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Memorable Non-Fiction

I recently answered the question, “What are some great non-fiction books  I should read?” on Quora. When I looked for my answer it said it was deleted. I undeleted it, but to ensure a greater chance at permanence (if there is such a thing in the digital world), I decided to reproduce my answer in a blog post.

Here are some of my picks:

Reckless Youth by Nigel Hamilton (young JFK bio, excellent, great use of primary sources)
The Last Lion: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 and The Last Lion: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester (Excellent, comprehensive Churchill biographies)
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (Written from a Christian standpoint, is well worth the read for the beautifully crafted account of the loss of his wife. Includes letters by and stories of C.S. Lewis, who befriended the couple)
The Double Helix by James Watson (Great book about the discovery of the structure of DNA. Far from dry science, it is a great look at the personalities of the scientists involved and the dynamics and politics of the discovery.)
Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s by Frederick L. Allen (Notable as a contemporary account of this decade.) Allen also documented the next decade in Since Yesterday: The 1930’s in America, September 3, 1929 to September 3, 1939.
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson (The book that started the modern environmental movement in the early 1960s. Beautifully written, with a poetic quality even while dealing with hard science.)
The Educated Imagination by Northrup Frye (A very accessible introduction to Frye’s theories of literature and literary education. Originally delivered as a Massey Lecture.)
Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin; The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X; Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver  (Must contemporary reading for an understanding of the 1960’s civil rights movement.)

The Theory and Practice of Communism by R.N. Carew Hunt. (Excellent study of the origins, theories and very dissonant application of Communist theory. Comprehensive, well-researched and well-written.)

Recent reading:
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch (Documents the healing journey of a year of reading a book a day, prompted by the death of her sister 3 years earlier.)
A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit by Tilda Shalof. (A well-written, hard-to-put-down, first-hand account of an ICU nurse. Nursing is a profession that is often under-appreciated, but after reading this book you will have a new respect for the challenging work that nurses do.)

What non-fiction books have made an impression on you? Please add to my list in the comments.


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