I almost fell off my chair last week when a friend told me he never reads nonfiction because it was boring and no fun. As I madly started listing nonfiction books that I had enjoyed, he held up his hands. Although I had been, ahem, speaking vehemently, it was a gesture of appeasement, not protection. He liked to learn things, he explained, but couldn’t stand being bored by dry dissertations. He asked if I could come up with ten books that were instructional and fun.
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis
A candid and humorous look at the global financial crisis of 2002-2009. Lewis examines five cultures that were hit hard: The Icelanders, who wanted to stop fishing and become investment bankers. The Greeks, who wanted to turn their country into a piñata stuffed with cash and allow as many citizens as possible to take a whack at it. The Germans, who wanted to be even more German. The Irish, who wanted to stop being Irish. And the Americans, who were “Too Fat to Fly”.
Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr
With humor and insight, Melissa Mohr takes readers on a journey to discover how “swearing” has come to include both testifying with your hand on the Bible and calling someone a *#$&!* when they cut you off on the highway. You will definitely learn some new words.
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Former editor Lynne Truss, gravely concerned about our current grammatical state, boldly defends proper punctuation. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage, and her own imagination, Truss shows how meaning is shaped by commas and apostrophes, and the hilarious consequences of punctuation gone awry. Think “sign fail photos” you see on Facebook.
Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-made World by Mark Miodownik
Why is glass see-through? What makes elastic stretchy? These are the sorts of questions that renowned materials scientist Mark Miodownik constantly asks himself. Full of tales of the miracles of engineering that permeate our lives, Stuff Matters will make you see stuff in a whole new way. Investigate chapters titled “Invisible” and “Immortal” and the all-important “Delicious”.
What Are You Looking at? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz
What is Modern Art? Who started it? Why do we love/hate it? And, most importantly, why does it cost so darn much? Will Gompertz takes the reader on a captivating tour of modern art, telling the story of the movements, the artists and the works that changed art forever. Refreshing, irreverent, and extremely accessible, this is art history with a sense of humor
Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN’s Sports Guy Found Salvation with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox by Bill Simmons
No more worrying about living an entire life — that’s 80 years, followed by death — without seeing the Red Sox win a World Series. But then Bill Simmons began asking questions: Why didn’t he see it coming? Why didn’t it happen sooner? What was the key deal, the lucky move, the sign from above that he failed to spot? The result is a hilarious look at some of the best sportswriting in America, with sharp critical commentary and new insights from the guy who wrote it in the first place.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
The how of Pooh? The Tao of who? The Tao of Pooh!?! In which it is revealed that one of the world’s great Taoist masters isn’t Chinese–or a venerable philosopher–but is in fact none other than that effortlessly calm, still, reflective bear. Learn the How of Pooh, the Now of Pooh and all about Cottleston Pie.
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner
Travel from America to Iceland to India in search of happiness, or, in the crabby author’s case, moments of “un-unhappiness.” The book uses a beguiling mixture of travel, psychology, science, and humor to investigate not what happiness is, but where it is. With chapter titles that assert that “Happiness is Boredom” and “Happiness is Somewhere Else” how can it miss?
The Mental Floss History of the United States: The (Almost) Complete and (Entirely) Entertaining Story of America by Erik Sass with Will Pearson and Mangesh Hattikudur
Featuring episodes from history that fall under titles such as “Drunk and Illiterate” and “Time for Your Bloodbath” this book is an entertaining and educational look at America’s past. So if you are in an “Empire State of Mind” and are wondering about “Sex, Drugs, and Mocking Roles” take a smiling stroll through the pages of this offbeat, memorable book.
Way Off the Road: Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small Town America by Bill Geist
Who wouldn’t love a travel book that has chapters like “The Church of the Holy BBQ”, “The Cow Photographer”, and “Frozen Dead Guy”?