes that science has devised. Mostly dealing with such contemporary uses such as stand-ins for crash-test dummies, Roach also pulls together considerable historical and background information."


Last Edited on: 5/21/08 12:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/21/2008 10:10 PM ET
Member Since: 8/19/2007
Posts: 1,156
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Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Expecting Adam by Martha Beck

Kiss My Tiara by Susan Jane Gilman

Date Posted: 5/22/2008 10:31 AM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2007
Posts: 362
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Honeymoon in Purdah LINK

From the reviews, I had expected this to be almost a comedy, but it was not.  It was so insightful and brilliant!  It was a great read!  I'm usually a fiction fan, but this really opened my eyes and was enjoyable to read.

Last Edited on: 5/22/08 10:36 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Lynn S. (lsuth) - ,
Date Posted: 5/23/2008 5:37 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2008
Posts: 48
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I found  Destined to Witness: Growing up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. Massaquoi very interesting. Although it did go on a bit long.


Date Posted: 5/23/2008 7:41 PM ET
Member Since: 1/10/2008
Posts: 316
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* The Buffalo Creek Disaster: How the survivors of one of the worst disasters in coal-mining history brought suit against the coal company--and won

Really good and very readable book about how the people were able to overcome the amazing gyrations of the coal company (piercing the corporate veil)



*The Water is Wide- by Pat  Conroy

About his days as an idealistic young man who goes to teach on an impoverished island off the coast of South Carolina in the late 60's.


*  My Losing Season- by Pat Conroy

About his days playing as a point guard in his senior year at the Citadel military academy in Charleston.  This book is about a lot of things that can make up life- you don't have to even like basketball.  I was surprised by how much I liked this wonderful book.


* King Solomon's Ring- by Konrad Lorenz

If you love nature- you just cannot go through life without reading this gem of a book (just a few hundred easy to read pages) by one of the great naturalists and documentors of animal behavior (remember the duck imprinting experiments?).  He was a passionate man with a zest and love for life that draws in the reader completely.  There are parts of the book that made me laugh so hard I cried.  Who knows where he found the  wife that put up with his eccentricities.




Last Edited on: 5/23/08 8:50 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 5/24/2008 10:22 AM ET
Member Since: 2/5/2007
Posts: 30,804
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I often recommend this book: Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
Muhammad Yunus, Alan Jolis  It certainly opened my eyes to what being poor really means and how they can be helped.

Date Posted: 5/28/2008 12:12 AM ET
Member Since: 2/9/2008
Posts: 67
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For a change of pace, try WORD FREAK by Stefan Fastis, an absolutely intriguing story of world-class Scrabble players.

I also enjoyed STIFF, described above.  Also, if you haven't read INTO THE WILD and INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer, you're missing out.  He also wrote the great UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, about fundamentalist Mormons...very timely!

Date Posted: 5/28/2008 10:44 PM ET
Member Since: 4/3/2008
Posts: 541
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How We Die, by Sherwin Nuland. Should be required reading for anyone who loves someone with a terminal illness. Very enlightening about death as a natural process, and preparing for the inevitable.
Date Posted: 5/28/2008 11:10 PM ET
Member Since: 3/11/2008
Posts: 924
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Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Patillo Beals - it's a YA book, but one of the most memorable books I've read about the Civil Rights Movement. It's about her experiences as one of the Little Rock Nine. Maybe it's just because I have kids now, but the experience of a child during that turning point of US History fascinates me.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane - a memoir of his life growing up in apartheid South Africa. Haunting, shocking, and depressing, but ultimately triumphant.

Last Edited on: 5/28/08 11:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 1