Nonfiction Can Be Fun: 10 LOL Titles About Serious Subjects

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.

You betcha!

Economics
BoomerangBoomerang: 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”.

Language
HolyHoly 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.

 

Grammar
eatsEats, 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.

 

Science
stuffStuff 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”.

Art
lookingWhat 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

Sports
peaceNow 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.
Philosophy
poohThe 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.

 

Geography
BlissThe 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?

 

History
MentalThe 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.

Travel
RoadWay 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”?

 

 

 

Counting, Measuring, and More: Children’s Books About Math

Are you or your child a math whiz, or are you like me and dread the very idea of sitting down and tacking the related homework? Well, here are some books for children that get your youngest children on the right track, and help school age children stave off the fear of math or feed their math love. I have broken down my recommended books into three sections; Preschool and Kindergarten, First through Third Graders, and Above and Beyond.

For Preschool and Kindergarten Aged Children:
1. Help Me Learn Subtraction written by Jean Marzollo, Illustrated by Chad Phillips.

2. Janice VanCleave’s Play and Find Out About Math: Easy Activities for Young Children by Janice Pratt VanCleave.

3. Millions, Billions, and Trillions: Understanding Big Numbers written by David Adler, Illustrated by Edward Miller.

4. Musk Ox Counts written by Erin Cabatingan, Illustrated by Matthew Myers.

5. Tyrannosaurus Math written by Michelle Markel; illustrated by Doug Cushman.

 For First through Third Graders:
1. A Dollar, a Penny, How Much and How Many? written by Brian P. Cleary , illustrated by Brian Gable.

2. The Wing Wing Brothers: Math Spectacular! by Ethan Long.

3. Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales by Theoni Pappas.

4. Dazzling Division : Games and Activities that Make Math Easy and Fun by Lynette Long.

5. Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens : A Math Adventure written by Cindy Neuschwander ; illustrated by Wayne Geehan.
But do not stop there, because this is a series, simply look here for more.

Too simple for your math whiz? Then try these math related books that go Above and Beyond.
1. One Minute Mysteries : 65 Short Stories You Solve With Math! by Eric Yoder and Natalie Yoder.

2. Math created by Basher; written by Dan Green.

3. Math Games for Middle School: Challenges and Skill-Builders for Students at Every Level by Mario Salvadori and Joseph P. Wright.

4. Timekeeping: Explore the History and Science of Telling Time with 15 Projects by Linda Formichelli & W. Eric Martin; illustrated by Sam Carbaugh.

5. How Math Works by Carol Vorderman.

Still want more? Then you can also check out: Mummy Math: an Adventure in Geometry by Cindy Neuschwander; illustrated by Bryan Langdo,  Measurement Mania: Games and Activities that Make Math Easy and Fun by Lynette Long, Mystery Math: A First Book of Algebra written by David A. Adler ; illustrated by Edward Miller,  Math on Call: a Mathematics Handbook by Andrew Kaplan; edited by Carol DeBold, Susan Rogalski, and Pat Boudreau,  or Number Sense and Nonsense : Building Math Creativity and Confidence Through Number Play by Claudia Zaslavsky.