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I think it’s fairly easy to find good fiction books. There are so many out there, covering every topic and genre, and there are more all the time. But sometimes you want a book based on facts, not just one that reveals truths (as I believe fiction does). Sometimes it’s difficult to find good nonfiction. Not because there aren’t plenty of books, but because many books are published because of the author’s credentials and less because of an engaging writing style. They can be some of the most rewarding or some of the most disappointing books, and finding one you like cis made even more important because nonfiction usually takes longer to read.
I’ve written some posts on nonfiction books for my reading challenge, but I wanted to share some of the nonfiction books I enjoyed before I started blogging. Some, well most, of these books have very specific topics, and I find that the more specific and narrow the book’s focus is, the more interesting details you get. Maybe you’ll find something that sparks your interest.
If you’re in the mood for something sweet try Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert by Michael Krondl.
This book takes you through the origins of desserts by geographic area. It talks about the origins of specific dishes as well as the development of new techniques and increasing availability of ingredients. There are some recipes hidden in there as well. On the whole, an engaging and informative book if you think dessert should come before dinner (and lunch and breakfast).
If you’re in the mood for a book about the kitchen, but have less of a sweet tooth try Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson.
A treatise on all things kitchen, this book talks about the evolution and invention of kitchen mainstays. If you’ve ever been interested of the development of the fork or any kind of cookware, this is the book for you.
If you’re in the mood for learning about another culture, try Dreams of Trespass by Fatima Mernissi.
This memoir about growing up in a Moroccan harem is both challenging and rewarding. It has a lot of insightful, beautiful moments.
It you’re in the mood for a book about the triumph of the human spirit in the face of evil, read From the Ashes of Sobibor by Thoms Tovi Blatt.
A survivor memoir about one of the deadliest WWII concentration camps, this book is a difficult but amazing story that will make you feel so much. I came away from this book feeling awed, inspired, and saddened. It has a lot to say about what humanity is capable of, both good and evil.
If you’re in the mood to learn more about a particular decade try Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion.
Didion’s masterful collection of essays on various aspects of life in the 1960s is my favorite of the 8 books I’ve read by her. She has a gift for nonfiction (if you like this, read The White Album), and she transports you into worlds you could never have entered otherwise.
If you’re in the mood for a forbidden romance try A Venetian Affair by Andrea di Robilant.
This author and his father find a collection of letters from the 18th century and piece together a great family scandal. It’s a veritable Romeo & Juliet tale, but it really happened. Too bad all our attics can’t yield fruit this juicy. I’ve read three books by di Robilant and also highly recommend his book Chasing the Rose, which is all about trying to identify a particular unknown species of rose on his property and the people he meets and the meandering Italian sort of adventure it takes him on. It sounds really weirdly specific, but I know nothing about flowers at all, and I read the book in one sitting.
If you’re in the mood for a more fashionable book, try Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber.
You may think that clothes are of little importance, but this book shows that they can ultimately cost you your head. This book delves into the ways that Marie Antoinette shaped French fashion and how her morning’s choices influenced politics. I’ve never read anything like this fashion analysis, which brings a whole new layer to anyone’s study of the French Revolution and French culture of that time or Marie Antoinette specifically. You’ll never look at clothes the same way again.
If you’re in the mood for something to read after watching Downton Abbey, try Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnavron or To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
These two books talk about the real women from America who took their money to Europe at the turn of the twentieth century and bought titles.
If you’re in the mood for reading about an author try Built of Books: How Reading Defined the Life of Oscar Wilde by Thomas Weight or The Real Wizard of Oz by Rebecca Loncraine.
This first is a look at the books that Oscar Wilde read, which is a fascinating way to learn about an author. His personal library, reading habits, and relationship to the written word are all discussed. Another interesting author biography is one on L. Frank Baum. Rebecca Loncraine makes plenty of assumptions about details that *may* have influenced Baum’s ultimate creation, but her treatment of the man behind the curtain is still interesting and engaging, even if it has to be taken with a grain (or two) of salt. For a more scholarly treatment on Baum and the Oz books, try L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katharine M. Rogers. Her book delves further into literary analysis, if that’s interesting to you.
I hope if nothing else this list encourages you to give a nonfiction book a chance. Memoirs, biography, and creative nonfiction are great ways to learn about things that interest us and they give us new perspectives.
Has there been a nonfiction book you’ve found particularly inspiring? Let me know in the comments.